To Mainline the Pure Dope of Illuminatus!

An Interview with Illuminatus TV Showrunner Brian Taylor

 

by Prop Anon

 

 

In December 2019, Deadline announced that Illuminatus!, the legendary underground novel, was on its way to becoming a tv show with Brian Taylor, writer/director of the movies Crank, Gamer, Mom and Dad, and the tv shows Happy! and Brave New World, slotted as the showrunner.  

Like Wilson, Taylor has taken risks with his craft. Whether it was developing “the Rollercam,” an innovative camera technique used to film Crank with his creative partner Mark Neveldine, or beta-testing the Sony RED camera while filming the underrated sci-fi gem Gamer, Taylor welcomes the inclusion of what Discordians call “the random factor.”

Wilson would give props to the risks Taylor has taken. Choosing to be the showrunner of a story with as labyrinthine a plot structure as Illuminatus! may be Taylor’s biggest risk of all!

In his last movie, Mom and Dad, starring Nic Cage and Selma Blair, Taylor presented a film that moved fluidly across the comedy, horror, and drama genres. This tonal shift, as he called it, is not only a desired type of story smart audiences want these days. It is also something Robert Anton Wilson mastered. It takes great wit, irony, and heart to make conspiracy theories funny and Wilson, arguably, is the first ever to have done it. As Happy!proved, Taylor can present shocking material with an ironically raucous gaiety, adding to the feeling of high voltage electricity than runs through all his movies.

There is no doubt that he possesses the gonzo style of sex, violence, and humor found in Illuminatus! However, as the astute Wilson reader knows, he and Shea masterfully utilized those pulp elements to draw the reader in to tell them about individualist-anarchism, critical thinking, and comparative religion. I hope that Taylor and his team can capture these more “esoteric” elements of the story. Perhaps by doing so, they will have outwitted the Curse of Greyface and accomplished the long-term goal of Discordianism — to make the whole world Popes!

I spoke with Taylor on October 5, 2020, as the California wildfires burned through more land than has ever been recorded. As the world has been jettisoned into Chapel Perilous and the walls are tumbling down, I wanted the straight dope. When will we get to see the Illuminatus! tv show?

 

Robert Anton Wilson once said that his biggest professional regrets was not seeing any of his books made into TVs or films, so, when Deadline announced in Dec 2019, that Illuminatus! was going to be a tv show and you were going to be the showrunner RAW fans sent a ripple of frenzy rumbled through the RAW-sphere.

BT: The Wilson Estate also has been super supportive and really stoked with everything I brought to it. They were over the moon. They were like “Oh my god, he would have loved this,” which is really good to hear.

Is this going to be the first project where you are the showrunner?

BT: Well, I was basically the showrunner on Happy! I guess for the purpose of this interview, it’s a good reminder that this show is not set up yet. Just because I’m developing it doesn’t mean that anybody will buy it or that it will ever be made. We hope so. This is a big ambitious swing. Making Illuminatus! is not like making Fleabag or something. This is a big fucking show. It’s a major work, a globe-spanning super ambitious piece of television. I felt the same way when Grant (Morrison) and I got a chance to take a shot at Brave New World. There’s been a lot of versions of Brave New World, but Illuminatus! not everybody can crack. Illuminatus! is not just sitting there waiting to be made. It’s an incredibly layered, abstract, and ambitious piece of literature. In order to honor that and honor its spirit the tv show must be just as subversive, just as chaotic, and just as impossible to pin down.

In terms of the time period of the story. Would you place it in the 1970s, like it is in the book, or would you update it and place it in present day?

BT: I think you have to make it contemporary. Why not? If you take out the names and dates, the book feels almost like it could have come out yesterday. Everything in it is more relevant now than it was then. I would have loved to hear Robert comment on what’s going on today. One of the major tenets of Discordianism is breaking down what they thought was a shared truth that was actually a lie. We were all living in a reality that we all agreed was real, but it actually wasn’t. Their idea of using subversive pranks to break down the idea of truth, to show the illusion that everybody’s living under and bring a sense of chaos to all of it was amazing. Sadly, that idea has been co-opted by the very authoritarians that Robert Anton Wilson would have hated. Promoting a type of chaos has become the active strategy of authoritarianism, starting in Russia and continuing here with Trumpism. The idea is to just completely break down and destroy the sense of shared truth. I wonder what Wilson would have thought about that.

How far along are you in the development process of the new Illuminatus! then?

BT: We’ve cracked how to bring it into the present day. That’s the main thing. How do you take these characters like Hagbard and move them into 2020, and then have that be relevant and potent. I think we’ve cracked all of that. We know what the pilot would be. We kind of know the shape of the first season and where we’d like it to go. I think it should be a three-season piece, where each season would roughly follow one book of the trilogy.

One thing that we learned doing Happy! was that shows metastasize and build themselves. We started out on Happy! with Grant (Morrison’s) comic book. That took us through about an episode and couple of scenes, which took us past the comic book. Then it was like, “Now where are we going?” And you’re in uncharted territory. Whereas I don’t think we are going to overtake the scale of this book and run out of material. But I do think that it’s going to have a way of metastasizing and becoming something different. How do you talk about Leprosy Mu (the biological warfare agent that gets loose during the novel) in a post-Covid world?

Production-wise, how far along is the show in terms of getting to the first table read?

BT: We are still in a stage where we’re looking for a partner. We need a network. We need somebody who is willing to take a chance on this thing. Obviously, it’s a complicated time to set up a show this ambitious, but it is also a good time to work on a project like this. You can basically build out the entire thing so that when it’s time to roll cameras you’re ready to go. It feels like that type of show to me because it is so global, and it really wants to hop around from location to location… it would need to be cross-bordered production. So, you’d want to go to Texas and shoot all of Texas. Then go to New York and shoot all of New York. Etc.

So, you’ve worked with some great actors.  Michael C Hall, Nic Cage, Chris Meloni, Jason Statham, Patton Oswald and, of course, the great Glenn Howerton. Have you approached any of them about appearing in Illuminatus!?

BT: Yeah, when we have the network and it’s more a go, a lot of those names you just mentioned are people I’d want to get involved. And those are all really smart people and people who would get the book and be inspired by it. There are some actors that would react with “Ah just send me the script because I don’t want to read all that.”

Illuminatus! is not the most inviting text. You want people who are really on the page. People who get it and love it. If you are doing something that’s really complicated like this, trying to make something different, you need everyone to be on the same page. Especially when it comes to television, which is exponentially more difficult to make well than movies. I didn’t realize that until I got into it. The amount of work involved in showrunning  and how quickly it comes at you… there’s nothing that can really prepare you for that.  It makes directing a movie feel like a cruise. It’s like an avalanche of stuff coming at you on a daily basis. And it’s all you can do to keep up, if you are trying to do something really ambitious — and Happy! was ambitious and this is even more so. One thing you figure out quickly is that you gotta have people helping you. You gotta have people involved that really get it and are not fighting against you all the time but who are helping it be better. On Happy!, the number one guy like that was Meloni. He deeply got the sense of humor of that show. So, it was like having an extra producer, an extra writer and director on set all the time who was just pushing it, not just to be better, but to be what it should be.

Sometimes you get the guest director come in — the show has a weird tone, weird sense of humor and material — so some directors and even actors would come in and not get it. They didn’t get the sense of humor, they didn’t get the irony, and they didn’t get the tone. It’s just like we were talking about. It’s that meta-modern idea of embracing all tones simultaneously. A lot of guys don’t know how to do that…they’re just used to one thing. It’s amazing how one person can come into the mix who just doesn’t get what you’re doing and the whole thing can come grinding to a halt. So when you have a situation where everyone gets it, it takes on this momentum and becomes really fun despite how difficult it is. Something like Illuminatus!… you have to have people who just deeply get it.

Yeah, you are perhaps going to have to have some sort of vetting process that involves lots of acid and strobe lights. How did the book hit you the first time you read it. Were there weird synchronicities around reading it?

BT: I was not one of those guys who read it as a teenager. I came upon that book later in life when my artistic sensibility was already established.One of the main feelings that I had reading Illuminatus! was this sort of revelatory feeling that this is where all this shit comes from. This is the seminal piece. This is the seed. Like everybody got everything from this book.

 

I always used to tease Grant (Morrison)…like when American Gods came out, I was like “Grant did you get any royalties on that? Somebody else is making The Invisibles.” When you read Illuminatus! you’re like “oh shit man, this is the original! This is where The Invisibles came from. This is where everything came from!” A lot of things that I look for as an artist and a lot of my sensibilities were formed by that book without even knowing about it because it influenced so many things that influenced me. And there is that psychedelic quality that the book has where you just fall into it. When you read the book, you feel like a different person. It definitely has more of an effect on your life than a book normally does. It kind of takes you over a little bit, and when you’re finished reading it, there’s this period of coming out of it that which feels like you are coming out of a dream and back into reality. You realize that that book was taking you someplace else. But because it’s Illuminatus! and its Robert Anton Wilson, you think, “Well, I think I’m not coming out of reality, but maybe I was coming out of something else.”

One other thing. Illuminatus! is just so smart and funny. I found that I just missed him, and the world misses him. I’ve seen these interviews where he talked about the things he looked forward to and where he thought the world was going, and there was this whole alternate, intellectual, metaphysical kind of thought in the 90s about where things were going. The Terrence McKenna school — we are going to find a way to get free of these monkey bodies and we’re going to find a way to enter other dimensions and we’re going to expand intelligence and extend life. We’re going to break free of a lot of these things that have held us monkeys back for thousands of years.

