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Fnord. All things that defy category.

Canto III commentary

Two themes: [2] the poet in poverty,
enVISIONing the world of the gods;
[2] My Cid as another Odysseus

I sat on the Dogana’s steps
For the gondolas cost too much, that year,

a] Autobiography: Pound at his lowest ebb financially in Venice
1908,unable even to afford a gondola;
b] foreshadowing of Venice/deMedici theme
which will dominate Cantos 17-27;
I love the assonance of Dogona/gondola….

And there were not “those girls”, there was one face,

“those girls”: echo from Browning’s “Sordello.”
“one face”: EP very sensitive to beautiful faces.
Cf Thomas Hardy’s poem about beautiful girl
seen from train, Bernstein’s speech about
ditto seen from Staten Island ferry [Citizen Kane]
etc. The poem later insists that nothing is lost
that lives in memory. Hardy & Bernstein never lost
those girls; EP never lost that face.

And the Buccentoro twenty yards off, howling “Stretti”,
And the lit cross-beams, that year, in the Morosini,
And peacocks in Kore’s house, or there may have been.

Images of beauty of Venice. Medicis later appear
as both heroes [creators of beauty] and
villians [founders of modern banking].
EP oft repeated, “Dante’s map NOT
suitable for our age,” e.g. we recognize
ambiguities, mixes, middles, grey areas……..

              Gods float in the azure air,

Bright gods and Tuscan, back before dew was shed.
Light: and the first light, before ever dew was fallen.

Crowley defined Magick as “causing change by
act of Will.” Psychoanalyst Violet Wirth, student of Crowley,
defined Magick as “causing change in consciousness
by act of Will.” Assuming one of them,
oversimplified for slow learners, which
wd you suspect?
Did EP “imagine” the gods or “perceive” them?

Panisks, and from the oak, dryas,
And from the apple, maelid,
Through all the wood, and the leaves are full of voices,

Vegetation spirits; later we will hear Confucius
urge proper respect for them.
In one sense these gods exist as individuals,
with their own trees even; in another sense
they exist as manifestations or metamorphs
of Dionysus [Canto II].
Cf EP’s “Axiomata,” 1921, “We have no proof
that [the theos] is one, or is many, or is
divisible or indivisible, or is  an ordered
hierarchy culminating, or not culminating,
in a unity…Dogma is bluff based on ignorance.”
The Cantos seem [to me] to lean toward
polytheism, but pantheism and even
monotheism sometimes appear…..

A-whisper, and the clouds bowe over the lake,
And there are gods upon them,
And in the water, the almond-white swimmers,
The silvery water glazes the upturned nipple,

            As Poggio has remarked.

Green veins in the turquoise,

EP always presents precise images…
These I like especially: almond-white,
silvery water, green veins in turquoise.

Or, the gray steps lead up under the cedars.

Chinese theme sneaking in subliminally;
|Confucius ascends such grey steps under
cedars when taking office in Chou [in the Lun Yu]
Now we jump to the Cantar de mi Cid, 1140:
[Pound condenses as he translates]

My Cid rode up to Burgos,
Up to the studded gate between two towers,
Beat with his lance butt, and the child came out,
Una nina de nueve anos,
To the little gallery over the gate, between the towers,
Reading the writ, voce tinnula:
That no man speak to, feed, help Ruy Diaz,
On pain to have his heart out, set on a pike spike
And both his eyes torn out, and all his goods sequestered,
“And here, Myo Cid, are the seals,
The big seal and the writing.”

Myo Cid [a.k.a. Ruy Diaz] at a low point,
like EP at the beginning of this Canto.
“On pain to have his heart out, set on a pike spike”:
the sound conveys the brutality of the age;
note how “pain” reinforces “pike spike”
una nina de nueve anos: an 8-year old girl,
kept in Spanish presumably because      a]
EP liked the sound; b] reminds reader that
we usually look at primary sources in these Cantos
voce tinnula: ringing voice? tinny voice?
I think EZ wd prefer latter if he
translated this phrase….

And he came down from Bivar, Myo Cid,
With no hawks left there on their perches,
And no clothes there in the presses,
And left his trunk with Raquel and Vidas,
That big box of sand, with the pawn-brokers,
To get pay for his menie;

They thought the box contained gold, not sand.
First money-swindle in the Cantos:
a Xtian cheating two Jews. Cd
EP’s reputation as antisemite contain
some oversimplification?
In any case, the rascal or scoundrel side
of the Odysseus/Individualist here emphasized.

Breaking his way to Valencia.

Exit El Cid….

Ignez da Castro murdered,

An historic detail that will recur, with horror
added, in Canto XXX.

                       and a wall

Here stripped, here made to stand.
Drear waste, the pigment flakes from the stone,
Or plaster flakes, Mantegna painted the wall.
Silk tatters,

That whole age of chivalry and/or brutality
suddenly fades, as in cinematic montage.

“Nec Spe Nec Metu.”

“Neither hope nor fear”: Stoic motto that
the Occidental periodically rediscovers.
Also a “Chinese” theme…
When A Draft of Cantos 1-16 published [1925]
Pound asked publisher NOT to send a copy
to his friend Thomas Hardy because “HELL
Cantos” shd not go to old man “before later
chants bring them into proportion  to
the whole.” Do not try to judge the
meaning or even the flavor of the whole
from the Infernal overture.

Canto I commentary

And then went down to the ship,

Probably the first time an epic began in the middle of a sentence. *Thus EP notifies us at once that he will present fragments [“luminous details,” ideograms]
* Canto I published 1917. Finnegans Wake begun 1922.

Set keel to breakers, forth on the godly sea, and

“godly sea”: first divine presence in the poem. Cf
Bucky Fuller’s claim that the first deity was
a “mathematicizing sea-god”

We set up mast and sail on that swart ship,
Bore sheep aboard her, and our bodies also
Heavy with weeping, and winds from sternward
Bore us onward with bellying canvas,
Circe’s this craft, the trim-coifed goddess.

Translating from Homer [via Divus: see below] but
EP uses alliteration and some archaism to suggest
early Anglo-Saxon  poems like “The Seafarer.”
He considered this episode the oldest part of
the Odyssey because of its archaisms. The
Descent to the Underworld cd indeed contain
parts of an ancient death/rebirth initiation ritual.

Then sat we amidships, wind jamming the tiller,
Thus with stretched sail, we went over sea till day’s end.
Sun to his slumber, shadows o’er all the ocean,
Came we then to the bounds of deepest water,
To the Kimmerian lands, and peopled cities
Covered with close-webbed mist, unpierced ever
With glitter of sun-rays
Nor with stars stretched, nor looking back from heaven
Swartest night stretched over wreteched men there.

Read as stretchED and wretchED. Supposed to sound
 archaic….Also read unpiercED…..
BTW, in any translation, the Kimmerian lands always
sound like Ireland in the winter to me.

The ocean flowing backward, came we then to the place
Aforesaid by Circe.
Here did they rites, Perimedes and Eurylochus,
And drawing sword from my hip
I dug the ell-square pitkin;

The first “I”; until now we have only had “we” & “our”
and “us.” Indicates the sudden emergence of Western
Individualism from previous Wholism, I think. Cf Canto52, translated an equally ancient Chinese text presenting
Wholism. The poem seeks a synthesis of the best
of East and West. Pitkin: small pit – deliberately archaic,
maintaining “Seafarer” flavor.

Poured we libations unto each the dead,
First mead and then sweet wine, water mixed with white flour
Then prayed I many a prayer to the sickly death’s-heads;
As set in Ithaca, sterile bulls of the best
For sacrifice, heaping the pyre with goods,
A sheep to Tiresias only, black and a bell-sheep.
Dark blood flowed in the fosse,
Souls out of Erebus, cadaverous dead, of brides
Of youths and of the old who had borne much;
Souls stained with recent tears, girls tender,
Men many, mauled with bronze lance heads,
Battle spoil, bearing yet dreory arms,
These many crowded about me; with shouting,
Pallor upon me, cried to my men for more beasts;
Slaughtered the herds, sheep slain of bronze;
Poured ointment, cried to the gods,
To Pluto the strong, and praised Proserpine;
Unsheathed the narrow sword,
I sat to keep off the impetuous impotent dead,
Till I should hear Tiresias.

I love the rhythm of sea-surge here, and
how it unites the Saxon/Seafarer alliterations with
Homer’s own rolling sea-sound

But first Elpenor came, our friend Elpenor,
Unburied, cast on the wide earth,
Limbs that we left in the house of Circe,
Unwept, unwrapped in the sepulchre, since toils urged other.
Pitiful spirit. And I cried in hurried speech:
“Elpenor, how art thou come to this dark coast?
“Cam’st thou afoot, outstripping seamen?”
And he in heavy speech:
“Ill fate and abundant wine. I slept in Crice’s ingle.
“Going down the long ladder unguarded,
“I fell against the buttress,
“Shattered the nape-nerve, the soul sought Avernus.
“But thou, O King, I bid remember me, unwept, unburied,
“Heap up mine arms, be tomb by sea-bord, and inscribed:
A man of no fortune, and with a name to come.
“And set my oar up, that I swung mid fellows.”

Pound cdn’t have planned it, but later, in the death cells
 at Pisa [Canto 74 et seq], he becomes  Elpenor…..

And Anticlea came, whom I beat off, and then Tiresias Theban,
Holding his golden wand, knew me, and spoke first:
“A second time? why? man of ill star,
“Facing the sunless dead and this joyless region?
“Stand from the fosse, leave me my bloody bever
“For soothsay.”
And I stepped back,
And he strong with the blood, said then: “Odysseus
“Shalt return through spiteful Neptune, over dark seas,
“Lose all companions.” Then Anticlea came.

Prepare for a quantum jump:

Lie quiet Divus. I mean, that is Andreas Divus,
In officina Wecheli, 1538, out of Homer.

Ez reveals his source: not Homer directly
but the 1538 Latin translation of Divus—the
text best known to the Renaissance figures
who dominate the first 30 Cantos. Pound
considers Divus part of what he calls the
paideuma of that period [modern: the
reality-tunnel or gloss]

And he sailed, by Sirens and thence outwards and away
And unto Circe.

No longer “I” but “he.”
Change to 3rd person indicates the “perspectivism”
of the Cantos.


I prefer Arlen’s translation of this powerful wordto all others: “she who must be adored.”
Strongest declension in Latin.

In the Cretan’s phrase, with the golden crown, Aphrodite,
Cypri munimenta sortita est, mirthful, oricalchi, with golden
Girdle and breast bands, thou with dark eyelids
Bearing the golden bough of Argicidia. So that:\

Bits from a pseudo-Homeric hymn to the Love Goddess,
which Divus tacked on at the end of his Odyssey.
Note the “mirthful”: this foreshadows the union
of amor and hilaritas  in the closing Cantos.

Bearing the golden bough of Argicidia. So that:

Canto 1 began in the middle of a sentence,
and ends in the middle of another sentence:
emphasis on fragments –which eventually form ideograms

I wonder where Joyce got the idea of beginning
and ending Finnegans Wake in mid-sentences?

Wal, Ez probably got the idea of using a Homeric
frame for the Cantos from Ulysses...

Canto XX commentary

This Canto seems to me a summation of Cantos 1-19
with variations — new ideograms [concrete particulars]
illustrating major themes.

Sound slender, quasi tinnula,

nice aliteration without Swinburnian
quasi tinnula, “as if ringing” [Catullus];
you can almost hear the ringing

Ligur’ aoide

“Sweet song” [Homer]; Odysseus from Canto I,
this time tempted
by the Sirens…more Odyssean themes will recur
in this Canto, and later

Ligur’ aoide: Si no’us vei, Domna don plus mi cal,
Negus vezer mon bel pensar no val.”

“And if I see you not, lady who enflames me,
No sight is worth the beauty of my thought”
[Bernart de Ventadom];
seductive beauty, like the Sirens’ song,
but not destructive [leads to
Tantrik contemplation
not to crashing on rocks];
recorso of Provencal cult -of- love theme
[Cantos 4-6]

Between the two almond trees flowering,

Two almond trees flowering: the uniquely
Poundian mix of simplicity and loveliness

The viel held close to his side;
And another: s’adora”.

“She is adored” [Cavalcanti]. I think Ez
takes this literally, a deliberate heresy against
Catholic orthodoxy,
and continuation of Provencal theme.
Cf Provencal/Cavalcaanti theme in Canto 6.
See EP’s essays “Psychology & Troubadours”
and “Cavalcanti” and maybe my Ishtar Rising.
[Dante put at least 2 of the Cavalcanti family
in Hell for heresy….]

“Possum ego naturae
non meminisse tuae!”

“Can I forget thy nature” or “thy inwit”
or “thy soul” [Propertius, praising Cynthia
for beauty not visible but felt];
EP cites this often in his prose as
proof that the troubadours did not
“invent” love, as cynics claim;
actually, Propertius praises Cynthia’s
kindness; cf Cunniza da Romano “who freed
her slaves on a Wednesday” [Cantos 6 & 30]

Qui son Properzio ed Ovidio.

Advice to go read Propertius and Ovid on amor

This “overture” combines English, Latin, Provencal,
Greek & Italian into a totally unique melodic structure

The boughs are not more fresh
where the almond shoots
take their March green.

Loverly, loverly

And that year I went up to Freiburg,
And Rennert had said: Nobody, no, nobody
Knows anything about Provencal, or if there is anybody,
It’s old Levy.”

Rennert & Levy: leading scholars in Provencal
language and poetry — the subject of Pound’s M.A.
thesis and a source of many of his translations.
One minor but persistent theme
in the Cantos: Ez’s effort to discover
what the troubadours really meant….

And so I went up to Freiburg,
And the vacation was just beginning,
The students getting off for the summer,
Freiburg im Breisgau,
And everything clean, seeming clean, after Italy.

An ideogram: German towns always seem
clean after Italy. Chew on it.

And I went to old Levy, and it was by then 6.30
in the evening, and he trailed half way across Freiburg
before dinner, to see the two strips of copy,
Arnaut’s, settant’uno R. superiore (Ambrosiana)
Not that I could sing him the music.

Note echo of sea-surge rhythm recurrent
since Canto I.
(the two strips of copy,
Arnaut’s, settant’uno R. superiore (Ambrosiana)):
MS. in which Dante uses a Provencal “word,” noigandres,
from troubadour Arnaut Daniel. The meaning of
this “word” remains in dispute

And he said: Now is there anything I can tell you?”
And I said: I dunno, sir, or
“Yes, Doctor, what do they mean by noigandres?”
And he said: Noigandres! NOIgandres!
“You know for seex mon’s of my life
“Effery night when I go to bett, I say to myself:
“Noigandres, eh, noigandres,
“Now what the DEFFIL can that mean!”

Levy did have a guess, which follows shortly

Wind over the olive trees, ranunculae ordered,
By the clear edge of the rocks
The water runs, and the wind scented with pine
And with hay-fields under sun-swath.
Agostino, Jacopo and Boccata.
You would be happy for the smell of that place
And never tired of being there, either alone
Or accompanied.
Sound: as of the nightingale too far off to be heard.
Sandro and Boccata, and Jacopo Sellaio;
The ranunculae, and almond,

Italian landscapes and painters [and aromas]
hinting of the paradiso terrestre coming at the climax
of the poem

Boughs set espalier.
Duccio, Agostino; e l’olors –
The smell of that place – d’enoi ganres.

Espalier: against the wall
l’olors: the aromas
d’enoi gangres: staves off boredom
[Old Levy’s surmise! it’s two words]

Air moving under the boughs,
The cedars there in the sun,
Hay new cut on hill slope,

The last line uses monosylables to create
a chopped effect, as in EP’s Chinese translations.
He thought English verse had become too legato.

