Wednesday, July 27, 2011

tl;dr

Robert McLuhan’s book strikes me as an unusual one in an overcrowded field. He neither sides with the debunkers who call themselves sceptics, nor with the ‘believers in the paranormal’, but has returned to the source material, avoiding the trivial thinking and specious arguments that arise from a vague knowledge of secondary and tertiary material (vulnerable to the simplifications, accretions and amplifications that create urban myths, etc).

He clearly states his approach to both sides of the argument as similar to what RAW called “What the Thinker Thinks, the Prover Proves”. He suggests that just as we find an “irrational gravity” among the enthusiasts (drawn to prefer the more far-out explanations) we also find a “rational gravity” that forces people to dismiss, or play-down, unexplained experiences (even of their own), which threaten their world-view.

He seems to want a closer and more respectful look at the evidence for Psi – when we use that to mean telepathy, clairvoyance, precognition and psychokinesis. As these four models can often prove sufficient to explain most of the evidence presented, he steers clear of the issues of reincarnation, afterlives, ghosts, NDEs, etc. He doesn’t avoid those subjects, at all, at all, but does set aside the need to address those kind of explanations in detail, because of the added complications of discussing cultural and religious interpretations.

As an ex-magician, without a God, most of my friends think of me as quite a hard-line sceptic. Perhaps my attitude to ritual Magick, for instance, also betrays a resistance to areas that I might find disturbing (the pull of rational gravity) and have chosen not to investigate.


Telepathy
Perhaps I occasionally overstate my case, when arguing, but I have little problem with the idea of Telepathy - some kind of group or tribal mind, a jungle sense (Sheldrake’s ‘Sense of Being Looked At’), or fields of knowledge people can draw on (the Akashic Records, for instance).


Clairvoyance
I have relatively little problem with Clairvoyance – having friends who seem to pick up atmospheres in particular places, who have great insight into others, or have odd perceptions when handling objects of significance (psychometry). These still seem like mysterious but uncontentious aspects of sensitivity, creativity, imagination, the arts, etc.


Precognition
I have to admit I have a slightly bigger problem with Precognition, beyond anticipation of the near future, which could fall into that ‘jungle sense’ realm, again. I haven’t shut the door on meaningful ‘glimpses of the future’. What we call "Time" still seems pretty odd, to me, though.


Psychokinesis
And I have a big problem with Psychokinesis (the movement or transformation of material objects by the mind alone), although perhaps at a trivial level it relates to people who can’t wear watches (they stop), street lights that go out when certain people pass them, The Pauli Effect, and so on. I consider the source material of Men Who Stare At Goats a comedy of bureaucracy, but that doesn’t mean I deny the possibility of hexing people to death, etc. That simply takes us into a much more complex realm of culture, belief systems, placebo effects, self-fulfilling prophecies, psychic self-defence, etc.


So I recommend this book for an intelligent overview - whether you consider yourself a believer (second-hand), or someone who has themselves experienced something inexplicable, or a sceptic or 'rationalist'. It offers material for genuine intelligent discussion, and attempts to tease out the testable from the morass of other material that clutters up occult and paranormal discussions.

Early on he mentions such stories as 'rocks that fall from the sky' reported by ordinary folk for centuries, and dismissed by sceptics and scientists because 'there are no rocks in the sky'. No-one can make such occasional and unpredictable events happen on demand, so they can easily be dismissed. Most psi events seem hard to reproduce in controlled environments, except in a statistical sense (over the interpretation of which bitter arguments still rage on) but that doesn't eliminate the possibility of something odd happening that could reward further study.


Blogs for follow-up:


Randi's Prize - the blog of the book
Paranormalia - another Robert McLuhan blog

Oh, and just to revert to my magician head for a moment.
McLuhan seems under the illusion that people couldn't use conjuring methods (say, to create poltergeist phenomena) because that needs elaborate set-ups, and has to be done far away from the audience (page 76) which only goes to show he hasn't really gone to source material for that, otherwise he would know that improvisational close-up magic has a long history - and a huge resource of techniques. Just as improvised comedy doesn't know where it may end up, but can still create good jokes, some opportunistic magicians do open-ended magic with a variety of possible outcomes (Multiple Outs, in the trade). Geller has more than one way to bend a fork!
And as to magicians having to admit they are baffled by some of the medium's performances, which somehow proves that psychic phenomena really occur, again I beg to differ. Magicians love to feel fooled (see Penn & Teller's current tv show in the UK) but that doesn't mean they have to 'admit' that some psychic event really happened, just because they can't figure it out. Bullsh*t!

