All rights reserved. No part of this book, in part or in whole, may be reproduced, transmitted, or utilized, in any form or by any means, electronic or mechanical, including photocopying, recording, or by any information storage and retrieval system, without permission in writing from the publisher, except for brief quotations in critical articles, books and reviews. International Standard Book Number: 1-56184-056-4 Library of Congress Catalog Card Number: 83-81665 First Edition 1983 Second Printing 1984
Second Revised Edition (Tenth Printing) 1997 Eleventh Printing 1999 Twelfth Printing 2000 Cover by Stan Slaughter
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William S. Burroughs
dove sta memora
The eight-circuit model of consciousness in this book and much of its future-vision derive from the writings of Dr. Timothy Leary, whose letters and conversations have also influenced many other ideas herein. I also owe great debts to Dr. O.R. Bontrager, for introducing me to semantics and communication sciences generally; to R. Buckminister Fuller, for general sociological technological perspectives on current problems; and to all of the following: Barbara Hubbard, Alan Harrington, P.M. Esfandiary, Dr. Paul Watzlavik, Dr. Eric Berne, Dr. Paul Segall, Dr. Israel Regardie, Alvin Toffler, Phil Laut, Dr. Sigmund Freud, Dr. Carl Jung, Alan Watts, Alfred Korzybski, and Aleister Crowley. The members of the Physics/Consciousness Research Group (Dr. Jack Sarfatti, Dr. Nick Herbert and Saul Paul Sirag) have contributed more than is indicated by my few brief references to quantum theory in these pages; they clarified my whole comprehension of epistemology.
None of these persons are responsible for my mistakes or over-statements.
Preface to the Second Edition 11
1. The Thinker & The Prover 23
2. Hardware & Software: The Brain & Its Programs 33
3. The Oral Bio-Survival Circuit 45
4. The Anal Emotional Territorial Circuit 61
5. Dickens & Joyce: The Two-Circuit Dialectic 85
6. The Time-Binding Semantic Circuit 93
7. The Time-Binding Dialectic: Acceleration & Deceleration 105
8 The "Moral" Socio-Sexual Circuit 121
9. Mindwashing & Brain Programming 149
10. How To Brain-Wash Friends & Robotize People 161
11. The Holistic Neurosomatic Circuit 177
12. The Collective Neurogenetic Circuit 195
13. Introduction to the Metaprogramming Circuit 207
14. The Meta-Programming Circuit 217
15. Different Models & Different Muddles 227
16. The Snafu Principle 239
17. Quantum Evolution 253
18. The Non-Local Quantum Circuit 265
19. Prometheus Rising 271
TO THE SECOND EDITION
Screw the government!
— Legends of the Fall
Screw the middle class!
Like most of my books, this text emerged only partly from my conscious design and partly from suspicious accidents. It actually began as a Ph.D. dissertation called "The Evolution of Neuro-Sociological Circuits: A Contribution to the Sociobiology of Consciousness," which I wrote in 1978-79 for an alternative university called Paideia. At that time, Paideia ranked as State Approved, the highest rating given to alternative universities in California, where we have alternatives to everything and the state feels required to classify the alternatives on a scale of "experimental" to totally bonkers. Alas, Paideia, having achieved relative respectability as an "alternative," later joined with a much more radical and Utopian outfit, Hawthorn University, and lost its top rank among counter-culture educational contraptions in California, falling from Approved to Authorized, a much lower rating. The whole megilla then joined into several flakey outfits loosely allied, none of which were recognized at all by the state, which suited the new honchos perfectly, since they did not recognize the state either.
In Ireland in 1982, stuck with a dissertation which I liked a lot and a Ph.D. diploma which, due to the collapse of Paideia, looked less impressive, I decided to rewrite the manuscript in more commercial form. The first change consisted of removing all the footnotes (about two of them per sentence) which gave the original a truly academic stink but would annoy the average
12 Prometheus Rising
reader. Then I expressed myself a little more bluntly (and perhaps snidely) in many places, adding much to the humor and nothing to the good taste. I also wrote a few more chapters, created all the exercizes, and sketched out diagrams for the illustrations.
I then, with craft and cunning, removed most of the references to Dr. Timothy Leary from the early parts of the book and only let his name begin to appear frequently after about the middle. I had good reason, based on experience, to feel rather strongly that, just as Dr. Tim was blacklisted by Establishment publishers at that time, any book openly and blatantly based largely on his ideas would also get thrown in the junk heap.
I thought I now had a "popular" book, and maybe I almost did. The first publisher to whom I submitted it, Jeremy Tarcher, held it for a full year of meditation before rejecting it; his only explanation for the rejection concerned the mixture of technolo-gese and "counter culture" slang that has since become my most frequent style in nonfiction. (It's based on the way I actually speak.) When I tried Falcon next, they accepted it within 48 hours, and I received the advance check within the next 48 hours. "Oh frabjous day!"
A month later, I heard from Tarcher again: he had changed his mind and decided he wanted the book after all. I was in one of my periods of acute poverty then (something that happens periodically to all freelance writers) and it was with great effort that I refrained from telling Mr. Tarcher to go fuck himself. I just told him I had a contract with another publisher.
