Friday, May 25, 2012

My New Maybe Logic Course

The Kindly Seer of Cleveland asks, "Could you talk about your Maybe Logic course on Schroedinger's Cat? Why did you choose to focus on this work?"

Well, I just did this write-up for the kind folks at Maybe Logic:

Schrödinger’s Cat:
A Chronotransduction

“Some have even proposed that Schrödinger’s Cat is actually a manual of shamanism in the form of a novel, but that opinion is, almost certainly, exaggerated.” -  Schrödinger’s Cat, pg. 12
I first discovered the genius of Robert Anton Wilson through his three part novel Schrödinger’s Cat in 1982.  Thirty years later it remains my favorite book, one which I think repays deep inspection and contemplation.  This class will examine the book as “a manual of shamanism,” using it as a tool for transforming our nervous systems and our realities.  Bob wrote this book after the greatest crisis of his life, the murder of his daughter Luna.  In the novel characters deal with tragedy, attempting to alchemically transmute the lead of their lives into gold.  Novelist Paul Chuey called this book “a pornographic quantum mechanics textbook.”  In the 1980’s I thought of it as a modern Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland, with the reader in the role of Alice, his or her reality warped by Wilson’s hologrammatic prose.  The tools Bob found useful for reimprinting the nervous system, pranayama, Joyce, magick, Beethoven, etc., each play a dynamic role in the novel, opening pathways for discovery for the attentive reader.

Well, Schrödinger's Cat an attempt to write a new kind of science fiction. New Scientist magazine, I'm happy to say, called it the most scientific of all science-fiction novels, which really pleased me very much. It pleased me so much I quote it every chance I can.
What I was trying to do with Schrödinger's Cat: Instead of going as far out as I could in my imagination, I tried to follow where modern physics is going (what are the main lines of interpretation of the universe in modern physics?) and just write about a universe that fits modern physics. And that is so mind-blowing it seems crazier than anything a science-fiction writer could invent. As a matter of fact, a lot of it does sound like science fiction.
-          Robert Anton Wilson,

This class will use the one volume 1988 revision of the novel.  The eight weeks of the course will examine the text in light of the eight circuit model of the nervous system.  The text gives many practical suggestions for reimprinting these circuits throughout the text.

Week/Circuit/System/Dimension One
Begin reading Book One: The Homing Pigeons, pg. 349 – 418
Each week of this course I would like you to listen to Beethoven’s Piano Sonata Op. 106 at least once, preferably with your eyes closed.
Please try to develop a first circuit practice for the duration of this course.  This could involve a half an hour each day of martial arts or yoga, or simply walking for a half an hour each day.
Movie of the Week:  Chinatown

Week/Circuit/System/Dimension Two
Read pg. 418 - 486        
Add a half an hour of either pranayama or sitting meditation each day.
Movie of the Week:  Citizen Kane

Week/Circuit/System/Dimension Three
Read pg. 486 – 545, 1 – 10
Add a half an hour of kabbalistic study each day.
Movie of the Week:  The Magnificent Ambersons

Week/Circuit/System/Dimension Four
Read pg. 10 – 78
Add a daily fourth circuit practice.
Movie of the Week:  The Lady from Shanghai

Week/Circuit/System/Dimension Five
Read pg. 78 – 146
Add daily cultivation of fifth circuit awareness.
Movie of the Week:  Mr. Arkadin

Week/Circuit/System/Dimension Six
Read pg. 146 – 214
Add daily awakening of the sixth circuit.
Movie of the Week:  Touch of Evil

Week/Circuit/System/Dimension Seven
Read 210 – 278
Attempt to metaprogram some aspect of your perceived reality.
Movie of the Week:  The Trial

Week/Circuit/System/Dimension Eight
Read pg. 278 – 347
Awaken to the possibilities of the eighth circuit.  Bob Wilson saw the fourth movement of Beethoven’s Ninth Symphony as a skeleton key to the eighth circuit.
Movie of the Week:  F for Fake

Eight Ways to Listen to Beethoven
I.                     As for music – where did we first hear it, who sang or hummed to us, and against what part of her body were we held? - Prometheus Rising (revised edition), pg. 48.

