Monday, December 27, 2010

A look at the new Twitter

(Reprinted from the Lawton Constitution.)
Twitter, the popular Internet site and service, has launched a new and improved version of itself.
For those of you who need a refresher: Twitter is a Web service that allows anyone to set up an account and post short messages. Each message is limited to 140 characters -- one or two sentences.
This is obviously a limitation, but it's also a strength. The short messages make Twitter a Web service that also works well on a cell phone.
And it turns out that even celebrities can manage to write a few words, so Twitter has made it easy for famous athletes or actors to stay in touch with their fans. People who can actually write can use Twitter to point to longer blog posts or articles by posting links.
Anyone who sets up a Twitter account can choose to follow other Twitter accounts, and may also post messages and try to attract followers. You can view whom each person is following.
I have accounts on both Twitter and Facebook.
Facebook seems to be the more popular service, and more of my friends are there.
But I have more control over Twitter, because it's easier to choose who to receive messages from.
I use Twitter as a news service to keep up with what's going on in the world. I subscribe to Twitter accounts from the New York Times and CNN, and from various writers and commenters who interest me, and also a few friends.
Because the messages are short, I can use Twitter to keep up with the news while doing other work.
When the leader of Wikileaks, Julian Assange, was in a British court trying to post bail, I followed a series of short reports on Twitter as I went about my workday.
The new version of Twitter -- you can try it, or stay with the old version for awhile -- has some nice changes.
Clicking on a Tweet opens up a window on the right side of the page which provides more information, including comments from other Twitter users.
Clicking on a username for a message provides information on that person, without having to go to another Web page.
Twitter says it has also made it easier to embed photos and videos in messages.
For many people, what Twitter does with its Web site is irrelevant. Many people never go to at all, but access their Twitter messages and send their their own missives using a third party application, such as Tweetdeck. I have a widget on my Gmail account called Twittergadget that I often use. Twitter can be accessed on cell phones as well as computers. is a Web site that allows simultaneous posting of the same update to Twitter, Facebook and many other social messenging sites. Threadsy allows people to monitor their e-mail, Facebook updates and Twitter updates at one Web site, putting all of the messages together in one place.
Twitter also has inspired two Web sites which track who used to follow your messages but dumped your feed. The sites are and
(Tom Jackson wants to hear about interesting Southwest Oklahoma Web sites and blogs and sites his readers find useful or interesting. Write me I'm on Twitter as jacksontom.)

Monday, December 20, 2010

Robert Anton Wilson: The Trajectories interview

[Editor's note: I think I have something special here. This is one of the best interviews with Robert Anton Wilson I've ever read, and it's one that hasn't been reprinted on the Internet, until now.

It was published in issue No. 5 of Trajectories. This is NOT the magazine of the same name that Robert Anton Wilson published, but a journal published in the 1980s in Austin, Texas.

"In fact, I didn't know at the time RAW published a mag of that name, and believe that curiosity on his part is one reason he granted the interview. We determined they were different enough in scope to not worry about the name, and in fact, mine actually started publication first," says Richard Shannon, who published the Texas Trajectories, along with co-publisher Susan Sneller.

"As best I remember (and Rick probably has a better memory than I do), this all started with him. He found out Bob was going to be in town, and he knew that I was a HUGE fan of the ILLUMINATUS! trilogy. So he set up the interview, the three of us met for dinner (I think Rick picked up the check), and we had a tape recorder going the whole time. Rick even has a couple of photos of the occasion," Shiner says.

"It was kind of a weird interview. At the time, I felt like Bob was not really listening to me, kind of talking over me and delivering somewhat prefab responses. Yet when I listened back to the tape, it was a really good interview, and he sounded very compassionate and wise.. "

The interview is reprinted with Shiner and Shannon's permission. In fact,when I wrote to them, Shannon mailed a copy of the zine from Texas to Shiner (now a resident of the Research Triangle area of North Carolina referenced in my recent reprint of Arthur Hlavaty's article) and Shiner kindly scanned the interview TWICE, one as a jpeg so I could see what it looked like, and once as text so I could reproduce it.]

Conducted by Lewis Shiner, Susan Sneller, and Rick Shannon

We met Robert Anton Wilson in the lobby of the Marriott. It was April 28, 1988, and he was in Austin for a lecture and a workshop. He was dressed casually, his receding white hair combed straight back, his neatly trimmed beard slightly worn just under his lower lip, where he habitually rubs it while talking. He was only a little reserved, considering he'd committed himself to an evening with total strangers. We had a relaxed interview over dinner in the hotel. His answers were slow and well considered, delivered in a somewhat gruff voice that still has the accent of his New York upbringing.

Are you involved with computers?

I know a lot of people in Silicon Gulch. I know a lot of the gossip and shoptalk, but I don't do anything with my computer except write. I know I've got this enormous machine there that will do a million other things, but I'm so busy writing, writing, writing. Overproduction is the only way for a writer of minority appeal to survive.

I'm always trying new things to supplement my income. I did a new type of seminar in Boulder a few weeks ago, which I co-created with a friend named Liz Freeman. Instead of a regular seminar it was a game. Everybody who came in — we had about 40 people — was taken to a little room, and told who they were playing and what their goal was, and nothing else. And then the party began. There were five levels of deception, which we thought would be a lot of fun. The party ran from 3 in the afternoon to 9 at night, and by 9 most people had only got to the second level. We had made it too bloody complicated. Nobody found out how complicated it was. It was all based on competing conspiracies. I've been thinking that could be adapted for a computer game, for networking. If people had enough time they could get back on, in a week, you know, after they've thought it over, and figure out the deceptions.

Do you know about Steve Jackson's Illuminati game?

Everybody I meet thinks it's based on my Illuminatus! novels and I'm getting royalties on it. He claim it's not based on the novels, so I'm not getting royalties on it. Different lawyers give me different opinions. Decide for yourself.

Are you married?

Very. We're going to be celebrating our 30th anniversary soon. 30 years.

That's impressive.

I don't know if it's wonderful, but it's sure unusual. Especially in the circles we travel in. The average California marriage lasts about 6 months.

You grew up in New York, then moved to Ohio. Why Ohio?

I was offered a job editing a magazine for a place called the School for Living, which later moved to Maryland. The School for Living had a very interesting philosophy, which was "back to nature, live on the land, eat health food" — and a bit of anarchism and Wilhelm Reich. I agreed with about half of that and thought the over half was kind of flakey, but it was interesting. I thought it would be a great idea to live on a farm and see how I did at it.

I enjoyed it. We were there for two years.

Were you influenced by your years on the farm?

Yeah, I think so. My children were very young then. I guess the oldest was about eight when we left Ohio. I used to look at the grass and crops and trees and goats and cows and at my children and my wife and myself and think about evolution — all these different types of intelligence. I got fascinated by the intelligence of insects. It turned me into a pantheist. No, pantheist is not correct. The technical word is pan-psych-ist. I became more and more convinced that everything was intelligent.