There’s a sadness when you hear him talking about that now because it didn’t happen. The world now is even more fucked up than when he wrote Illuminatus! It just seems like we’ve been completely incapable of breaking free of that stuff. We’re still fighting the same pathetic cultural wars, the same primitive religious wars, despite our best angels pushing us forward to get better. The vast majority of humanity is just this epic failure. It’s sad. In a way, you miss him but it’s also like I’m glad he didn’t live to see this. Selfishly, I want him here because I want to hear his perspective. I want him to put it in a context that isn’t so scary and sad because he just kind of had a way of doing that.

Orson Welles once said that when Hemingway died there was a period of about ten years where nobody spoke or wrote about Hemingway in America, but then suddenly Hemingway came back. Welles concluded with, “I think it’s mainly true that writers go into total eclipse right after their death.” So perhaps there are these gestation periods, and the world is now ready to start hearing the message of RAW. I mean the whole fucking planet is collectively going through Chapel Perilous right now. We are living in Illuminatus! right now. 

I really hope there’s a network out there that is smart enough and brave enough to pick this show up.

BT:  I think it’s going to be a really special show. It would be one of the greatest things I could hope to do. Grant and I were really excited to take a crack at Brave New World, but at the end of the day that sort of became very much a studio thing. It didn’t really express the punk rock mad energy that we thought Huxley deserved. Huxley was another one. He is up there on the Mt. Rushmore with Wilson. I think he deserved more. But that’s Hollywood. Sometimes things just get dulled down.

Coming out of Brave New World with Grant, I am not going to let that happen with Illuminatus! It’s better not to make it at all than to make the compromised version with no teeth. If we’re going to make it, it would have to be something that would make Robert proud. It has to be something that strives to have that type of impact and embraces the spirit of the material. If it can’t be that then I really believe it’s not worth the time to do it. Let the book stand. The book is always going to be great. So that’s the challenge. The challenge is… we’re going to do it and we’re not going to let it get polluted. We want to try to give this to people to mainline the pure dope of Illuminatus! Let’s see if we can pull it off. If we can, then it will be amazing!

 

Grant Morrison Surveys the Situation In “The Age of Horus”

 

Interview by Prop Anon

For those familiar with Mondo2000.com, Grant Morrison needs no introduction. Over the course of his long career, Morrison, and his generation of punk rock warlords, busted through the doors of the lagging comics industry — sorely in need of some power chord clarity and imaginative story lines — and proceeded to take readers on new paths of literary discovery. Morrison’s genius use of tropes, his subversions and inversion of same, are so much fun to read. It’s all there, the light and the dark.

Times are dark. Since the last time I interviewed Morrison, in 2017, Trump and his idiotic minions have rolled out the red carpet for the angel of death. Morrison knows what’s at stake. However, don’t ask him for specific details about the daily plays of politricks. There is little need. The ebullient Scotsman continues to trek the antipodes of the mind, dropping gems and jewels like Chester Copperpot (from The Goonies), educating readers how to vibe right and live like rock stars during a possible apocalypse.

In this interview we discuss his newest television show Brave New World which features an Artificial Intelligence, named Indra, that feeds on human brains to survive. Morrison also provides an update on the progress on his The Invisibles tv show, as well as his insights into Robert Anton Wilson, magick, the Aeon of Ma’at.

Enjoy!

Brave New World recently aired this past July on Peacock. The project involved you, Brian Taylor — your partner on Happy! and then David Weiner, correct?

GM: Yes, David came in at a time when the project had stalled a little and he was able to turn it around. Me and Brian started it with the original pitch. The network liked Happy! so they asked if we wanted to pitch for Brave New World, which they were trying to develop with Amblin. We won the gig out of a bunch of other potential writers, mainly because we insisted on treating the World State as a decent working model of utopia, rather than a classic dystopia in the mold of Elysium or Metropolis or 1984. We worked on a few iterations of the script, and then Brian got really busy on Happy! season 2. So, I kind of stayed with it when David Weiner came aboard as the showrunner on Brave New World. He totally revamped and overhauled it. He’s a very smart guy and came from a theatre background and he focused on the emotional stuff, the quirky relationships between the lead characters. My contributions are especially apparent in the high-concepts and the world-building — you know: how does the naming system work? How does the society run? Why isn’t it mechanized? Why isn’t it industrialized? Why are there no private cars and only public transport?

I worked out every detail of that, and then I worked with David on a new version of the pilot script. And he brought together a bunch of amazing writers to flesh the whole thing out. Of the eleven writers in the writer’s room, eight of them were women.

Lenina Crowne has a really hard time in the book, as she is always being slapped around by a sociopathic, Shakespeare-quoting, sex-negative John the Savage. So, the notion was — let’s do something more modern and radical. In terms of my magical practice, this ties Brave New World to my thoughts about the Aeon of Ma’at, the Goddess of Truth, Balance and Harmony.

In the book, Lenina is treated quiet badly and comes to a grim end, so I thought let’s make her the central character of this new version. The Savage Lands depicts a childlike level of society; John is tied to his mother and has very little agency. The World State has progressed to teenage; with its non-stop music and parties and strict social demarcation into easily-identifiable ‘tribes’. The idea was to have Lenina begin to work with the Indra to build a truly ‘adult’ utopia… which would lead us into season 2…

I’ve seen critics complain about the Brave New World sex scenes not being sexy but that was the point we were making! There’s even a major scene of intimacy between John and Lenina that deliberately exists in contrast to the shallow hedonism of the orgies. In this world, sex is more like a social duty, or it’s like sport. It doesn’t involve the guilt and the excitement, the transgression and the passion that we associate with sex at all.

So, I think all of that stuff that I really like in it is asking how does this world work? How and why? And what do they get from it and how different does it feel from our world. At the same time, David was asking how to do human beings as we understand them as they live and interact in a world with these limitations or parameters and how do we show that in a way that Huxley didn’t. So, I think the combination of everyone who worked on it made the project really rich and interesting. It’s not like the comics where it’s just me and an artist, or a letterer and colorist as the equivalent of a pop group. This was like being on a football team. It was a big team. A lot of the writing that reaches the screen is not what you put on the page necessarily. It’s what passes through the team filter and the show runner’s re-drafts that makes it onto the screen. So, it’s much more like you are on a team, which I really enjoyed.

That’s cool man. I just watched the pilot and noticed a running image of your work: The human centipede.

GM: (laughing) You know I haven’t seen Human Centipede. I can’t watch horror movies.

LOL. Well my guess is that those forms of one long continuous being, which looks like a centipede, is your visual description of a self, moving through time, which you said you learned in Kathmandu in 1994 as how things actually are. How does this experience still interact with your life?

GM: We can’t see any direction in time. We can’t see back, and we can’t see forward. We can remember back and imagine forward, but that’s it. We’re trained to feel like ‘individuals’ so we don’t actually see ourselves as the extended processes that we are, shapeshifters who transform through decades from small, plump baby things to large and horny muscular teenagers, to hard-working, middle age adults, and finally desiccated seniors dying on beds. If we sped that up and showed one human life over ten minutes, it would be a body horror werewolf transformation more outrageous and horrifying than any seen onscreen.

But to me it’s like the color of the sky, it’s so self-evident that to see a bird fly past the window is to imagine its skipping solid trail through the medium of time.  In time we are all connected, there’s just no denying that. There’s nothing mystical about any of this. I’m talking about stuff that is simply real.

Imagination can give you the ability to look backwards and forward. So, when you run it backwards, think how your grown-up mature body was once smaller, less massive, less capable of interacting with the environment – that’s real. Run it back to the beginnings of life on earth ad it’s clear that we all are one thing. A singular organism made of many parts, just like a human body with its billions of individual skin cells – which die and fall from the body every day.

So, what does that mean? If people learned this in school, if we understood and accepted, we were all the same fucking thing(!) it might help prevent the collapse into mad division that’s occurring, just now. It’s just a matter of perspective that could change everything.

But the organism we’re part of might be sick, who knows? When cells in a body turn against one another and the system that supports them starts breaking down, it’s cancer…

You had the gnostic experience. To just hear it or read it is one thing but when you have the experience that seems to be the most convincing thing.

GM: Well, it seems to become self-evident. It’s really like someone turns your head around in Plato’s cave and you realize that there’s a light and someone’s doing shadow figures with their fingers. Once you’ve seen it, you’ve seen it. And it’s ‘Oh, of course’! Of course! There’s no denying it. But I guess to have that experience is its own confirmation. It’s like living by the sea all your life, then having to explain that to someone living inland who’s never seen the ocean and doesn’t believe an ocean could exist because they’ve never seen one.

To me it can be confirmed intellectually by just thinking about time and how you are embedded in time. You know you had to be six years old to be here. So, where the hell is ‘being six’? Well, being six exists in a time direction that you can’t see or point to, but it’s still there. To misunderstand that is equivalent to flying from Los Angeles to London then, after touching down at Heathrow, insisting that Los Angeles no longer exists!

And once you’re truly aware of time as the medium through which we transmit our physical signal, then there is no denying that your personal track winds its way back into your mum and she goes back to her mum and it all goes back to that single dividing cell 3 and a half billion years ago. To me, that’s just basic mechanical shit. That’s not mysticism. I’m not interested in ghosts and spirit worlds. If I’m going to have transcendence, I want to be able to touch it.

Swervin’ back to Brave New World. One other thing I liked about that show was the AI system called Indra which must be a reference to the concept of Indra’s Net.

GM: And as you know the drug in the show is Soma, which is Huxley’s creation. I just figured if Huxley named the drug Soma… if he had predicted AI, which is one thing he didn’t predict, I think he would have stuck with the Sanskrit and called it Indra.