II.                        We are not talking about mere increase in linear IQ – third-circuit semantic cleverness.  We are talking of also the kinds of right-brain intelligence that Nicholl acquired from Jungian neurogenetic research and Gurdjieff’s meta-programming techniques.  We are talking of say, Beethoven’s intelligence, which so disturbed Lenin, who could not bear to listen to the Appassionata (Sonata 23) because it made him “want to weep and pat people on the head, and we mustn’t pat them on the head, we must hit them on the head, hit them hard, and make them obey.”  More of Beethoven’s intelligence is needed, desperately, to create a signal that the current Lenins cannot ignore, that will make them weep, and stop hitting heads. – Ibid, pg. 277

III.                The left-handed, on the contrary, specialize in right-brain functions, which are holistic, supra-verbal, “intuitive,” musical and “mystical.”  Leonardo, Beethoven and Nietzsche, for instance, were all left-handed.  Traditionally, left-handed people have been the subject of both dread and awe – regarded as weird, shamanic, and probably in special communication with “God” or “the Devil.” – Ibid, pg. 98 – 99.

IV.                      “To me, the Hammerklavier sounds like an unsuccessful attempt at Tantric sex.  And the Seventh and Eighth Symphonies sound like monumentally successful attempts.”  - Frank Dashwood in Schrödinger’s Cat Trilogy, pg. 426.

V.                         Beethoven, we remember, was left-handed.  Since the left hand is neurologically linked to the polymorphous right brain, one might say he was genetically inclined to right brain activities, that is, to sensing coherent wholes, to plunging into neurosomatic bliss almost “at will,” and to sensory-sensual raptness and rapture.  Everybody “knows” that the Sixth Symphony is “pantheistic,” but whether Beethoven was an ideological pantheist or not, that way of responding to nature is normal and natural right-brain Circuit V functioning.  That is, anybody on the Fifth Circuit will “talk like a pantheist” whether or not he has developed a “philosophy” about pantheism.  The miracle of Beethoven is not that he felt the universe that way – a few thousand fifth-circuit types throughout history have also felt and sensed nature that way – but that he mastered the third-circuit art of music with such skill that he could communicate such experiences, which is precisely what the ordinary “mystic” cannot do.   - Prometheus Rising, pg. 183.

This progression, from primate emotion to post-hominid tranquility, from “man” to “super man,” is the Next Step that mystics forever talk of; you can hear it in most of Beethoven’s later, major compositions.   Ibid, pg.  188.

VI.                       Beethoven, to cite him one more time, said, “Anybody who understands my music will never be unhappy again.”  That is because his music is the song of the Sixth Circuit, of Gaia, the Life Spirit, becoming conscious of Herself, of Her powers, of Her own capacities for infinite progress.   - Ibid, pg. 204.

VII.                    Mind and its contents are functionally identical: My wife only exists, for me, in my mind.  Not being a solipsist, I recognize the converse: I only exist, for her, in her mind.  Lest the reader exclaim, like Byron of Wordsworth, “I wish he would explain his explanation!”, let us try it this way: If I am so fortunate as to be listening to the Hammerklavier sonata, the only correct answer, if you ask me suddenly, “Who are you?” would be to hum the Hammerklavier,.  For, with music of that quality, one is hypnotized into rapt attention: there is no division between “me” and “my experience.”  -  Ibid, pg. 219.

VIII.            Mystics stammer, gibber and rave incoherently in trying to discuss this.  Beethoven says it for them, without words, in the fourth movement of the Ninth Symphony.  The words of Schiller’s “Ode to Joy,” which Beethoven set to this virtually superhuman music, are a linear third-circuit map conveying only a skeleton key to the multi-level meanings of the 8-circuit “language” of the melodic construction itself, which spans all consciousness from primitive bio-survival to meta-physiological cosmic fusion.   Ibid, pg. 269

"Slowness Is Beauty" - Laurence Binyon

The Seer of Cleveland asked me weeks ago, "In one of your blog postings, you mention that you and RAW mostly talked about movies and books. Can you tell me if he talked about science fiction very often, and what he said about who his favorite science fiction authors were?"

Science fiction came up from time to time in Bob's letters and conversations.  I remember talking with him on the phone about my first science fiction class in August 2000.  He said he considered Heinlein the first writing to bring sociology into science fiction.