And the water there in the cut
Between the two lower meadows; sound,
the sound, as I have said, a nightingale
Too far off to be heard.
And the light falls, remir,
from her breasts to thighs.

remir: I gaze; another Provencal word
from Arnaut. This part of the paradiso
seems Franco-Italian….

He was playing there at the palla,
Parisina – two doves for an altar – at the window,
” E’l Marchese
Stava per divenir pazzo
after it all.” And that was when Troy was down

Parsina Malatesta, cousin of Sigismundo [Cantos 8-11]
married Nicolo d’Este [El Marchese.]
When convinced she had an affair with his
son, Nic had them both beheaded.
Stava per divenir pazzo: and then he went
nutz [presumably from grief/guilt?]

Echo of Helen of Troy [Canto 2]

In general, Pound sees Rennaisance “villians”
as passion-driven, modern “villians” greed-driven.

[& once again, unlike Dante, Ez allows
for ambiguities and mixed cases]

Borso d’Este, 3rd son of Nic, continually
tried to bring peace between warring
Italian states.

And they came here and cut holes in rock,
Down Rome way, and put up the timbers;
And came here, condit Atesten…

History of d’Este family

“Peace! keep the peace, Borso.”

Borso d’Este, 3rd son of Nic, continually
tried to bring peace between warring
Italian states.

And he said: Some bitch has sold us
(that was Ganelon)

Nic Este becomes Roland, betrayed to the Moors
by Ganelon. Cf editing in Griffith’s Intolerance
[EP follows Chanson Roland, poem not history//
cf openings of Cantos 2 and 8….]

“They wont get another such ivory.”

[Roland’s horn high quality]

And he lay there on the round hill under the cedar
A little to the left of the cut (Este speaking)
By the side of the summit, and he said:
“I have broken the horn, bigod, I have
“Broke the best ivory, l’olofans.”

Jumping back and forth between Este and Roland:
the common theme, betrayal of trust

The ivory was from an elephant;
Roland broke the horn over the skull of
an Arab sent to finish him off…..

Understated irony: Roland is dying
but fusses about a broken horn

And he said:
“Tan mare fustes!”

Roland’s last words, in the Chanson.
“The wrong time.” EP often cited this as an example
of the power of brevity.

pulling himself over the gravel,
“Bigod! that buggar is done for, “They wont get another such ivory.”
And they were there before the wall, Toro, las almenas,
(Este, Nic Este speaking)

Este “becomes” the Spanish national hero, El Cid,
no longer “being” Roland.

[“bigod,” “bugger” etc.: EP believed in following
the tone & style of the original, not making
all antient script sound like Queen James Bible.]

 Brockton                                                Under the battlement 
(Epi purgo) peur de la hasle, 
And the King said: 
                                  "God what a woman! 
My God what a woman" said the King telo rigido. 
"Sister!" says Ancures, "'s your sister!" 
Alf left that town to Elvira, and Sancho wanted 
 It from her, Toro and Zamora. 
                                                       "Bloody spaniard!

More scraps from the Poema del Cid.
The king got a hard-on [telo rigido] and then felt
abashed to learn the woman was his sister.
We see Eros in many forms in this Canto.

 tolerably Neestho, le'er go back...

The English translates the Greek. Echo from
Canto 2: Helen again. “Let her go back to the ships”                                             in the autumn." 
"Este, go' damn you." between the walls, arras, 
Painted to look like arras. 
Glaze green and red feathers, jungle, 
Basis of renewal, renewals; 
Rising over the soul, green virid, of the jungle, 
 Lozenge of the pavement, clear shapes, 
Broken, disrupted, body eternal, 
Wilderness of renewals, confusion 
Basis of renewals, subsistence, 
Glazed green of the jungle;             

Post-Darwinian view of nature as process,
not “thing.” Subject-rhyme with the many appearances
of Dionysus & Chinese fertility-gods. Damn
good rhythms in there too.

  Zoe, Marozia, Zothar,
                                            loud over the banners, 
Glazed grape, and the crimson,              

Este thinking of other unfaithful wives;
imagery of delerium

                     cosi Elena vedi,
             where Helen walked
Eros combines joy, love and the continuation
of fertility? Sorta...
In the sunlight, gate cut by the shadow; 
And then the faceted air:
Floating. Below, sea churning shingle.
Floating, each on invisible raft,
On the high current, invisible fluid,
Borne over the plain, recumbent,
The right arm cast back,
the right wrist for a pillow,
The left hand like a calyx,
Thumb held against finger, the third,
The first fingers petal'd up, the hand as a lamp,
A calyx.
From toe to head
The purple, blue-pale smoke, as of incense;
Wrapped each in burnous, smoke as the olibanum’s
Swift, as if joyous.
Wrapped, floating; and the blue-pale smoke of the incense
Swift to rise, then lazily in the wind
as Aeolus over bean-field,
As hay in the sun, the olibanum, saffron,
As myrrh without styrax;
Each man in his cloth, as on raft, on
The high invisible current;
On toward the fall of water;
And then over that cataract,
In air, strong, the bright flames, V shaped;

Another kind of paradiso–but Ez does not identify
it immediately

                Nel fuoco 
D'amore mi mise, nel fuoco d'amore mi mise...

& yet another kind of paradiso: St Francis’s
“In the fire of love He has me,
in the fire of love He has me”

Yellow, bright saffron, croceo; 
And as the olibanum bursts into flame, 
The bodies so flamed in the air, took flame, 
                "...Mi mise, il mio sposo novello."

[“… has me, my new spouse.”
This Canto may record indirectly the beginning
of Ez’s affair with violinist Olga Rudge and
his wife’s briefer affair with an unknown Egyptian.]

Shot from stream into spiral,

Or followed the water. Or looked back to the flowing; 
Others approaching that cataract, 
As to dawn out of shadow, the swathed cloths 
Now purple and orange, 
And the blue water dusky beneath them, 
               pouring there into the cataract, 
With noise of sea over shingle, 
                       striking with: 
                       hah hah ahah thmm thunb, ah 
                       woh woh araha thumm, bhaaa. 
And from the floating bodies, the incense 
       blue-pale, purple above them. 
Shelf of the lotophagoi, 

[lotus-eaters from Homer. It was their Paradise
we visited before St. Francis’s!]

Le paradis ne c’est pas artificiel
but is jagged
For a flash
for an hour
Then agony.
Then an hour

— Canto 90-something
writ in ye olde bugg house
paraphrasing baudilaire

I think he meant Baud was stoned on dope but he, Ez, wasn’t;
I see no evidence that Ez ever got stoned.
But he did pranayama everyday and spent
40some years meditatin’
on Chinese ideograms like cloud over
falling rain over
dancing shaman
which he finally rendered “sensibility.”
Chinese + pranayama may = “stoned” perception……

Aerial, cut in the aether. 
With the silver spilla, 
The ball as of melted amber, coiled, caught up, and turned. 
Lotophagoi of the suave nails, quiet, scornful, 
                " Feared neither death nor pain for this beauty;
If harm, harm to ourselves."

[Wot all us dopers say….]

And beneath: the clear bones, far down, 
Thousand on thousand, 
                " What gain with Odysseus, 
" They that died in the whirlpool 
" And after many vain labours, 
" Living by stolen meat, chained to the rowingbench, 
" That he should have a great fame 
                " And lie by night with the goddess? 
" Their names are not written in bronze 
             " Nor their rowing sticks set with Elpenor's";
Nor have they mourned by sea-bord.
             " That saw never the olives under Spartha 
" With the leaves green and then not green, 
             " The click of light in their branches; 
" That saw not the bronze hall nor the ingle 
" Nor lay there with the queen's waiting maids, 
" Nor had they Circe to couch-mate, Circe Titania, 
" Nor had they meats of Kalupso 
" Or her silk shirts brushing their thighs. 
" Give! What were they given? 
" Poison and ear-wax,

[so they wdn’t hear the Sirens’ song]

                                      and a salt grave by the bull-field, 
" neson amumona, their heads like sea crows in the foam, 
" Black splotches, sea-weed under lightning; 
" Canned beef of Apollo, ten cans for a boat load." 
Ligur' aoide.             

“Sweet song” — used ironically now.

This powerful and powerfully rhythmic passage
marks a turning point. Occidental individualism
seen as flawed at the root. Cf “the poor devils
dying of cold” in Cantos 9, 10; the trenches
of World War I in Canto 16….

Rescuing a sane
individualism and merging it with a
sane holism represent the major task
Ez set himself in the Cantos

And from the plain whence the water-shoot,
Across, back, to the right, the roads, a way in the grass,
The Khan’s hunting leopard, and young Salustio
And Ixotta; the suave turf
Ac farae familiares, and the cars slowly,
and the panthers, soft-footed.

Malatesta wealth….leopard from an unknown Khan…
ac farae familiares: wild animals
[sounds like Citizen Kane‘s Xanadu];

Salustio Malatesta: murdered by his brother;
Ixotta: Sigismundo’s beloved, to whom the
Temple is dedicated.

Plain, as the plain of Somnus, 
                the heavy cars, as a triumph, 
Gilded, heavy on wheel, 
                and the panthers chained to the cars, 
Over suave turf, the foam wrapped, 
Rose, crimson, deep crimson, 
And, in the blue dusk, a colour as of rust in the sunlight, 
Out of white cloud, moving over the plain, 
Head in arm's curve, reclining; 
The road, back and away, till cut along the face of the rock, 
And the cliff folds in like a curtain, 
The road cut in under the rock 
Square groove in the cliff's face, as chiostri, 
The columns crystal, with peacocks cut in the capitals, 
The soft pad of beasts dragging the cars; 
Cars, slow, without creak, 
And at windows in inner roadside: 
                le donne e i cavalieri 
                smooth face under hennin, 
The sleeves embroidered with flowers, 
Great thistle of gold, or an amaranth, 
Acorns of gold, or of scarlet, 
Cramoisi and diaspre 
                 slashed white into velvet; 
Crystal columns, acanthus, sirens in the pillar heads; 
And at last, between gilded barocco, 
Two columns coiled and fluted, 
Vanoka, leaning half naked, 
                  waste hall there behind her.             

The images and sounds transcend even Canto 2…..

” Peace!
Borso…, Borso!”

A cry for Borso d’Este, who tried to bring
peace to Italy

Commentary on The Cantos of Ezra Pound

Canto II commentary

Ez told his father, Homer[!] Pound, that
the theme of metamorphoses dominates this canto
[I think Ez has multiple realities, not just mutltiple fathers.
He walks an uneasy waltz between Method Acting and Multiple
Personality Disorder, like some nitwit “channeling,”
but instead of producing their horsesht he somehow
produces great poetry. Robert Graves, oddly, said
all first-rate poetry emerges in semi-trance.
And Batty Billy Blake said a buncha naked angles
dictated his poems to him.]

This Canto seems psychedelic……..

HANG it all, Robert Browning,

a] Emphatic departure from
archaic style & subject of Canto I —
metamorphosis of English language/paideuma
over centuries
b] parody of the typical Browning opening
–abrupt, colloquial and definitely somebody
speaking to somebody else
c] parody of Ez’s own frequent use of that
style of opening in his early poems

there can be but the one “Sordello.”
But Sordello, and my Sordello?

The central “problems” of the Cantos–
can we know historic truth? And even
if we do, can we transmute it into
poetry without distorting it?
Which Sordello means more or has
the most accuracy — Browning’s?
Pound’s? The academic historian’s?
Metamorphosis of Sordello from
live man to dead man to man living
again in 3 forms: Browning’s
poetic imagination; Pound’s poetic
imagination; academic history…

Lo Sordels si fo di Mantovana.

One bit of certitude — the earliest biograpical
reference to Sordello begins with that
sentence. [EP quotes it in his earliest
prose work, The Sprit of Romance, 1909,
with author and date.] If we accept this “primary source,”
Sordello came from Mantovana;
if we doubt it for any reason we still retain a fact:
at least one contemporary
thought Sordello hailed from thar.
We shall hear more of Sordello.

So-Shu churned in the sea.

A sarcasm by Li Po about a rival poet;
it introduces China and re-introduces
the sea…[Li Po meant that So-Shu
created more foam than waves;
cf EP’s polemics against “mere
ornament” and Frank Lloyd Wright’s
similar & contemporary revolution
against “mere ornament” in architecture.]

Seal sports in the spray-whited circles of cliff-wash,
Sleek head, daughter of Lyr,
eyes of Picasso
Under black fur-hood, lithe daughter of Ocean;
And the wave runs in the beach-groove:

Lovely use of Imagism, I think.
Can’t “see” a seal anymore without
seeing that Picasso eye…
Metamorphosis of sea theme — Mediterranean [Canto I]
to Chinese waters
[So-Shu] to Irish Sea
Sea-god’s name also changes from
[Latin] Neptune to [Irish] Lyr
Seals as daughters of Lir = familiar
theme in Irish legend. Some seals even
metamorph into human women
and marry men. The men always become
heartbroken when the “wives”
turn back to seals and return
to the sea.

“Eleanor, Elenaus and Eliptolis!”

Metamorphs Helen of Troy — Elena
in Greek — to Eleanor of Acquataine,
coming up in Canto VI. Both women
credited with fantastic beauty and
blamed for wars somebody else started.
Cf later theme of “dangerous beauty”…
The dark [Kali] side of the Goddess.
Elenaus, Eliptolis = destroyer of
ships, destroyer of cities [from
Aeschylus] pun on Elena/Eleanor

And poor old Homer, blind, blind as a bat,

Not Ez’s dad, but the Greek poet [poets?];
Ez may also have in mind the author
of Ulysses, then struggling with blindness

Ear, ear for the sea-surge, murmer of old men’s voices:

Wunnerful, how the sea-surge enters the
rhythm as it entered the ears of the
blind poet

“Let her go back to the ships,
Back among Grecian faces, lest evil come on our own,
Evil and further evil, and a curse cursed on our children,

Moves, yes she moves like a goddess
And has the face of a god
and the voice of Schoeney’s daughters,
And doom goes with her in walking,
Let her go back to the ships,

back among Grecian voices.”

Translation from the Iliad, old men
of Troy worrying about Greek armies
coming to get Elena back.
Edith Sitwell loved the sea sound in
this passage. I love the way it mingles
that sea-rhythm with current speech patterns.

Classics no longer archaic as in
Canto I; EP making
Homer contemporary [just like Joyce]
“And doom goes with her on walking”:
I love that line; also love
“a curse cursed on our childen”
in which Sitwell heard two waves smashing

And by the beach-run, Tyro,
Twisted arms of the sea-god,
Lithe sinews of water, gripping her, cross-hold,

The rape of Tyro by sea-god Poseiden…
Why Greek gods often serial
rapists? Or do I digress? Schlain
blames it on the alphabet in
The Alphabet versus the Goddess

Many hints in these early Canti of
overthrow of goddess religions
by god religions?

& I keep sensing Bucky Fuller’s
“mathematizing sea-god”….

“Lithe sinews of water”: Imagism +
sea and sea-gods as identical…
many names for same “thing”….
phantapoetics + logopoetics
[amid a lot of melopoetics]

From an early LSD trip: “The ancients
didn’t ‘think’ of the sea as a god —
they SAW it as a god!”

Sea as symbol of metamorphosis.
[EP detested symbolism in general
but that didn’t keep him from
using it when apt*]:

*”Beauty is aptness to purpose” — Ez,
Machine Art, 1930

Glare azure of water, cold-welter, close cover,
Quiet sun-tawny sand-stretch,
The gulls broad out their wings,

nipping between the splay feathers;
Snipe come for their bath,
bend out their wing-joints,
Spread wet wings to the sun-film,

Pure Imagism/phantopoetics
and IMO quite extraordinarily lovely
Now the major metamorphosis
via Ovid, Euripides and EP’s own
vivid imagist imagination:

And by Scios,
to left of the Naxos passage,
Naviform rock overgrown,
algae cling to its edge,

There is a wine-red glow in the shallows,
a tin flash in the sun-dazzle.