Indra was my notion for explaining a lot of stuff that didn’t make sense in Huxley’s book. Why are there Epsilons? Why does the World State need a labor force? The book is about the consequences of capitalist mass production, mass consumption, mass destruction, because Huxley had moved to Hollywood and he’d seen the consumer society in full flood and witnessed the world of glamorous unreality — the talkies — which was happening. The whole thing is his attempt to deal with the impact of Ford and Hollywood. As I said, the one thing he didn’t think of was AI. So, the question became how could you make sense of a lot of the things he didn’t make sense of? 

And the idea came up of having a computer network that ran on human brains. We have all those neurons and all that capacity there. So instead of having a central server, the computer is a distributed network that runs on the brains of everyone in the World State. That was designed to solve the problem created by Elon Musk and Stephen Hawking who were both terrified that AI was going to rise up and take over, steal our jobs, and occupy our homes in a kind of immigration nightmare gone sci-fi.

So, I thought, what if you made a computer network that required human brains to run on? It wouldn’t make sense to kill us. It wouldn’t want to kill us. But what it might do is organize us more efficiently. So that might explain a lot of the stuff Huxley didn’t bother to deal with.

The network starts to self-organize and it creates this homeostatic caste system, like a hive. It stratifies people and what it gives them in return is happiness. In Brave New World, the ultimate commodity is happiness. There’s no love, no money, but if you could make everyone happy even if they’re up to their necks in shit, then you’ve won. That was the idea. To create a computer network that doesn’t want to kill people. So, the reason why there are Epsilons — the reason people do jobs and manual labor, is because the computer needs its components to be fit and healthy. Rather than mechanize them, with everyone just slobbing out, it needs citizens to be super fit. So, they are always having sex, they are always playing sport, they are always working. They have pointless jobs that encourage them to be fit and healthy. That was the idea. The Indra network solved a lot of problems and I think it was one of the elegant additions to Huxley’s original.

Then who created the network in the story? Who gave birth to the AI?

GM:  Well, that was the original ten Controllers who started the World State. In Huxley’s book, there’s an anthrax pandemic that kills 2/3 of the world population and there’s only a couple of billion or whatever left. And everyone else gets together and forms a world scientific, anti-religious state because the killer plague was largely caused by political and religious conflict. So suddenly the World State arises to ensure that people won’t screw up so badly ever again. In our version, America is the only country that secedes from the World State. In Huxley, the Savage lands is just a Santa Fe reservation, a pueblo culture. In this version, the Savage Lands is all of North America. The idea was to imagine America 300 hundred years after the fall. People are sick, and the environment is fucked and there’s been six presidents in the last five months, and it costs three thousand dollars to buy a Mars Bar! America’s decision not to join the World State has brought the country to the brink of ecological, economical, and societal collapse. In this version, I think we got a richer background than even the original.

 

 

Let’s talk about The Invisibles tv show. Do you want to be the show runner? How much of a say are you going to have over the final product of The Invisibles?

GM: Honestly, as much as I can, but I would never want to be a showrunner. I just don’t want to do that job. You have to dedicate your entire life to the show. I’m kind of too old and I do too many other things to want to concentrate on one idea for the years it can take to make a TV show. So, I’m always going to have to work with someone. It worked so far with Happy! where Patrick MacManus and Brian Taylor did the heavy-lifting production-wise, and with Brave New World, David Weiner was a great collaborator.

With The Invisibles, it’s closer to home for me and I’m trying to keep as much of a grip on the material until that moment of having to hand it over to someone else and accepting that it will change. I think because it’s so unique to me and some of the ideas in it haven’t appeared anywhere else, there is a little bit more control. But yeah man, I’m three drafts in on the script and I like to think it’s getting better all the time. I still can’t talk about who it’s with now. It’s not with UCP, which it was at one point. Beyond that, it’s going well. It’s been fun. I’ve just been enjoying learning how to write in a different way. I love doing this now. Imagining an actor saying the lines and what it might look like. It’s giving me a completely different buzz from the comic stuff.

Would you ever consider directing?

GM: Nah, again. I don’t want to. Although having said that, I do have one short film to my name – I was asked to write and direct a short film as part of the 42 One Dream Rush project in 2010. The brief was that it had to be just 42 seconds long and based on a dream. David Lynch did one; Kenneth Anger, Asia Argento, and a bunch of other genuine directors and alternative artists, so I was in decent company. My film is an end-of-the-world epic called ‘The 42-Second Minute’ which is just a close-up on a clock! That’s my entire directorial resume right there. That’s enough for me on IMDB.

In December 2019, Deadline announced that your partner on Happy! Brian Taylor was going to be the showrunner for Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’ Illuminatus! as a TV show.

There seem to all these great stories of my youth now being made into television shows

GM: I think there’s a bunch of challenging stuff coming out and these shows add to that. I think people are looking for new myths to help us make sense of the curious times we’re in. I think you need those kinds of stories and works that are coming at our problems from all angles. Think of the opening of Illuminatus! and it’s though the eyes of a squirrel and through George Dorn and a bunch of other characters. There’s a multi-prismatic viewpoint of the world. And I think the minute they can start capturing that sort of thing in TV, showing it through the eyes of all kinds of different characters with different viewpoints and different world view and reality tunnels, it will be pretty interesting.

It’s the fractalization of the media — that’s what made it all possible. There was a time you just couldn’t get away with any of this. I remember a time I was pitching Doom Patrol to Warner’s and their response was that this is ‘wackadoodle’ and now it’s one of their best and most successful shows. And it’s totally based off the stuff that me and Richard Case did with that comic 30 years ago. Stuff people told me would never be adapted, could never be adapted. I think that the success of things like Doom Patrol, or Umbrella Academy or The Boys shows the way that people’s imaginations have been expanded by more fantastic or quirky shows, opening the doors to wilder and more personal stuff.

Speaking of this new myth and ethos, for a few years now you have been speaking about the Aeon of Ma’at. Is this the strongest current you see in humanity these days?

GM: It’s still a subcurrent at the moment, as the patriarchal Aeon of Osiris bows out kicking and screaming but I think it’s the only one that gives us any chance of survival right now. It’s not like this is the dawning of the age of Aquarius. For me these ideas are interesting metaphors; they’re filters, and I find that if I apply this particular filter suggested by Kenneth Grant and Crowley it allows me to see things in a different relationship, which is very creatively rewarding if nothing else.  Viewing the world through the filter of these Thelemic notions, what’s happening right now all around us suddenly becomes not only obvious but almost predictable.  

It’s important to emphasize that this is not something to ‘believe’ in. This is a metaphor and not a belief system. But new metaphors can change whole cultures as we know from our history.

Crowley said that the general tenor of the last six thousand years of human civilization could be summed up by the personalities of a family of Egyptian gods. And the first two thousand years up to the birth of Christ, this was the Age of Isis, the Mother Goddess, where people were hunter/gatherers or early agrarians living off the land, relying on ‘Mother Earth’, the seasons and the tides. So, the next Aeon from Christ onward is the Aeon of Osiris, the dying and resurrected god. Osiris is also the law giver and he brings with him the written word, so now ideas can be enshrined in books and books can outlast generations and they take on the aura of gods themselves.

God himself is present in the works of the Bible. God himself is present in the Quran. So certainly, there’s this programming code language, the instructional Dad language, which can take people over just from reading a book and turn them into agents of the Dad god’s expansionist, controlling agenda. This is when Nature goes from provider to something that exists to be tamed and exploited. That’s the Aeon of Osiris.

Following Osiris, comes this fiery breakdown, the child Horus is the son of Osiris and he’s every jihadi, every warrior, every rock star reformer, every young man who sees as his sacred mission the tearing down of structures, the questioning of rules. It’s punk rock, “I gotta tear it all down.” But running in tandem with that, according to Kenneth Grant, is the shadow Aeon of Ma’at, Horus’ sister and she’s the goddess of truth and balance and harmony and all that Wonder Woman stuff.

For me, having gone through the Abyss of Daath in the Thelema structure of initiation — having undergone that in a really experiential and exhausting way, I found myself in the Qabbalistic sphere of Binah, and the entire world suddenly looked very different and made sense in different configurations which re-energized the work I’d been doing.  

So, I decided to accept that the Aeon of Ma’at was coming down fast and I tried to align all my thinking with that, which provided me with a new bunch of metaphors and ways of framing the world. Imagine all this division and deconstruction was just a corridor we’re passing through. All the fractioning and separation —that’s typical of Horus. We can see the hand of Horus in the modern-day tearing down of monuments and statues. He’s kicking the fuck out of formerly stable systems all around the world. That’s exactly what you would expect of this spirit that Crowley said manifested first in 1913. But for me, I think he made his presence felt quite clearly on 9/11.

You can easily organize the evidence to suggest that there is an Aeon of Horus occurring now. Where systems are being taken down, where everything’s being questioned and audited, and the past is subject to major revision. So, there’s also some fun to be had in thinking “Ok, if this is actually playing out in some symbolic fashion, then what might the Aeon of Ma’at look like, artistically?’

And to me it looks like the rise of marginalized voices, it looks like more women coming into the discourse. It looks like trans people coming into the discourse. It looks like all the opportunities for groups who were disempowered by the Patriarchy, who couldn’t speak before to have their say.

Ma’at – what would her signature disease be? Well it might be a distributed network, a viral malady that could attack all of humanity. What would happen if she emptied the houses of the old gods as a show of possibility? You remember at the height of the first lockdown, all the churches were empty, all the sports stadiums were empty, all the mosques were empty, all the temples were empty. So, the Dad god had nowhere to go.