He used to write about The Valis Trilogy by Phil Dick.  I told him I thought of Phil's last four books as a cohesive unity: Radio Free Albemuth, Valis, The Divine Invasion, and The Transmigration of Timothy Archer.  He said he agreed and that he'd referred to it as a trilogy because he had an omnibus volume called The Valis Trilogy.

Wednesday, May 9, 2012

The Rabinowitz Factor

Dr. Johnson asks, "What are some sources for the role of FORM in poetry? I've recently been delving into the history of the sonnet form, but I wonder if you could recommend some books or sections of books or articles on all sorts of poetic forms?"

Back in 1982 the composer Robert Rabinowitz asked me to write a brief essay on form to include with the program for a recital.  The piece included two haiku, one of which I remember:

Form a butterfly
with time and caterpillar
sole ingredients.

For years I've thought of rereading G. Spencer Brown's Laws of Form and Charles Rosen's Sonata Forms and trying to come to a deeper understanding of form.  I haven't really thought about poetic form for decades.  I do have some concrete thoughts on the sonnet, though.  Ezra Pound repeatedly said to write a sonnet a day for a year.  I found this a very useful experiment, and I can think of no better way of learning about poetic form.  I tried once for about five months and stopped.  Later I did it for a full year, so I wrote over 500 sonnets in those two periods.  I think I liked two of them.  Of course, while doing that I read a bunch of sonnets and a bunch of other writing in iambic pentameter.

For the history of the sonnet, I suggest reading the pre-Dante Italian poets in Pound's Translations and in Confucius to cummings, as well as Pound's essays on Cavalcanti and Dante.  Next, read Dante Gabriel Rossetti's translation of La Vita Nuova, Dante's early poems for Beatrice before he wrote the Commedia.  (Pound suggested reading Rossetti's translation of La Vita Nuova before the Commedia, Eliot afterwards.  Eliot feared one would get a too Pre-Rafaelite image of Dante if one started with the Rossetti.)  The old edition of The Portable Dante with the Binyon translation of the Commedia includes the Rossetti.

Pound called Dante the second greatest literary critic after Aristotle.  La Vita Nuova, in addition to including great love poems, includes Dante's own analysis of their form.

After reading lots of Cavalcanti and Dante, etc., one can move on reading the sonnets by Shakespeare, The Sonnets from the Portuguese by Elizabeth Barrett Browning and a selection of sonnets by Wyatt, Spenser, Milton, Keats, etc.

Zukofsky's wonderful A Test of Poetry doesn't talk a lot about form, but I keep rereading it and learning from it.

Pound recommends translating poems to help learn about form.

I don't feel like I've completely answered your question.  Perhaps some more books or articles will creep into my mind.  Most of the stuff on form I like pops up in the middle of pieces on various poets,  Creeley's various discussions of Zukofsky's "A" for instance.

Tuesday, May 1, 2012


Dr. Johnson asks, "What poet(s) make you laff out loud? And do you think it's necessary to say why/"

What a great question.  Pound, Zukofsky, cummings, Byron, Chaucer, Ginsberg, Landor, Eliot, Ferlinghetti, Paul Durcan, Baraka, Ishmael Reed, Stew, Gary Snyder, etc., have make me laugh out loud on occasion.   Poetry doesn't tend to make me laugh out loud as often as movies do.  If it did, I'd read more poetry.  I think in McLuhan-esque terms, "What do various media do well?"  Movies do chase scenes and slapstick well.  Poetry does other things well,

I find the English candy scene in Gravity's Rainbow makes me laugh out loud more than any other scene.

Humor seems beyond my understanding.  It doesn't seem necessary to ask why one finds something funny.  I think of the entry on "Bisociation" in Everything Is Under Control by Bob Wilson.

A Day at the Races

SatoriGuy asks, "I'm kind of a newb to poetry but I enjoyed the Charles Bukowski documentary Born Into This. Any thoughts on Mr. Bukowski's poetry?"

I've only read one of his books, back in the 80's.  It did make a mark on me, however.  Whenever I encounter a reference to a racetrack, I think of his writing.  It says something about his powers as a writer that he broadened my reality a little bit, making the world of the track come vividly alive for me.

Synchronistically, after reading your question I finished reading Geoff Dyers' Zona and encountered one passing reference to Mr. Bukowski.