Those last 2 lines there may not rank
as greatest imagist couplet ever
but they have at least one nomination…

The ship landed in Scios,
men wanting spring-water,
And by the rock-pool a young boy loggy with vine-must,

“To Naxos? Yes, we’ll take you to Naxos,
Cum’ along lad.” “Not that way!” “Aye, that way is Naxos.”
And I said: “It’s a straight ship.”

And an ex-convict out of Italy
knocked me into the fore-stays,
(He was wanted for manslaughter in Tuscany)
And the whole twenty against me,

Beginning of the story of Dionysus
kidnapped into slavery….

Mad for a little slave money.

Two of the major evils in Pound’s
universe — avarice and slavery —
joined in one line. Introduction
of economics theme. Note the
“mad”: in Richard St Victor, a major
source of structure in Cantos,
all obsessions = madness,
due to lack of balance.
These sailors thus continue the
Inferno of Canto I in a new form,
by metamorphosis

St Victor divided mind’s functions
into three: 1] mind without discipline,
driven by passions and obsessions;
2] disciplined rationality; 3] mind
united with objects or with allness
by love. EP uses these as analogs
of Dante’s Hell, Purgatory [purification/
alchemical Great Work] and Paradise.
More on that as we proceed!

And they took her out of Scios
And off her course…
And the boy came to, again, with the racket,

And looked out over the bows,
and to eastward, and to the Naxos passage.
God-sleight then, god-sleight:
Ship stock fast in sea-swirl, Ivy upon the oars, King Pentheus,

Acoetes, the honest sailor, now in
Euripides Bachae, telling this story
as warning to Pentheus. Pentheus
tried to stamp out Dionysian relgion:
first image of religious bigotry
in the poem

Maybe EP also had in mind
what he later calls “the
constriction of Bachus” in U.S.
— alcohol prohibition.

               grapes with no seed but sea-foam,
Ivy in scupper hole.
Aye, I, Acoetes, stood there,
               and the god stood by me,
Water cutting under the keel,
Sea-break from stern forrards,
               wake running off from the bow,
And where was gunwale, there now was vine-trunk,
And tenthril where cordage had been,
                grape-leaves on the rowlocks,
Heavy vine on the oarshafts,

Emphasis on Dionysus as god of
vegetation, not just of wine
And now the great cats of Dionysus
appear, first as sound and sensation:

And, out of nothing, a breathing,
                hot breath on my ankles,

Then starting to manifest in vision:

Beasts like shadows in glass,
                 a furred tail upon nothingness.

Smell, sound and sight combined:

Lynx-purr, and heathery smell of beasts,
                where tar smell had been,
Sniff and pad-foot of beasts,
                eye-glitter out of black air.
The sky overshot, dry, with no tempest,
Sniff and pad-foot of beasts,
                fur brushing my knee-skin,
Rustle of airy sheaths,
                dry forms in the aether.
And the ship like a keel in ship-yard,
                slung like an ox in smith's sling,
Ribs stuck fast in the ways,
                grape-cluster over pin-rack,
                void air taking pelt.

WoW!!! especially “void air taking pelt”
Those Magick Cats of Dionysus — Ez had a thing about
cats. Always had a dozen or more. Often a lot more.
Took in strays, the works. Hemingway called Ez
& Dorothy’s pad in Rapollo “the cat house.”

Lifeless air become sinewed,
                feline leisure of panthers,
Leopards sniffing the grape shoots by scupper-hole,
Crouched panthers by fore-hatch,
And the sea blue-deep about us,
                green-ruddy in shadows,
And Lyaeus: "From now, Acoetes, my altars,
Fearing no bondage,
                fearing no cat of the wood,
Safe with my lynxes,
                feeding grapes to my leopards,
Olibanum is my incense,
                the vines grow in my homage."

Lyaeus: anudder name for Dionysus.

I’ve read an interlinear [Latin/English]
Ovid and find his sound [melopoetic]
great as Pound’s but in imagery [phantapoetic]
EP wins by a neck. At least in this passage.

The back-swell now smooth in the rudder-chains,
Black snout of a porpoise
                where Lycabs had been,
Fish-scales on the oarsmen.
                And I worship.
I have seen what I have seen.
                When they brought the boy I said:
"He has a god in him,
                though I do not know which god."
And they kicked me into the fore-stays.
I have seen what I have seen:
                Medon's face like the face of a dory,
Arms shrunk into fins. And you, Pentheus,
Had as well listen to Tiresias, and to Cadmus,
                or your luck will go out of you.
Fish-scales over groin muscles,
                lynx-purr amid sea...

The greedy sailors metamorphed to fish =
Pound’s view of avarice descending
to pre-human evolution.

And of a later year,
               pale in the wine-red algae,
If you will lean over the rock,
               the coral face under wave-tinge,
Rose-paleness under water-shift,
               Ileuthyeria, fair Dafne of sea-bords,
The swimmer's arms turned to branches,
Who will say in what year,
               fleeing what band of tritons,
The smooth brows, seen, and half seen,
               now ivory stillness.

Ileuthyria — Pound’s invention, combining
Eleuthyria, freedom, with Ieliethria,
goddess of childbirth. Cf later creation
of “Isis Kuanon,” final name of goddess
in closing Cantos — Egyptian goddess of
childbirth [and other mysteries] +
Chinese goddess of infinite mercy.

Arms to branches = metamorphosis
again. Cd refer to several classic myths

And So-shu churned in the sea, So-shu also,
                using the long moon for a churn-stick...

Foam on the waves? + repeat

Lithe turning of water,
                sinews of Poseidon,
Black azure and hyaline,
                glass wave over Tyro,

Another repeat. Structure of Cantos
more like symphony than traditional
poesy. But do look at the montages
of Griffith’s Intolerance as another

Close cover, unstillness,
                bright welter of wave-cords,
Then quiet water,
                quiet in the buff sands,
Sea-fowl stretching wing-joints,
                splashing in rock-hollows and sand-hollows
In the wave-runs by the half-dune;
 Glass-glint of wave in the tide-rips against sunlight,
                pallor of Hesperus,
Grey peak of the wave,
                wave, colour of grapes' pulp,

Olive grey in the near,
                far, smoke grey of the rock-slide,
Salmon-pink wings of the fish-hawk
                cast grey shadows in water,
The tower like a one-eyed great goose
                cranes up out of the olive-grove,

Sometimes a tower like a one-eyed great goose means a tower
like a one-eyed great goose. “Call pork pork in your
proposals,” one of EP’s favorite Chinese Emperors
instructs his subalterns.

The haiku also influenced EP — not
the 5-7-5 rule but the juxtaposition
of precise images.

And we have heard the fauns chiding Proteus

Proteus: yet another sea-god but also
a god of metamorphoses…

               in the smell of hay under the olive-trees,
And the frogs singing against the fauns

               in the half-light.

Fauns: permanence? Frogs: change?
I think of the fauns as permanent
because Crazy Uncle Ez defined gods, nymphs, dryads etc
as “eternal states of mind.”
Ends in mid-sentence again/

Utopia USA interview

Utopia USA interview with Robert Anton Wilson
By Lance Bauscher
22 Feb 2001

Can you talk about the book you’re currently working on, The Tale of the Tribe?

Well, it’s about Ezra Pound and James Joyce, whom I regard as the two major innovators of twentieth century literature. And oddly they both had a very powerful influence on Marshall McLuhan who has influenced how we think about all media, especially internet, even though internet didn’t begin to develop until after McLuhan was dead.

“The tale of the tribe” was Pound’s definition of the topic of The Cantos, his long epic poem that he spent 50 years writing. It also fits Finnegan’s Wake very well, and the book describes how The Cantos and Finnegan’s Wake influenced McLuhan’s ideas, and how internet has been shaped not only by the development of technology but by the ideas McLuhan got from Pound and Joyce. It gets more complicated, but that’s a good enough introduction to it.

Where does your faith in the incredible promise of internet come from?

Some commentator on McLuhan, whose name I can’t remember, pointed out that every communication system before internet has had gate keepers. That is to say, to get a book published throughout most of history you not only needed to get a publisher, you had to get the government censors to approve it. That is still true in most countries. The same with movies, television, etc.

Internet belongs to the people that use it. Nobody has found an effective way of policing it, and they never will as far as I can see. Any way of controlling internet would involve creating a world government and the people who most want to censor opinions are the most opposed to world government. So they can’t do it that way. If they try to do it any other way they’ll wreck most major corporations that depend so much on internet to do business. So it can’t be done.

Internet is going to remain free, and I believe, I’ve believed since I was in my early twenties, that everything that accelerates the flow of information and communication benefits the human race, and every communication jam damages us. So internet is the greatest tool, or device, or gimmick, or whatever you want to call it, for accelerating the flow of information between peoples. It is, I think, the most revolutionary force in the history of humanity since the invention of the wheel–especially when Asia and Africa get online in a major way. That’s what I really look forward to.

Have you considered how virtual reality is going to merge with internet?

I have had a few experiences with virtually reality, and as a matter of fact I wrote a little thing way back in the mid-80’s about virtual sex. I can see that coming eventually. Smith just got this new machine delivered and he hasn’t gotten out of his house in two weeks.

At my age I am more interested in getting virtual reality out of Euclidean space and into Riemannian space. My first experiences with virtual reality I thought, “now if they could program it for Riemannian space you’d understand relativity right away and you wouldn’t have to struggle with all the mathematics. And it can be done, you can make a virtual reality of any sort that you want. Also I ‘d like to experience Lobachevskian space.

Riemannian space is the geometry Einstein used in the general theory of relativity. It’s based on the conception, more or less, of a spherical time-space continuum. Lobachevskian space is sorta like a saddle that goes on forever, there is a peak in the middle but then it shrinks to nothing, but only at an infinite distance. Very interesting type of space because nobody has ever found any use for it as far as I know. Mathematically it’s just as valid as the other kinds of space. I mean, mathematically it is self-consistent–that’s all you need in mathematics. And somebody will find a use for it someday, but I’m rambling now.

What do you see happening right now with the acceleration of technology and information?

Well, way back in 1933 Korzybski wrote Science and Sanity, a book which has had a profound influence on my whole life, and he said there was an acceleration factor in knowledge and technology. Now it’s accelerating faster and faster all the time, and throughout my life I‘ve seen that happening more and more.

When I was a child, women all over the United States had goiter, which was a disease, a swelling of the neck, which looked as bad as cancer. Although it wasn’t that fatal it was very destructive to their good looks. Goiter disappeared during W.W.II, somebody found the cure for it. Small pox disappeared in the 1960’s. We got space satellites. We got things I don’t like, like nuclear weapons, but the acceleration is going faster all the time. And I quite confidently expect that the breakthroughs in biotechnology, or biotech as everybody is calling it these days, in the next twenty years–everything we consider human, normal, etc. is going to have to be redefined.

What does chaos have to do with all this?

Chaos turns me on. Chaos math turns me on because I have basically a scientific orientation as distinguished from a religious orientation. There are some things in science I always had doubts about. I always thought the universe was not as orderly as Newton or Einstein would have us think. Along comes chaos math and explains the things that have bothered me all these years that doesn’t quite fit into the Newtonian or Einsteinium paradigm. So they convinced me science can deal with the chaotic after all and can include even more than I thought it could.

The other thing about chaos is that there are a lot of lines of thought in the biological and behavioral sciences that indicate that chaos leads to creativity. There is even a kind of psychotherapy called “chaos therapy,” which is based on getting the patient so damned confused that they can’t hold on to their delusions and neurosis anymore and have to start changing. So I think chaos works the same way on the social level.

Chaos does not necessarily mean riot, insurrection, explosions and things like that. Chaos just means totally unpredictable at an accelerating rate, which is what’s happening all the time. And I think that is forcing rapid learning on the part of those who are still capable of learning. And it’s those people who the future depends on.

Those who can’t learn, well, they’ll die eventually. Meanwhile, they just serve as a roadblock, a temporary roadblock. Dying dinosaurs. We got one of them in the White House right now, and he appointed a whole bunch of other dinosaurs to his cabinet. But it doesn’t bother me as much as it does most of my friends because I think politics is always the last place, the very last place, where important changes register. They register in science, then in technology, then in economics and in social affairs. And then finally the politicians have to adjust to them. Especially in this country where almost all our politicians are lawyers.

Lawyers are trained to find precedence for anything they want to do. In other words, if you want to do cloning, you have to look up all the other precedences that have to do with “uncloning,” the thing that happened before cloning. Lawyers whether they are good hearted or not, and there are a lot of liberal and libertarian lawyers I admire–I don’t mean to put down the whole profession–but this thing about looking for precedence…that means the past is governing the future, which means we’re strangling the future to make it fit the past. Science is not based on precedence. Science is based on experience and experiment. And science moves very fast, while the law drags centuries and sometimes millenniums behind.

And then we have the problem of corruption and the law, too. I have to admit I have the reputation as a cynic, but the last election even startled me. I wasn’t surprised that they stole an election. That happens a lot–not only in the United States–it happens all over, elections are stolen regularly. This case it went up to the Supreme Court and it turned out that 5 out of 9 of the Supreme Court were in on stealing the election. They collaborated in the worst theft of an election in American political history, and the whole world was watching and they didn’t even give a damn. They just went ahead and did it anyway because they have the power to do it. And I realized how naïve I was. I’ve been cynical of Congress and the executive branch and all its bureaucratic subdivisions for a long long time, but I always thought the Supreme Court is really guided, rightly or wrongly, by what they really think the Constitution says. Now I realize they are as crooked as the other two branches in the government. That was a shock to me. Even at my age I can be shocked.

Do you feel there is any need for government?

That’s a hard question, because at present I‘m afraid there probably is to some exten. But I’d like to see it limited. I’d like to see it pushed back to the level of the Constitution, what we usually call Jeffersonian democracy. I think it can be reduced even further. But I certainly don’t like the continuous growth of the government interfering with everything.

What amazes me most is the piss police. Even Kafka and Orwell–who wrote the craziest, most far out satires on totalitarianism that their wild surrealist imaginations could imagine–they did not include piss police. And yet we got them and the American public just gullibly and submissively accepts it.

Why do they accept it?

Well, because they’ve been beaten down so long and they’re so pessimistic, and they are so worried about how to pay the mortgage. This is the only country in the industrial world that doesn’t have national health insurance. They are worried about paying the doctor bills, they are worried about the mortgages, they are worried about crime and so many other things. I think basically there is an attitude of hopeless–I think Thoreou called it “quiet desperation.”

And besides, you stick your neck out and you get yourself into trouble. Most guys with wives and families and most women with husbands and families don’t want to stick their neck out too far.

I remember the first time I got arrested, which was for an anti-segregation demonstration at a barber shop. All I could think of was “this isn’t very fair to my kids. I am too damn idealistic. What if I am separated from my kids for five years while they are so young?” I was thinking in terms of probably a five year prison term. I shouldn’t do that to my kids! I must be a nut for doing this! Meanwhile, I am still doing it. So I can understand why most people don’t want to stick their necks out, especially if they have children.

There is a little bit more to it than that. It what I call the “snafu principal.” Communication only occurs between equals–real communication, that is–because when you are dealing with people above you in a hierarchy, you learn not to tell them anything they don’t want to hear. If you tell them anything they don’t want to hear, the response is, “One more word Bumstead and I’ll fire you!” Or in the military, “One more word and you’re court-martialed.” It’s throughout the whole system.

