In 1989 an hour-long movie called Borders about Robert Anton Wilson, author of The Illumnatus! Trilogy and the Cosmic Trigger series, was produced for public TV (WGBH Boston was one of the production companies behind it). The movie, directed by Merrill Aldighieri and Joe Tripician, is a blend of dramatic and documentary elements that also occasionally includes charmingly rudimentary computer graphics.
The first few minutes of Borders is an extended scene involving Ted, who is possibly a scientist named Ted who is doing something to subvert the company he works for—something like that. Whatever it is, his lack of integrity is enough for his girlfriend to leave the weekend house he has lined up for them. Unfortunately, we never find out what Ted’s situation was all about, because we’re never shown a second sequence to flesh out the promising start.
At first blush, the title Borders seems inapt for a documentary about a figure whose intellectual reach is as impressive as Wilson’s, but in short order its true significance becomes clear. As Wilson says, in his life he has passed through many conceptual borders—leaving the Catholic Church for Trotskyism, only to abandon that for agnosticism—and integral to his thinking is the project of detecting, decoding, and resisting the various “borders” that mankind erects for itself to keep up separated.
Early in the program Wilson expands on this idea:
Borders are a basic mammalian territorial imperative. All mammals want a territory, and they claim it by making excretions that make a topological outline, that’s the territory they claim. That’s why your dog pees on every tree when you take him for a walk. That’s the way the dog is marking his territory. Chimpanzees mark their territories with excretions too. The difference between human beings (or domesticated primates) and the other mammals is we mark our territories with ink excretions on paper—land titles, peace treaties, and so on. Every national border in the world marks a place where two gangs of domesticated primates fought until they were exhausted, and then made a territorial mark. That’s how national borders are created. We don’t throw excretions at each other like the chimpanzees, we throw chemicals and bombs and so on, but it’s basically the same mammalian process. The only intelligent way to discuss politics is on all fours.
I know how it is: you read the trilogy of sci-fi novels, saw the play, listened to the audiobook, even picked up the card game, but you still can’t get enough of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s conspiracy epic, Illuminatus! Where is the balm that will soothe your hurt?
Back in 1987, underground comix publishers Rip Off Press—the persons responsible for the fourth edition of the related sacred text Principia Discordia, not to mention The Fabulous Furry Freak Brothers—put out Eye-n-Apple Productions’ comic book adaptation of Illuminatus! A few months ago, Eye-n-Apple (which seems to be identical with one Mark Philip Steele) announced plans for a digital reprint on its Facebook page:
Good news, folks, the ILLUMINATUS! comic I published back in 1987 is now in e-comic format, including text commentary. It’s a zip file available for download, and may end up at other sites in other formats. If you’re interested, download the comic and contact me about it. Some of the comments MAY be posted in further editions. There was one self-published issue, then 3 with Rip Off Press, and an unpublished 4th issue. Plans are for us to release one a month from now till we’re done.
No word yet on subsequent numbers, but you can download a free PDF of the first issue here, and it seems this is the space to watch for updates. Below, Robert Anton Wilson and Rev. Ivan Stang of the Church of the Subgenius discuss the consolations of the Discordian faith on Hour of Slack.
In many of Robert Anton Wilson’s books, the “about the author” page mentions that Wilson recorded a punk rock album called The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy. This is one of those records I would have given a tooth for in the pre-filesharing era. I’ve still never come across a physical copy of it, but a glance at the Discogs.com marketplace suggests it’s not as rare as it once seemed.
Recorded while Wilson was living in Ireland in the mid-‘80s—avoiding Reagan’s presidency, if memory serves—The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy is the first LP by Irish garage-psych rockers the Golden Horde. Wilson contributed vocals (spoken) to most of the songs, and he wrote the lyrics to “Black Flag” and “Lawrence Talbot Suite.” Unless you are a hardcore Nuggets person, it might take some imagination to hear this as “a punk rock record.” To me, the Golden Horde often sound like a less proficient Rezillos, which is a beautiful thing, but fans of the Queen Haters might be disappointed. These vinyl rips are not of the finest quality, though I doubt this LP was ever destined to deliver an audiophile experience.
