Wednesday, January 11, 2012

Remembering R.A.W.

Today, 1/11 is the anniversary of writer/thinker/guerrilla ontologist Robert Anton Wilson's departure from the physical world back in 2007 (can you believe 2007 was five years ago?). For the last few months, I've found myself often going through lengthy binges of listening to his interviews or lectures or reading one of his books. His work really creates an addictive drive in followers, probably because in all of his writings, lectures, and conversations he presents such a broad abundance of knowledge in such a funny, pellucid package.

The first time I heard RAW speak I was blown away because I'd never heard someone with such a thick and gravelly Brooklyn accent speak with such intelligence. I grew up in Staten Island with numerous Brooklyn ties so that dialect surrounded me growing up. But here was a guy speaking about James Joyce, Finnegans Wake, quantum physics, Carl Jung, synchronicity, and the I-Ching all at once in my mother tongue. I've been devouring his work ever since.

I got into his work through his passion for Joyce but he's most well-known for a series of science fiction novels called the Illuminatus! trilogy. He's also written over 30 nonfiction books on topics such as general semantics, mysticism, psychology, physics, eastern religion, sex, libertarianism, conspiracies, and the future. His work is prone to completely change the way readers see the world. The website Boing Boing is doing a RAW week starting today and there are already a few great pieces about him that are worth checking out. From one of the posts (and the accompanying comments) here is an example of that powerful reaction his work engenders in readers:
...There are few works of art or pieces of media that have altered my nervous system to the extent that Illuminatus! has...

...I first read his work in college (Cosmic Trigger) and it literally rearranged my brain... 
Helping to feed my insatiable hunger for RAW brain food have been a number of blogs and websites including the author's own page which features the opening chapter from just about all of his books. The Maybe Logic blog is great and has years of great material in its archives, has been providing good material almost every day, the page has tons of resources (including many of his published essays and articles), and there is one prolific blogger writing more than a dozen different RAW-related blogs from different angles, Steve "Fly Agaric" Pratt. I've mentioned Steve's work on this blog a few times but not nearly enough, he's got tons and tons of great material to check out. I'm going to close with a few things I've gleaned from his websites over the years.

Writing about the anniversary of RAW's death, which occurred on January 11th or 1/11, Steve draws our attention to RAW's love for James Joyce and especially Finnegans Wake. In writing about the Wake, RAW often mentioned the number 111 and its prominence in the book:
"This 1:11 business turns out to be more curious than we realize at first, even if we note that it is connected with Bloom's son, who died at age 11 days, Shakespeare's son Hamnet who died at 11 years and the 22 (2x11) letters in the Hebrew alphabet or the 22 words in the first sentence of Ulysses. If ALP and APL invoke all this, the LAP, a further permutation, invokes the LAP where a Freemason wears his apron, as in Aleister Crowley's BOOK OF LIES, Chapter 54, in which some Freemasons guess that the lost Mason Word is AMO, whose number is 111, and some guess that it is LAP which also has the number 111. (By Cabala, AMO=A which is 1, M which is 40, and O which is 70, 1+40+70=111, while LAP=L or 30, A or 1, and P or 80, and 30+1+80=111.) William York Tindall, a Joyce scholar who likes to count, has noted that many long sentences in FW have 111 clauses. Anna Livia Plurabelle's untitled "mamafesta" in Chapter Five has 111 alternative titles; when sad, she is described as "wan wan wan"; in Chapter 8, she has 111 children. Most books on Cabala hint at trancendental meanings in the fact that the Hebrew A or aleph=ALP=111 when spelled in full as aleph-lamek-pe." -- from Wilson's book Coincidance
On this blog (and in person) I'm prone to gush about the intricately designed spinning wheel of meaning that is Finnegans Wake and this silly but mind-blowing little synchronicity that I'm about to show you is a perfect example of what makes this weird book so intriguing. If you flip open to page 111 of Finnegans Wake, here's the first thing you'll read:
peraw raw raw reeraw puteters out of Now Sealand in spignt
of the patchpurple of the massacre, a dual a duel to die to
day, goddam and biggod, sticks and stanks, of most of the
Emphasis mine. Check out Fly Agaric's lengthy post about the whole thing.

When you manage to pick up the pieces and put your head back together, here's a great little video of RAW explaining the rapid acceleration of knowledge and information through the last 2,000 years which he calls the "Jumping Jesus" phenomenon:

And lastly, here is a link to one of Wilson's earliest published articles, one that I come back to often, on Joyce and Taoism

PS: As pointed out to me by the Maybe Logic blog, today is also Albert Hoffman's birthday.


  1. Lotsa food for thought here, PQ. I feel my brain his getting rusty int Finnigans Wake hiatus.

    Santa Cruz is or at least was a big center for RAW fans. I haven't really gotten on board yet, but I have a feeling that Jimmy Joyce will lead me there.

  2. Once one boards the RAW spaceship, it tends to take off pretty fast so you'll be a disciple in no time.

    Can't wait til I finally get to check out Santa Cruz someday, many signs seem to be pointing toward it.

  3. I often wonder what RAW would say about the current world we live in. It seems like a lot has changed since 2007 and there isn't anyone that can break things down the way Ol' Bob could.

    Great blog!

  4. I often wonder the same thing. The man was extraordinarily insightful. He'd have gotten a kick out of Facebook/Twitter, the Large Hadron Collider, the Republican party, and everything else I'm sure. I wish Marshall McLuhan could be around to comment on the current state of things as well.

    Thanks for stopping by SatoriGuy!