In Britain, I know, and I’m sure in America, there was a strange uprising of praise for care workers. People would go out every Thursday here and bang on pots and pans and basically thank the nurturing spirt, this caring spirit, for its very existence. It was a very religious, ritualistic thing that we were all doing. That’s Ma’at right there. Then there’s mother nature with hurricanes tearing down borders, storms ravaging everyone’s homes. It all suddenly makes sense in a new context if you use the filter of Ma’at to look at the world. For me, I’ve found some creative applications for it, like in Brave New World and the Wonder Woman comic that I’ve done.

Let’s talk about Magick. How does one get better at it?

GM: By doing it on a regular basis! It’s like a martial art or a musical talent. If you dedicate yourself to learning and practice, if you read other magician’s accounts, if you pay attention, then you start to notice details that the less engaged will miss and this allows you to do things that other people may regard as magical or even supernatural. Just like a stage conjurer, or a great guitarist, or a gifted actor or artist can do. It’s just about really paying attention and doing the work to see what happens. It’s just a way of looking at things in a fresh light and then working with this augmented version of reality in ways that can appear supernatural. One of magic’s main attractions involves bringing things into being, from the conception or thought all the way to solid materiality. Making the insubstantial tangible.

But there’s also a whole other thing. Magic is about deliberately inducing unusual states of consciousness. Some of these states of consciousness have been called gods because they feel super organized and positive, and some of them can be called demons because they feel chaotic, violent, hateful and perverted or whatever. That’s part of magic. It’s as simple as how can you create different states of consciousness? Magic uses spells or rituals, some developed over many centuries, to stimulate specific focused states of consciousness, whether demonic or angelic or god like. Psychedelics and hallucinogens have been used by shamans for the same purpose.

And the written word along with the expression of it are all magic. In the sense that words themselves hold such tremendous power.

GM: If you can limit the language you can reduce the scope of a conjuror. George Orwell warns us about that in the appendices to 1984. If you restrict the language, if you make it impossible to express abstract ideas, then you put boundaries on people’s ability to think creatively or communicate certain concepts. It does work. Words shouldn’t have the kind of power and meaning that we attribute to them but most of us grew up in the Aeon of Osiris, where words have been really important and fundamental to human progress. Words mean the law, words mean the Bible, or the Constitution, words define the divine rules by which we abide. The 10 Commandments.

As any writer can tell you; words are just things that dance around when you play with them. They can mean all kinds of different things. They bring with them the distortions of interpretation where the words of Christ – ‘love your enemies’ – can be twisted to motivate bloody genocidal Crusades. I think Wilson was trying to undermine people’s fear of the perceived authority and power of words as things in themselves.

For sure. There are some big words that have been added to the dictionary over the last 20 years, specifically Beyonce’s ‘bootylicious.’

GM: Well exactly, there you go man. But still I don’t exactly know what it’s describing, but I can almost taste it!

Adding on the to the notion of words and symbols being charged with magic, they have also been charged through the increasing amounts of propaganda over the course of the 20th Century and into today. Isn’t that something that RAW is constantly reminding readers, that propaganda is real, and lots of it feeds off your base emotions, like anger and fear. Most people don’t recognize that cuz they haven’t seen the FNORDS!

GM: It’s more like people’s sense of the immense energy compressed into certain words. It’s not the word itself – as Wilson reminds us ‘fuck’ is a ‘bad’ word but it doesn’t sound much different from ‘folk’, a ‘good’ word, and it means the same as ‘coitus’, another ‘good’ word. So where exactly does the wickedness and dirtiness of ‘fuck’ reside?

Words become fetishized for reasons good or bad and the more fetishized they are, the more taboo they become, which confers an aura of outlaw sexiness that attracts some people to them.

Lenny Bruce, George Carlin, Bob Wilson himself, all made a point of saying that words should not be given this kind of power because once they have this power, they can become fetishized and weaponized. If you de-power a word then it can’t be used to trigger other people in the same reliable way, but we’re just not in that phase, with the dislocated politics of culture right now. I think people got it right to take down some of these structures right now and perhaps it’s okay to retire certain radioactive, abusive terms as long as we make sure we’re creating new words in other areas.

As a for instance, when I was a kid there were no words to describe certain aspects of my own experience. I’ve been non-binary, cross-dressing, ‘gender queer’ since I was 10 years old, but the available terms for what I was doing and how I felt were few and far between. We had ‘transsexual’ and ‘transvestite’ both of which sounded like DSM classifications rather than lifestyle choices! I didn’t want to be labelled as medical aberration because that’s not how it felt, nor was it something cut-and-dried and done. I didn’t want to ‘transition’ or embody my ‘female’ side exclusively, so I had no idea where I fit in.

Terms like ‘genderqueer’ and ‘non-binary’ only came into vogue in the mid-90s. So kids like me had very limited ways of describing our attraction to drag and sexual ambiguity. Nowadays there’s this whole new vocabulary, allowing kids to figure out exactly where they sit on the ‘color wheel’ of gender and sexuality, so I think it’s OK to lose a few contentious words when you are creating new ones that offer a more finely-grained approach to experience.

When we make the jump to a non-Roman-alphabet-based emoji language for purposes of radio telepathic communication, things will change once more.

This conversation of neutralizing the charge from taboo words is also a premise of RAW’s Ishtar Rising, which you wrote the introduction of the newest reprinting of the book by Hilaritas Press. Also, in that book, Wilson explores the mythical trope of the underground journey, something explored and unpacked in nearly all his books.

Joseph Campbell has some cool stuff to say about the Underground Journey, mainly that in all his studies of world myths he had observed two types of underground journey stories. One type was when the underground swallows up a poor soul like the whale did to Jonah. When this happens, the sole purpose of the seeker is to just survive the ordeal and return to the surface in one piece. The second type of journey through the underground occurs when the hero or heroine must descend into the depths and kill a monster. Campbell mentions one myth where the hero must slay a dragon then drink its blood to gain its power and move on and continue their quest. Campbell associates this killing of the dragon and drinking its blood as an integration of our shadows into our psyches. By integrating these elements of ourselves we then gain the sort of personal power needed to live a joyful and energetically engaged life.

GM: Yeah, and the story of the underground journey in Britain often involves someone finding a cave where he sees all of King Arthur’s knights asleep just waiting for the time of England’s greatest need when they will have to rise up and fight the final battle against evil. So that’s a more passive version of the story. Someone goes in and finds these sleeping warriors. That’s the personal power, that’s the higher self that will arise when you need it most.

Wilson has a dark side version of this exact legend at the end of Illuminatus with the undead Nazi battalions awaiting their orders to rise from Lake Totenkopf and reclaim the world!

What advice do you have for the magicians out there who have a story to tell and want to storm the reality studio?

GM: Tell a different story. Tell a fresh story that speaks to its times and the people around you. A story that offers possibilities, exit strategies, rather than apocalypse and ruin. I can’t see that there’s anything else…

In the Wonder Woman book I’m doing, for instance, I’ve actively avoided writing the boy hero story that’s so ubiquitous as to seem inescapable —  the familiar story of the One, the champion, the Joseph Campbell monomyth thing that drives so many Hollywood movies and YA stories. We’ve seen it. The Lion King. The callow youth loses mom or dad, or his comfortable place in the tribe, and he has to fight his way back to save the kingdom from its corrupt old leader, before claiming the captive princess and becoming the new king and… ad infinitum. The Circle of Life if it only applied to boys. I thought, where is the mythic heroine’s story? In Ishtar Rising, Wilson talks about the myth of Inanna, and how she goes down into Hell and has to give up everything of herself to gain the wisdom and experience she can bring back to her tribe. Privileging the network rather than the sovereign individual.

And so, as I thought about the differences between the hero’s and the heroine’s journey, it gave me a bunch of different modes to work in. Finding ways to avoid telling the boy hero story again was quite liberating. It just gave me a bunch of new ideas, an interesting new way of telling stories that didn’t rely on the framework of the hero’s journey that Campbell talks about.

Playing the devil’s advocate here. Today there is a lot of fervor around identity, and there is one strong of thought that people can never truly understand what it is like walking in the shoes of others. Some may ask why a white man would seek to tell the story of a woman, from her perspective, instead of just sticking to what he knows, being a man. 

How authentically real is that character or story, etc.?

GM: It’s important to air these feelings for debate. I must admit, with all respect, that I completely disagree with the idea that we cannot understand one another.

Firstly, there’s a major obvious problem about coming at things from this perspective — if fundamentally, we cannot truly know or have any meaningful opinion on what it feels like to be X, then we may as well stop listening to anything anyone else has to say about their personal experience, on the basis that it can only be irrelevant to our specific lives!

If I can never truly understand you without walking in your shoes and vice versa, what’s the point of listening or talking to anyone about our experience? What’s the point of writing stories, or protesting, or making art if experience cannot by its nature be communicated and understood by anyone who has not shared the experience of the artist, or the writer?

I think we all know it doesn’t really work that way in the real world. We don’t need to be a thing to have some understanding of how it operates. People can be great veterinarians without personally experiencing the day-to-day inner lives of dogs and cats. I can read Solzhenitsyn and shed empathic tears for the inmates of the Gulag without having to reprise their exact experience.

To think otherwise might be, I suspect, a symptom of narcissism painted into its inevitable corner, its private echo chamber – destructive, divided, atomized, individualistic to the point of self-abnegation – and indicative of late stage Osiris pathology.

And you know, we actually do understand one another in so many ways. We can imagine what it’s like to live someone else’s life –— or we can have our imaginations enflamed by well-told tales of other people’s lives and thrill to the ways they resonate exactly with our own lived experience. As a writer, I know this to be true.