As the sleeve notes say, “COSMIC BUBBLEGUM EXISTENTIALISTS OF THE WORLD, UNITE….....YOU’VE NOTHING TO LOSE BUT YOUR MINDS!!”
“Black Flag” by the Golden Horde with Robert Anton Wilson:
In 1996, Robert Anton Wilson, David Cross, Mama Michelle Phillips and then-SPIN magazine publisher Bob Guccione Jr. appeared on what was intended to be a sort of Timothy Leary-themed discussion on Bill Maher’s Politically Incorrect, and supposed to include Leary himself. As he was so near death at the time, Bob Wilson stepped in to take his place (and did a wonderful job). Everyone on the panel, including Maher, were personal friends with Leary, and offered charming anecdotes about their fading friend.
Unsurprisingly, much of the discussion was about drugs, in particular LSD, which Cross, RAW, Phillps and Maher are all rather strongly in favor of. Guccione Jr., on the other hand, sees drugs in a negative light, and says some stupid stuff about acid until it is pointed out to him that his opinion on LSD is about as worthwhile as the Pope opining on sex.
What is surprising is how timeless this show is. Aside from some Bill Clinton and Bob Dole references in the opening monologue—and Bill Maher’s lapels—it holds up surprisingly well. There’s a particularly good point made by David Cross who explains how it was possible for them to sit there on a TV show and say “We love acid, acid’s great!” without any fear of arrest or reprisal, largely because of Timothy Leary’s fearless advocacy of the psychedelic experience during the 1960s.
Bonus clip, Bill Maher rants about LSD and psilocybin in 2011:
I plan to commercially release four more pieces from my Robert Anton Wilson archives later this year, so in preparation for that, I have put the last four I released into the public domain. After a sufficient time, I will do the same for the four I will be releasing in 2013, and so on, until I have exhausted my archives and they are all in the public domain.
Everything except “The I in the Triangle” video is hosted on Archive.org. Unfortunately, Archive.org can’t seem to facilitate a decent sized MP4 of the video, so I have included it in an all-inclusive torrent pack here. Included in this batch is:
TAZ: Temporary Autonomous Zone: A night of ontological anarchy and poetic terrorism captured live at the Komotion International in San Francisco in February 1993. Introduced by Joseph Matheny and featuring Rob Breszny, the elusive Hakim Bey reading from his unpublished manuscripts, Nick Herbert performing his Quantum Tantric poetry, and Robert Anton Wilson rounding out the evening with his RAW witticisms.
Robert Anton Wilson: The “I” in the Triangle: Wilson introduces this lecture as a discussion of “The Western Hermetic Tradition”…and it is, but from Bob’s unique point of view. Its sweeping scope covers centuries of individuals and groups from the Illuminati of Bavaria and the Freemasons to the Priory of Sion and the Bilderbergers. Carl Jung, Philip K. Dick, Rajneesh, Jean Cocteau, Aleister Crowley, the Gnomes of Zurich, Harvey’s 6-foot white rabbit and many more all play a part. Along the way there are the strange connections among Nostradamus and the earthquakes in Los Angeles, the Merovingians and extraterrestrials from Sirius, Rastafarians and the Cult of the Black Virgin, Atlantis and Satan, the Vatican Bank and the Mafia and much, much more. Educational? Definitely. Informative? Absolutely! Truly a roller-coaster ride that will leave your head spinning and your sides splitting!