With Falcon as publisher, I then inserted the acknowledgments page, giving Leary the credit he deserved right up front, and added a dedication to him. Falcon, as I expected, did not object. Falcon has always served as an alternative to Establishment publishing, just as Paideia once served as a similar alternative to the academic Establishment.
Prometheus was one of Falcon's first books and, I think, the first done with computerized typesetting; as usual with such pioneering efforts, it emerged with a phalanx of typos that have embarrassed me considerably over the years. (When the San Francisco Chronicle first computerized they had similar problems. I remember one story in which the Chief of Police,
Prometheus Rising 13
denouncing drugs, rambled off into a sentence about the thrill of meeting Mickey Mouse and Goofy. I assume that line came from another story but it made the Chief sound as if he had gotten into some weird chemicals himself.) In this edition, I have corrected these errors, where I could find them; I know too much now to think I found all of them. (Wilson's Tenth Law: no matter how many times a writer proofs a book, hostile critics will always find at least one error that he missed.)
I have also updated every place where I thought updating seemed necessary. I even added a few new ideas (which, of course, seem brilliant to me just because they are new) and some new jokes and generally gave the text a badly-needed face-lift. It is still one of my favorite books, and seems to rank high in the estimation of most of my fans.
In Germany-Switzerland-Austria in the late 1980s, three German versions existed simultaneously—a deluxe edition from Sphinx Verlag of Zurich, a mass-market paperback from Rowalt Verlag of Hamburg, and an even cheaper pirate edition from the busy troglodytes of the unterwelt. The last, of course, paid no royalties but, by indicating that I had three audiences at three economic levels, persuaded me feel like a very popular writer in Mitteleuropa.
As I contemplate this tenth printing of a "far out" or "freaked out" book that began its career back in 1978, I feel only mildly embarrassed by the predictions that proved over-optimistic. (I have revised them, of course, in keeping with my current knowledge and best guesses). I feel much more astonished, and pleased, that many of the predictions now seem much less shocking than when I first published them. Indeed, the wildest and most "Utopian" future-scans in here are precisely the ones that have had the greatest scientific support in the 1990s. To see two decades ahead, even in a few areas, counts as some sort of success in the Futurism game. And every bulletin from the embattled MIR space station reminds me that if my space forecasts projected "too much too soon," part of what I expected does in fact already exist and the rest is obviously evolving.
I feel more chagrined about my lyrical evocation of Intelligence Intensification. In the 1970s, I simply did not recognize the extent to which the 1960s "youth revolution" had terrified
14 Prometheus Rising
our ruling Elite, or that they would try to prevent future upsurges of radical Utopianism by deliberately "dumbing down" the educational system. What they have produced, the so-called Generation X, must rank as not only the most ignorant but also the most paranoid and depressive kids ever to infest our Republic. I agree with outlaw radio star Travis Hipp that the paranoia and depression result inevitably from the ignorance. These kids not only don't know anything; they don't even want to know.1 They only realize, vaguely, that somebody has screwed them out of something, but they don't have enough zest or bile to try to find out who screwed them and what they were screwed out of.
Fortunately, this Age of Stupidity cannot last very long. Already, most people know that if you want a good TV or VCR, you buy Japanese; for a good car, Japanese or German, etc. Eventually, in order to compete, the Elite will have to allow a bit more education for American youth, before we sink fully to the level of a Third World nation.
The other day I saw a film called The Edge, which I regarded as the best thing to come out of Hollywood since The Silence of the Lambs. Perhaps not coincidentally, this flic also starred Anthony Hopkins. In one scene, Hopkins and his co-star, Alec Baldwin, seem in an absolutely hopeless situation, lost in the Arctic, stalked by a hungry bear, without weapons, seemingly doomed. Baldwin collapses, and Hopkins has a magnificent monologue, talking Baldwin out of his despair. The speech runs, roughly, like this: "Did you know you can make fire out of ice? You can, you know. Fire out of ice. Think about it. Fire out of ice. Think. Think."
This riddle has both a pragmatic and symbolic (alchemical) answer. The pragmatic answer you can find in the film, explicitly; and it might prove useful if you ever get lost in the north woods; and the alchemical, or Zen Buddhist, answer is also in the film, implicitly, and only perceptible to those who understand
One of the spokespersons for Gen X, named Shann Nix, has a talk show on KGO, one of the most powerful radio signals on the West Coast. On one show, she announced that the Vatican is not a State. On another, she proclaimed that Jury Nullification was a recent invention by the far right. Etc.
Prometheus Rising /5
the dense character Hopkins plays in the story. It might prove useful whenever despair seems to overwhelm you.
So, to those who at the end of this book still can't understand or sympathize with my Nietzschean yea-saying, I quote again:
"Fire out of ice. Think. Think."
Who was that Prometheus guy and why did he give us fire in the first place?
Robert Anton Wilson On the Internet at http://www.rawilson.com
INTRODUCTIONBy Israel Regardie
The ability to create a synthesis of diverse points of view, scientific and social and philosophical, is a rare gift. Not many are there who dare even to attempt such a task.