We’ve been observing one another’s behavior and drawing conclusions since the dawn of humanity. People aren’t so complicated or new that the basic functions remain a mystery. All our plays, poems, songs and stories are a record of our attempts to understand ourselves and one another. The fact that Greek drama or Shakespeare still speaks to us is evidence that basic human nature has remained fairly consistent for thousands of years.

We figured one another out a long, long time ago.

And ultimately, I’ll say again, we are all the same organism. What we’re seeing is ring fingers fighting with thumbs, eyelashes screaming that eyebrows can never understand them! To point that out is probably an anathema in this current time of narcissistic inflation but it will be understood as a fact of nature in the end.

Maybe I’m wrong and we’re all fucked because humans are a kind of cancer-creature and our only purpose is to destroy each other and all other lifeforms on our planet… there’s still time for Agent Smith to be proved right!

I think everyone should have to imagine what it’s like to be someone else. We can all learn from one other but that means communicating; that means starting with the assumption we do have a common basis for genuine understanding even if our specific circumstances can never be repeated or totally understood by anyone other than ourselves. We all hurt, we all feel joy, we all get turned on, or scared. We all experience loss, and lack of self-worth and feel badly treated by the world at times.

And I understand why everyone should talk and tell stories from their own position you know but it’s also very useful – and a major human talent –  to imagine how other people feel and consider how the world might look through their eyes.  

And you do that by staying informed, listening to voices even when you disagree with them –—and by employing empathy and imagination to put yourself in their place as best as you’re able.

These are difficult times. I’m not a guru. I don’t know what to say to make it all better. There’s seven in a half billion people and it often seems they all fucking hate each other! Yet they all want everyone else to agree with their tiny, restricted, localized points of view. And they’ve all got a piece of ground to defend against perceived foes. I get it, but ultimately, we’re all one thing, one massive organism that’s going through difficult growing pains at the moment, so maybe we need to start thinking about what makes us alike, rather than different.

I hope so

GM: Well, this is part of the boiling process. Capitalist consumer culture has clearly reached its limits and we either advance to a more efficient, stable, less suicidal and aggressive engagement with other people and our environment or we go extinct as a species, taking all the whales and tigers and gorillas with us, before we even figured out how to talk to them and hear their stories! There are few options remaining.

The current questioning, the judgmental audit of where we are and how we got here, is a Horus thing. We can only hope we sublimate from here via Ma’at into something more nurturing and sustainable.

It is a hot moment. Temperatures are rising, Artic ice caps are melting at an alarming rate, and people may be unconsciously registering all that, and doing a horrible job at it. Instead of dealing with one’s own sense of panic, constriction, and fear it looks like many people are just running hot.

GM: I feel like every word we say is now a potential indictment, you know. The last malignant thrashing of the passing Aeon of Osiris. The echoes of the Inquisition, accusations of ‘wrongthink’, the return of Original Sin, the demonic glee taken in any stumble or falter from the approved path seems almost mediaeval. It’s terrifying. The potential for misunderstanding is almost infinite and its almost fated that we will struggle to abide by rules that grow ever more authoritarian and specific every day. Again, all that feels to me like the last ferocious attempts at asserting its fading power by the Osiris energy of the last 2000 years, now gone rotten and unsustainable but trying harder to keep everything and everybody under increasingly deranged levels of control in every area of our lives.

Writers and artists can find more reasons to stop their expression than ever before it seems. The voice of criticism and judgement is easier to find these days, just doom scroll through various social media sites and it’s all over the place.

GM: I regard it all as new input. As tough as it is, there’s an excitement. It’s making me think, it’s making me question myself and my assumptions, it’s making me write different things. I love ideas that challenge my thinking — even if I don’t agree with them in the end.

 

What are your thoughts on Simulation Theory these days?

GM: I was reading New Scientist recently and one of the correspondents on the letters page threw out this random idea that really resonated with me.  The writer was saying that if we live in a simulation then perhaps the world in the past was not as detailed or as high fidelity as it we experience it now! There have been upgrades, developments. In computer game terms, think of the difference between Space Invaders and Red Dead Redemption 2!

And I thought, wow, wouldn’t that be funny if, you know, those medieval painters with the flat landscapes and no perspective, what if they were accurately representing an earlier, more simplistic iteration of our simulated reality? What if they were simply portraying what the world actually looked like in the early stages of the simulation! What if these artists were recording what they saw and that’s how it looked?

Suddenly I saw the history of art in a whole new light! I thought how cool it would be if the cave paintings at Lascaux represented caveman reality perfectly – that’s how the simulated world really looked in an early development of the simulation when we were all just stick figures with antlers and the animals were sketchy semi-abstracts…

I love that idea; that the simulation is becoming more complex and well-rendered as it goes along – and we can see where it’s been.

It almost seems like it will become harder to break the Matrix as it becomes more refined, nuanced and easier to mistake for reality. It is interesting looking at the Simulation theory with the idea of calling it a metaphor for the same thing that the Gnostics came up with.

GM: Yeah, the idea that the universe is a counterfeit created not by god but by some sort of underling of god… that was the gnostic idea. It’s not so much about breaking the Matrix, I feel it’s more about learning to work with it. In the movie, once Neo figures out how it works, he becomes a magician, a superhero. The counterfeit world in the movie seems much more fun than the real one.

 Can magic be a useful tool for navigating VR and AR in IRL?

GM: Yeah, because magic is just about adding meaning or enchantment to the environment and to your life. Magic spices up everything; it’s like hot sauce! Once you add magic, the universe comes to life and starts to dance with you. If you choose to be an exploiter, a black magician, it’s more like a lap dance but otherwise it’s a tango! As I’ve said before, it’s easy to add magic to things. If you decide a certain stone could use some magic power, then carry it with you long enough and it will become first a good luck talisman and will finally accrue the significance and meaning of a Holy Grail if it’s given enough time and attention. So, the more meaning you can add to experience, the more magical it will seem. It’s not difficult or ‘occult’ at all. Magic makes everything more exciting, rich and alive and that’s its job. The more magic you can create around something the more special your interaction with it will feel.

 

Morgan Russell High Frontiers/Reality Hackers/MONDO 2000 Writer/Editor Publisher RIP 12/11/1957 — 7/16/2018

Morgan Russell 

 

Morgan Russell came into the “MONDO 2000” orbit in 1987 when we were still called High Frontiers. He had come out from Lake Geneva, Wisconsin to attend a 20th Anniversary of the Summer of Love that was taking place at the Palace of Fine Arts in San Francisco. But let’s let Morgan tell it.

Morgan Russell: There was a good crowd but no one seemed to be taking photographs. I set up a tripod and a long lens and took photos of people at a distance.

R.U. and Queen Mu were on the hunt for people to attend a Reality Hackers Evening or something… an event sponsored by the magazine. And it was a cyberpunk event—before this word had really entered the vocabulary. They approached me. In addition to the flyer for the event, Queen Mu gave me a copy of High Frontiers number 3 which I devoured in a night’s time and then knew that I had to meet the people therein. It’s not a reaction I normally would have reading a magazine, but I was convinced I had to make contact with them. At the same time, Mu was searching for a contact with me, which was made through Peter Booth Lee, who was kind enough to give me a ride home to the place where I was living then with my cousin. She had the intuition that I could be helpful to the magazine. Peter Booth Lee was put on the duty of scouring the neighborhood where he had dropped me off; because he didn’t see what building I went into. He didn’t find me. But at the same time I was looking for them.

I was so impressed with the magazine that — there was an ad for Pink Tarantula hairdressers and I went there when I needed a haircut. It was run by a woman who used to be a whore. She described herself as that or a prostitute. She was from Australia, and she had bones in her hair like other people would have ribbons in their hair. I didn’t know if they were chicken bones or something and I didn’t ask. They specialized in making more exotic cuts and colorings of hair before this was really happening in a widespread manner. A little girl came in with blond hair and the hairdresser made it bright pink or something like this. So I absorbed everything, even the ads. There weren’t too many ads.

R.U. Sirius: OK that’s a start but to get the real skinny you have to read the mad mad article that Morgan wrote for us about the event, about us, about whatever the fuck popped into his manic mind. In the process of putting together MONDO memoirs, I described his style as a cross between Hunter Thompson and Oscar Wilde — a dandy gonzo.

Seriously, stop reading this… and read this article! You may want to return to the rest of this tomorrow.

So Morgan came for the conference as a visitor, but he never left. I believe he may have gone home for a few days, but he was basically in the pudding for the next few years.

He stayed for a while at the Hotel Ansonia in San Francisco and eventually found himself living in an apartment in Oakland with High Frontiers veteran art director Lord Nose. But it wasn’t long before he was ensconced in the “technogothic citadel in the Berkeley Hills” (as it would be described in various periodicals out of which we were running our magazine. (It would eventually be known as “The MONDO House.”

Morgan Russell: Much of our history is tied to a place usually referred to as the MONDO House, designed by a follower of Maybeck, situated high in the Berkeley Hills and reigned over by Queen Mu. It eventually became the HQ for the latter High Frontiers, all of Reality Hackers and most of MONDO 2000. Before this, the business was located in the financial district of SF. I met R.U. Sirius there in the midst of people wearing jackets or suits with tie. There was cognitive dissonance woven into our aims and our neighborhood.  Read more “Morgan Russell High Frontiers/Reality Hackers/MONDO 2000 Writer/Editor Publisher RIP 12/11/1957 — 7/16/2018”

Memes Are For Tricksters: The Biology of Disinformation

by R.U. Sirius

An interview with Douglas Rushkoff, David Pescovitz & Jake Dunagan

Back in 1990, when MONDO 2000 magazine promised Screaming Memes on its cover, it was more or less a secret argot winking at our technohip Mondoid readers. I mean, sure there was that Dawkins book in which he invented the concept, but it seemed to be a bunch of playful, subversive freaks who were using them to blow open some heads (and maybe sell a few magazines). 