Robert Anton Wilson: The Lost Studio Session Recorded in Chicago in 1994, this previously unreleased audio session with the renowned Robert Anton Wilson has been stored away for fifteen years…and almost lost entirely. If Bob knew how many synchronicities surround the rediscovery and release of this “lost” studio session, he would be chuckling in that half-jolly, half-mischievous way of his. If you believe in any kind of afterlife, maybe you can imagine him laughing right now. I like that image: Bob the laughing Buddha, still having one over on us from the great beyond. -Joseph Matheny (from the liner notes)
Perhaps this will only prove of interest to really hardcore Crowley buffs (and not necessarily RAW fans who aren’t Crowley nuts) but this is, for sure, the best Bob Wilson interview on the topic of Aleister Crowley that I’ve ever heard.
Dean Cavanagh is that very rare breed – a maverick whose talents have been successfully proven over several different disciplines.
He is an award-winning artist; a screenwriter and playwright, writing the highly acclaimed Wedding Belles with Irvine Welsh and the forth-coming movie version of the hit on-line series Svengali. He has also been a journalist, with bylines in i-D, NME, Sabotage Times and the Guardian. Dean is also a documentary-maker, a film and TV producer and a musician, with along list of collaborators, including Robert Anton Wilson.
Now the multi-talented Cavanagh has written and directed (with his son Josh), his first movie - the much anticipated Kubricks.
In this exclusive interview with Dangerous Minds, Dean talks about the ideas and creative processes behind Kubricks. How he collaborated with Alan McGee, and developed the film with his son Josh, discussing his thoughts on cinema and synchronicity, and explaining howKubricks came to be filmed over 5 days, with a talented cast this summer.
Dean Cavanagh: ‘Stanley Kubrick has always fascinated me in that he was clearly trying to convey messages through symbols, codes and puzzles in his films.
‘For me his genius was in the way he presented the ‘regular’ audience with a clear narrative structure and for those who wanted to look deeper he constructed hidden layers of subjectivity. He was clearly a magician working with big budgets in such an idiosyncratic way that it’s hard not to be intrigued by him and his oeuvre.
‘I’ve been following Kubrick researchers like Rob Ager and Jay Weidner for the last few years and I really wanted to dramatize a story based around Kubrick as an inspirational enigma. There is a wealth of material about the esoteric side of Kubrick on the net and Ager and Weidner are great places to start the journey from.’
DM: How did you progress towards making ‘Kubricks’?
Dean Cavanagh: ‘I’ve been writing screenplays and theatre on my own and also with Irvine Welsh since the 1990’s. Up until last year, I never really had any desire to direct a film but Alan McGee encouraged me to have a go. He offered to produce a film if I would write and direct with the emphasis being on us having total control. This was music to my ears after having mainly dealt with people who are always looking for reasons not to make a film. Alan’s credo was “just do it and let’s see what happens”. There’s a great freedom in working with him.’
Read more of Dean Cavanagh’s exclusive interview, plus free ‘Kubricks’ soundtrack download, after the jump…
“The first new dogmatism I embraced after rejecting the Marxist BS (belief system) was Ayn Rand’s philosophy (not yet called Objectivism in those days.) _The Fountainhead_ had exactly the appeal for me that it has retained, decade after decade, with alienated adolescents of all ages. (The average youthful reader of _Thus Spake Zarathustra_ decides he is the Superman, and the average youthful Randroid decides she is an Alienated Super Genius.) LIke most Randroids, I went around for a few years mindlessly parroting all the the Rand dogma and imagining I was an ‘individualist.’
“Some years later, after becoming a published writer, I actually was invited to meet Ayn Rand once. (I was ‘summoned to the Presence,’ as Arlen said.) I confessed my doubts about certain Rand dogmas and was Cast Out Into the Darkness forever to wail and gnash my teeth in the Realm of Thud. It was weird. I thought the Trots and Catholic priests were dogmatic, but Ayn Rand made both groups look like models of tolerance by comparison.
“I thought she was a clinical paranoid. It was nearly 30 years later that I found out Rand was merely on Speed all the time, which creates an effect so much like paranoia that even trained clinicians cannot always tell the difference, and some even claim there is no difference.”