Sunday, July 24, 2011

Good Talking


The Major Spoilers website has this great podcast...with very interesting discussion on Illuminatus! (the Trilogy), and other RAW books, between Stephen Schleicher and Bruce Otter. If you gotta spare hour...

If you need some frameworks (plot, a draft timeline, character lists, etc) then you can find some of our accumulations on the Wiki we set up to compile our material.

Sadly, the Home Page keeps getting spammed, and we revert it when we can...fortunately you can find the other pages, as most spamming seems to hit that home page. So it goes.

Saturday, July 23, 2011

New Edition of "Email to the Universe" by Robert Anton Wilson


Another new edition, featuring my artwork, coming down the pike this week! As it stands, this is the last book released by RAW, and it was what he was working on when I first came into contact w/ him. It's an anthology of essays, which rather spectacularly runs the gamut of the Robert Anton Wilson oeuvre.

"This book intends to change your way of perceiving/conceiving the world, without drugs or drums or Voodoo, simply by using words in certain special ways."

Available from New Falcon Publications & Amazon.com

Friday, July 22, 2011

New Edition of "An Insider's Guide to Robert Anton Wilson" by Eric Wagner


I've scribbled upon yet another cover of Maybe Logical canon!  This time it's Eric Wagner's indispensable exegesis on the hidden symbols and other jokes & profundities in RAW's immortal works.

Available from New Falcon Publications & Amazon.com

I managed to worm my way into the interior pages as well, wherein you'll find things suchlike:

EDIT: Well, I just a few copies in the mail, and the interior art didn't make it in. So it goes! This is what it would have been:

POUND PRACTICING PRANAYAMA

THE TEMPIO MALATESTA

ILLUMINATUS! TREE OF LIFE

DR. LEARY'S INFOMERCIAL

THE NINTH CIRCUIT

Tuesday, July 12, 2011

Happy Birthday Bucky!

McLuhan and Bucky Fuller
Bucky did sometimes imply that McLuhan had got quite a lot of his radical ideas from Fuller's own work...he doesn't seem to have born a grudge...

You Know Nothing Of My Work

Book Cover: You Know Nothing...Great to see a brief and highly readable account of Marshall McLuhan from Douglas Coupland.

Like many "guru-charlatans" McLoon remains ambiguous, almost paradoxical, often misquoted and misunderstood.

People either co-opt him to their cause, or decide he needs translating, or write endless, solemn analysis of what he 'meant'.

Many people may simply think his time has past - but Coupland indicates how his approach still has much to tell us. Others perhaps think he acted as a cheer-leader for the future, and new technology (far from it!) Yet he does appear to have predicted the future (the way we live now) quite accurately.
Scene from Annie Hall

Still, the title of the book (referring to the great gag in Annie Hall) offers fair warning that I should explain my own take on his work with a fair amount of diffidence. Suffice to say, I considered him a provoker of thought, rather than a man with all the answers.

I often find it hard to agree with a Catholic, a man who hated hippies and acid, etc.

Unlike the evasive or smartass answers to the press (the style adopted by Dylan and then The Beatles), McLuhan bewildered people through his mask of the absent-minded professor, or his use of odd puns, his sudden lucid responses, his own weird perspectives. He remains highly amusing when running rings around people trying to 'understand' him - using the provocative trick of hinting that their own outmoded reality tunnels will prevent them from 'getting it'.

"You mean my whole fallacy is wrong."

One of the reasons I consider him a trickster guru.


"The next medium, whatever it is – it may be the extension of consciousness – will include television as its content, not as its environment, and will transform television into an art form. A computer as a research and communication instrument could enhance retrieval, obsolesce mass library organisation, retrieve the individual’s encyclopaedic function and flip it into a private line to speedily tailored data of a saleable kind." M.M. 1962

State of the computer art in 1962.

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