We’ve come a long way baby. Now, the world appears to be defined by memetic warfare and the damage done is real world crisis and horror.

A recent paper by Douglas Rushkoff, David Pescovitz and Jake Dunagan written for the Institute for the Future titled The Biology of Disinformation: memes, media viruses and cultural inoculation describes the contemporary condition and suggests ways to combat this bad operation mindfuck.  

Read The Biology of Disinformation

David Pescovitz and Jake Dunagan are both research directors at Institute for the Future and Rushkoff is a research fellow.  MONDOids are, of course, familiar with Pescovitz as one of the founding members of Boing Boing and Rushkoff as the author of many books including the highly relevant Media Virus, from 1994.

We chatted using Slack…

thanks to Satori D for his assistance and participation

R.U. Sirius: In a sense, you’re offering a different model than the one most of us usually think in, as regards memetics. Instead of fighting bad memes with good, or their memes with ours, are you suggesting that we look at memes themselves as viruses attacking us? Is that right?

Douglas Rushkoff: Yeah, that’s the simplest way of looking at it. That’s why I called memes in media “media viruses.” Even if they end up forcing important ideas into the cultural conversation, and even if they ultimately lead to good things, they do infect us from the outside. They attack our weak code, and continue to replicate until we repair it, or until we come to recognize the “shell” of the virus itself.

I think what makes our analysis unique, compared with a lot of what’s out there, is that we’re not proposing yet another technosolutionist fix. Mark Zuckerberg wants to fight fake news with artificial intelligence. Great. He’s already over his head in a media environment he doesn’t understand. He doesn’t know why his platform has led to so many unintended effects. So what’s his solution? Build yet another technology he understands even less to solve the problem with yet another black box.

Even those with the best intentions see all this as a technological problem, when it’s really more a cultural or biological one. The difference in our approach is that we still have faith in the human organism and human society to rise to the occasion and increase their resiliency. So we’re writing for people, not tech companies.

David Pescovitz 

David Pescovitz: I’m also interested in how our networked media environment has evolved to allow this nastiness to occur and, in fact, reward it. During the early days of Twitter and Facebook it was exciting that people were using the platforms to share ideas and “find the others.” But I was also annoyed and later alarmed by the rise in narcissism, emphasis on “personal brands,” and mob mentality. Maybe those people were always like that and social media just amplified those traits. Either way, to me it quickly felt like antisocial media.

Since then, it’s become increasingly clear that the only real way to fix our social media experiences is by fixing ourselves. This is true when it comes to how we interact with other people online but also our own vulnerability to propaganda, disinformation, and coercion. Of course reconnecting with our own humanity is much harder than just giving in to the algorithmically addictive dopamine rush of another retweet or “like.”

Jake Dunagan: There was an old Zuck who swallowed a virus, I don’t know why he swallowed the virus. He swallowed AI to fight the virus…

I was struck by the psychologist Dannagal Young’s point that we quoted in the article: “blaming readers for spreading fake news from a cognitive perspective …somewhat equivalent to blaming a baby for soiling itself. They can’t help it. ”

 

Jake Dunagan

This is what Doug is calling our weak code, our vulnerabilities we’ve inherited from evolution and extended by culture. Humor, satire, memes, are exploiting our cognitive weaknesses, and lowering our defenses. I’ve always loved the Mad Magazine, SNL, and Yes Men ways of showing us how the messages we’re hearing are full of shit. Read more “Memes Are For Tricksters: The Biology of Disinformation”

“All medias are propagandic” — Of Bowie, Mishima, Memewar: Jamie Curcio Interviewed

 

by R.U. Sirius

artwork by Jamie Curcio

Jamie Curcio is a brilliant artist and cultural theorist or something like that… but even, thankfully, harder to pin down.  

In any case, he is one hell of a writer and thinker, mixing together all kinds of favorite MONDOid memes — the ups and downs of post-whatever philosophies, the over-the-edges of avant cultural works, media narratives and quasi-apocalyptic hysterias and — perhaps most charmingly — he is obsessed with David Bowie.

Books include Narrative Machines: Modern Myth, Revolution and Propaganda, Party At The World’s End (Fallen Cycle, Volume One) and the upcoming Masks: Bowie and Artists of Artifice, which is in progress.

I interviewed Curcio mainly about Narrative Machines and the upcoming Bowie book.  

R.U. SIRIUS: Your book Narrative Machines provides a discourse about the distorting effects of a sort of mediated hall of mirrors and decentering of identity. This sort of thing has been active for a very long time, even before the internet made its growth “exponential.”  From whence comes the recognition that the contingency of our narratives is more useful to the “right” than the “left”… if true?

Also, there was a ‘90s idea that a sufficiently advanced technology would sort-of blow through the rupturing aspect of it all — that the dissipating structures would eventually cohere as a higher evolutionary order.  Is there any use for that sort of hopeful perspective today?

JAMIE CURCIO: Pessimism and realism have a complicated relationship. That’s one of the things I was trying to come to terms with in working on Narrative Machines. So let me say, if being pessimistic is going to shut people down, then I’m not going to say it’s a virtue.  

But it’s also hard to really take an account of the problems on the horizon for our civilization, and our collective inability or unwillingness to deal with it, and not recognize how blinding optimism about the “revelatory power of the new” can be. Accelerationists often forget just how dumb the perpetual rush toward the new can be.

People can read that statement in a Right or a Left way — they’ll differ in terms of looking for a solution, or in what “our civilization” means. Everyone seems to think the barbarians are at the gates, whether it’s the Fascists and Russian oligarchs, or the immigrants and cultural Marxists brainwashing the children. It’s clear which I think is more absurd, but in either case, it’s a war of myth. We can joke about memewar, but I think we need to recognize the ways that it isn’t a joke, or at least, the way that it’s a continuation of propagandist methods that are hardly new.

There’s a kind of messianism and eschatology that runs through both the “Right” and “Left,” the idea that a political ideology itself can fix anything. Robert Anton Wilson wrote about this plenty. I think he was ahead of the curve in many ways, for all that it’s worth. And he was adamant about remaining optimistic.

To me, the silver lining is that if the analogy of the effect on culture the printing press had, and now with the internet, then there’s reason to believe the end isn’t nigh in that regard. Things are looking dark, but if we’re talking about bot armies and the Russian use of postmodern methods in their propaganda — all is not lost. It just emphasizes the importance of studying “useless” things like philosophy and art.

On the other hand, the way that unfettered capitalism is likely to consume the planet, or at least its habitability for a great number of species including, ultimately, ourselves… that’s another story. For all we know, that ship has already sailed. The only way out, if there is one, is through. We’re committed to carry the experiments of the past into the future — just look at how the problems and solutions of a century ago continue to get resurrected. Fascism, Communism, Liberalism. The three ideologies that arose from the ashes of WW 1.

I should add, I happen to think compassion should guide our actions toward others as much as we can manage, and much Right wing ideology seems a veneer for various forms of cruelty, and I believe cruelty should be reserved for art. So my sympathies tend to run Left, but that’s different from an ideological commitment.

RUS: You take on the statistical based optimism that seems to be well-loved particularly by neoliberal sorts like Pinker. The idea is that statistics show us that human beings are improving their lot in life and becoming more well-behaved.  Can you explicate your view a bit?

JC: I was taken by John Grey’s argument on this subject in The Soul of the Marionette, and so while I didn’t just reproduce it, I would say it helped me put a pre-existing line of thought in order. In short, I investigate the Progressive certainty that everything is improving all the time is very much based both on our selective interpretation of the facts, and our situation in terms of a particular narrative we have constructed about our place in history. There have been undeniable benefits per capita in the past 100 years regarding the marriage of technology and capitalism. Will that read the same in 100 years? I’m not so sure.

RUS: I think underlying the technotopian hope of the late 20th Century was the idea that this mostly white and American eruption at the end of the 20th century could use tech to deliver an awesomely improving world and you could elide the blowback from centuries of colonialism and racism. It’s not an entirely bad idea… to avoid conflict.

JC: It definitely tends to overlook the role of inertia in a culture, or of a true reckoning with the past, why that keeps repeating itself through us. Time may be accumulative but the behavior of complex systems is generally not linear.

 

RUS:  You deal in Narrative Machines with questions of revolution… and how it doesn’t tend to deliver on its hopes.  Looking at the Arab Spring, would you say that any movement now just accelerates confusion. There’s no interregnum of hope?

The broader question about revolution usually not improving things… does this leave us with neoliberalism with its economic domination, total surveillance and constant war… or nationalism?  

JC: I use the Arab Spring as an example. What struck me about it was how clearly it supports the idea of “revolution” as very literal — going around and around, forever. There is a sense of Frazier’s Golden Bough here, each King deposed by the King who will one day be deposed. Though that’s a bit reductive, it is hard to find examples of revolution going well for “the people” long term. It’s generally good for some people, and not others. To the extent that revolutions are a power play, they just reshuffle the cards. There’s a lot in Marxist thought about getting beyond that problem… which we definitely haven’t see play out in reality. The day of the revolution is one thing, but there’s always the day after. But that doesn’t necessarily mean everything is hopeless — we still affect one another, things do actually change.