I was actually in attendance at this talk, held at The Prophets Conference, a New Age confab held in various cities about fifteen years ago. This one was held in Palm Springs in mid-December of 2000. I wrote about it a bit on Boing Boing, in my contribution to their Robert Anton Wilson week:
The RAW fans contingent in Palm Springs were totally distinct from everyone else present (goths and cyberpunk vs New Agey senior citizens who wanted to hear about Pleiadian prophecy and 2012 Mayan stuff, which Bob just hated). Bob got really ripped on hard alcohol before his talk and swore like a sailor, which seemed to deeply offend the organizers of the event. We ended up hanging out in his hotel suite, smoking pot. A young guy had given him a bag of these black psilocybin mushrooms which he’d managed to smuggle into America from Ireland, which Bob didn’t really seem to want and gave to me (my god were they strong). It was in Palm Springs that I got to see firsthand how bad his post-polio syndrome had gotten. He was getting pretty wobbly on his feet, but this did not seem to dampen his enthusiasm in the least for copious amounts of Marlboro reds, whiskey and weed.
Mentally he was certainly as sharp as ever, that never changed, but his health seemed to go downhill quite fast in the years I knew him. The aforementioned “enthusiasms” were often consumed with rapacious gusto for a man of his age and he once revealed to me that since nearly everyone who he had ever loved in his life was already dead, he was going to smoke as many cigarettes and pound back as much Scotch as he damn well pleased. Bob’s your uncle!
Read more of Wilson and I, by Richard Metzger (Boing Boing)
I’m not sure how ripped Bob appears to be in the video, because he could hold his liquor pretty well, but trust me, he was fuckin’ bombed
An essay that I wrote about Robert Anton Wilson has been posted as part of Boing Boing’s special “Robert Anton Wilson Week,” joining pieces by Douglas Rushkoff, Erik Davis, Antero Alli, Ivan Stang, Gareth Branwyn. Paul Krassner, R.U. Sirius and others:
As “outsider” teenage readers of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s classicIlluminatus! trilogy in the early 1980s, it seemed to some of my friends at the time (all big Kurt Vonnegut, Richard Brautigan and Philip K Dick fans, too) that the novel’s authors were trying to communicate something “in code” to their readers, like it was a message about “the conspiracy” that was coming from an underground resistance group. I thought that was bunk and fanciful nonsense, but it goes to show how strong of an effect that book had on kids’ imaginations back then.
Illuminatus! was a touchstone for freethinking weirdos of that era, one of the rare books that even attempted to make sense of being born into an ever increasingly surreal world still reeling from things like the JFK/MLK/RFK assassinations, Watergate and the Vietnam war and where Ronald Reagan, a bad actor who once worked with a chimpanzee, had just become President.
It was also an interesting experiment in mass occult initiation—sold at shopping malls across America—that satirically tore away the veils of the modern world and (actively, not passively) imprinted a skeptical worldview on the reader. Read those books from cover to cover and there was virtually not a chance in hell that you’d be a normal person ever again. The Illuminatus! trilogy really made quite an impression, let’s just say.
Wilson’s non-fiction work, Cosmic Trigger, was of even greater interest to me with its cheerful speculations on Timothy Leary’s channeled communications from “holy guardian angels,” psychedelic drugs and Aleister Crowley. The so-called “23 enigma,” I was familiar with already because of The Third Mind by William Burroughs and Brion Gysin, but it was explained in greater depth in Cosmic Trigger. It was the first place I’d read of Robert K. Temple’s book The Sirius Mystery and it was also the first time I heard the name Terence McKenna. I can’t tell you how many weird and wonderful things that book exposed me to.
It was instrumental in forming my worldview. Simply put, it’s in my DNA. Cosmic Trigger is one of the UR-documents of my life (and career!).