So the higher up in the hierarchy you go, the more lies are being told to flatter those above them. So those at the top have no idea what is going on at all. Those at the bottom have to adjust to the rules made by those at the top who don’t know what’s going on. Those at the top can write rules about this, that and the other, while those at the bottom have got to adjust reality to fit the rules as much as they can.

I‘ve been teaching this for over 30 years, almost 40 years. More and more I have been asking at my workshops, can anybody hold up their hand and say that they have told the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth when dealing with somebody from the government. Nobody has ever held up their hand. Everybody lies when they are dealing with the government! You never know what they are going to come down on you for, so you tell them what you think they want to hear.

I think that is true of a lot of public opinion polls too. People think that might be a front for the CIA or somebody. So those at the top don’t have any idea what’s going on, what the people really want or anything like that.

Meanwhile, since nobody wants to feel like a coward and a liar all the time, it’s easier to stop noticing how reality differs from what those at the top say, and try to make yourself believe that what they say does correspond to reality. Even if that means bumping your knees against things they say aren’t there or falling down stairs they claim don’t exist and so on.

So I call this the burden of omniscience: those on the top are supposed to be doing the seeing, hearing, smelling, tasting, and all the sensing, apprehending and conceptualizing for the whole society and those at the bottom have to adjust to what those at the top think based on all the misinformation flowing up in a hierarchy where any speaking of the truth can get you punished.

I see anarchism as the theoretical ideal to which we are all gradually evolving to a point where everybody can tell the truth to everybody else and nobody can get punished for it. That can only happen without hierarchy and without people having the authority to punish other people.

I don’t think we can ever abolish hierarchy entirely, but we can make it temporary and rotating. Like a symphony orchestra needs a conductor, but that doesn’t mean he is going to take over the lives of the musicians, telling them what to eat and what to smoke and what to drink and so on–where they can travel and where they can’t travel. And a baseball team probably needs a manager, and so on. There are probably lots of places where we need a temporary hierarchy, but it doesn’t have to cover lifetimes or even four years. And it doesn’t have to cover as much as the hierarchies we’ve got with current corporations, bureaucracies, and governments.

You know I think I began realize the danger of hierarchy and developed the snafu principal about communication when I was working for the second largest engineering firm in the United States. I listened to the engineers bitching all the time about how the financial interests wouldn’t them do any of the work that seemed really important for them to improve their output. And I was reading William Faulkner’s Go Down Moses, which is still one of my favorite novels, and there was a sentence in there which was like a mini satori for me. And the sentence goes: “To the sheriff, Lucas was just another nigger and they both knew that; to Lucas the sheriff was an ignorant redneck with no cause for pride in his ancestors, nor any hope for it in his prosperity. But only one of them new that.” And I suddenly realized, yeah, every power situation means the people on top are not being told what the people on the bottom are really noticing. Then I could see how this applied to this engineering firm. And then how it applied to corporations in general and so on.

I tend to shy away from the word anarchist, because most people think it means bomb throwing. And a lot of people who consider themselves anarchists seem to think that too. But I can’t use libertarian, because the people who got their grip on that word are even less rational by my standards. I guess “decentralist” is the word I’d have to pick out for myself. Decentralist grassroots Jeffersonian something or other.

What else about the philosophy and practice of anarchism interests you?

I very early in my life decided I didn’t believe in the capitalist system. Fredrick Saudi, the physicist, said, “Economics? It should be called banditry.” I mean it’s the science of robbing and looting, organized. And on the other hand, Marxist socialism is even worse. Of course there is democratic socialism, such as you find in northern Europe, and I find a lot to admire in that, a great deal.

But there are also other alternatives and one of the alternatives that attracts me is Native American anarchism, sometimes called individualist anarchism, or mutualist anarchism, which is based on the idea of voluntary association, which is the forerunner of the affinity group we hear so much about these days. Or the dropout commune and so on.

The happiest people on the planet seem to be those who live in tribal societies with a membership of about 120. I don’t think we are going to go back to the tribal level, but I think power has to be decentralized to the point where every 120 people are making their own decisions, about their local affairs. For international affairs, we could have some kind of giant computer where we can all put in our opinions.

I don’t trust politicians. As a matter of fact what I like best about Hannibal Lecter is that he’s found a practical use for a politician which nobody else has done before.

The idea of representative government after we overthrew the monarchy was: we’ll have representatives who will represent us. In the first place, they don’t represent us! They represent the corporations who pay their campaign finance. And in the second place we don’t need anybody to represent us. Now that we’ve got internet we can represent ourselves. So I think all those people should be thrown the hell out of office and forced to make a living as honest men and women do, rather than by lying to the gullible and selling them out to the corporations, and we can represent ourselves through internet.

As a matter of fact, Buckminster Fuller–one of the most brilliant people of the twentieth century, often compared to Leonardo da Vinci and Benjamin Franklin for the extent of the fields in which he was an expert, he was an expert in at least a dozen fields–one of his last books has that theme. He calls it desovernization: getting rid of human representatives and representing ourselves though electronic media. So I am not as original as I sometimes think I am.

What do tribal societies have that we generally don’t?

There are different types of tribes, I was generalizing too much. But let’s just say certain tribes. What they don’t have is the bureaucracy, the hierarchy, the complexities. If there’s a disagreement in the tribe, you know who your disagreeing with. You know who to talk to about it. If you can’t get satisfaction out of the person you’re disagreeing with, you go to their family.

In the Trobrian islands, when a woman wants a divorce–this is before the Christian missionaries got in, when Malinowski studied them–when a woman wants a divorce she puts her husband’s shoes outside the door. That means he’s not allowed in. If he wants the marriage to continue, his parents go and talk to her parents and try to negotiate a second trial. Now, if you try that in California today, you get lawyers involved, and judges and the whole goddamn government bureaucracy. Things are much more complicated just because of the size, and the a inexorable growth of power wherever it’s allowed to grow.

Also tribal groups tend to have what anthropologists call an animalistic view, which is a view that everything is alive. Nobody has that view in our society except for people who have done a lot of acid.

Do you have hope for a technological utopia where everyone’s basic needs are met?

Yeah. I haven’t been into the innards of the World Game computers in Philadelphia, but Bucky Fuller claimed, and Leonard Gable who runs the World Game Institute now also claims, that we could feed the whole planet, right now, today, starting today, if we used our technology most intelligently. In other words, all the people starving on this planet, and I forget the statistic, but its pretty damned horrifying, all the people starving on this planet is all unnecessary. It’s only held together, to quote Bucky again, by fear, ignorance, greed and zoning laws.

I‘m pretty sure we could do it now, but as a matter of fact, people said that even before Fuller. Another engineer, named major Charles Douglas, claimed as far back as 1919 that if we used our technology intelligently and changed the present financial system so we don’t pay usury at 60% for every new change in technology, we could have a society better than any utopia in science fiction ever imagined. There is a lot of supporting data for that. As a matter of fact, just look at the a condition of people on welfare in the United States today. It looks pretty ugly, but just compare them to the people without welfare in London in Dickens novels. Everybody is better off than they were 100 years ago. If we only used our science and technology intelligently our whole world could be immeasurably improved. But first we got to get rid of the fear, ignorance, greed and zoning laws.

Is virtual reality only accessible via computers?

That’s an interesting question. I think we live in virtual reality anyway. As a matter of fact, even without talking about LSD or other controversial subjects, you can easily demonstrate to yourself that everybody creates their own reality, simply by sitting down with four friends, being quiet for say two minutes, and have each one report what sounds they heard. You’ll find everybody in the room heard different sounds. You can duplicate this with vision too. Have everybody describe the room they just came out of. They’ll all describe it differently.

We all live what ethnologists call a different umwelt. Every animal has a different umwelt. The human animal like other animals has a generalized human umwelt, things the human brain and nervous system can recognize, but each individual has their own individualized umwelt. A painter does not see the woods the way a poet does, and neither of them see it the way a logger does. The painter sees the colors, the poet sees something else, and the logger sees a chance to cut down the trees and make money. We all see everything differently.

I’ve got dozens of demonstrations of that which I use in my workshops, and nobody has ever gotten up in any my workshops and said, “that’s not true we were all seeing the same thing!” No, everybody sees things differently. And hears things differently. And smells things differently. And tastes things differently. The classic example is ordering a pizza for a group of five. Nobody wants the same things on the pizza. You end up buying three small pizzas.

Do you think that technological virtual reality will enable people to more easily or deeply experience what you’ve just described?

Yes. I have a strong feeling that since Americans aren’t as paranoid about machines as they are about chemicals, virtual reality will do for the masses what LSD only did only did for those who were brave enough, intelligent enough, or just plain kooky enough to experiment in that area. I keep going back to that don’t I, I wonder why. Honest, I haven’t done acid in two days, and I want to tell you, it’s great to be clean! No, I just made that up. It’s a joke.

Once you realize that the world you perceive can change dramatically, and not only with drugs but with yoga and with various other types of exercises like hypno-tapes, audio tapes, neurolinguistic programming–there are all sorts of devices for changing you perceived world–once people realize that, they’ll realize if they are living in a sad and ugly world, well that’s because they got a sad and ugly program in their brain. And if they’re living in a happy cheerful world that’s because they programmed their brain properly.

You know the old slogan that goes back to the dawn age of computers when dinosaurs and Richard Nixon still roamed the earth, “GIGO: garbage in, garbage out.” Well if your getting garbage out that’s because the software in your brain consists mostly of garbage. You better replace it with more up-to-date software.

Do you think that the current anti-corporate globalization movement is a flash in the pan? Do you see a resemblance to the labor union movements of 1930’s?

That’s interesting. My wife Arlen used to say that the great days of labor organizing are not behind us, they’re ahead of us. She meant the third world. All the jobs that are disappearing here are going to the third world at slave-level wages. A friend of mine has a parody of the Nike slogan, “We made our money the old fashioned way: slave labor in the orient.” Well, that’s not going to last so long, especially with the internet and communications advancing greatly. Those people are going to get organized and start fighting for their rights. Meanwhile people here losing their jobs all the time are getting more and more pissed off.

I don’t think this is a flash in the pan. I think the people who run this planet have disgracefully mismanaged it, as William Burroughs said once. And I think they are going to have to give it an inch at a time or maybe they’ll collapse all at once in a big rush like the Soviet Union did. I always think of that–when I feel hopeless I think of how thoroughly the Soviet Union changed in a couple of months.

And the same thing happened in the Union of South Africa. I remember as things kept heating up in South Africa throughout the 70’s and 80’s. It was obvious, the blacks were the majority. The whites were the minority–they held they’re superior position simply because they held most of the guns. But the blacks were learning where to buy guns. And it seemed to me the whites were so goddamn pigheaded they wouldn’t give up until most of them were shot dead. It was going to be a blood bath. And I thought why don’t we ever learn anything from history. Well the white South Africans showed me that we can learn something from history: they allowed power sharing before they all got killed, which is a striking sign of intelligence from a ruling elite. Most ruling elites don’t find out until their heads get chopped off. Like the French royal family in 1789.

So I think there is a chance that the power elite today might learn before its late. They can’t have a meeting anywhere without protesters showing up. Now they’re having meetings practically on desert islands.

I’m in favor of globalization. The thing is where is it coming from? The ground up or the top down. If it’s coming from the top down I am as fervently against it as anybody in Seattle or any of the other places since then. But I think globalization is inevitable, it just has to be from the grassroots. The 92 chemical elements are scattered at random around this planet. To make the maximum use of science and technology we need all 92. So we are going to have to accomplish that by one country conquering the whole world, which is the traditional way, or by working out a system where everybody gets a fair share by negotiation. I think one country conquering the whole, which seems to be the policy now in force, is not only dangerous, but it gets more dangerous everyday as the explosive power increases. As more and more people protest against it, I think eventually were going to have to negotiate our way to a fair deal for everybody.

To quote Bucky Fuller one more time, in the last half the 20th century, the majority of the scientists of the United States have been recruited to, directly or indirectly, contribute to delivering more and more explosive power, over longer and longer distances, in shorter and shorter times, to kill more and more people. And now we’re spending even more money under Bush. We’re going to reach the point where pretty soon we’re going to just press a button and we can release zero-energy and destroy the whole universe not just this planet. That is the most perverted form of human intelligence imaginable and that can’t go on forever because more and more people are more and more dissatisfied with that.

What you gotta do is talk to a couple of intelligent people from northern Europe. They pay higher taxes than we do, but they rarely complain because they get something for their taxes. They get universal health care, they get much better unemployment if they loose their job. They have all sorts of social services that we don’t have, which is worthwhile. But here, everybody is pissed off about their tax bills, which is comparatively low, because they get nothing for it! All that happens to the tax money is that it goes to pay the interest on the national debt and then to build bigger bombs, to go faster, to kill more people.

What most excites you about the approaching future?

What most excites me is solving the communication jam on this planet: letting everybody talk honestly to everybody else. I think of intelligence in terms of feedback. Feedback used to mean the noise you get when two electronic systems interact. But then the more generalized meaning became that of information flowing back and correcting itself, which is due to work of Claude Shannon and Norman Wiener in the 1940’s. They saw internet before it existed. They worked out, from the computers they already had, they worked out the trajectories of the way we were headed.

Every animal, to the extent that it has adequate feedback, that’s the measure of its intelligence. And so that, to get back to an earlier theme, is why I like internet and hate censorship. Every form of censorship is cutting down on the feedback within the social organism, which means the social organism is much more stupid than any individual in it.

Do you consider yourself a futurist?

I’ve been called a futurist often enough. I’m a non-fundamentalist futurist. I don’t think you can predict the future very accurately, but you can consider a penumbra of scenarios. Which is something, curiously enough, an African shaman told William Seabrook back in the 30’s: “the future is fan shaped.” There is not one future, there are many futures. I’d like to help steer us to the most desirable future.

Is this perspective a foundation of your optimism?

There are a lot of reasons for my optimism. One is, as long as things are unknown you might as well assume the best, because if you assume the worst you’re just making yourself miserable and ruining your digestion. It can even lead to ulcers. In extreme cases it even leads to heart attacks. I think pessimism is very, very dangerous, on health grounds. There’s actually research showing that optimists recover from diseases much faster than pessimists. So it’s a health measure, I try to preserve my optimism as a way of guarding my health.

Then again because the literary establishment, especially in New York–the people who define themselves as “the intellectuals,” who think there is nobody with any brains anywhere in the country–they’re all so resolutely pessimistic. I feel somebody has got to raise a dissenting voice, just so there will be a dialogue at least. So I try to present a case for optimism.

And then again, the current world of chaos looks like the beginning of a change to a higher level of coherence, and intelligence, and feedback throughout the whole planet. Wait until Africa and Asia come online.

Barbara Marx Hubbard runs seminars in which people are divided up into like 20 groups and each groups deals with specific problems of concern to that group in relation to the city where they live. And after a couple of hours some of the walls come down and groups compare their solutions and see if the solution that is satisfactory to one group are satisfactory to another. And people come out of it absolutely delighted with the possibilities of what communication can achieve, once you start talking to other people.

Another grounds for my optimism, is that people always do the most intelligent thing, after they’ve have tried all the stupid alternatives and none of them have worked. And I think that the present system on the planet has obviously shown that it doesn’t work. And the only alternative is more communication, and more honesty and more fair dealing. But it begins with honest communication. People saying what they really think and feel.

You know why Hannibal Lecter is so charming in spite of his bad habits? Because he thoroughly enjoys life. Most people don’t. Once they start communicating with one another they will start to enjoy life a little more, because they’ll feel less alone and less hopeless.

How is today’s counterculture different from the counterculture of the late 60’s and early 70’s?

It seems to me we’ve got the same spectrum. We’ve got some bright people and we got a bunch of idiots. The sixties counterculture, which is fashionable to put down currently, had a lot of very bright people who had a lot of high goals, but it had a lot of idiots and sloganeers. We had Jerry Ruben telling kids to kill their parents to show their solidarity with the third world. All sorts of stupidity of that sort. So when I look around today and see stupidity in the counter culture, well it’s always been that way.