But my ultimate focus in that book isn’t political, even though it deals so much in political ideological terms. It’s all a backhanded argument for an art movement, really… Read more ““All medias are propagandic” — Of Bowie, Mishima, Memewar: Jamie Curcio Interviewed”

A Short Description of Aftermath of a Single Long Strange Trip from the MONDO 2000 story

At this stage of the adventure, we’re still running a magazine called High Frontiers, getting towards our second edition or maybe just after it, which took over a year. When I started the adventure that became MONDO, I was imagining philosophizing and publishing and tripping only occasionally. Fortunately, at least from an experiential point of view something like the reverse actually took place for the first several years.

The following is excerpted

R.U. Sirius

One of the longest strangest trips during this time really didn’t happen during the peak of the experience but during the sleepless day following it. We’d taken a strong acid dose the previous evening up at Tennessee Valley, and us three High Frontiers mainmen (Lord Nose, Mau Mau and myself) started to make our way down to Lord Nose’s car for our return to civilization. At some point, as we walked along the trail, we all had the same uncanny sense that we were coming down into a different universe than the one that we had started in — like we were characters in a Philip K. Dick novel. We sort of all started expressing this at the same time. We were reassured when we got in the car and found our way back to Mill Valley and nothing in that quaint little upscale village appeared to have changed. Lord Nose dropped us off at Mau Mau’s place and headed home for San Francisco. By the time we’d settled in, it was around 11 am so we stopped at this great little quickie burrito spot. We walked in and the guy in front of us on line was naked! We tittered… but we were both thinking, “Oh, OK. We actually did come down into an alternate universe.” The guy behind the counter just shrugged and said, “He does that all the time.” I’d never seen him before and I haven’t seen him since.

We got over the naked guy but we were still wide awake. I called Terence McKenna from a pay phone to get his take on whether we had come down into some kind of parallel reality. He howled with laughter. So we bought a six pack of beer and went to this sort of wretched little beach that’s right next to San Quentin Prison. It’s a rather horrendous location. We sat and brownbagged beers and listened to the San Francisco new wave station on my boombox.

We had recently become aware that Robert Anton Wilson was available to speak. He was touring around, setting up speaking engagements in a really cheap DIY operation — it wasn’t through an agency or anything like that. He was available to speak for $500.

Somehow we had got the idea that we should do it on a houseboat in Sausalito where Alan Watts — America’s most original and most eloquent sort of psychedelic Zen philosopher — had lived and held court for many years. And we got it in our head to go over there right then and check it out — see who was there or what was up with this semi-famous locale.

So there we were, still loaded from the strong acid, and having downed three beers each — and when you do that, the sort of acid trails that trippers are familiar with become sort of pleasantly blotchy. And we got to the houseboat, knocked on the door and this very wiry old women, sort of hunched over, looking very brittle, with a long nose and scratchy voice answered. Or at least that’s how she seemed to me in the moment — she was like the spitting image of an old crone. She told us she was the current caretaker for the place and she was very down and unhappy. The houseboat, she told us, was going to be taken away by some nefarious schemers. She went on with a litany of miseries and complaints for probably an hour while we just stood there in the doorway dumbfounded. Even the sky went from sunny to overcast. It was spooky.  

(We later learned that she was at some intersection between a housesitter and a squatter)

 

The Revolution Party Revisited (ReWrites & Wrongs)

 

 

Who? Right away we have this elite avant-garde ultrahipster signaling. I’m just starting to reread part one but I’m sure the entire thing is ultrahipster signaling…

R.U. Sirius 

In 2000, I started The Revolution, a political party and ran a write-in campaign for president of these here United States. Now I am annotating the foolish articles that I wrote to propagate the campaign and the party.

The Revolution was pitched at the time as a hybrid of liberal and libertarian politics, which — to use a much abused word — is extremely problematic. It was problematic. Now it’s more problematic. I will probably use that word again and again. Please kill me with opioids (from whence comes the oid? I think it was from advertisements and doctors not wanting to use the good old term opiATEs.) It’s largely today a weasel term used by weenies who can’t enjoy popular culture (or anything) without acknowledging that the fun thing doesn’t fit snuggly into Social Justice perfection. Oh yes, we’re gonna have some fun…

I’m not going to dwell on the liberal libertarian thing much right now except to say that I mostly meant Left and Libertarian and I was succumbing to the conflation of left and liberal so as to skip past the need to get pedantic with the less politically educated. Also, briefly

What libertarians were good for in the 1990s and — to a degree — today.

1: Helping to create develop and do the work for the Electronic Frontier Foundation — those stout defenders of privacy for the people, transparency for the companies, civil liberties and general resistance to overreactions by law enforcement towards benign-ish or at least not-too-awful hackers and the like. Also, gave us Edward Snowden (and the eventual consequent refusal of many liberals to want to know about the trillion dollar surveillance state).

2: Being against the War On Drugs (when the Democratic Party, for example, was in utter lockstep) — which was arguably the worst thing in America’s late 20th Century and is still pretty gnarly. (Much more on that to come in later annotated pieces).

3: Being among those manning (personing) the antiwar movement, particularly during Democratic administrations. Most of today’s activists brush off interventionism and the odd democrat-administered bombing of civilians like JZ brushing his shoulders in that video that Obama mimicked because he was cool. (He was cool.)

4: Actually liking civil liberties and being on it during Democratic admins, particularly during the Clinton Admin when mainstream liberals were entirely absent. We will get into the civil liberties record of the Clinton Admin in a latter entry.

5: Being part of MONDO 2000! … albeit not a dominant part, despite the assumptions of some commentators… and being mensches while they were at it. Oh I will savage libertarians some time later in this sprawling mess… but those are some briefs on reasons to be thankful.

The pieces were initially published on the Disinformation website when it was being managed by the inimitable Richard Metzger, who now runs my favorite site Dangerous Minds… some time in 1999. My annotated 2018 comments are offered in purple. Try to keep up!

ps: The following is a sort of blather-filled preamble. Future sections will look at the actual 15 point proposal from 1999 which was fairly serious and will deconstruct that and playfully offer a new set. Also, everything else weird and challenging that has punched and pulled me — and many others — over the terrible years since.

******************************************

Beautiful is the chance encounter, on an operating table, of a sewing machine and an umbrella.
_ – Lautreamont_

Who? Right away we have this elite avant-garde ultrahipster signaling. I’m just starting to reread part one but I’m sure the entire thing is ultrahipster signaling… what I would call genuine hipster … or Original Hipster (OH) … or maybe better, actual FREAK. Let me pause to make a historical note. Almost nobody identified as a hippie. Everybody was a freak. True freaks dug punk.. at least the urban ones. Does any of this matter?

It stands to reason that self-righteous, inflexible, single-minded, authoritarian true believers are politically organized. Open-minded, flexible, complex, ambiguous, anti-authoritarian people would just as soon be left to mind their own fucking business.- R.U. Sirius, from ‘How To Mutate and Take Over The World’ Robert Anton Wilson and J.P. Barlow loved this and used the quote. Oh hell, they were right. The personal is political only in the sense of get out of my face about most private behaviors. Stop the pariah hunting, you pinched twats Read more “The Revolution Party Revisited (ReWrites & Wrongs)”

Excerpt from 3 Essays on Virtual Reality: Overlords, Civilization, and Escape

by Eliott Edge

 

It is worth pointing out that we have been making virtual realities for a very, very long time. That language, spoken language, is the original code for hacking virtual reality. When you sit the children down around the fire and begin to tell the old, old stories and pictures rise out of the flames—that is virtual reality

We live in a condensation of our imagination.”

Terence McKenna

An idea that tended to ride alongside this “VR is covertly equivalent to civilization” reading arrived through my years in psychedelic publishing and research. I picked up a line supposedly attributed to Timothy Leary, but popularized by Robert Anton Wilson—Reality Tunnels. A reality tunnel refers to the cultural virtual reality and the belief system that you acquire through socialization, conditioning, and exposure; the psychosocial orthodoxy that arrives thanks to everything from your local place of worship, to your language, to the shape of your home. You are what your neighborhoods make you. We become our scenery and our scenes. We become the local VR. Indeed, VR headset technology is designed to throw us into a reality tunnel in the exact same way that walking through a metropolitan street boggles our senses into a very particular worldview.

One of Wilson’s well-known remarks on the reality tunnel:

We’re all looking from the point of view of our own reality tunnels. And when we begin to realize that we’re all looking from the point of view of our own reality tunnels, we find that it is much easier to understand where other people are coming from. All the ones who don’t have the same reality tunnel as us do not seem ignorant, or deliberately perverse, or lying, or hypnotized by some mad ideology, they just have a different reality tunnel. And every reality tunnel might tell us something interesting about our world, if we’re willing to listen.

Wilson also observed: “‘reality’ is always plural and mutable.”

I think that culturally, once early humans started speaking and thinking in terms of an animal world and a spirit world, or distinguishing between a waking world and a dream world, we began to plant the seeds of the VR dialogue. VR then, is a way of discussing the multilayered shared fantasy called the human world.

Appreciating the worldview-generating effects of reality tunnels, civilization, language, culture, media, architecture, and seeing how they were all very much like VR, captured my imagination. Even the otherwise simple standing stones dotting the British countryside have VR-generating “magical” effects. They activate the imagination. It wasn’t long after that the observation came to mind: “There is likely no more singularly important consideration than the consideration of alternative worlds, illusory worlds, projected worlds, and manipulable worlds.” That is—there is likely no deeper issue, in philosophy or otherwise, than that of the possibility of more than one world or one worldview. For a worldview is merely a virtual reality. This is Plato and his Cave.