The first time I met up with Bob Wilson, in the flesh, was at a day-long event called “Millennial Madness” that took place in the Scottish Rites Masonic Temple on Wilshire Blvd. in Los Angeles. It must have been around 1993. He was speaking at the event on a bill with Timothy Leary, medical marijuana guru Jack Herer and Paul Krassner. RAW was outside having a cigarette and I nervously offered him some of the spliff I was smoking, which he happily accepted and we chatted for a moment.
“A system which consigned me to poverty at birth and Nelson Godawful Rockefeller to riches, is demonstrably insane.”—Robert Anton Wilson
A blog devoted to collecting vintage—and often very obscure—interviews with Robert Anton Wilson posted a long portion of what is apparently only one of three parts from a publican called New Libertarian Notes , issue 39,” from September 5, 1976.
Here’s a gem plucked from deep within it where Wilson discusses the illusion of wealth, one of his favorite topics:
RAW: Of course, my position is based on the denial that money does store wealth. I think it’s a semantic hallucination, the verbal equivalent of an optical illusion, to speak at all of money containing or storing wealth. Such thinking should have gone out with phlogiston theory. The symbol is not the referent; the map is not the territory. Money symbolizes wealth, as words symbolize things, and that’s all. The delusions that money contains wealth is the mechanism by which the credit monopoly has gained a stranglehold on the entire economy. As Colonel Greene pointed out in Mutual Banking, all the money could disappear tomorrow morning and the wealth of the planet would remain the same. However, if the wealth disappeared—if squinks from the Pink Dimension dragged it off to null-space or something—the money would be worth nothing. You don’t need to plow through the dialects of the debate between the Austrians and the free credit people like Tucker and Gesell to see this; any textbook of semantics will make it clear in a few hours of study. Wealth is nature’s abundance, freely given, plus the exponential advance of technology via human intelligence, and as Korzybski and Fuller demonstrate, this can only increase an an accelerating rate. Money is just the tickets or symbols to arrange for the distribution—either equitably, in a free money system, or inequitably, as under the tyranny of the present money-cartel. As you realize, a cashless society could exist merely by keeping bookkeeping entries or computer tapes. Money is a primitive form of such computer tapes, serving a feedback function. If we are not to replace the present banking oligopoly with a programmer’s oligopoly, in which the interest will be paid to computer technicians, we must realize that this is all a matter of abstract symbolism—that it exists by social agreement and nobody owns it, anymore than Webster owns the language. Why is it, incidentally, that the Austrians don’t follow their logic to its natural conclusion and demand that we pay interest to the dictionary publishers every time we speak or write?
You have to watch people playing Monopoly, and see them begin to “identify” the paper markers with real value, to understand how the mass hypnosis of Capitalism works. Fortunately, the Head Revolution is still proceeding and more and more people are waking up to the difference between our economic game-rules and the real existential situation of humanity.
Illuminating Discord: An interview with Robert Anton Wilson (Cleveland Okie)
Below, Lance Bauscher’s enjoyable documentary portrait of Robert Anton Wilson, Maybe Logic:
Australia’s 21.C, edited by Ashley Crawford, was probably the best magazine of the ‘90s—it was my favorite at least—and to be profiled in its pages and later to contribute to it, was an lot of fun for me.
21.C was the most unabashedly intellectual and forward-thinking journal that I have ever seen, anywhere. And it was a striking and beautifully designed product to hold in your hands. Each issue was finely crafted, I must say. To have my own writing published alongside the likes of Erik Davis, Mark Dery, Greil Marcus, Hakim Bey, Rudy Rucker, Bruce Sterling, R.U. Sirius and Kathy Acker was an honor. I also met Alex Burns via Ashley and Alex, of course, went on to edit the Disinformation website for many years.(I wrote about art for 21.C’s sister publication—also edited by Ashley Crawford—the quarterly glossy World Art. I know that I wrote an article about the product design of the Japanese pop combo Pizzicato 5, but I can’t remember what else.)