Recently I read a Sufi philosopher of the 14th century who said, "Within every atom are a thousand rational beings." That's just what I've suspected for years.

How did you encounter Aleister Crowley?

I was having lunch with Alan Watts in 1969 and I told him I was writing a book. He asked me what it was about so I told him a bit about the Illuminatus trilogy, including the eye in the pyramid, and he said, "That reminds me of the most wonderful book I've read all year, called the Eye in the Triangle, by Israel Regardie." So I made a note of that. I was working for Playboy at the time — I went back to the office after lunch and I told the Playboy library to order the book. Editors had that privilege at Playboy; you could order any book you wanted and the library would get it in. So I read it and it got me fascinated, and that's how I got involved with Crowley.

So you came into Illuminatus through the conspiracy angle rather than the occult angle.

That's right. I was educated to believe that there are no conspiracies, or if there are we shouldn't talk about them. To think about conspiracies was somehow uncouth or lower class or might cause you to turn into a Nazi in your sleep or something. You should never think about conspiracies or talk about them. But then with the Kennedy assassination ... I just couldn't believe the Warren Commission. I started studying a lot of the different conspiracy theories and then I started running into the really kooky ones. Bob Shea and I used to go out for drinks every Friday evening after work and solve all of the problems of the world over a few Bloody Marys. We were talking about all of these kooky conspiracy theories and Shea said, "Why don't we write a book about all the craziest conspiracy theories." And eventually the Illuminatus trilogy developed out of that.

What have you been reading lately?

The book that impressed me most, recently, is The Psychobiology of Mind/Body Healing by Eugene Lawrence Rossi. It's a book about the neuropeptide system, and how the ideas in the cortex affect the hypothalamus, which affects the neuropeptide system. He explains how people can die of black magic curses and how they can get better if they have faith in something, like Christian Science, or Vitamin C — like Norman Cousins, who had an allegedly fatal disease. Cousins just took massive doses of Vitamin C and looked at comedies on television, and cured himself. I've known these things were possible for many years; Rossi's book gives the best, up-to-date, scientific explanation of how it works, how the neuropeptide system controls the immune system, how the immune system fights off disease or doesn't fight off disease. For instance, we all get cancer eventually, and most of us fight it off. The immune system is strong enough to fight it off. It's when the immune system fails that the disease kills you.

I'm a model of good health considering all my vices. Tim Leary said that recently, he said, "Bob is walking proof of the neurosomatic circuit — he has all the bad habits they warn us against and he's still healthy."

You've often said that we can't trust history — so how do you go about getting accurate historical research?

I don't know how accuracy is to be found in history, given the amount of prejudice and coverup. I don't have any faith in my historical research. I use what seems .... usable. I'm not entirely arbitrary; I can tell the difference between a real whacko and somebody who's fairly intelligent and rational. But even the people who are fairly intelligent and rational have their prejudices, so I don't trust them completely. Sometimes the whackos maybe were accurate.

You feel you've developed a nose for political agendas?

There's a certain style that warns you. There's a paranoid style of writing. When you see that you know you have to take everything very skeptically.

Are there any plans to restore the pages Dell ordered cut from Illuminatus?

No, all that got lost. Dell had the book for five years before they published it. They kept announcing they'd publish it next year, and then the editor would get fired, or quit to take a better job, and the new editor wouldn't know anything about it. The thing dragged on for five years. Finally we got a definite announcement they were going to publish it, but they wanted us to cut 500 pages, and they'd then divide it up into three volumes, which we'd never intended. Shea and I were so worn down, after five years of struggle, we said, "Okay, we'll cut 500 pages." So I said to Shea, "Let's cut it like Godard cut Breathless, totally at random. They're buying it by the pound, they have no concept of literary structure or anything like that, so let's give them a literary structure that's totally original, a stochastic structure." Shea agreed with me, so we just made our cuts at random. We didn't use any principle at all — there are cuts in the middle of dialog, people talking about one subject and suddenly they're talking about another. It's just like Godard did it with Breathless, even ten minutes he made a cut of a few feet of film. It kept the audience off balance. It seemed to work with Illuminatus, too.

When we were doing the cutting I was in Mexico and Shea was in Chicago and Dell was in New York, so in the process of these pages flowing back and forth through this loop, what got cut was lost permanently. I decided to accept it in the Zen way as a lucky accident. It turned out to be an even weirder book than we had planned. And the people at Dell were totally uninterested in literary qualities — they just thought it had enough sex and violence so it might succeed, and had no concept of literature at all. Nobody commented, "Hey you turned your book into total chaos." They were weighing it by the pound. If you've got a big name like Michener you can get a fat book published because everything he writes is a bestseller, but if you're unknown they divide it up into three books, cut it down to a size they can afford to lose in case it doesn't succeed.

Every chapter is based on a Sephiroth of the Kabbalistic Tree of Life. You can still find that in there if you look hard enough. It was very carefully planned originally. For instance, Simon Moon's first words in the book are "Crown Point," which turns out to refer to the jail Dillinger escaped from, but it also refers to Kether, the title of the first chapter, and Kether means "crown" in Hebrew and is symbolized by a point. That cabalistic symbolism runs all through the book, every page has parallels with the Tree of Life. There were 22 appendixes, which were the 22 paths on the Tree of Life, and that got cut to eight. I finally just decided to regard it as a joke. That's the way you have to regard capitalism or you either go crazy or become a socialist and I didn't want to do either.

How about politics?

I've gotten increasingly agnostic and I've gotten older, and increasingly wary of ideologies, including my own. So if you tied me to a lie detector, with a gun to my head, I would have to say, most of the time, I'm somewhere on the libertarian-anarchist continuum. But I distrust myself. I distrust being rigidified and getting dogmatic, so I keep challenging my own assumptions and looking at alternatives. Knowing how dumb I am, I don't want to become another dogmatist. I saw what happened to Ayn Rand and sweet Jesus forbid it should happen to me.

Now my political activity consists of making regular contributions to Amnesty International, which I regard as insurance, not as charity. Amnesty has a very simply policy, namely, "People should not be locked up for their ideas." I'm all for that. I figure anybody in jail for his or her ideas is depriving my brain of nourishment. If they could get out and publish their ideas it might inspire me; it might give me new ideas; it might cause brain growth. As long as one heretic is locked up, part of my brain is locked up and I'm not getting the nourishment I need. So that's the one thing I still contribute to regularly: Amnesty. My wife contributes to the American Friends Service Committee — I don't, because she's already doing it. That's about it. I'm very cynical about politics. I have a wan, nostalgic hope that Jesse Jackson will win, just because a black president would restore a balance. So would a woman president, of course.

Large parts of The Earth Will Shake are openly didactic —

I don't mind being didactic. It's unfashionable, but my favorite writers were all didactic — Dante was didactic, Shakespeare was didactic, Chaucer, Jonathan Swift, Ezra Pound.

Do you see a big distinction between your fiction and non-fiction?