As a matter of fact, Bernard Shaw and his introduction to Androcles and the Lion, points out that every revolutionary movement attracts those who are too good for the current state of society and those who aren’t even good enough to adjust to the current state of society. That’s the way he portrays the early Christians in that play. He got that from dealing with the feminist and socialist movements of his own youth. You get the best and the worst in the counterculture always.

Your wife Arlen used the term “stone age feedback” to describe the influence of aboriginal cultures on 18th century thinking. Could you elucidate this for us?

Well, it was in the 18th century that most of what we now consider progressive ideas first began to dawn on various European and American thinkers. And much of this came from studying stone age tribes. Rousseau’s idea of the noble savage was based on reports from Captain Cook’s voyages in the South Pacific. Everybody knew how of wonderful the Tahitians and the Hawaiians were, but they mostly forgot about the tribe in New Guinea that was so paranoid they wouldn’t communicate with them. Every attempt to communicate led them to throw spears at them until they gave up trying to communicate with them. So Rousseau forgot about them and assumed that all savages were peaceful and friendly. Which is largely true but not entirely.

The American Indians, or whatever they’re called now–it used to be Native
Americans, I think now we’re supposed to say indigenous peoples. I have a lot of friends in that group and I never know what to call them. I just call them by their first name. I can’t keep up with political correctness. The Iroquois Federation had a some influence on the U. S. Constitution. And also from studying various tribal or stone age societies, socialism and anarchism occurred to various people depending on which tribes they had heard the most about.

Have you participated in many social or political protests?

I still do by email. I sign all sorts of petitions and send all sorts of letters. Back in the 60’s I was on the streets, I got tear-gassed quite a bit. I am proud to say I never got maced. In those days I could still run faster than the average cop.

Was this activity in the 60’s exhilarating for you?

My memory of the sixties was mostly I was overly optimistic. I’m still an optimist on principal for the reasons I gave, but in the sixties I really thought the movement was getting bigger and bigger all the time. And even the people who were not part of “the movement” were moving. The statistics on the opposition to the Vietnam War were rising and rising–about 67% shortly before the war had ended. I think it went even higher than that. I remember when it hit 67%, I thought “my god, we really are making changes!” And segregation ended which I thought meant racism would end with it. I was too optimistic about a lot of things.

So it was a very exhilarating time. I felt something very dramatic was changing. Changes for the better were occurring. I still feel I’m participating in changes for the better. Although I think that the tactics have changed from the streets to the internet to a great extent.

Oh, you know the main difference between Clinton and Bush from an internet point of view? When I sent email to Clinton, I would get a three paragraph answer saying nothing. When I send one to Bush I get a one sentence answer saying nothing. Bush’s letter says, “The president wishes to thank you for your views.” Clinton’s letter said the same thing, but in about 100 words in three paragraphs. No comment. At least Bush has a little more brevity than Clinton.

When I was researching for my historical novels I had a pretty low opinion of the past in general and the condition of the people in the past. But when I researched them I found out how the French were living before the revolution–you just got to read Engles, The Condition of the Working Class in England, or read the novels by Charles Dickens. I think by in large the advance of technology has been an advantage to most people on the planet.

Of course, that doesn’t mean all technology. I coined the word “sombunol”–some but not all–to avoid over-generalizing. I use it in writing, but it’s hard to remember to use it in speech because most people don’t know what I mean, I have to stop and explain. You should never talk about all of anything outside of mathematics. In mathematics you can talk about all circles, because circles only exist in our imagination in the human mindscape. When you start talking about all Jews you’re likely to go as crazy as Adolph Hitler. Or you start talking about all TV repair people for that matter. They’re not all crooks, just most of them. So you should never use the word “all” outside of mathematics.

What’s your most serious concern about our planet?

The stupidity problem. Ideally we should have a pill that makes people more creative and more curious. And the only way to get most people to use it is if it gives people a hedonic boom along with that. The problem is that if such a pill did exist the government would ban it right away. Some people think that it did exist in the 1960’s and that the government did ban it, so I feel fairly safe in making that prediction.

But there are lots of other techniques from hypno-tapes to brainwave machines, to yoga, to neurolinguistic programming, and new things that are being discovered all the time. The thing is they got to have a hook on them so people will want to use them. When the majority finds an intelligence raising device that they enjoy using…well I think they have to some extent in internet. Even the people who spend 18 hours a day with nothing but the porn sites, eventually they gotta spend at one hour looking at the rest of it– so it would broaden their perspectives considerably.

Can you speak a little bit about pattern recognition, perhaps in relation to the left brain / right brain models of thinking?

Well, we have more cells in our brain connected with pattern recognition rather than with logical sequencing, which I think is a very important fact to know. I think this explains why I find Chinese culture and Chinese ideograms and poetry so congenial, because it all deals with patterns. It doesn’t deal with logical structures. I think logical structures generally turn out to be highly artificial. They have too many “all’s” in them to begin with. You can’t have a logical structure without an “all.” “All men are mortal. Socrates is a man, therefore Socrates is a mortal.” Well we don’t know that all men are mortal anymore with the breakthroughs with biotechnology. There maybe people alive today who will never die.

So no wonder logic plays a small part with most peoples’ lives. Most of the brain is involved with pattern recognition which is much more important–both artistically and just in terms of survival. If you’re a monkey running through the jungle, if you stop to think things out logically, you’ll get eaten by the first predator to come along. With pattern recognition you know which animals are safe to approach and which ones you should run away from.

We need to study pattern recognition in the human brain much more because that’s most of what the brain is concerned with and most of what art is concerned with. The missing part of most scientific descriptions of human beings is the importance of pattern recognition.

They used to call it right brain and left brain, but then they found that they weren’t so divided. But those are two definite functions: the pattern recognition and the linear linking. The pattern recognition is much more important for survival. We’ve been talking so much about science, but I basically regard myself more as an artist rather than a scientist. To me, like I said, the problem with science when studying human beings is that they don’t stress pattern recognition enough.

Children taught art at an early age tend to live longer and they tend to understand science better than those who are given the traditional form of education based on linear thinking–the Gutenburg fix, as McLuhen called it, or the Aristotelian mind set as Korzybski called it.

Any advice to young people looking to change things?

Yeah, don’t feel superior to the people you are trying to change. That’s the worst possible stance to take. You’ll never convince anybody as long as you feel superior to them. All you’ll do is insult them. I think that was the major error of the 60’s and I blame it especially on Abby Hoffman and Jerry Ruben. It was the major mistake of the 60’s–talking from a position of superiority when you didn’t have any of the qualities that people looked for in leaders like. They had charisma, but Arlen used to say, the only place for charisma is in show business. Once it gets loose in politics or religion all hell breaks loose.

RAW Power…

Conspiracies and altered states go hand in hand with sharp intellect in the form of Robert Anton Wilson, author of the cult SF trilogy “Illuminatus!”

First published 1999 in The X Factor

ROBERT ANTON WILSON is arguably one of the most important and influential writers of our times. His opus of work ranges from Science Fiction and Historical Fiction to erudite and witty commentaries on psychology, conspiracies, the paranormal and quantum physics. Born in Brooklyn, New York, in 1932, Wilson early on took an interest in techniques of mind expansion. This led him to explore the General Semantics of Alfred Korzybski, (Wilhelm) Reichian therapy, and eventually marijuana, LSD, and the “Magick” of Aleister Crowley. Wilson is perhaps most famous for the SF trilogy “Illuminatus!” (1975), which he co-authored with Robert Shea, and which won the Prometheus Award as a “Classic” of SF in 1986.

A subsequent SF trilogy, “Schroedinger’s Cat” (1979), was hailed by New Scientist magazine as “the most scientific of all science fiction novels”.

Of his non-fiction work, Wilson’s “Prometheus Rising” (1983) outlined a workable road map for mind expansion, “Quantum Psychology” (1990) brought psychology into line with quantum physics, while the autobiographical “Cosmic Trigger” trilogy (1977-1995) offered Wilson’s thoughts on the “universe and everything”.

Wilson’s book, “Everything Is Under Control: Conspiracies, Cults and Cover-ups” (1998 HarperCollins, USA), co-compiled with Miriam Joan Hill, is an extensive A-Z of conspiracy theories. So I took the opportunity to ask him which of the many conspiracies floating around at present he considers to be the most plausible?

I find great plausibility in a combination of Buckminster Fuller and Ezra Pound, minus Pound’s anti-Semitism. I agree mostly with Pound’s judgment that banks currently have more power than governments; I do not think the banks all have Jewish owners or serve some “Jewish plot.”

I also accept Fuller’s verdict that governments consist of “sponsored entities” – sponsored by the billionaires and occasional millionaires who support the politicians’ election campaigns (one hundred million for a Senate race, 3 or 4 hundred million for president).

I also agree with Fuller that although banks make up most of this elite they have some degree of co-operation and some degree of rivalry with other “hidden rulers,” chiefly the Mafia, the atomic energy cartels and Big Oil. Fuller calls this confederation MMAO (Machievelli, Mafia, Atoms & Oil) and I think that sums it up as well as any label can.

John Shreeve
In both your fiction and non-fiction, the idea of the Illuminati serves as a metaphor for individuals who have achieved a high-level of mind expansion. But, in reality, did the Illuminati continue much beyond Adam Weishaupt in the 18th century?

I don’t claim to know anything about this, but I do have opinions, based on 30 years of amusing, confusing and often frustrating and puzzling research.

In my opinion, the occult/mind-expansion side of the Illuminati survived through various “Masonic” lodges, especially the Order of Memphis and Mizraim, and still survives via the Ordo Templi Orientis and, perhaps, a few other lodges.

The political side of the Illuminati survives in our Bill of Rights, as far as some bleeding remnants of the Bill of Rights have survived, i.e. alive (barely) but severely disabled.

John Shreeve
What is your view of the Freemasons?

Basically, I have a favorable view of Freemasonry. I think we owe our Bill of Rights to Masonic influence, for instance. I also think that in some cases Masonic lodges have served political ends, sometimes benign and sometimes quite malign.

Just remember that the list of known Freemasons includes Mozart, Ben Franklin, J Edgar Hoover, Voltaire, FDR, Ronald Reagan and the Italian bank owners of the P2 lodge of Grand Orient Freemasonry who laundered drug money for the Mafia and CIA in the 1970s.

I think Freemasonry does not possess fungibility or homogeneity. It depends on what lodge, what country and what decade you look at.

John Shreeve
During the early 1970s you practiced Aleister Crowley’s system of Magick, which you found to be a very effective method of mind expansion. Do you think the magickal system outlined by Crowley is relevant to today’s world – or are there faster, more effective systems around now?

I don’t think one system works for everybody. I have found great value in LSD, Crowley, Reichian body work, NLP, brainwave machines, some Sufi and yoga exercises, general semantics etc. Other people will find some of these irksome or stressful.

Everybody has to find their own path.

Some seem to have found value even in psychoanalysis, but I don’t know why. Some even follow Scientology, which puzzles me even more. Different scenes for different genes, different lanes for different brains.

John Shreeve
Could you outline what you consider to be the essential ingredients of any mind expansion program?

I would want emphasis on technique (or techniques) and serious practice of same. I want no dogma and no guru. A Perfect Master seems suitable only for those who desire to become Perfect Slaves.

John Shreeve
In your opinion, do we have a spirit or a soul?

Those terms carry connotations that seem footless to me. I do suspect that we have a local mind, here and now, and a non-local mind, everywhere and everywhen, like the non-local software in David Bohm’s version of quantum theory.

Zen calls them Little Mind and Big Mind. Once you contact Big Mind, even briefly, most of “metaphysics” and most of “materialism” seem rather unreal and beside the point.

John Shreeve
Outlined in Cosmic Trigger is how, during the early 1970s, you entertained the notion that you had some contact with an ET from Sirius, which was in some way connected with your higher self – what are your views on this now?

I think I might have contacted the Sirius sector of non-local mind, or maybe I just needed that metaphor because otherwise I’d have no idea at all about what had happened. As the Sufis say, when a blind man who has never touched water falls into the ocean, he knows something unthinkable has happened, but he doesn’t yet know what to call it.

John Shreeve
What is your view on aliens – are they flesh and blood ETs?

I don’t claim to know, but I incline toward the view of one deep or non-local mind appearing in various forms, as edited by the belief system (b.s.) of the observer.

John Shreeve
In the light of your experiences with Magick and hallucinogens, what is your view on the literal reality of spirits – be they goetic demons, poltergeists, shamanic allies, Crowley’s “Aiwass”, or whatever?

I don’t take “spirits” literally, but then I don’t take anything literally. All of our perceptions derive from sub-conscious editing and orchestration of the billions of signals we receive from Universe every second. We edit and orchestrate the signals to fit our current reality-tunnel. General ideas and scientific, religious or philosophical theories based on such selective perception become even more neatly tailored to our reality tunnel, or our current b.s. (belief system). I regard “spirits,” pookahs, angels and UFOnauts the same way I regard the rest of humanity’s mental furniture. If it stays in somebody’s mental library long enough, it serves some function for them. It may not serve any function for me.

John Shreeve
What aspects of the various quantum theories do you most agree with and why? And which ones do you disagree with?

To make explicit what has lurked implicitly in all my answers, I have much agreement for the “model agnosticism” created mostly by Niels Bohr. A similar model agnosticism appears in the general semantics of Korzybski and the ethno-methodology of Garfinkle.

According to this viewpoint, we should never believe in our models or maps of Universe the way most people believe in their religion or ideology.

I have often described belief as the death of intellect. I prefer to use a model only and always where it appears to work for me, and to use other models in other areas, and to abandon any and all models if and when a better model comes along.

In one of my polemical works, “The New Inquisition,” I call belief in any model “idolatry” and “modeltheism.”

I still stand behind that.

After strong doses of model agnosticism, I find great merit in the non-local theories that have emerged from Bell’s Theorem, especially in the works of such physicists as Wolfe, Walker, Bohm and Herbert.

A popular version we owe to Douglas Adams states it generally as…”All things are interconnected but some things are more interconnected than others.”This non-locality idea not only seems to make more sense of quantum weirdities than other models do, but it also explains some of my psychedelic and Magick experiences better than any other model.

I also strongly support the Von Neumann/Finklestein idea of a three-valued “quantum logic” (true, false, maybe) in preference to Aristotelian true/false logic; but I go beyond physics in giving even more weight to Korzybski’s infinite-valued logic, a scale of probabilities running from 0 to 10 with as many spaces in between as fits the data, e.g., “Probability of 7.03 plus or minus 0.05”.

I don’t totally reject any quantum model, although some seem pretty weird to me – e.g. the idea that the universe “is” “not” there when nobody looks.

John Shreeve
When the ideas of quantum physics are eventually assimilated into everyday culture, how do you think they will effect the man or woman in the street?

I think that when the ideas of model agnosticism, the Uncertainty Principle, fuzzy logics, etc, become generally known it will cause a social revolution bigger and more global than the Renaissance or the Age of Enlightenment.

I have no prediction of how soon this will occur… If I judged by the people I meet on my lecture tours, I’d say it has already happened.