From early 1997 to sometime mid-1999 I had a talkshow called The Infinity Factory that was produced at Pseudo.com, the increasingly legendary “Internet TV Network,” creative madhouse and party central of downtown New York during the high-flying Silicon Alley dotcom years. (Ondi TImoner’s new Sundance Grand Jury Prize-winning documentary, We Live in Public chronicles the rise and fall of Pseudo founder Josh Harris and it’s a fascinating film, a movie well worth going out of your way to catch. Watch my interview with Ondi here).
The Infinity Factory was taped every Sunday evening at 8pm with a few exceptions. It was produced by Vanessa Weinberg who also DJ’d and mixed the show live. Vanessa was extraordinarily in tune with how the conversations were flowing and added an intricate bed of trippy music, samples and sound loops under what were often extremely psychedelic conversations to begin with—like this episode, with Robert Anton Wilson and Genesis P-Orridge. This show dates, I think, from Fall of 1997. When it was originally netcast it was when most people still had 56k modems and the video quality was fairly awful. Don’t get me wrong, it was pretty cool to be able to do something like this back then and there was a real “pirate radio” aspect to it as well that greatly appealed to me, but in truth it looked more like flickery animation than it did actual video. And it was the size of a postage stamp. There were probably well over 100 shows, each of them around 50 minutes, but I really can’t say for sure how many there were. Most of them are probably lost.
Pseudo had several floors, first two then three, in the no-frills building where Jeff Koons and Mark Kostabi still have their art studios, on the corner of Houston and Broadway. One floor had the business people and the producer’s offices and on the floor with the studio—which is where all the parties were—Josh Harris had his own apartment in the back. Each Sunday night, I’d usually I’d see him, cigar in hand, either leaving or returning from a poker game. It was, if memory serves on the 12th floor and this building had the scariest elevator I have, ever, ever used. It was super slow and extremely rickety. If I made it up and down in one piece each week, I breathed a sigh of relief, let me tell you. When someone especially heavy was waiting for the elevator, I’d opt to use the steps, even if it was twelve long flights. Seriously, you took your life into your own hand with this elevator. I don’t know why Jeff Koons puts up with it. (Composer Gershon Kingsley, who was a guest on the show once, told me that taking that elevator and getting off at Pseudo was like entering Dante’s Inferno except that you went up instead of down. I don’t think he was joking)
The studio itself was basically set up like a radio station but with these cheapo cameras that were the size of cigarette packs on pivots that were cut with this jerry-rigged Radio Shack thumb switch with three clunky buttons. The hosts had to do this themselves—cut between cameras—in the beginning. It was really distracting when you were trying to concentrate on what someone was saying (I might be doing it here, but I don think I was). I had some fun guests on the Infinity Factory including a pre-Boing Boing David Pescovitz, Adam Parfrey of Feral House infamy, painter Paul Laffoley, my late and very missed friend Dr. Mario Pazzaglini, R.U. Sirius, Grant Morrison, Joe Coleman and Bob Wilson, who was on a couple of times. Genesis P-Orridge, Douglas Rushkoff, Howard Bloom and conspiracy theory writers Kenn Thomas and Robert Sterling were all frequent guests.
It’s nice to see these shows popping again now, after so many years, as larger HD YouTube files. These shows were taped off Manhattan Cable and probably represent the best versions around. If the master tapes do still exist, they’d be in Josh’s storage space amongst 10,000 hours of other Pseudo programming and I doubt very much they have been cataloged! On television only in New York City (and maybe later in Brooklyn) The Infinity Factory was on a fairly low number on the Time-Warner cable box, so if you were flipping channels at 10:30 on Thursday night and you lived in Manhattan, you were going to see me. This was at the time George Clooney was still on E.R. and it amused me to no end that people watching that show or MTV’s The Real World and channel surfing would—inevitably—find themselves looking at my freaky show.
The morning after it was on the Manhattan Cable for first time I was asked “What do you do for a living? I saw you on TV last night” or some variation on that theme by four people in my apartment building who had never spoken to me before. Overnight I had become as famous as… Robin Byrd or Al Goldstein!