No, because I can't tell the difference myself. I think it's entirely arbitrary which books are put in fiction and which are put in non-fiction. I'm a big fan of Charles Fort, and one of the things he said that I especially treasure is, "I frankly offer this as fiction, in the same sense that Genesis and The Origin of Species and Euclid's Geometry are fiction."

Strieber's Communion is entertaining, whether it was true or not.

It's a very clever work of art. He creates more terror in that "factual" book than most "fiction" writers. He knows how to build up the tension and get under your skin. I'm pretty skeptical about abductee stories, but there was a point about three quarters of the way through that book where I found myself looking around the room to see what damned thing might have gotten in in the last few minutes.

I'm not convinced Communion is fiction. I'm not convinced it's non-fiction. It's in a quantum "maybe" state as far as I'm concerned.

Were you a Lovecraft fan before you got into Illuminatus?

I was a Lovecraft fan since I was about 12. I think it was when I was 12 I heard "The Dunwich Horror" with Ronald Coleman as the narrator. It impressed the hell out of me. I started looking for Lovecraft and I couldn't find any Lovecraft books, but I found a few short stories by him in anthologies. Then when I was 14 I found a whole book of Lovecraft, edited by August Derleth. So Lovecraft has been a passion with me most of my life. I like the way he uses techniques that make you think, "Gee, maybe this isn't fiction." That fascinates me, because doubt lasts longer than faith and provokes thought rather than discouraging it.

Surrealism fascinates me, too. The first Surrealist show, people had to come in through a garden where there was a taxicab, and it was raining inside the taxicab but not outside. When the audience — or victims — got past that, the first thing they saw in the building was a big sign that Andre Breton had hung up that said, "Dada is not dead! Watch your overcoat!" At that point the distinction between art and life had been completely obliterated. I aim for that in all my books.

I like happenings, I like that game I was telling you about earlier. I like to blur the distinctions, because most of what we think is perception is actually projection anyway. I like to make people more aware that they are creating the reality they inhabit. Lovecraft taught me a lot about how to do that, in a literary way.

My favorite of all my books is The Widow's Son because I think I created uncertainty better there than anywhere else. I don't think there's anybody in the world who can tell how much of that book is real and how much is fiction. Including me. I don't absolutely know how much to trust my sources.

--- and how much you made up may have been true.

I've had that happen, too. In Illuminatus I made Beethoven a member of the Illuminati. That was a parody of the Christian Crusade in Oklahoma — they were claiming the Beatles were Communist agents. I decided to put it back 200 years and make Beethoven an Illuminati agent. And, my God, that was just a joke, but it's true! Beethoven either belonged to the Illuminati or was certainly a fellow traveler. He was very closely associated with them. I had no idea that was true when I wrote it.

What other SF writers have influenced you?

Robert Heinlein. Some people say Heinlein's later stuff isn't as good as his earlier stuff. There are weaknesses in his later books but there are good things in his later books too. In some ways I think he's gotten worse, and in some ways he's gotten better. But his books are all interesting. They're certainly provocative.

Some people regard books as a narcotic. I regard books as a stimulant. If they don't stimulate me, to hell with them. Same thing with movies. I don't want soothing, sedative movies. I want provocative, challenging movies.

The next science fiction writer who's been a major influence on me is Olaf Stapledon. I think he's the greatest science fiction writer who ever lived, and a greater philosopher than Bertrand Russell or Sartre.

Phil Dick is another of my favorites. In fact there's a lot of synchronicities between Phil and me. Phil and I had a lot of the same sort of paranormal experiences at around the same time. Phil was just as agnostic about it as I am. Cosmic Trigger and VALIS were statements for that time. I'm still mulling over a lot of those things, and Phil would be mulling too, if he were here.

What kind of a person is Timothy Leary?

That's a hard one. Tim says there are 24 Timothy Learys, and which one you contact is a measure of your own intelligence. I guess I've encountered about 18 of them. He continually astounds me. I find him admirable, at times. He's certainly brilliant. He's very funny. At times I find him annoying. He can be very cold and inhuman, and he can be very warm and sympathetic. There are so many facets to Leary that anything you say about him is untrue. He's just too complicated for anybody to summarize him briefly.

Visiting Tim in prison was a really major influence on me. Seeing how he kept himself high and cheerful under those conditions convinced me it can be done.

Have you done any short fiction?

I had a few short stories published, but I sort of stopped writing short fiction when I started getting books published.

Do you have a favorite of your own works?

I like all my books. [Laughs.] If you don't enjoy your work, you might as well give up. Frank Lloyd Wright was a witness in a court trial once, and he was asked, "What is your profession?" and he said, "Architect." The next question was, "What is your standing in your field?" and he said, "I am the world's greatest architect." His friends told him later, "Frank, you carry this arrogance too far sometimes." He said, "What could I do? I was under oath."

You must feel you've had some kind of growth.

I don't think I'm moving towards becoming a Platonic Ideal Writer. I think my style has improved over the years. I think I'm more versatile with certain types of dialog, styles of dialog for different types of characters. And the conversational tone--I'm getting better at that, without getting sloppy, or losing such intelligence as I possess. I think my style has developed, and I'd like to go on developing it.

I want to write a whole book about Joyce someday. I have a lot of ideas for books. One of them is The Truth About Sex. I probably will never do this one; that's why I talk about it so much. I'd like somebody to rip the idea off, so I don't have to do it. There was a book that was a bestseller, ten or 15 years ago, Everything You Always Wanted To Know About Sex But You Were Afraid To Ask Your Doctor, and it was in question and answer form. I thought the author was one of the stupidest people I'd ever read. I decided to do the book correctly. It'd be in question and answer form, but instead of one answer to each question there would be four or five, or maybe even a dozen, all from leading authorities, and all contradicting one another. The idea of the book was to show that the authorities don't know what the hell they're talking about. It's an area full of prejudice. There's no real science of sexology yet; it's all various people expressing their personal prejudices and disguising it as psychology or sociology. So I thought, take a question like, "What causes homosexuality?" and give twelve different answers just to show how much the scientific community really knows; they can't even agree about a simple thing like that. "What causes heterosexuality," for that matter? "What is the difference between vaginal and clitoral orgasm?" I'd get about 24 different opinions on that, in the literature.

The reason I'll probably never do that book is getting the permissions from all these authors is a Herculean task, which publishers always dump on the writer. And once they found out what they had agreed to, the experts would all be furious because they'd all look like idiots, because they're all overly dogmatic. They'd be very furious and god knows what they'd do about it. So I hope somebody else does that book and I don't have to do it.

I'd also like to write a book about Pearl Harbor. The revisionist historians have been thoroughly slandered and are mostly out of print. I wouldn't be adding much original; I think everything worth saying has been said by Charles Beard and Harry Elmer Barnes and James J. Martin and a few others. But their books are out of print or hard to find. My book would be just one more effort against what Barnes called "the historical blackout." One more effort to put the facts on record.