High Strangeness chat

Date: Tue Sep 16 21:59:50 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
Welcome to the Robert Anton Wilson Show! What better name for this very special edition of High Strangeness on Prime Time Live? The irrepressible RAW is my guest tonight; my name is Patrick Huyghe and I will be the Moderator for this chat about two-headed pigs, reality tunnels, and RAW’s new book “The Walls Coming Tumbling Down”…

For those unfamiliar with the man or his oeuvre, Robert Anton Wilson is a futurist, author, former editor at Playboy, and a stand-up comic. He is the author of the “Cosmic Trigger” trilogy, and the coauthor, with Robert Shea, of the underground classic “The Illuminatus!” trilogy. His other writings include the “Schrodinger’s Cat” trilogy, called “the most scientific of all science fiction novels,” by New Scientist, and several nonfiction works of Futurist psychology and guerilla ontology, such as “Prometheus Rising” and “The New Inquisition.” Wilson has also made a comedy record (Secrets of Power) and a punk rock record (The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy), and his play “Wilhelm Reich in Hell” was performed at the Edmund Burke Theatre in Dublin, Ireland. Wilson’s web page is located at

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:00:33 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
A boy has never wept nor dashed a thousand kim. Mother is the best bet and don’t let Satan draw you down too fast. Hobo and Pobo and dog biscuit. If he’s happy he doesn’t get snappy.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:01:02 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
“The Walls Came Tumbling Down,” published by New Falcon, is actually the script for a film. On the surface the film is about a CSICOP-type physicist named Mike Ellis who undergoes a “reframing” experience after taking a drug combo for a tooth attack. Deep down it really deals with the scary things that happen to those who stumble into a borderless or otherworldly consciousness without any intent to go there and without any preparation or Operating Manual to tell them how to navigate when the walls tumble, the doors of perception fly open, and the bottom falls out of their mental filing cabinet…

Welcome, Bob. Your book is about reality tunnels — what people perceive as being real — and how the walls of those tunnels often collapse on people. When did the walls of your own reality tunnel first come crashing down on you?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:03:46 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
It started slowly in the 50s when I got interested in perception psychology and general semantics. It accelerated in the 60s when I found ethnomethodology and LSD.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:04:30 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
You mention that you saw your FIRST flying saucer back in 1947-8, right at the beginning of the UFO era. I thought this might have been the event that got you started.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:06:21 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
That actually felt minor. I didn’t know what I saw — swamp gas, space ship, sundog, weather balloon. What impressed me was my parents’ fear of reporting the sighting. I realized that even in our allegedly rational age many things remain unspreakble — damned, blasphemous. George Carlin can’t do his comedy on networks because the comedy depends on taboo words. We remain governed by taboo to an astounding extent.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:08:33 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
You point out that more and more people are experiencing High Weirdness of one type or another — UFOs, ESP, past lives, OBEs, etc. — whether the Establishment likes it or not. But the Establishment prefers to bury its collective head in the sand, denying it all the way to China. What is hell IS going on?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:10:58 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
The same as all the rest of history, only faster this time. The establishment always rejects the first dawning of the new paradigm. That is the function of the establishment. The function of the heretic is to create new paradigms, some of which will surive if the heretic is lucky.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:12:21 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
Can the heretic ever win? Are there enough of them to make things change faster?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:14:39 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
Heresy always wins. All establishments grow rigid and ossified and die off. The individual heretic may play a role in the new paradigm or may just serve as comedy relief, i.e. appear as nutty to the future as to the current establishment. Heresy is no game for securityseekers.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:16:38 EDT 1997
From: Moderator At
I suppose heretic are what you also call infophiles and the establishment is run by infophobics. And it’s a constant fight between the two, isn’t it? Even more so these days it seems.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:19:13 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
I see the conflict as comic and recurrent. Joyce shows it that way in Finnegans Wake, and he’s my major historical theorist. Shem and Shaun never stop their war, their comedy act, their dance – whatever you call this dialectic.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:20:01 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
We live in an age when tunnel walls of all types are falling in on the head of people who least expected it. What are some of the most recent examples, in your observation?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:22:21 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
The collapse of the Soviet Union. The racial equality in S. Africa. The Palestinian state. The sudden re-mergence of the labor unions in U.S. The growing use of alternative medicine. The eerie success of Michael Jackson.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:23:55 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
Yes, but many of these things seem very temporary.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:26:40 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
From a geological persepctive all human history looks temporary. What I mean to convey is the acceleration of chaotic (unpredictible) events in the last decade. Information and chaos are shaking everhting loose.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:27:35 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
Speaking of chaos in reality tunnels, what is your reaction to the world’s reaction to the death of Princess Di?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:29:54 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
It astounds me. To me the most important recent deaths were Tim Leary, Wm Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg. The media barely covered them. Then they go into a frensy over a woman whose chief claim to fame is that she married a very very rich man and took him for millions in the divorce. Now it’s Mother Thresa who went all over Africa, wher the major problem s are AIDS and starvation, and told them not to use condoms. I think I got off on the wrong planet. Beam me up Scotty, there’s no rational life here.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:34:42 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
And speaking of irrational life … Some aspects of your script reminded me of the recent movie MIB. Do the tabloids know the truth, but most of us intellectual types are too stoopid to real-eyes it?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:36:35 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
It’s not either/or. You have to read the tabloids one way (Jungian/anthropological) and the intellectuals another way (primate status games.) And you gotta read the scientists a third way. We need to understand more than one language.

Looks like nobody turned up but you and me. Anybody out there?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:38:14 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
Do you think that science is crapping out on the hard stuff – ESP, UFOS, past lives, etc. — or that it’s right for it to ignore these subjects?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:39:44 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
Crapping out. These subjects are all worthy of more careful study. Very careful study.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:40:02 EDT 1997
From: Moderato
(I don’t know if they opened up the chat to outside questions. Hope there is someone out there!)
So how do you get orthodox science to have a reframing experience?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:42:31 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
It happens every generation. Wait for the old farts to die off, and the young turks will open up every lad they tried to screw shut.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:43:08 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
What do you see in your crystal ball for the future of CSICOP (Committee for the Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal) and their not-always-lovable fanatic anti-fanatics?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:43:36 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
That should be “lid” not “lad” but let’s give the Freudians a thrill, what the hell.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:44:44 EDT 1997
From: Moderator At:
I agree. Beep Beep. Kaneepsheep!

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:45:22 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson At
Well, when the old farts die off, the new leaders may actually dare to do scientific investigation of claims of the paranormal instead of just writing establishment agit-prop.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:46:56 EDT 1997
From: Moderator At:
Yea, but these guys have a lot of power in the US. The world, thank God, has not been infected by them yet.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:47:35 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
Anyway, I love CSICOP, the way Swift must have loved Partridge. For those of satiric bent, some targets seem sent by Divine Love to give us fuel for our humor.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:48:59 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
They are clownish, but the media for the most part doesn’t realize it and takes their taboos seriously.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:49:25 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
They don’t have a lot of power; they just make a lot of noise. Without them the art of slapstick would die off, like the 3 stooges without Moe. Anybody who still believes in the media must have been in a coma for the past 30 years.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:51:11 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
Change of subject … You were just “reframed” — You just appeared in a movie for the first time in your life. What was it and what was it like for you?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:53:12 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
The move is called “23.” It’s about Karl Koch,the kid who burrowed into all of the U.S.’s top security systems from his home in Hanover. He was a fan of my books, and I play myself, giving a lecture on freedom of information and autographing a a book for Karl.

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:54:05 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
Do you believe everything you write (and say)?

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:56:14 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
I don’t believe anything I write or say. I regard belief as a form of brain damage, the death of intelligence, the fracture of creativity, the atrophy of imagination. I have opinions but no Belief System (B.S.)

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:57:25 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
Time is running out. So plug your next book. What is it? (And why do you have your books published by New Falcon Publications, a small house in Arizona, when your work could certainly command the attention and bucks of some big New York publishing house?)

Date: Tue Sep 16 22:59:37 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
Next book, “Everything Is Under Control,” an “encyclopedia of conspiracy theories,” for Harper Collins, due next summer. Most of my books come from Falcon because NY publishers were not interested when I wrote them. Those ideas have only become fashionable 10 or 15 years after I wrote them.

Date: Tue Sep 16 23:00:37 EDT 1997
From: Moderator
Welcome to the Fashionable World, Bob. Now you’re in big trouble! Thank you very much Robert Anton Wilson for a delightful reframing experience. I urgue everyone to check out “The Walls Come Tumbling Down” and Bob’s web site at For High Strangeness, this is Patrick Huyghe. Goodnight!

Date: Tue Sep 16 23:02:14 EDT 1997
From: Robert_Anton_Wilson
Good God, we were the only ones on line. Ah wilderness

in the raw

in the raw: necessary heresies (1/2)
by Alex Burns ( – January 22, 2001

Author’s note: This interview was originally published in
REVelation magazine (#13, Autumn, 1995): 36-40. The many
lists of occult and New Age philosophers betrays its
authors’ self-conscious youth: beginners often first learn
discourse by referencing. I subsequently joined the Temple
of Set in June 1996 after further correspondence with Dr.
Michael A. Aquino and other Setians. This was also Robert
Anton Wilson’s first interview by email. At least, I think
it was RAW who replied, but I’m still not sure . . .

The paleolithism of the future (which for us, as mutants,
already exists) will be achieved on a grand scale only
through a massive technology of the Imagination, and a
scientific paradigm which reaches beyond Quantum Mechanics
into the realm of Chaos Theory & the hallucinations of
Speculative Fiction.
~ ~ Hakim Bey, Temporary Autonomous Zones.

Some may get through the gate in time.
~ ~ William Burroughs, Cities of the Red Night.

Robert Anton Wilson has always been an enigma. Surfacing in
a Faustian Age, his writings, lectures and multimedia
projects have become frontline weapons in the war against
the forces of unconsciousness. A trickster-like figure, the
self styled ‘RAW’ has unleashed the forces of Rebellion and
Curiosity, Knowledge and Power, to many over the past 25
years. As the current social structures that have dominated
Western Civilization over the past 2000 years disintegrate
and Chaos ensues, RAW is amongst a loose cabal of
anarchists, scientists and philosophers, all firing the
opening shots in a war that will hope to awaken the latent
creative forces in humankind.

His work is a sobering antidote to much of the deliberately
irrationalist “New Age” theologies or the restrictive dogmas
of modern science. Written during one of the 20th Century’s
major culture shifts, his many books are weapons used by the
few self-conscious people against the smothering herd-like
masses. RAW makes us aware of the current low intensity
culture warfare in which the sacred is manufactured and
commodified, controlled by intellectual castes, and
challenges us to liberate ourselves from this neo-feudalism.
Whilst many other authors make millions out of flashy
psycho-mystical doubletalk about consciousness, ‘change’,
and pop psychology, RAW shows us the true methods of self
discovery. The landmark Prometheus Unbound (1983) and the
later Quantum Psychology (1992) are two key treatises on
self liberation from mental addiction to “ideals”,
alienation, cultured infantilism, anger fuelled by
anti-parental vengeance and other opressions. These modern
grimoires are loaded with techniques to move from being what
cyberneticist Norbert Weiner called “a controllable
thermostat,” to becoming more human.

Our interview was to be conducted by email, as RAW was
working frantically to finish several projects. It was his
first experience of an interview by email, and he was
genuinely excited to get his grips on the super-information
highway; previously being exposed to International Relay
Chat (IRC) in 1993. His new book Cosmic Trigger III: My Life
After Death was at the printers, and it seemed that RAW was
using his ‘trickster’ act to parody the constant queries on
various news-groups about his earthly existence. Eagerly
awaited by longtime fans, the new book promises to recapture
the early Wilson magic that made the original Cosmic Trigger
I: Final Secret of the Illuminati (1977) so special.

“My Life After Death represents a synechdoche, if you’ll
pardon a classical reference. The book deals with masks,
deceptions, art and conspiracy – but, I think, from a new
angle I haven’t used before. My death in cyberspace is just
the prolog and archetype of many other interfaces of art,
illusion and conspiracy I discuss. For instance, Elmyr de
Houry, the greatest art forger of our century – did he forge
as many masterpieces as he claimed, or did he exaggerate his
own criminality? Who can we trust to judge this, when he
fooled the experts for three decades at least? The Priory of
Sion – a serious conspiracy, a joke, a joke that turned into
a conspiracy, or what? The canon of art – another joke or
another conspiracy? UMMO, the alleged extraterrestrial
correspondence school that has impressed a lot of
intelligent people not normally fooled by UFO hoaxes – if
UMMO is not extraterrestrial, what band of human
conspirators are behind it, and is it is a joke, a
conspiracy or something else? All these questions, and many
others, relate to the basic topic of the reality of masks
and the masks of reality. My death is much less mysterious
than many of these other enigmas. . .By the way, some people
still insist I am dead, really. Anything I publish is
regarded by them as the work of a Virtual Robert Anton
Wilson created by the C.I.A. Will you believe me if I deny

It was ironic that the interview was by email, an
appropriate place to discuss masks of reality, conspiracy
and deception. RAW kept his address secret, posting using a
pseudonym. His manipulation of reality extended to the
interview process itself. As RAW has been known to comment,
“Reality is what you can get away with.”

An early influence on RAW was the work of Buckminster Fuller
(1895-1983), the inventor of the geodesic dome and a leading
researcher into synergetic geometry. In the 1960s “Bucky”
challenged the then emerging “pop ecology” movement’s
assertion that humanity faced imminent destruction because
population growth would outstrip our natural resources. He
believed that we use less than 0.05% of the energy available
on our planet. For example, since our architectural plans
are based around Pythagorean “golden means” and other
classical forms, this leads to generic buildings that
inefficiently use space and aren’t integrated into the
surrounding environment. Fuller’s experience with naval
design, which packs the most objects into the smallest,
lightest space, lead him to conclude that our land buildings
overuse potentially recyclable materials. RAW saw this self
imposed limitation was due to conditioned responses and
thinking, and that by changing perspective as Fuller had
done, new solutions, such as Mike Reynold’s “Earthships,” to
previously “unsolvable” problems could occur.

“As Bucky Fuller liked to say, there is no energy shortage
on this planet but there is a terrible intelligence
shortage,” RAW told me.

RAW’s early activities included membership in the legendary
“John Dillinger Died For You Society”, part of the
Discordian movement inspired by Greg Hill’s Principia
Discordia tract (1968). This was a direct influence on the
Illuminatus! trilogy (1975). What began as a satire on weird
religions has mutated over the last 25 years into an unusual
form of individual liberation by worshipping Eris, Goddess
of Chaos. It now has a sizeable net presence and several
news-groups, and has spawned a mini publishing industry. RAW
recently criticised several games companies who have
marketed products exploiting Illuminatus! and the
Discordians, and are able to escape paying royalties through
legal loop-holes. Further commercialisation beckons . . .

After working as an engineering aide and sales manager, RAW
became an Associate Editor of Playboy between 1966-71.
During these formative years he encountered revolutionary
artists/movements such as James Joyce, Surrealism, Borges,
and ‘Pataphysics’ which inspired him. He read the spy novels
of Eric Ambler, John Le Carre and Len Deighton (“where you
can’t believe anything the characters say”) and skeptical
philosophers such as John Hume and Friedrich Nietszche (“who
believed reality cannot be known but only guessed”).

Whilst studying these diverse sources which were to
influence his later work, Hefner’s empire published several
of his works. These included Sex & Drugs (1973), one of the
first Western book to explain the ancient Tantric secret
that consciousness can be altered by slowing the orgasm
during sexual intercourse, often with the help of drugs.
Such secrets had been previously available to initiates of
secret orders such as the Ordo Templi Orientis (OTO), and
had been alluded to by the notorious magician Aleister
Crowley, but RAW was the first to explain sex-magick
scientifically as a “peak experience.”

Breaking with the Hefner Empire coincided with the
authorship of RAW’s most popular work – the Illuminatus!
trilogy, co-authored with the sadly recently deceased Robert
Shea. This three volume work has been described as “the
longest shaggy dog story in literary history” and “a fairy
tale for paranoids.” Yet underneath the satire of just about
every conspiracy theory and political/religious group in
modern society lay an incredible work of hallucinatory
Speculative Fiction. As a means of liberation through trash
culture, it rivals Philip K. Dick’s VALIS novels, ironically
conceived around the same period.