Yet another event that pushed me beyond the veil of hyperspace was the fateful arrival into my reality tunnel of Tom Campbell, a NASA, Department of Defense, Army Technical Intelligence nuclear physicist and consciousness researcher who I discovered around 2008. Campbell, who has a résumé longer than most people’s arm, published a model of the universe as a virtual reality simulation in 2007 called My Big TOE: A Trilogy Unifying Philosophy, Physics, and Metaphysics. In it he describes the universe as a simulation, and our consciousness as the nonphysical computer that “renders” the physical universe into existence via the act of what physicists call “measurement.” Campbell’s major follow up to his book was a paper published online in March 2017, in the International Journal of Quantum Foundations, called “On Testing the Simulation Hypothesis,” which also focused on the issue of measurement and “wave collapse.” After Campbell, I started reading other scientists who wrote about nature and computation, virtual reality worlds, simulated universes, digital mechanics, video game thought experiments, and observations in nature that we have historically branded with the moniker ‘spooky.’ I devoured Nick Bostrom, Edward Fredkin, Brian Whitworth, Seth Lloyd, David Chalmers, Sylvester James Gates, Roger Penrose, Paola Zizzi, Zohreh Davoudi, John A. Wheeler, and other mathematicians, scientists, and philosophers who were also absorbed in the issues of computation, simulation, and virtual worlds. Brian Whitworth may have summarized the longstanding problems in physics best when he wrote in his essay Simulating Space and Time:

VR theory is only on the table because objective reality theory doesn’t explain modern physics. In an objective reality time does not dilate, space doesn’t bend, objects don’t teleport and universes don’t pop into existence from nowhere. We would not doubt the world’s objective reality if only it behaved so physically, but it does not. Adjectives like “strange”, “spooky”  and “weird” apply, and common sense concepts like object, location, existence, time and space simply don’t work. The world of modern physics doesn’t behave at all as an objective reality should.

It became clear that virtual reality was not just a philosophical or cultural issue; it was a deeply scientific one as well.

After all, a universe popping into existence seemingly out of nowhere for apparently no reason—completely with freakishly fine-tuned physical laws, as well as with all the matter and energy that will ever exist simultaneously—makes a hell of a lot more sense once you think of a computer hitting GO.

Read more “Excerpt from 3 Essays on Virtual Reality: Overlords, Civilization, and Escape”

Mama But Weer All In Chapel Perilous Now

 

Lyrical cycle by R.U. Sirius with a number of videos and songs attached

Imagine 2.0 (2015)

Unrecorded

Imagine there’s a song everybody sings and no one means
Imagine they sing it in Times Square every New Years Eve

….

Mama But Weer All in Chapel Perilous Now (2017)

 

 

Has your S M I Two L E turned into a scowl?
Does weaponized idiocracy have you throwing in the towel?
Could anybody in this pinched surveiled nation write another Howl?
I said mama but we’re all in Chapel Perilous now

Are the students at your college acting like Maoists?
Have you seen weird apparitions like neonazi Taoists?
Does it seem perfectly normal that the President’s a crazy clown?
I said mama but we’re all in Chapel Perilous now

Did you read RAW and not get the joke
Are you gorging on conspiracies until you choke
r.u. even more dogmatic after taking a toke
How we wish Bob was here to make everybody Pope

Is Operation Mindfuck now with Gog and Magog
And some witless little nerd boy who loves Pepe the Frog
If nothing is true and anything is allowed
I said mama but we’re all in Chapel Perilous now

……….

Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day/Sufi Sales (1987)

recorded by Merry Tweeksters (pre-MONDO Vanilli) Listen to Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day/Sufi Sales

It’s still a few days away
And the kiddies all look so gray
But they’ll be getting a bit of a spin-out
When they see the hippie trip-o-world flip out

On the frontiers of my neocortex
As I think bi-lobely and act globally
Who knows what glows Cher Noble
And who sees armageddon it on
But beyond the abyss we’re on vinegar and piss
As we leave Ronald Reagan and beyond
Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day
And it’s never gonna be the same

Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day
So let me introduce you to the one-and-only Sufi Sales
Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day
So let me introduce you to the one-and-only Sufi Sales
Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day
So let me introduce you to the one-and-only Sufi Sales
Merry Tweekster World Mutation Day
So let me introduce you to the one-and-only Sufi Sales

SUFI SALES

I’m Sufi Sales
Though no one seems to know it
I’m Sufi Sales
Though no one seems to care
And if it rains
I don’t believe I’ll go out
You’ll wait for me but I won’t make it there

Rolling along singing a song
And I don’t believe I’ll be for very long
Coming back home and sitting alone
And my Sadie comes in with an ice cream cone
Ice cream cone
Ice cream cone oh yeah

And it’s my day to be just this way
The loving I crave won’t make me a slave
I can lay down without a frown
Sufi Sales is back in town

(Watch out for laughter
Watch out for fun
Sufi Sales is back
Hun)

 

………..

 

On The Beam (1982/2016 remix)

Watch video by Phriendz. On The Beam by Party Dogs, Remix by Phriendz 2016

She’s so fine
On the beam
And she’s so high
On the beam
On the beam on the beam
All the time
In the world
Well if you try
You’re a lucky girl lucky girl

If you can feel it
You can dance forever
If you can deal with it
Live forever live forever
Everything
Will be ours
From the planet
To the stars to the stars

We’re getting on the beam
Things are just as they seem
Immortality in the age of the clever
Live forever live forever

On the beam
Live forever

 

…………….

White Babbits (2017)

Watch video for White Babbits  Music by Trevor Boink & Grace Schtick, Video by Satori D

based on White Rabbit by Grace Slick

One pill makes you smarter
And one pill makes you small
and the ones that mother gives you
ritalin or adderall
And your phallus Needs Viagra after all

and if you go fleecing babbits
cause the banks are gonna fall
tell ’em the hookah smoking anarchist
has got you by the balls
call alice — she’s totally appalled

White men on the radio
Get off on telling you who to hate
and your friend has joined the teabags
And your spending your weekends straight
And your phallus has a Cialis date

When logic and proportion
Have fallen sloppy dead
And the fat cat’s are aging backwards
And your friends are filled with dread
Remember what the lab rat said
Freeze your head
Freeze your head

…..

I Wanna Be Your Radio 1992

recorded by MONDO Vanilli

Listen to I Wanna Be Your Radio

I wanna steal your radio
Sacrifice your fingers to an electric fence
I torture you in future tense staccato
And come back home and rest in bed all day

I’ve got techniques for ecstasy
Keeping them under the hat stand
Let’s whip ’em out
And see if anything fits on your head

I wanna steal your radio
Capture you on a hard disc drive
Save you and make a million copies
Give one to each of my friends

I inverted the very color of being
But you — you weren’t there

I wanna be your radio
Sire wire fire and inspire you (cyber cyber)
Flick the switch that renders you insane
Come back home and rest in bed all day (cyber cyber)

I wanted to be Salvador Dali
I wanted to be dead and unreasonable
Let’s grieve in concentric circles
To make the night release your brain

I wanna be your radio
Now I wanna be your radio Read more “Mama But Weer All In Chapel Perilous Now”

Festival 23 — Wonderism, Fake News and the Neo-Discordian Revival

artwork by Chad Essley

 

Chaos as a Ray of Hope in an increasingly dumb world

by Michael Pinchera

The increasingly ugly state of affairs — politically, socially, emotionally, economically, intellectually — may be driving a growing interest in Discordianism, according to Ben Graham, author and co-organizer of the neo-Discordian Festival 23.

“The world just seems crazy and more chaotic than ever, so a pseudo-religion that embraces chaos as a guiding principle, maybe that makes more sense now,” Graham says.

At the very least, Discordianism undoubtedly offers an appealing alternative to the mainstream paths previously constructed by long-dead, desperate deity-seekers.

So, between the publication of his books on Texas psychedelia (A Gathering of Promises and Scatological Alchemy), Graham joined a group of eight to organize Festival 23, a three-day-long, outdoor camping event.

“It’s a Discordian-themed event, very influenced by the writings of Robert Anton Wilson and the Illuminatus! Trilogy and his various books, and also, before that, Principia Discordia by Kerry Wendell Thornley, worshipping Eris, the goddess of chaos,” he says. “And beyond that, just expanding it to a general idea of counterculture. All the stuff that fed into it and also the idea of where is the counterculture now and how can we kind of unite the past with what’s going on now to go forward into the future.”

The origins of what Graham identifies as a neo-Discordian Revival, go back to Daisy Eris Campbell, daughter of Ken Campbell (he put on a theatrical adaptation of Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy in 1976), and her decision to put on a 2014 theatrical adaptation of Cosmic Trigger, Wilson’s nonfiction follow-up to the Illuminatus! Trilogy.

“She did that in Liverpool at sort of a mini-Discordian indoor festival, where all these people in Britain who thought maybe they were the only Discordians in the country came together,” Graham says.

The new relationships created around Daisy’s play led directly to the birth of Festival 23, the inaugural edition (2016) of which was held in a field near Sheffield, England, for approximately 500 Discordians. The theme that year was Festival 23: Convergence of Disco—“putting the disco back in Discordia, emphasizing the playful side of it,” Graham says.

“We had bands, we had talks, we had chaos magic workshops, we had tantric sex workshops, we had comedy poetry, we had a spirit animal fashion show. I hosted a conspiracy slam, which is like a poetry slam but you come up with your best conspiracy theories and there was a tinfoil crown for the wackiest theory,” Graham says excitedly. “Alan Moore didn’t come down in person—he doesn’t like ever leaving Northampton these days—but we had an exclusive, really in-depth interview filmed in his home that we showed in the cinema tent.”

artwork by Chad Essley

Read more “Festival 23 — Wonderism, Fake News and the Neo-Discordian Revival”