Or, I'd like to do a book of eight essays on eight things that everybody believes about history that can be clearly proven to be dubious at best and probably untrue. That the arrack on Pearl Harbor was a surprise. Or the common image of Christopher Columbus. It's pretty well documented that he was a Jewish homosexual, but that's not what we're taught in school. And the genocide of the American Indians. Americans all assume genocide was invented by Hitler. I'd like to document that. Hitler was just copying the example of this country.

I'd like to do an essay on the case against Earl Warren. I remember getting into an argument with Ralph Ginsberg, and he said "I believe the Warren Report, because I believe Earl Warren was a great liberal and an honest man." So I'd like to do a whole review on Warren's record, beginning with putting' the Japanese in concentration camps during World War II, and show what a great liberal Warren really was.

Another book that I am doing, as a matter of fact, when I get the time--I've already discussed it with Falcon press--is New Age, Sewage. I just did a book, The New Inquisition, which was on the Committee for Scientific Investigation of Claims of the Paranormal. As usual, when you start writing a polemic, you get carried away by your own rhetoric. I figure I gave them such a drubbing that people are going to think I'm entirely on the opposite side--this being an Aristotelian culture where people think in either/or terms. So I figure I ought to give the New Age a drubbing too, to show what my true position is: agnostic, against all dumb dogma. I especially want to do a chapter on Ramtha, demonstrating that you can be dead 40,000 years and still be a bore.

Have you ever been tempted to pull an L. Ron Hubbard, and start your own religion?

Oddly enough, I've never been seriously tempted, although I think I could get away with it. It reminds me of a conversation I had with one of my daughters recently. She asked if she could borrow some money to pay her auto insurance, and I said, "Sure," and I sent her the money. She called back a few days later to say she got the money and thank me, and I said, "Would you agree there are 20 million cars in California, at least?" And she said, "Oh, at least 20 million." I said, "The lowest insurance you can get is $400." She said, "Yeah." So that's eight billion dollars a year the insurance companies are making, in one state. Eighty billion in ten years. So that was worth spending at least ten million on bribing legislators--maybe a hundred million--to get a law like that through. So I said, "Why don't we start our own insurance company." And she said, "I'm afraid that would be bad karma." And that's why I haven't started my own religion. It's bad karma to swindle people.

What's your opinion on pornography?

I agree with Magnus Magnusson. He's the host of an English quiz show called Mastermind, that's a very--not intellectual, but erudite quiz show. The contestants are all experts in some rare field of knowledge, like German history from 1872 to 1886, or Irish poetry of the 7th and 8th centuries--things like that. The winner is the person who can answer the most questions in one minute.

Anyway, Magnus Magnusson was on an Irish television show and somehow the subject of pornography came up and he said, "I'm absolutely against all censorship." And the host said, "That's on the usual Libertarian grounds?" And Magnusson said, "Of course. But I also like pornography." And I thought, my god, that's the first time I ever I heard that. Everybody else who defends it, they argue on these abstract things, the First Amendment or whatever--in England they quote John Stewart Mill. Magnusson was the first person honest enough to say, "I like it, you know." I like a lot of it. I'm not only against censorship, but I feel the damn people who want to ban it are interfering with my right to enjoy myself.

Kiddie porn is a different issue--that's nothing to do with censorship, that has to do with abusing children.

There's a lot of bad pornography around, but there's a lot of bad detective stories, a lot of bad science fiction. One of the things that fascinates me is, the best pornography I've seen recently is by women, and it's on the Playboy channel. There's a company called Femme Productions. They make very good soft-core porn, very artistic and very sensitive.

The issue that bothers me, where my libertarianism starts to break down, is not pornography, but the exploitation of violence in films. There's growing clinical evidence that it does tend to produce more violence, and that scares the hell out of me. It's caused me a long, painful reexamination of my principles, from which I have not yet emerged; I'm still working on it.

It was right up in the center of my attention in the last few weeks in LA because of this movie Colors, in which Hopper used the actual jackets of actual LA gangs. I can see why he did it, artistically, it makes the film more vivid and real. But the upshot is a lot of the community is in hysterics that this will inspire the gangs and it has already. There's been one shooting, The guy was waiting on line to see the film.

That is a hard one. Hopper is a serious artist, there's no doubt about that. But that's a very hard one and I don't have the answer. I don't believe it's necessary to have the answer all the time. It's better to think a while.

People need to use their creativity to come up with nonviolent solutions.

You know who's urging that? Colonel Jim Channon. He's retired, but he's still a consultant for the Pentagon. He keeps writing proposals for non-violent solutions to problems. He suggested we need a class of Buddhist soldiers. He's a really far-out guy and so far he's had no major influence on American policy.

Has he published?

He has, and he's been widely interviewed. His proposals on hijackers have been used a couple of times. His proposal is they should be given maximum media coverage and allowed to talk to television as much as they want--hours and hours on end if they want to. He says what motivates terrorists is their feeling that nobody in the world is listening. If they feel that everybody is listening, then it's easier to negotiate with them. Where that has been tried, it has tended to work. He's got a lot of other ideas, about the Army going into third world nations where there are anti-Capitalist revolutions brewing and instead of trying to kill the anti-Capitalists, go in and build dams and bring modern technology in, and give the people a better life.

The Sandanistas originally wanted help from the US and we wouldn't give it.

Ho Chi Minh's constitution for North Vietnam , began, "We hold these truths to be self evident: that all men ... " It begins like the Declaration of Independence. He was very influenced by Jefferson. But this country supported the French against them, and when the French couldn't fight anymore, JFK sent American troops in, so Ho became more and more anti-American.

While we're on this subject--I was saying some favorable things about Heinlein a while ago. The thing that irritates me most about Heinlein is his constant pro-war propaganda. What irritates me is not only that I disagree with him, but that it's inconsistent with his basic position. Heinlein's basic position is "never trust the government." They're a bunch of thieves, liars, and looters, they're out to rob us and deceive us and gull us and abuse us all the time, except when they say, "Hey, we want you to go kill a bunch of people on another continent." Then we must believe them, and we're traitors if we have any doubts whatsoever. That is such a thumping, enormous contradiction. How do these crooked, stupid bureaucrats suddenly become honest people we should believe once they declare war?

The only people who are pro-war who make sense are the people who believe the government is divine all the time. I wanted to get this into some science fiction magazine--thank you for giving me the opportunity. I hope Heinlein sees it. [In fact Heinlein died before this interview was transcribed.] Oh, well, if a few people who've been influenced by Heinlein notice this, and notice that contradiction in his thinking, then it's worth saying.

Any final thoughts?

I'd like to see people get a lot smarter, a lot kinder, a lot less gullible, a lot more skeptical, and a lot less paranoid, and a lot more optimistic. I'd follow Leary's basic rule: TFYQA. Think for yourself, question authority.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Wilson: the Diagonal Relationship letters

In the late 1970s, science fiction fan Arthur Hlavaty began to publish a series of fanzines called Diagonal Relationship. The custom for science fiction fanzines was to send a copy to anyone who was willing to write a letter of comment.