Illuminatus! introduced readers to the enigmatic character
Hagbard Celine and Wilson’s theory that all points of view
are umwelts or “reality tunnels,” which exclude other truths
or information. Amongst the multi-layered characters and
shifting plots, RAW alluded to much of the modern Western
Magickal Tradition, such as sex magick, links between secret
societies and intelligence services (the three main figures
who influenced the early Twentieth Century occult revival –
Theosophist Helena Blatavsky, Russian mystic George
Gurdjieff and Aleister Crowley all worked for the latter),
ritual drug use, secret Nazi research under the Ahnernerbe
organisation into occult technology, and parodies of the
1960s hippie experience.

Whilst Illuminatus! was campy, its hidden references to
philosophies and descriptions of occult knowledge catapulted
Wilson and Shea into the ranks of writers like Daniel Defoe,
Victor Hugo, Jules Verne, and Mary Shelley – authors who had
used allegories to communicate a second, hidden meaning in
their literature – such as the perennial search for the
elusive Philosopher’s Stone: “pure consciousness” and the
Fountain of Youth.

Twenty years later controversy regarding Illuminatus! rages
on. Apart from discussing esoteric doctrines, the book
conveyed a model of conspiracies and paranoia that rival
Eric Hoffer’s examination of fanaticism in The True
Believer. Wilson and Shea used the metaphor of the “Order of
Illuminati or the Enlightened”, an organisation founded in
Bavaria, 1776, by Adam Weishapt, then Professor of Natural
and Canon Law at the University of Ingoldstadt. The
organisation was similar to Freemasonry, and after gaining
over 2000 members and lodges across Europe, was suppressed
in 1784 by the Bavarian Government. This group of republican
free-thinkers began to decline and Weishapt fled Bavaria in
1785, later dying at Gotha in 1811.

Although most likely a curious historical footnote, the
Illuminati were the first modern society to use for
political subversion the machinery of the secret
organization. RAW was able to link this back to the Knights
Templar and Hassan i Sabbah’s shadowy Assassins, who had a
stranglehold on religious power from the ninth Century
onwards. His dying words reportedly were “Nothing Is Real,
Everything Is Permitted.” Conspiracy theorists have linked
the Illuminati to the rise of Hitler, the Trilateral
Commission, the Club of Rome, International Zionism,
Communism, the assassinations of JFK, Robert Kennedy and
Martin Luther King and the Military-Industrial Complex; all
vying for world domination. RAW found it intriguing that
such theorists were spread across the entire political
spectrum, suggesting that conspiracies are metaphors for
this troubled age. Some modern conspiracy theorists even
contend that the publication of Illuminatus! sent shockwaves
through the N.W.O., the Vatican, Masons and the CIA by
revealing the “great hidden secret.”

RAW’s response was: “Well, I’m flattered that some people
think Illuminatus! could have shaken up the New World Order,
but I find it hard to believe. The conspiratorial details in
that book came from (1) long published paranoid literature
(2) the satirical imaginations of Shea and myself.
Reprinting the old paranoid rants couldn’t have disturbed
the Masters of Earth, could it? The only alternative then is
that either Shea or I or both of us possess unconscious ESP
and the things we think we invent actually come to us by
telepathy. A charming idea! I must think about it some more
. . .

“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. So maybe I do have
unconscious ESP. . . .in odd moments. Most of what I think I
invented still seems like fiction to me and to all sane
people I know.”

A startling revelation for RAW fans are his future
projections for the fictional Illuminat series as a whole.
“I eventually plan to continue The Historical Illuminati
Chronicles. Right now I’m more concerned with the future
again. I’m working on Bride of Illuminatus which takes place
in 2026, a more congenial place for my mind to roam than the
Eighteenth Century. If I live long enough, I hope all my
novels will form one continuous saga from 1750, when Bach
died and Sigismundo Celine was born, up through the
democratic and industrial revolutions, on to Darwin and
Nineteenth Century rationalism, then linking in the outbreak
of Relativity (Einstein, Joyce, Crowley) in Masks of the
Illuminati, jumping forward to the psycehdelic age in
Illuminatus and quantum/computer revolutions in
Schroedinger’s Cat and then finishing up with my hopes for
the future in Bride.”

He hopes that readers will gain a new perspective by being
able to read the series sequentially. “After the first
Illuminatus! trilogy with Shea, I noticed that some of the
negative responses indicated an ignorance, not just of
modern science, but of the Enlightenment philosophy of the
18th Century. Many people who can read are still living,
mentally, in the dark ages. So thats when I began to think
of a series of interconnected novels that would take such
readers through all the revolutions of the past two
centuries and prepare them for the 21st Century. The reason
Sigismundo Celine, in The Earth Will Shake, is born in
Naples is because the Inquisition still existed there in

  1. Taking him out of that fanatic Catholic world into the
    world of French rationalism begins the process of taking the
    readers from the Age of Aquinas to the Age of Space.”

A disturbing trend, which supports the need for many people
to be exposed to RAW’s grand vision, is that monotheistic
State and Religious powers have cracked down on many cults,
organisations and individuals who challenge consensus
reality – such as the ritual child abuse scares of the late
1980s, the trial by the Federal Drug Agency of Wilhelm Reich
(discussed by RAW in a 1988 play titled Wilhelm Reich In
Hell), parapsychologists, the Black Panthers, and religious
groups such as the Branch Davidians and Wiccans. Narrow
fundamentalist thinking and a witch-hunt inquisitorial
atmosphere by the media in the 1990s is the result of such
rampant, unchecked paranoia. Complicating the matter even
further is the existence of elite secret societies since
early Paleolithic agricultural based civilizations formed,
from the early priest-shamans and Socratic philosophers of
Egypt and Greece, through the Vatican, Knights Templar and
Freemasons to modern espionage agencies, G-7, Club of Rome,
the OTO, Temple of Set, hidden monasteries in Tibet and
Iran, and the Manhattan Project.

This inquisitorial atmosphere embraced the U.S. during our
interview after the Oklahoma bombing incident in May 1995,
with domestic law enforcement agencies cracking down on
right wing militia groups and controversy surrounding the
powerful National Rifle Association gun lobby. From a unique
vantage point, RAW (who once described his politics as
anarcho-technocrat and his religion as transcendental
atheist/experimental mystic) surveyed the resulting
socio-political upheaval and restriction of civil liberties.

“Considering the political capital that President Clinton
could make out of using the bombing as an excuse to lead a
witch-hunt and smear all his political enemies – and/or his
political “critics” – I think he has shown remarkable
restraint. I can’t explain it. At times I suspect that he is
a man of integrity despite being in politics. (Is that the
first sign of senility appearing in my aging brain?) I hate
to sound naive, but I think Clinton will try to avoid a
witch-hunt and just set the police on the nuts who did the
bombing. Of course, by the time the anti-terrorism bill gets
out of Congress, it will undoubtedly have some nasty and
dangerous clauses in it. I still don’t feel quite ready to
run for Canada. I just increased my monthly contribution to
the American Civil Liberties Union, to help them fight any
excesses that may get into the anti-terrorism bill, but I am
not ready to flee or hide yet.”

RAW’s interest in conspiracies in disguise and conspiracies
within conspiracies evolved into his “guerilla ontology”
phase of work during the late 1970s and early 1980s. He
collaborated with Timothy Leary on several books, including
Neuropolitique (1977) and Game of Life (1979). His analysis
of our reality tunnels synthesised many aspects of human
knowledge including the General Semantics of Count Alfred
Korzybski (“the map isn’t the territory, the menu isn’t the
meal”), Zen poetry, references to Beat writers like William
Burroughs, and other cultural icons.

RAW suggests as Gurdjieff and Burroughs did, that man lives
in a kind of hypnotised state, hardly ‘existing’ at all and
changing from hour to hour, a victim of events that pull him
along. Occasionally he receives flashes of intensity and
freedom, but mostly lives a routine, habit filled existence,
occupied by trivialities. Burroughs suggests a kind of
language-virus (as Ludwig Wittgenstein did), leading RAW to
examine political/religious fanaticism, mind-control
experiments, psychiatric manipulation, propoganda,
irrational science, and other traps that create non existant
problems to be exploited by politicians, priests, the media
and other authoritarian figures. With Philip K Dick, Timothy
Leary, John Cunningham Lilly and others, he became
interested in Information Theory, and the idea that people’s
nervous systems have been wired inefficiently into a “low
level fear” configuration, reinforced by benign deceptions
such as media rapid fire information; illogical
socio-religious concepts; psychotherapy that creates the
need for dependency on institutions; and knee jerk
authoritarianism. These keep people from realising their
true creative powers and keeps the sleeplike masses in
constant confusion, to be manipulated and controlled by an
elite few who restrict the flow of pure information signals
by distorting them to others. (RAW’s Situation Normal All
Fucked Up Law – “Communication is possible only between

Echoing the study of fascism in our family, political and
social structures by Wilhelm Reich, RAW sought to exalt the
individual over the State, and to make people aware of the
subtle, often hidden influences that control and distort
their lives. As Antonio Gramsci stated, “We are taught to
desire our own psychological imprisonment.” RAW’s
correlation of many seemingly separate fields of
experimentation and study often yielded surprisingly
coherent models and new concepts.

Taking the next step from rational study into action, RAW
began to fuse scientific techniques with those of ceremonial
magick (“the Science and Art of causing Change to occur in
comformity with Will,” according to Aleister Crowley) at the
same time as Timothy Leary was conducting LSD research on
William Burroughs, Allan Ginsberg and others, as well as
later developing his 8 circuit model of human consciousness.

Whilst Leary was lecturing across America on the Politics of
Ecstasy and later escaping prison with the help of the
Weatherman radicals, RAW tried most of the major methods of
brain exploration, bringing the new paradigms and manuals
into the Space Age; the next stage from Leary’s experiments
at Harvard using the Bardo Thodol (Tibetan Book of the

When asked what techniques were most beneficial, RAW
replied, “I really don’t know what techniques have helped me
most. I mean, really, you do 6 months of A and 6 months of B
and you feel you’ve learned something organic. Do you
attribute it to A or B or both? I’ve tried dozens of systems
and think I learned a little from each, but I don’t like
picking favorites. Well . . . a few favorites . . . the
Acoustic Brain Research tapes; General Semantics; yoga
meditation; cannabis; scientific method . . . but some
things that didn’t do much for me may do wondersor others. I
never liked isolation tanks, but I don’t doubt that they
have opened doors and new brain paths for many of their

“None of the “smart” drinks have impressed me much so far –
but I absolutely 100% support that line of research. I have
been more impressed with the brain-training tapes produced
by Acoustic Brain Research.But I am keen, as always, on any
new technique that accelerates or expands awareness.

“Most advanced shamanistic techniques such as Tibetan Tantra
or Crowley’s work in the West work by alternating faith and
skepticism until you get beyond the ordinary limits of
both,” he told Science Fiction Review in May 1976. “With
such systems one learns how arbitrary are the reality maps
that can be coded into laryngeal grunts by homids or
visualised by a mammalian nervous system. . .Most people are
trapped in one static reality-map imprinted on their neurons
when they were children.”

It seems extraordinary that two pioneering dissident
philosophers would meet and combine their talents to create
their most important work, but RAW preferred not to dwell on
it. “That’s like Crowley’s question to candidates who came
to him for mystical wisdom. “Why,” he would ask them, “of
all the teachers on this planet did you come to me? And why,
of all the days of your life, on this particular day?” You
just can’t answer such a thing in words. It’s a Zen koan.
The whole universe conspired to send each student to Crowley
on a particualr day, and the whole universe conspired (I
mean that in a literal or ironic sense) to have Dr. Leary
and myself thinking the same things at the same time and it
seemed natural for us to collaborate on a few parts of a few

The Wilson/Leary 8 circuit model of the brain is mentioned
at the end of RAW’s non-fiction post-script to Illuminatus!
called Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati
(1977), and by Leary in Info-Psychology (1987). This
acclaimed work, which ranks with Prometheus Rising (a
practical manual dealing with the 8 circuit model and how to
overcome the limits of your reality tunnels) as RAW’s most
important, is a mindblowing journey through a landscape of
Futurists, Immortalists, RAW’s occult experiments, secret
societies and synchronicities.

The first Cosmic Trigger covered the dark side of the “New
Age” movement, such as links between Aleister Crowley, the
Jet Propulsion Laboratories at Pasadena (which launched the
Apollo space missions), and Scientologist L.Ron Hubbard. But
mainly, these books were nothing less than a manifesto for
self controlled evolution, which all true religious
teachings point to: an effort to exalt the gift of isolate
awareness, reason, and the unnatural aspect of mankind’s
consciousness. Neo-Nietzschean in flavour, they presented
the reader with the modern Quest for the Holy Grail – the
realisation of the unique (polarised) self (or ubermensch).

Extending John Cunningham Lilly’s idea that the mind can be
modelled by computers (thus linking with his work on
informations theories and guerilla ontology), Wilson/Leary
postulated 4 basic circuits that program our behaviour: (1)
the Oral Bio-Survival Circuit; (2) the Anal
Emotional-Territorial Circuit; (3) the Time-Binding Semantic
Circuit; and (4) the “Moral” Socio-Sexual Circuit. Wilson
acknowledged that these circuits are antique and
conservative, existing in everybody and readily manipulated.
When reprogrammed, they allow control of the five senses,
which if properly trained allow the psyche to experience the
world directly, but most often act as blockages. However his
most inspiring work deals with the next four circuits –
relatively new in terms of our evolution, which Wilson hopes
will foreshadow our future stages of development. These four
new circuits are: (5) the Holistic Neuro-somatic Circuit;
(6) the Collective Neurogenetic Circuit; (7) the
Metaprogramming Circuit and (8) the Non-Local Quantum

These circuits are triggered by certain psychoactive drugs
and other “peak experiences”, leading to deeper appreciation
of aesthetics, noetic apprehension and the eventual
unravelling of “the language of the gods” – contained in
Egyptian hieroglyphs and the DNA Double Helix. In one stroke
Wilson and Leary had linked the post-Einstein Quantum
Physics revolution with modern religious, occult, and
psychological techniques. This is one reason why despite the
model being over twenty years old, Wilson sheepishly wrote,
“I’m embarassed to say that I still like the 8 circuit model
of the brain better than any other. This embarasses me
because I said frequently over 20 years ago that it would be
replaced by a better model within 10 years. Maybe it has
been made obsolete already and I just don’t know about it .
. . but in my area of knowledge, the 8 circuit model still
fits more facts than any other model.”

The Wilson/Leary model extends on the Sufi/Gurdjieffian
analogy of the “body as a transformational apparatus for
energy,” linking with physicist Jack Sarfatti’s theory that
higher levels of consciousness are a special form of energy
within the universe, which only a few in each generation
will discover and control.

“One of the major revisions in my current seminars (I
haven’t published this yet) changes the names of the
polarity of the first circuit. Instead of calling the
extremes neophilia and neophobia, I now call them infophilia
and infophobia, which I consider more general. I also have
started (not always consistently) replacing 8 “circuits”
with 8 “systems” because the circuit metaphor seems a little
too electronic and I think humans are more electro-colloidal
systems than the electronic models of human “mind” that we
find in computers. In other words, like all protoplasm we
can be modelled by computers but we remain more chemically
complex and otherwise more complex than mere circuitry
describes. I’m not trying to drag in some New Age
“spirituality” here. I just mean that General Systems Theory
seems more . . . well, more general than computer theory.

