email to the universe, by Robert Anton Wilson
New Falcon Publications, 1561841943, 252 (+1) pp., 2006
In email to the universe we have a bit of everything: poetry, essays, former articles, and campaign posters featuring ostriches. Topics range from Celtic physics, injustice in the American legal institution, and even a favourable review of Douglas Adams’ Dirk Gently’s Holistic Detective Agency.
Haikus preface each ‘chapter’, some featuring movies, many discussing dolphins and the weather. Many essays here were unpublished previously, maybe. Sometimes he can’t remember. Other essays have been out of print for a number of years, though several stories and themes will be well-known to long-time fans. There are some formatting errors with italics and typos that are somewhat distracting, but they do not detract from the bulk of the work.
My favourite conspiracy theory in this collection is found in ‘Mary, Mary, Quite Contrary’, which deals with a cursed church, Mary Magdalene, Dutch princes, the CIA, the Mafia, the Priory of Sion, the Committee to Protect the Rights and Privileges of Low-Cost Housing, and a host of other sinister characters. Wilson is clearly in his element here, and the essay is a lot of fun.
Before getting into his reasons for creating and heading the Guns & Dope Party, Wilson tackles another question that he’s often been pestered about in various ways; namely, whether he “really is” left-wing, or “really is” right wing in his politics. The essay “Left and Right” more or less firmly places him outside of either of those boxes, and therefore it is bound to annoy those searching for pigeon-holes.
In 2002 Wilson ran for Governor of California as leader of the Guns & Dope Party, which advocated, essentially “guns for those who want them, no guns forced on those who don’t want them”, and “drugs for those who want them, no drugs forced on those who don’t want them”. The tenets of his campaign are reproduced here, along with posters featuring ostriches in prominent positions, and cowgirls with weapons and joints. He notes that currently he supports “everybody for president”.
Some of the stories may be familiar to long-time readers of his works, but they never seem to lose their humour or poignancy the second, and even third, time around. This is classic Bob.
An interview with Fenwick Kaidevis Rysen, chatting about altered states of consciousness, enlightenment, and his theories on integral magick.Fenwick Kaidevis Rysen is the creator and maintainer of the website the Chaos Matrix (now a historical archive of version 6.0), and is working on his first book, tentatively titled Integral Magick.The interview took place the evening of April 18th, 2006.Psyche: Could you describe your path?Fenwick Kaidevis Rysen: I started out, up until age 17, as a very strict scientific rationalist who left open the possibility of parapsychological and psychic phenomenon. After I woke up out of that, I spent a long time studying magick, first elementalism and then chaos magick; from there, Discordianism.P: What sparked the change?FRK: Ah, that was a specific event. I was in Sacramento on August 9th, 1994, and shortly after noon I walked into a small new-agey gift shop in Old Town called ... Damnit, I'm blanking on the name. Anyhow, in the shop I found a book about runes that appealed to my interest in Viking history, and a pewter pendant that called to me for some unknown reason. Read More
An Insider’s Guide to Robert Anton Wilson, by Eric Wagner
New Falcon Publications, 156184165X, 237 pp. (incl. appendices and bibliography), 2005
One would have thought the only insider to Bob’s head would be Wilson himself, and yet Eric Wanger has corresponded with RAW over the past twenty years, first via snail mail, and later by e-mail. After twenty years of communication he must have some insight into Wilson’s inner workings, and his efforts aren’t half bad from this outsider’s perspective. Wilson must agree, as he’s written a preface, introduction and overture for the book, though while he may have helped with the infomercial, I think it’s mostly Wagner’s work.
The text also includes a list of the books by RAW, including the Maybe Logic DVDs, an interview, and a lexicon explaining the symbolism behind some of Wilson’s material, though curiously there’s no mention of Greg Hill, co-founder of Discordianism. Actually, Wilson’s exact relationship to Discordianism is never discussed in depth, despite it being a major subject and theme (directly and indirectly) in many of his works.
But perhaps the most useful chapter is Appendix Samekh, in which he goes through the Illuminatus! trilogy in its ten parts and describes the many kabbalistic correspondences and obscure references, seemingly resulting in one massive rolling ball of coincidence and magick and the Illuminatus! timeline.
Unfortunately the book is severely repetitive, for example, the critter story told at least twice (not to mention I’d read it before this book), and William Burroughs cut-ups are explained at least three separate times. In fact, one passage is quoted twice in the same essay.