Robert Anton Wilson wrote a series of letters of comment to Diagonal Relationship. Beginning today, I will serialize them, with one letter for each blog entry. When I have finished running them, I will then publish the letters as one block of copy and link to it in the Feature Articles and Interviews section.

Here is the first letter:

The Diagonal Relationship 9, 1979

Concerning "Again, Dangerous Fuck": Words have both denotations, which can be found in the dictionary, and connotations, which vary from one nervous system to the next.

Words like fuck, cunt, etc. became "obscene" when Puritanism took over the English-speaking world. They are gradually becoming de-obscenified in various segments of the population, but are still charged with heavily obscene connotations for other large segments. Thus, their use is fraught with psychological ambiguity--which makes them fascinating for writers of a certain cast of mind; namely, those who are convinced that ambiguity is the essence of the human situation.

Joyce broke through two centuries of Taboo to bring these words back into literature. in Ulysses, because they are present in the human psyche (even in Puritanical Ireland in 1904), and the psychological truth he was seeking could not be attained while tacitly submitting to the then-prevalent hypocrisy by pretending the words were not there. As used by Joyce, none of these words are obscene, anymore than a laboratory report is obscene. Joyce eliminated obscenity from his world view, as he eliminated anger, pity, sentimentality, and all other subjectivities; he simply observes, with Zenlike detachment, and reports what he sees.

D. H. Lawrence, on the other hand, attempted by brute force, or the poetic equivalent of brute force, to transform obscenity into tenderness and beauty; to cure Puritanism by artistic "persuasion." He invented a whole new way of writing about sex, which has been so universally imitated that we now assume it is the only way to write about it. In the course of the alchemical transformation of obscenity into loveliness, Lawrence rediscovered a childish innocence in so-called "dirty" words. Just as Mellors lapses into his lower-class dialect as his intimacy with Connie increases, so both lovers lapse into "obscene" language as their passions mount;

Lawrence obviously realized that the semantics of love is a reinfantilization in some ways.

When Mellors rhapsodizes about Connie's cunt in working-class argot, he is deliberately rejecting his educated self and returning to the first language he imprinted as a child, with all its sensory, numismatic, emotive connotations. In short, as Kenneth Burke noted in A Rhetoric of Motives, Lawrence's use of these words is a species of baby talk, which was necessary to get down to the primordial level below and before the point where obscenity and shame are learned.

William S. Burroughs, on the third hand, uses obscenity with full obscene connotations intended. He is exploring those areas of the psyche where obscenity (sex hatred) and murder (life hatred) are bred. When he gives the formula for Nova as "Before I give an inch, the whole fucking shit-house goes up in chunks." he is clinically precise. The place from which nuclear holocaust comes is the place where every bodily function is charged with rage and fear.

Thus, fuck has three markedly different connotations in three of the major stylists of our century--and as many other connotations as there are writers and readers.

Test question: How is Ezra Pound using fuck in the following lines from Canto 39, describing Circe's enchanted island?

Girls talked there of fucking,

beasts talked there of eating,

All heavy with sleep,

fucked girls and fat leopards.

Second test question: In Canto 46, Pound asks, "Hast 'ou found a nest softer than cunnus?" What happens if we replace the Elizabethan and Latin and modernize the line to "Have you found a nest softer than cunt?"

If we ever have a totally post-Puritanical and post-obscene society, calling a man "you prick" or a woman "you cunt" will be the highest form of praise, since it will imply that they are delightful, lovely, exciting, creative, and cute.

Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 2

(Second in a series of letters of comment by RAW reprinted from the pages of the fanzine Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 10, 1979

Alas, I have noted that in my letter in DR 9 I use the word "numismatic" where I meant "numinous." I guess all that fucking dope has finally fucked up my head.

Oh, well, even Homer nodded; jeder macht ein kleine dummheit; and the function of our mistakes is to remind us that humility is endless.

Do you realize that almost everybody is a member of a minority now? The Civil Rights Commission, which investigates complaints of discrimination, said in a recent news story that 86% of the population can have their complaints investigated since they belong to one minority or another.

Actually, since women are 51% of the population, and Gays are estimated between 12% and 37% (depending on whose figures you believe), and Blacks are around 11%, 11m surprised that only 86% of the population qualify as minorities. There are also Jews, Chicanos, Buddhists, atheists, Orientals, eighty dozen unpopular religious sects, Arabs, etc., etc. On second thought, I'm sure the 14% who don't presently qualify as minorities would qualify if the bureaucrats looked into the matter more closely.

Concerning your debate with Tony Parker about robots: I suggest that it is amusing and profitable to regard all of us as robots. Some of our programs are hard-wired via genetics. Others are softer and more flexible, since they are due to imprinting or conditioning. Conditioning, of course, is softer than imprinting.

Obviously, if this metaphor is accepted, we are presently in the process of derobotizing ourselves, becoming self-programmers or even metaprogrammers in Lilly's sense. We began to learn deconditioning with Pavlov and have learned more from Skinner, Wolpe, and Co. We learned, or some of us learned, reimprinting from the psychedelic revolution. Current work on genetics opens the possibility of rewriting the genetic Code and really becoming free masons, cocreators of our destiny.

If this is plausible, then any use of such sciences for other purposes, i.e., for more efficient conditioning, for more rigid imprinting, for the production of genetic drones, etc., is part of the general trend to increase our robothood.

Moral: Today is the first day of the rest of history. Are we becoming more efficient self-programmers or are we drifting along in oar old programs or passively allowing the many skilled Head Mechanics around to program us into their trips?

Which brings me to Buck Coulson's question in DR 9: What do we do with all the dumb people? As a libertarian, I find the only acceptable answer is: give them a chance to get smart. Fortunately, the chance to get smart is becoming more pragmatic and operational. The current OMNI has an article about intelligence-raising drugs already known; the majority of psychopharmacological researchers, in the latest McGraw-Hill poll of expected breakthroughs, believe the intelligence-raising drug industry will be in full flower by the 1990s.

In passing, quietly as it were, I might mention that this subject, and my previous remarks on self-programming, and the general H.E.A.D. Revolution (Hedonic Engineering And Development--using the brain for fun and profit) are the main themes of my next book, The Illuminati Papers, to be published by And/Or Press in December. End of advertisement

What about those who won't nohow noway never do nothing to increase their intelligence?

Perhaps they will be seduced by the general trend toward brightness that I foresee in the next two decades. After all, intelligence is the most powerful of all known aphrodisiacs...

Diagonal Relationship letters of comment, No. 3

(Third in a series of letters reprinted from the pages of the fanzine Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 13, 1980

Permit me to horn in on the inside/outside debate between Ron Lambert and Adam Weishaupt.

I. An atheist is one who is quite sure there is no Higher Intelligence; if there isany doubt on the matter, you are not an atheist but an agnostic. God, by definition, is the only being who can be quite sure there is no higher intelligence than Hirself. Therefore, God is the only real atheist.

Others must be theists or agnostics.

II. Berkeley says the universe is inside the mind of God. Jesus says the Kingdom of Heaven is within us. If and only if both Berkeley and Jesus are right, I am inside God and God is inside me.