“I got the electro-colloidal idea from Charles M. Childs in
his Individuality in Organisms. He says all protoplasm
exists in electro-colloidal suspension between sol and gel
and dies if it moves too far in either direction. (He says a
lot of other interesting things, too . . .) So I tend to see
humans as dynamic living systems in that kind of suspension
between sol and gel. That means they can only be understood
holistically or organically, not in a linear or mechanistic
way. Hence, I prefer Systems to Circuits as models.”

This revision poses some important implications for
Artificial Intelligence work, and whether computers will
ever acheive consciousness. Wilson’s revision suggests that
they may acheive some form – such as awareness of death, or
intelligence (seen in the example of viruses approaching the
complexity of low level bacterial forms), but never the
“self-consciousness” that makes mankind unique on Earth.

Leary linked this model to his SMI²LE paradigm (Space
Migration, Intelligence Intensification and Life Extension)
which envisions a future free of restrictive Judeo-Christian
morality and the limits imposed on us by a certain death.
His monograph 22 Alternatives to Involuntary Death was an
important contribution to the LE field, which involves a
diverse range of technology and techniques, such as yoga,
virtual reality, AI, cryonics, flotation tanks and certain
elements of magick Commenting on the present trends, RAW
observed that, “The people I know in anti-aging research all
expect some major breakthrough soon, but I would not hazard
a guess about in what area of research it will occur or

“I think anti-AIDS research will most likely give us the key
to what causes the accelerated breakdown of the immune
system in that disease, and that will probably but give us
the key to what causes the slower breakdown that leads to
aging and death for the rest of us who don’t even have AIDS.
It will be a wonderful, and kindly, joke on the
Fundamentalists if the greatest scientific gift to Gay men
becomes a wonderful gift to the Fundamentalists, too.”

In the mid-1980s after having his work published by a range
of major and independent publishers, RAW became involved
with New Falcon Publications, a loose cabal of similarly
minded authors, spearheaded by Dr. Christopher Hyatt, who
wrote the seminal Undoing Yourself with Energized Meditation
(1989). New Falcon reprinted his earlier work, along with
tracts by Leary, Crowley and other proponents of brain
change. Currently New Falcon is one of the leading
publishers of such modern grimoires, differing from other
New Age publishers in jettisoning pompous acedmia or hazy
cosmic foo foo.

“Believe it or not, I don’t understand how New Falcon came
about or even why it does much of what it does,” RAW
admitted. “All I know is that Dr. Hyatt was a Jungian
therapist, decided Jung didn’t cover everything and became a
Jungian-Reichian therapist, and then for some reason became
a publisher on top of that. He’s also the Outer Head of the
Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. I think his major concern
is to publish books that he considers important, especially
if they contain the kind of ideas that the Establishment
publishers in New York won’t touch with a ten-foot pole.”

Unfortunately despite much pioneering work, RAW does have
his critics. Dr. Michael A. Aquino, co-founder of the Temple
of Set observed in a review of the Illuminatus! trilogy that
his later non fiction work “lacked the unself-conscious
style of Illuminatus!, and fell right into the category of
publications so successfully lampooned by it. Truth,
however, remains stranger than fiction, and within the pages
of Illuminatus! you will actually find many gems of occult

Robin Robertson of Psychological Perspectives points out
that “beneath the skeptic, I find he is drawn to the magical
side of life . . . he is not the model agnostic he holds up
as ideal.” Such criticisms are hidden under a deluge of
appreciative comments. RAW was criticised harshly by members
of the science community after the publication of The New
Fundamentalists in 1986, but he has managed to avoid the
kind of criticisms about integrity levelled at his friend
Timothy Leary.

More glaring are comments by Gnosis magazine contributor Jay
Cornell in a review of Cosmic Trigger II: Down To Earth that
Wilson’s later work suffered from “predictable ’80s pop
leftism or nostalgic sentimentalism about the ’60s” and that
“his trickster act needs updating.”

Wilson responded to this harsh indictment of his work by
stating, “I never respond to that kind of criticism. First,
nobody can be objective about his own work, and you make a
fool of yourself if you pretend that you can. Second, if
perchance my work has anything of lasting value, it will go
on, as it has gone on for two decades, getting reprinted
continually, and Cornell can’t stop it. On the other hand,
if my work has no real lasting value, it will eventually all
go out of print, and I can’t persuade people they ought to
buy it to make me happy.”

In a 1976 Science Fiction Review interview he felt that his
books should “leave the reader with the feeling that the
universe is capable of doing something shocking within the
next 5 minutes. Life without certainty can be exhilirating,
liberating, a great adventure. I hope to create a real sense
of awe, which is all the religion we need, and all we can
honestly expect in this day and age.”

On the topic of literary criticism itself, RAW revealed,
“I’m probably too sensitive, but so are a lot of artists.
Richard Burton gave up reading all reviews, because he went
into such dark suicidal depressions whenever he saw a bad
one. Hart Crane and Ross Lockeridge actually did kill
themselves because of critics. I don’t get that wounded, but
I do feel pain. Why hide this? Critics know that most
artists are sensitive. They would get no fun out of their
vicious work if they didn’t know it hurts. Sadists don’t
attack inanimate objects. They want victims who feel pain.”

Despite Cornell’s criticisms, RAW is still as relevant in
the 1990s as ever. A recent essay in his Trajectories
newsletter criticised the defence of the military-industrial
complex by ‘futurist’ Alvin Toffler, author of the classic
Future Shock (1971), now spokesperson for the Progress &
Freedom Association. With the election of Republican Senator
Newt Gingrich as House Speaker, Toffler has been elevated to
guru-like status, serving as an adviser to various
government departments, and being regularly quoted by
Gingrich. Toffler’s closest rival, author John Megatrends
Naisbitt, and right wing sci-fi author Jerry Pournelle, have
also pushed for rises in military/high-tech industry/NASA
spending. Pournelle was an avid supporter of the Star Wars
or SDI (Strategic Defence Initiative) in the early 1980s,
giving a vision that space is a new frontier like the Wild
West once was, only bigger. This rush to put mankind into
space as a priority echoes Leary’s admirable Space Migration
work on the surface, but is more like the visions of pulp
writer Robert Heinlein, who lobbied the Eisenhower
Administration in the 1950s for similar industry subsidies,
believing space to be the final utopia.

RAW is far more pragmatic. “The I-squared (Intelligence
Intensification) part of Leary’s SMI²LE program has always
seemed to me more important than the SM (space migration)
and LE (Life Extension.) Without more brains, we won’t get
more space or more time.

“I would tend to see this emerging culture as another sign
of the fundamentalist materialism I’ve criticised in the
past. Certainly, Futurism or Future Studies seem to have
split into two camps. First, the Utopians like Barbara Marx
Hubbard and the people carrying on Bucky Fuller’s work (they
have about four different groups, advancing different parts
of Bucky’s scenario.) Then, on the other side, the ones who
call themselves the nuts-and-bolts realists. I regard them
as “crackpot realists” in the sense in which the sociologist
C. Wright Mills used that term. They define realism by the
norms of the ruling class and then work within those
parameters. I think all work within those ruling class
parameters is doomed and pointless. The information
revolution is changing everything so totally that we have to
think outside the traditional Master/Serf paradigm, so the
Utopians, who did get out of that grid, make more sense to
me. I agree with Riane Eisler – the Dominator model is
collapsing and a Partnership model will replace it. So, the
Tofflers and their glorification of war seem anti-Futurist
to me. War is the ultimate schoolyard bully form of
Dominator ethos, unfortunately magnified into mass murder.
This paradigm will destroy humanity unless we transform it
into a Partnership/Negotiation paradigm.”

Hakim Bey, the author of Temporary Autonomous Zones and an
ally of Wilson’s argues that such control of new technology
by corporations will only continue the current neo-feudalism
pervading our society. In TAZ he writes “certain doctrines
of “Futurology” remain problematic. For example, even if we
accept the liberatory potential of such new technologies as
TV, computers, robotics, Space exploration, etc., we still
see a gap between potentiality & actualization. The
banalization of TV, the yuppification of computers & the
militarization of Space suggest that these technologies in
themselves provide no “determined” guarantee of their
liberatory use.”

The issue is one of control and has occured before – LSD was
used by the CIA’s MK-Ultra program as a mind control tool
but also by Leary and many others to expand their
consciousness and as a research tool into the human
bio-computer. As Wilson says in a famous quote: “Whoever
controls the definition has the ultimate control.” Since the
State won’t wither away or be overthrown, Hakim Bey and
others hope to render it obsolete by decentralist electronic
technology and programmes of self liberation. “There is no
humanity without techne,” Bey reminds us, “but there is no
techne worth more than my humanity.” Despite a false
optimism and egalitarianism, its clear that social
stratification is more prevalent than before, and that
technology will play a deciding role in what future society
finally occurs.

Discussing the potentiality/actualisation gap, RAW suggests
that, “actually, there are gaps in every part of the
social-evolution process. For instance, new mathematical
theories turn into new technology in about two years in
computer science, but it takes fifty years in architecture.
Fuller did a lot of calculation of these time-lags and most
of his predictions about the 1980s, made in the 1920s, have
come true.”

As we head towards the Omega Point and information spirals
out of control, emerging subcultures such as the Cyberpunks,
or sudden renaissances, such as the rise of dark goths
transmute social groups into mutated forms. As an observer
of this emergence, RAW surprisingly refrained from
criticising others who fail to look beyond the surface
trappings. “I don’t like to bum-rap other writers. They have
to take enough crap from the envious little shits who write
reviews; they don’t need my abuse, too. So, without saying
anything about what I don’t like, the living writers whose
work especially interests me at present include Douglas
Adams, William Burroughs, who still seems topical no matter
how old he gets, Tom Robbins, who writes the best sentences
of anybody working in English today, George V. Higgins, who
sees humans with a wonderful irony and writes the most
realistic dialogue I’ve ever seen (even better than Joyce or
Hemingway), and a lot of scientist-philosophers who seem to
me to be giving us wonderful new ideas and perceptions:
Rupert Shelldrake, Ralph Abraham, Terrence McKenna, Barbara
Marx Hubbard, the fuzzy logic people, Riane Eisler, Nick
Herbert, Nichlas Negroponte, Marilyn Ferguson, Peter Rusell,
Fred Alan Wolfe . . . and of course, Tim Leary, who is ill,
but may have a few unpublished books that might still blow
all our minds.”

Regarding the subcultures themselves and projection of
current trends, RAW suggests that, “.there remain a lot of
reactionary forces, on all continents. But I still think
that the basic cluster of science, democracy and Welfare
Capitalism (or Free Market Socialism – call it what you
will) seem stronger than all the other reality-tunnels and
will increasingly dominate the next century . . . even more
than they have dominated the last two centuries.”

In this projected world where fuzzy logic and shifting
alliances are “good”, RAW’s unique brand of cultural
antinomianism will continue to play an important role in
shattering mainstream idols and agendas.

1997 Update: Three Responses:

When the Australian magazine REVelation published my profile
of futurist author Robert Anton Wilson, it prompted some
revealing comments from several people quoted in the
original printed article.

The self styled ‘RAW’ has always been a target for
controversy. His exploration of subjects that contemporary
society finds dangerous or even sometimes frightening has
often prompted angry responses from critics. The more
mindless responses to RAW’s published work have been by
Andrea Antonoff, who labelled him as “stupid”; Lou Rollins
comment that RAW is “a male feminist . . .a simpering pussy
whipped wimp . . .” and most scathingly by CSICOP’s
(Committee for Scientific Investigation Into Paranormal)
Robert Sheaffer, who labelled the views expressed in The New
Inquisition (New Falcon Press: 1986) as “malicious,
misguided fanaticism.”

The REVelation article quoted three major criticisms of
Wilson’s work which were deemed by its author to be
relevant. It’s true that those quoted were largely
sympathetic to his pioneering work: Robin Robertson of
Psychological Perspectives states in the same review that
her initial quote was pulled from that “Wilson’s a very
funny man . . . readers with open minds will like his

I subsequently received responses from two other critics
quoted. Jay Cornell is a columnist for the respected
magazine Gnosis who wrote a review of RAW’s Cosmic Trigger
II: Down To Earth (New Falcon Publications: 1992). Whilst
largely positive, the review contained significant
criticisms of the limits of RAW’s “reality tunnel” concept
(“all views are reality tunnels that exclude other
information and keep us all far stupider than we should be”)
that RAW seemed to take a serious dislike to.

Cornell responds:

“I was surprised that he remembered that review and that it
still bothered him so much. As a whole, it is far less
negative than your piece implies. My overall opinion as
expressed there might be summarized as: ‘Here’s a good and
interesting writer and one I’ve always liked, but his latest
book is a very mixed bag.’ I find it hard to see how any
reader of that review would call it “vicious”, “more
glaring” than some other “harsh” criticism he got at another
time, or the writing of a “sadist.” Hell, I consider myself
a fan! I certainly have no wish to “stop” him or his work in
any way. Though I admit my libertarian soul wishes he would
change his sometimes reflexive leftism/anti-conservatism.

“I was disappointed with only part of Cosmic Trigger II. I
tried very hard to explain just what I liked about Wilson’s
work in general and C.T. II in particular, and exactly what
I didn’t like in that particular book. I realized at the
time that he might take umbrage, but I felt that his own
principles were forgotten when he wrote about certain
subjects (Catholics, the C.I.A., and conservatives were the
three main ones, I believe). It seemed especially glaring to
me because in the autobiographical part of the book (the
part I liked, and said so!) there were events which clearly
formed to his negative feelings about those subjects. It
seemed like he was blind to conditioning in himself that he
would easily see in someone else. (Not an uncommon fault.)

“The thought even crossed my mind to write more of a puff
piece, just in order to promote the work of someone I liked,
but hey, I have to call ’em as I see ’em. Little did I know
that this would plague him for years! My goodness, I had and
have no wish to be cruel to him or anyone. I’m very sorry
for any pain I caused him. I wish he would read that review
again, and maybe give it to a friend to read so as to get
another perspective about this “vicious” review. I don’t
like thinking that a favorite author of mine hates me
because he thinks I hate him.”

I also recieved a response from Dr. Michael A. Aquino,
co-founder, and for many years High Priest, of the Temple of
Set. Since 1975 the Setian approach to metaphysics and
“conscious evolution of the individual self”\ (examined in
RAW’s later work) has been amongst the most complex and
precise in the occult community. It has investigated and
studied many of the roots of RAW’s work, such as the ancient
Egyptian Priesthood of Set, the magick of Aleister Crowley,
Quantum Physics, and the psychological commentaries of
Gurdjieff/Ouspensky alongside modern rituals/”brain change”
techniques. As senior spokes-person for the Temple of Set,
Dr. Aquino is uniquely qualified to comment on RAW’s work:

“Re-reading my comments about Wilson, I would stand by them
today, but I do not mean that unkindly. I thought
Illuminatus! was a marvelous work – just the sort of enema
the “occult subculture” [and those without it who crab about
it] needed so badly at the time. I continue to recommend it
today to those who show signs of needing its dash of cold

“Similarly I greatly enjoyed Wilson’s Schroedinger’s Cat
trilogy. All of these are books that I admire without any
qualification whatever. As noted in the comments of mine
which you quoted, I was a little disappointed in Cosmic
Trigger and its aftermath. It seemed to me that Wilson was a
bit dazzled by Timothy Leary, to the point of losing his own
“arms-length grip on reality” where occultism &
fringe-science are concerned. I think that works like
Illuminatus! and Schroedinger’s Cat were possible because
Wilson (& Shea) actually had their heads well-grounded in
common sense, hence could lampoon their topics very
accurately without being at all condescending about it. In
the Cosmic Trigger series, I get the feeling that Wilson has
lost his intellectual tether and is floating on up there
into the stratosphere with Dr. Tim – not that this is an
unpleasant pastime, as Leary is certainly a charming