As Wagner points out, reading Wilson leads to other writers, through reference and obvious influence on his works, ‘[his] style derives directly from Ezra Pound, James Joyce, Raymond Chindler, H.L. Menken, William S. Burroughs, Benjamin Tucker, and Elephant Doody Comix, in approximately that order of importance’. In fact, Wilson gave a list of ten recommended books in a 1996 magazine, later with supplements, and Wagner has gone through them, giving commentary on his reading experience.
There are other irrelevant bits that seem thrown in for no apparent reason, such as vacations and family photos from Wager’s trips to Dublin, Amsterdam, Egypt, etc. For example, there’s one photograph of a man standing in front of a dark wall with a sign reading ‘James Joyce Pub’, evidently taken in Zürich, with the caption ‘Great picture of my dad…’ on page 213. Sure it is Eric, I just don’t quite get what it has to do with Robert Anton Wilson.
So is it an insider’s guide? Well, while there are some useful and interesting bits to be found within its pages, for it appears mostly to be a somewhat disjointed account of Wagner’s unique appreciation and admiration of the man, rambling and repetitive as it is.
Nature’s God: The History of the Early Illuminati (The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, Volume III), by Robert Anton Wilson
New Falcon Publications, 1561841641, 225 pp., 1991, 2004
In Nature’s God, the third book of Wilson’s Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, it is 1776, and our dear Sigismundo Celine has done a runner and made for America. Here he meets up with Seamus Muadhen, now James Moon, who also left the old world after not killing his sworn enemy. They chat, briefly but insightfully, over alcohol before parting ways, Sigismundo further drowning himself: ‘Those of happy histories can ask what lies behind the surface of things. Those of us who know what lies behind the surface always choose to enjoy every illusion as long as possible. The color of a perfect English rose in my brain, not in the flower, but I would prefer to enjoy the color than to think dull thoughts like that. Leave philosophy to the innocent. We veterans of infernos and abysses prefer the roses, the sunsets, and the beautiful meaningless music’. Shortly after, James joins revolutionary army of George Washington and Lafayette.
After leaving a few false leads in his wake, Sigismundo flees to the wilderness where he build himself a cabin, and sit in meditation ‘seeking the solitude to make his mind an empty mirror at the age of twenty-six. That was the result of being involved with conspirators and magicians since he was fourteen’. However he is occasionally interrupted by the adorably named Miskasquamish of the Maheema, a shaman of a fictional Native North American tribe.
Meanwhile, back in England, Maria is initiated into a surviving witch cult in England and begins spreading feminist propaganda under a false name, while her husband advances in Freemasonry and turns to the drink and boys.
This is an immensely quotable book, perhaps even more so than the previous volumes, despite its smaller size. don’t think this will be the last book in the chronicles, it seems decidedly unfinished, with the possibility of a fourth in the future.
Wilson has packed a lot of excellent material into this work – where else are you going to read an in depth piece on God’s Willy? Highly recommended in addition to the previous two.
The Widow’s Son Volume: The History of the Early Illuminati (The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, Volume II), by Robert Anton Wilson
New Falcon Publications, 1561841633, 343 pp., 1985, 2004
The second volume in Wilson’s Historical Illuminatus Chronicles begins in Paris, 1772 and, once again, our hero, Sigismundo Celine, is under siege by unseen conspirators. As he says, ‘Some want me dead, and some are satisfied if I am just buried alive, and you represent the nice, friendly crowd that merely wants to overthrow every government on the planet and make me the Universal Emperor.’ And it’s does appear that ‘being Sigismundo was a dangerous business…People were always trying to kill Sigismundo, or drive him mad, or generally vex him’.
This volume introduces a few new characters, the Irish fisherman Seamus Muadhen, who moves to England in the spirit of revenge and becomes John Moon, only to discover he cannot fulfill his purpose, and instead immigrates elsewhere; as well as a loose band of politically-minded assassins and thieves, among others.
With enough footnotes to rival Weisbecker’s Cosmic Banditos, Wilson annotates with his usual clever tongue in cheek wit, though they tend to leave me somewhat bewildered at times. For example, while I understand that Brian O`Nolan is Myles na gCopaleen, who is also Flann O`Brien; I’m having difficultly with the fact that de Selby may be La Fournier, but is most certainly not La Tournier – or even that he may not have existed at all in the first place, and in fact may bet a part of a conspiracy invented by Brian O`Nolan and Robert Anton Wilson. Then again, for all I know Wilson could be O`Nolan (who is Myles na gCopaleen, Flann O`Brien and possibly de Selby and La Fournier). It can seem a little confusing at times, and much more so at others.
Wilson has a special talent for depicting things exactly as they are shown in a manner which serves only to complicate matters further; it is one of his greatest gifts, and has produced yet another brilliantly fascinating and engaging volume in this chronicle. Highly recommended.