Berkeley and Jesus must both be right since:

III. In the highest mystical states, in all religions, the mystic experiences oneness with God. But we have already seen that God is an atheist. Therefore, the mystic alone can escape theism and agnosticism and become, like God, an atheist. This is possible by turning inside out.

IV. In a Möbius strip or Klein bottle, inside is outside and outside is inside. The same flip-flop occurs in music, art, and mathematics, as demonstrated by Hofstadter in the greatest book of our decade, Gödel, Escher, Bach. Therefore, if and only if God is like unto a Möbius strip, a Klein bottle, Gödel's proof, Escher's paintings, and Bach's fugues, Berkeley and Jesus can both be right, and God is inside and outside simultaneously

V. In Euclidean geometry, inside and outside do not flip-flop. Therefore, God is either inside or outside--and the Lambert-Weishaupt debate can be decided on one side or the other--if and only if God is limited by Euclidean geometry. But a limited God is not God. Therefore…

VI. Pantheism is really atheism under a fancier name, as all critics of pantheism agree. But the highest forms of theism, such as Vedanta, are all pantheistic on the very logical grounds that God must include everything, or else God is limited, and a limited God is no God at all. Since the highest form of theism is pantheism, and pantheism is indistinguishable from atheism, the highest form of theism is atheism.

VII. I can know the mind of only one Creator really well: myself. InSchrödinger's Cat, I put myself in the book as a character, but I also remain outside the book as its Creator. Therefore, the only Creator I know well is inside and outside his work at the same time.

VI I I. When God actually, or allegedly, wrote a book, He put Himself inside it as a character. If one Creator is like unto another Creator, God evidently wanted us to understand that He is inside and outside at once.

IX. When God actually or allegedly wrote a book He made Himself the villainin it, as all intelligent readers have noted. (This is why the Gnostics and William Blake, among others, have denied that God wrote the book and claimed Satan wrote it to discredit God.) But if God did write it, the portrait of Himself as a sadistic monster must be either an attempt to frighten us or a very subtle joke. Since God would not want to frighten us, it must be a joke. Since God is both an atheist (knows no Higher Intelligence) and a mystic (is at one with Hirself), the joke must be such that only those who are both atheists and mystics can understand it.

X. Since only the mystic is one with God--an atheist--all others, as demonstrated above, must be agnostics or theists. But the theist claims to know what he has not experienced; if he had experienced it, he would be, like God, an atheist. Therefore, for those who are not mystics, the only honest, modest, and logical alternative is to be agnostics.

XI. According to literal Christianity, Jesus was God and the son of Mary; the Holy Ghost was God and the husband or at least the impregnator of Mary. Therefore, God is His own father. But God is also the father of all humanity, including Mary, so God is the father of His mother, and thus His own grandfather. If God is both inside and outside, and an atheist, and His ownfather and grandfather, any attempt to reason about God must lead to paradoxes and contradictions.

It will be observed by the thoughtful that these arguments are quite logical, and totally mad. I do not claim that they are true, but merely that they are at least as lucid as the other writings about God produced by the human mind to date.

Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 4

(Fourth in a series of Robert Anton Wilson letters reprinted from the fanzine Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 14, 1980

Adrienne Fein is quite right about the term "temple prostitute": It is a projection of Christian prejudice backward on pre-Christian theology.

Certainly, sexual yoga or sex magick or hierogamy is powerful magick, and that is what the so-called temple "prostitutes" were doing. It takes a considerable amount of shamanic training to work up an equally passionate and devout religious mood by any other method.

The trouble with Christians is that they are constitutionally incapable of understanding anybody else's point of view. I mean literally I have never heard or read a Christian describe a non-Christian belief system accurately. (The one exception to this rule is the Jesuits, but there is some doubt--shared by the Pope lately--that they are really Christians.)

I was amused by your account of the parapsychology class where everybody thought skepticism meant a dogmatic refusal to believe. This confusion has been created by a band of vehement and intolerant fanatics (the Fundamentalist wing of the Materialist Church) who have coopted the word "skepticism" to describe their own bigotry.

I haven't been able to take the so-called "skeptics" seriously since the burning of Wilhelm Reich's books in 1956. The ringleader of the "skeptics," Martin Gardner, was one of the instigators of the persecution of Dr. Reich, and I was young and naive in those days. I kept expecting Gardner to say, when it became obvious that the government was going to throw Reich in jail and burn his books too, "Hey that isn't what I meant. I meant Reich's theories should be criticized, not obliterated." But Gardner never objected to the mutilations of the Constitution in the Reich case, and I finally decided that having Reich in jail and his books in a bonfire was exactly what Gardner wanted. I strongly suspect that what he wants today is all the parapsychologists in jail and their books burned, too.

If you will pardon me, I think you misuse the word "nature" just as badly as the pop ecologists or ecologoids do. That is, both you and they seem to mean by "nature" something which does not include humanity. I think it is semantically and scientifically more accurate to use the word for something that does include humanity, as a domesticated primate species as much a part of the biosphere as the wild primates.

In the latter usage, not only are our bodies part of nature in general, but so are our brains, as tools or adaptation for our bodies. The purpose of the dog brain is to make survival of doggihood possible; the purpose of the human brain is to make survival of Homo Sap possible. I believe Freud pointed this out before me.

The idiocy of the ecologoids is that they believe, or talk as if they believe, that nature stops at around the human neck, everything above there being "unnatural." On the contrary, I cannot conceive of my thoughts being any less natural than my bowel movements, my endocrine system, or my blood circulation.

In this connection, it is obvious that the dog brain does not abstract enough information to create a perfect model of the total universe; it abstracts enough for the dog's survival, pack-status, and reproduction scripts. I assume the same is true of the human brain. Those who are looking for the Total Truth are probably looking for more than a domesticated primate brain can achieve. I do, however, think it is amusing, entertaining, and survivally useful to look formore of the truth than we currently own.

No, the Craft is not a front for Discordianism. But, since more and more witches are Discordians, and more and more Discordians are getting initiated into Wicca, the two are increasingly hard to disentangle. Which is just the way I want it....

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 5

(Fifth in a series of letters from Robert Anton Wilson, reprinted on the Internet for the first time since their original appearance more than 30 years ago.)

The Diagonal Relationship 14, 1980

On the "nature" problem: Bucky Fuller suggests that "Universe" should mean everything that exists including me and "environment" should mean everything that exists excluding me. This is totally arbitrary, like all definitions, but at least is (or seems to me) clear and bereft of muddy metaphysics.

Of course, this distinction is only useful in some areas of discourse. In other areas, it becomes necessary to note that environment and me are constantly interacting, exchanging energy, etc., and that we cannot, ultimately, be disentangled. (That is, we can only be relatively disentangled for special purposes in special areas of discourse.)

This does not clarify the "nature" problem but possibly confuses it further. I'm sorry. I'm doing the best I can. Give me a few more years and maybe I'll figure it all out.

