I had the pleasure, last month, of attending an event in Santa Cruz, California for R.A.W. Day. If you don’t yet know that R.A.W. stands for Robert Anton Wilson, you’re in luck, because you have a new, and truly peccable, author/thinker/comedian/entity to explore–one that I suspect you will find, in one way or another, of substantial interest. Here’s one place to start (there are others, and plenty of youtube videos). R.A.W. had an incredibly important influence on the contemporary countercultural milieu in a huge number of areas (from interpretations of quantum physics to conspiracy theory to the promotion of ‘invented religions’ to transhumanism and on and on), including many areas of overlap with Terence McKenna.
In fact, it was Wilson who seems to have been the first to notice and write publicly about The Invisible Landscape, the first edition of which was published in 1975. In R.A.W.’s 1977 classic Cosmic Trigger Vol. 1: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, he devotes several pages to a treatment of the McKenna Timewave alongside several other theories of cultural/temporal acceleration (such as those by Timothy Leary, Buckminster Fuller, and Alvin Toffler).
This, indeed, is the thesis of a remarkable book offering the final set of models and metaphors which we shall be discussing… The McKenna brothers, who between them have a background that includes anthropology, biology, chemistry, and botany, conducted a metaprogramming experiment in the Upper Amazon Basin, using the local “magic mushroom.”… The McKennas regard our universe as a hologram, every part contains the information of the whole… There are 64 time-scales in the hologram of our universe [derived from the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching]… The action of psychedelics, in the model, opens the quantum information system… Within the McKenna theory, all of the 64 time-scales peak together… There is a 4,300-year cycle from urbanization to the dawn of modern science; a 384-year cycle in which science has caused more upsurge of novelty than in that 4,300 year cycle; a 67-year cycle […] in which there will be more acceleration than there was between Galileo and Hiroshima; a 384 day cycle in 2011-2012 when there will be more transformations than in all previous cycles; a 6 day cycle […] and so on, down to a grand climax… That is, in the last two hours before Peak, we will achieve 18 extensions of consciousness and power, each one comparable to the passing from Earth to Space. And in the last .0075 seconds of the Great Cycle we will pass through 13 such transformation… As the McKenna’s say, it is hard to avoid hyperbole in trying to contemplate what this means.
Wilson also included entries on Terence and his book Food of the Gods in his own encyclopedic Everything is Under Control. Another review of Food of the Gods by R.A.W. can be found in the edited Chaos & Beyond: The Best of Trajectories book (or in the original Trajectories newsletter #10–if you have a copy and would be willing to scan it and send me the files to add to the archives, that would be amazing!–if you have a physical copy that you’d like to send, that would be even more incredible!!). I’m also completely missing a discussion of Terence’s Timewave by R.A.W. that appears in Trajectories #7 (again if you have a copy, please do send scans).
Terence and R.A.W. appear side-by-side in many magazines, anthologies, and interview collections (like David Jay Brown’s Mavericks of the Mind). Both also traveled to Portugal to appear in Edgar Pera’s ‘LX94: Manual of Evasion’ film along with mathematician Rudy Rucker. Here’s Terence getting his makeup done:
And R.A.W. (with his iconic ring–and accent) making a phone call:
These photos and this outtake of Terence describing a monument to Portuguese navigators are from Rucker’s own home video of the experience. There’s some great intimate footage of both R.A.W. and Terence in Rucker’s video (including a shared joint), although it also seems evident that both grow a bit tired of the relentless behind-the-scenes recording, Wilson at one point exclaiming to the behind-the-camera Rucker, “Are you at it again?” before launching into a characteristically dirty limerick:
There was a young gaucho named Bruno
And he said about sex, “There is one thing I do know.
Women are fine,
And boys are divine,
But, iguanas are numero uno!”
Wilson and McKenna also both spoke at a significant psychedelic conference in 1991, called the Bridge Psychedelic Conference. Much more could be said about this conference, but it’s a bit of a tangent in this context, so I’ll just drop a link here to what I take to be one of Terence’s most significant, relevant, and rare topics of discussion from the conclusion to that event. He starts by mentioning a discussion the previous day between R.A.W. and Timothy Leary:
However, after all of that establishment of connections between Robert Anton Wilson and Terence McKenna, let me get back to the R.A.W. Day event in Santa Cruz last month and the archival material that came out of it. There were quite a few friends and acquaintances of Terence in attendance and among the speakers, including Erik Davis, David Jay Brown, R. U. Sirius, Nick Herbert, Robert Forte, and others, including Daisy Eris Campbell, the producer of ‘The Cosmic Trigger Play’ in the UK (if you’d like to see the play come to the U.S. and have any space, resources, etc. to help make it happen, send me an email, and perhaps I can help in some way) as well as representatives of Hilaritas Press, who have taken over the re-publishing of R.A.W.’s books. It was a very tight group and a wonderful day of both reminiscence and forward thinking. I made a number of great connections, which will undoubtedly bear fruit for the archives down the line. And, although I’ve spent most of the blog post on a range of related tangents, it is one of those connections that I’d like to highlight here.
I did actually also acquire some relevant material for the Terence McKenna Archives at the event, from creator of comix, art, and zines, Bobby Campbell. Campbell’s work shows that he’s deeply steeped in the counterculture–he includes mash-ups of material from across the spectrum but does so in a way that remains firmly his own. He wanted to make sure, particularly, that a copy of his comic book, Agnosis, made its way into the TM Archives. While Agnosis is dedicated to and much more clearly influenced by and Robert Anton Wilson, Terence’s stamp is clearly evident throughout, as well, from the title of Book One: “#FINDTHEOTHERS” to parts of the eschatological framework (including a computer program called Timewave Aleph and discussion of “the transcendental object”), among other linguistic clues that will be obvious to those who have spent a lot of time listening to McKenna talks. So, thanks, Bobby, for making sure that copies of your work made into the archives. I’m definitely looking forward to seeing what continues to pop out of your Weirdoverse!
You may also have seen Bobby’s Terence art pieces floating around the web, but if not, here you go. The Trialogues image comes from an interesting trialogue (available on disinfo) Campbell himself had by email with Ralph Abraham and Rupert Sheldrake.