In any case, I cannot feel, imagine or conceive myself as outside of "nature." I seem, to myself, as natural as any hamster, rosebush, cockroach, bear, rock, pelican, or star anywhere. I may be peculiar, but that does not make me unnatural. Pelicans are peculiar, too. Lobsters are very peculiar.

I think my blasphemous inability to develop a sense of guilt has to do with this inability to develop a feeling of being outside nature. When a moralist (Christian, Marxist, Libertarian or whoever) tells me I should not be what I am, I am not offended; I just think they are silly-as if they were telling a lobster not to be a lobster.

Einstein got into relativity by imagining vividly what it would feel like to be a photon. I got into whatever is wrong with me by imagining vividly what it is like to be a cow. I was living on a farm and doing acid at the time and maybe the six-legged majority on this planet somehow got more real (or as the mystics say, more Real) than the domesticated primates with whom I am supposed to identify. I don't know if I'm a star imagining progressive games in which I pretend to be a cow, a lobster, domesticated primate, etc. or if I'm a domesticated primate imagining I have been a star, a lobster, a dinosaur, etc.

Ecology and ethology make perfect sense to me. So does sociobiology, that bane of the Left. But nobody makes any sense when they start telling me that I'm unnatural or that any part of domesticated primate life is unnatural. I don't know why birds sing or why Beethoven wrote Sonata 23, but, while both astonish me, neither seems un-, anti-, super- or infra-natural to me.

I have read Theodore Roszak, who argues at length that everything or most things that I like are unnatural. I concluded that Roszak does not like the same things as me, but I could find no merit in his claim that what he likes is natural and what I like is unnatural. I think that he and I are equally natural, but different, as the purple-assed baboon and the preying mantis are equally natural, but different.

And I have read you, Arthur, arguing that nature is "mundane shit" but that did not change my perceptions. I merely registered that Arthur Hlavaty has different perceptions than me--which is not astonishing to me, since it is an axiom of my neurology that everybody has different perceptions. I continue to perceive all of nature, including myself, as beautiful, mysterious, grand, and radiant with intricate intelligence.

James Joyce said he had never met a boring person; he was a Humanist. I have never had a boring perception, because I am a Universalist.

In answer to Sam Konkin, I am an agnostic about every thing, not just about "God," and for totally pragmatic and selfish reasons. I have observed that when certitude enters a human mind, mental activity then quickly ceases. Wishing to continue mental activity, I therefore avoid certitude. This is not a philosophical position (I am not a philosopher) but an empirical rule for growth, change, and mental alertness.

I'm as agnostic about Sam Konkin as I am about "God," or more so, since I have had a great many experiences with "God," or with what is alleged to be "God," and only a few experiences with Sam Konkin or what is alleged to be Sam Konkin.

I am also dubious about Sam's proposition that if you can't prove something, you should assume it has been disproven, or pretend that it has been disproven, or label yourself as one who has disproven it. (This may not be exactly what Sam meant but it is as much as I can understand of his argument against agnosticism. I am sometimes slow.) I think at once of the alleged 10th planet beyond Pluto. Nobody has found it yet, but astronomers do not for that reason assume it is not there; they go on looking. Similarly, the proposed quarks in quantum theory have not been found yet, but physicists do not assume quarks are not there; they go on looking.

To "go on looking" seems worthwhile to me, because It is good exercize for the intelligence, and also because if one goes on looking, one generally finds something, although not always exactly what one was looking for.

I suspect that "God" is a term invented by humans in certain cultures to describe experiences of contact, or seeming contact, or mind-fusion, or seeming mind fusion, with an intelligence or intelligences that are, or seem to be, inhuman or trans-human or super-human. I suspect that similar experiences in other cultures led to the invention of terms like "the Buddha-nature," "the True Self," "the World Soul," "the Atman," "the Tao," and once, a long time ago in a galaxy far, far away, "the Force." I also suspect that Alan Watts was a very smart man in simply calling it It. And I suspect that contact, or seeming contact, with It provoked philosophers and scientists to such terms as "Mind" (as distinct from individual mind (Plato), "orgone" (Reich), "implicate order" (Bohr), "the psychoic Level" and "synchronicity" (Jung), the "neurogenetic" and "neuro-atomic" circuits (Leary), "Life Force" (Bergson, Shaw) "synergy" (Fuller). These are suspicions, not certitudes.

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 6

(Latest in a series of blog postings reprinting letters Wilson wrote to a fanzine, the Diagonal Relationship, about 30 years ago).

The Diagonal Relationship 16, 1980

Seeing myself as part of nature, rather than as an alien who landed here by mistake, does not incline me to determinism. In fact, it inclines me to the opposite...if not to free will in the classical theological sense, at least to a notion of give-and-take or feedback or flexibility in the system.

"In nature there is immediate adjustment but no Compulsion," said Chuang Chou, who also considered himself part of nature.

l am part of nature in that my mother and father produced me by purely natural processes, with no supernatural aid. r.\y DNA comes half from her, half from him, and is one node in a molecular message going back, via him, to Irish and Norwegian strains, and via her, to Hungarian, Austrian, and Polish-Jewish strands, and, further back, to various primates, other mammals, reptiles, fish etc.

Natural selection played a role every step of the way in this process. Which male mated with which, female involved some kind of stochastic process of "choice"--see Gregory Bateson's Mind and Nature.

Since I am whimsical, playful, imaginative etc., I assume that these traits can be traced back pretty far in this genetic roulette.

All of which is to reject traditional or constipated determinism. I also reject classical notions of free Will, of course, since there are some elements of determination in the process.

"In addition to a yes and a no, the universe contains a maybe," as David Finkelstein says. That's my view.

bThe Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 7

(Seventh in a series of letters reprinted from the Diagonal Relationship).

The Diagonal Relationship 17, 1981

I was delighted to read of your oceanic experience at the Samhain festival.

The first "satori" is a turning point; the second is much easier. After a while, it becomes fairly regular and even deeper....One discovers gradations in the oceanic, more and more comes through....(See Maslow on what he calls "the Peak Experience.")

Encouragement: it tends to happen after 35, as documented by Bucke in Cosmic Consciousness. If this is the fifth neurological circuit, as Leary sez, it may be genetically programmed. Bio-survival circuit turns on at birth, emotional-territorial circuit at about 8 months (walking), semantic circuit between one and two years, sociosexual circuit at puberty, between 11 and 13. Neurosomatic (oceanic) may be more and more likely to open up (if one is not rigidly armored against it) the more years one lives after about 35 or 40....Maybe it is becoming more common because people are living longer than they used to.

Further encouragement: in many cases, after neurosomatic circuit begins to work, conditions like asthma "miraculously" disappear. (That's why Mary Baker Eddy invented Christian Science after her fifth circuit opened....)

I don't share Michael Shoemaker's disdain for those who think they have found something new, or for those who think they are important. Everybody I admire in history (a) thought they found something new and (b) thought they were important. E.g. Beethoven, Shakespeare, Joyce, Michelangelo, Galileo, Leonardo, Jefferson, Newton, Blake, Frank Lloyd Wright, etc. etc. etc. As Wright said, give me honest arrogance rather than hypocritical humility any day. And as Mark Twain said, it is dangerous to associate with the depressed, because they will make you depressed, whereas those who expect to accomplish great things will make you think you can do great things yourself.

All my friends believe they are geniuses or damned close to it; that's why they're fun to have around. You can find all the humility you ever care to see at a mental health clinic, but that scene is very dreary indeed.

I also disagree with Shoemaker's Ecclesiastes-like insistence that "there is nothing new under the sun." Evolution being a stochastic process, there is newness appearing every second; one has only to open one's eyes and LOOK for it. Besides, as Picasso or somebody else of that school said once, Art always shows heredity but never shows identity. Many are children or grandchildren of Pirandello, as Shoemaker would have it, but all are new voices nonetheless.

I hope that Shoemaker soon comes to feel that he is so damned COSMICALLY important that he will enjoy rather than deprecate the possibility that others are important, too.

(A) Anybody who speaks English probably has, somewhere, a signal that I can learn from; (B) The more important they think they are, the more likely they are to utter that signal.

In this connection, I also dissent from Mary Frey's expressed wish that people stop discussing religion in your pages. I had no desire to write anything about religion for you when 1 saw that letter, but after seeing it I nonetheless felt constrained, repressed, mildly annoyed, and somewhat (in the jargon of the day) "dehumanized." I think the desire to communicate is very strong in third-circuited (symbol-using) critters and all repressions of it are unhealthy. It is, in general, much better for humanity if those who wish to avoid certain signals (political, religious, pornographic or whatever) simply AVOID them, i.e., avert their eyes, go elsewhere, etc., rather than trying to shut up those who wish to communicate. That is, I think it is more in keeping with our humanity for people to walk away from communication than to stifle the communicator. (This is a generalization but not an absolute. In some cases, seeing real distress, I am willing to stifle myself until an unhappy person leaves the scene. Courtesy and tact are real factors even if one can't include them in a legal definition of civil liberties....)

Since I believe that ONLY immediate sense impressions are given to us by the universe (and even they are edited by our previous imprints and ideas), all maps and models and theories are projections of the mind that creates them. Thus, the Atheist creates an Atheist universe, the Theist creates a Theist universe...and both are too modest to take credit for such marvelous artistic-philosophical organizing and information making skill! (They don't even take credit, generally, for making roses red....) Perhaps they both need more sense of self-importance.

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 8

(Another of a series of letters Robert Anton Wilson wrote to the fanzine the Diagonal Relationship. Roy Tackett, mentioned here, was a famous science fiction fan; I used to get fanzines from him years ago. His Wikipedia biography says Tackett "was a rifleman with the United States Marine Corps during Wolrd War II who was credited with the introduction of science fiction to Japan following the war when he was stationed in that nation as part of the American occupation.")

The Diagonal Relationship 18, 1981

In answer to Roy Tackett's question, "How many of these professed believers in the ancient gods have even the slightest knowledge of the ancient gods?" I would say: Having met with hundreds of neopagans in all parts of the country, I have been astonished at the abundant erudition they generally possess and their extensive and sometimes scholarly or pedantic knowledge of minute details about the old religions. If Mr. Tackett's question was rhetorical and he assumed the answer would be that most neopagans know little about their historical origins, then either he has met a different sampling than I have, or he has met few or none and formed his opinions without data. In any case, Margot Adler's Drawing Down the Moonis the most complete sociological study of neopaganism thus far, and it confirms my own impression of the generally high level of erudition among neopagans.

I assume that Tackett's sentence, "A superstition is a superstition is a superstition is a superstition is a superstition," is some kind of incantation. Certainly, he could not intend it as argument, since it is only a tautology. Perhaps there is a missing first term and we are to understand it as meaning "paganism is a superstition" etc. In that case, it is not a tautology, but a mere assertion, and still does not qualify as an argument. It is not clear to me whether Mr. Tackett will not argue his position or does not know how to argue it. Or perhaps his letter was a clever piece of satire, intended to illustrate the axiom that ignorance is the origin of intolerance.

As a lover of the past as well as the present and the future, I was delighted with David Palter's letter, in which he frankly stipulated that he did not try the Thoth exercise before passing judgment on it. I think all archaic ideas should be revived periodically, so that we may look at them anew and reevaluate them; and it is refreshing to have the classical antiexperimentalist dogma reasserted in our time. I had thought that position vanished around the time the Inquisition refused to look through Galileo's telescope before condemning what he saw through it. I hope Mr. Palter will continue to enlighten us about experiments he hasn't tried and Mr. Tackett to inform us about groups he scarcely knows

The Diagonal Relationship letters, No. 9

(Last in a series of letters reprinted from the fanzine the Diagonal Relationship. A short letter from Robert Shea also is included.)

The Diagonal Relationship 20, 1982

My apologies to Mr. David Palter. His original letter attacking the Thoth exercise sounded dogmatic and intolerant to me, and I thought it was funny for someone to sound so certain about an experiment which he admitted he had never tried. Due to this misunderstanding, I wrote a short rebuttal which be quite correctly describes as "baroque sarcasm"; be also says that he was not dogmatic about the experiment, but only tentative. Well, everybody has a right to form tentative opinions (pro and con) about experiments they haven' t tried, so there is no real argument between Pa1ter and me. I merely misunderstood his style of expression.

Since this subject has aroused debate by others as well as Palter, I would like to add something. The Thoth exercise is in four parts. These are (1) the traditional assumption of god-forms, out of gnosticism and Tibetan Buddhism; (2) experiments in self-hypnosis with tape recorder; (:3) experiments in self-hypnosis adding marijuana to tape recorder; (4) reading books by Timothy Leary, John Lilly, Aleister Crowley, G. 1. Gurdjieff, Israel Regardie, and Mary Baker Eddy. These books will provide six contrasting "maps" (or models, or paradigms) to interpret the results obtained in steps 1, 2, and 3. Seeing that each of these "maps" fits the results to some degree leads to the last, synthesizing step of forming one's own conclusions about what such exercises offer and show many neurological programs they can be extended to reprogram. These books also suggest many other, more advanced exercises to accomplish more radical reprogramming and reimprinting.

Anybody who shares Palter's dread of such matters should emphatically emulate him in avoiding such experiments. "Fear is failure and the forerunner of failure"; or in Freudian terms, those who fear have reason to fear. There are more things in Heaven and Earth than are dreamed of in Mr. Palter's philosophy, and one should not gaze into them if one is not prepared to have them gaze back at one.

And one from Shea (1980)

We have a lot to be thankful for. Many of us were too young to experience the Scopes trial, the execution of Sacco and Vanzetti, the days when books like Ulysses had to be smuggled into the country, the McCarthy era and the judicial murder of the Rosenbergs. Now, as a consequence of election day 1980 we have a chance to live through a replay of those great days. Let us gird our loins, because if the New Christian Right has its way it will soon be illegal to have loins at all.