Imagine anyone trying to make sense of an amalgam of Timothy Leary's eight neurological circuits, Gurdjieff s self-observation exercises, Korzybski's general semantics, Aleister Crowley's magical theorems, the several disciplines of Yoga, Christian Science, relativity and modern quantum mechanics, and many other approaches to understanding the world around us! A man is required with an almost encyclopedic education, an incredibly flexible mind, insights as sharp as those whom he is trying synthesize and mirabile dictu, a wonderful sense of humor.
For several years—ever since I first became familiar with the writings of Robert Anton Wilson—I have been struck with his ever-present sense of bubbling humor and the wide scope of his intellectual interests. Once I was even so presumptuous as to warn him in a letter that his humor was much too good to waste on hoi polloi who generally speaking would not understand it and might even resent it. However this effervescent lightness of heart became even more apparent in Cosmic Trigger and more latterly in the trilogy of Schrodinger's Cat. I have sometimes wondered whether his extraordinarily wide range of intellectual roving is too extensive and therefore perplexing to the average reader. Be that as it may, the humor and synthesis are even more marked in this brilliant ambitious piece of writing, Prometheus Rising.
l8 Prometheus Rising
Even if your reading has already made you familiar with some of the concepts employed by Wilson in this book, nonetheless his elucidation even of the simplest, the most basic, is illuminating. At this moment, I am referring to the "imprint" theory which he makes considerable use of. Much of the same is true of his references to and explanation of Leary's eight neurological circuits. We become familiar with them all over again, as if they had not been introduced to us before.
Moreover I love the subtle and almost invisible use of mystical dogma that permeates all his writings. For example, consider the opening of Chapter Six. It quotes a particularly meaningful sentence from William S. Burroughs. There is no mention—nor need there be—of any anterior teaching regarding this Law of Three, as it may be called. But one doctrine that emanated from a medieval mystical school philosophizes that there are always two contending forces—for the sake of convenience labeled Severity and Mildness—with a third that always reconciles them. It is paramount to this doctrine, which has been stated and stated again in a dozen or more different ways throughout the centuries, culminating finally in the idea enunciated by Burroughs and of course used by Wilson.
There are dozens of similar seeds of wisdom sown throughout Prometheus Rising that are bound to have a seminal effect wherever and whenever the book is read. This is one of the many virtues of Wilson's book; it will leave its mark on all those who read it—and those seeds will surely take root and bloom in the most unlikely minds—as well as in the more prosaic. Tarot advocates willfind the most unusual and illuminating interpretations of some of their favorite cards when he falls back on the basic neural circuits. I found them all illuminating as providing a new viewpoint which had to be integrated into my general view of such matters.
The only area where I was reluctantly inclined to be at odds with Wilson was in what I considered to be his addiction to a Utopia—which he eloquently enough expresses as "the birth pangs of a cosmic Prometheus rising out of the long nightmare of domesticated primate history." The history of mankind is also the history of one Utopia after another, being enunciated with enthusiasm and vigor, calling upon all the facts of faith and
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science (as they existed at that moment in space-time) to corroborate the fantasy. A decade or maybe a century elapse—and the fantasy is no more. The Utopia has gone down the drain to join all the other Utopias of earlier primates. However, I sincerely hope that Wilson is right in this case.
Now I am not unmindful of the fact that the Utopia of which Wilson speaks, echoing many of the best scientific and philosophic minds of our day, is a distinct possibility at some time, but that it could occur within the next decade seems rather improbable to me. It seems improbable of course only in terms of the current state of world enlightenment, or lack of it, and because it implies a "miracle" occurring in vast numbers of living primates simultaneously—whatever semantic theories are involved in the meaning of the word "simultaneously."
Anyway, thisis a minor point considering the seminal brilliance of the greater part of this enlightening book.
In a previously written book, Wilson wrote that
[in] 1964, Dr. John S. Bell published a demonstration that still has the physicists reeling. What Bell seemed to prove was that quantum effects are 'non-local' in Bohm's sense; that is, they are not just here or there, but both. What this apparently means is that space and time are only real to our mammalian sense organs; they are not really real.
This writing reminds me so much of the Hindu concept of Indra's Net. The latter is sometimes described as being a great net extending throughout the whole universe, vertically to represent time, horizontally to represent space. At each point where the threads of this Indra's net cross one another is a diamond or a crystal bead, the symbol of a single existence. Each crystal bead reflects on its shining surface not only every other bead in the whole net of Indra but every single reflection of every reflection of every other bead upon each individual bead—countless, endless reflections of one another. We could also liken it to a single candle being placed in the centre of a large hall. Around this hall tens of mirrors are arranged in such a manner that, when the candle was lit, one saw not only its reflection in each individual mirror, but also the reflections of the reflections in every other mirror repeated ad infinitum.
2O Prometheus Rising
One of the several virtues of Prometheus Rising is that Wilson using Leary's neurological circuits believes that a new philosophical paradigm is about due. In reality, this is really Wilson's answer to my proposed criticism of his Utopian fantasy. It may not be within a decade that we shall realize whether it is true or false. But that is not important. What is clear is that thanks to the insights of many modern thinkers, major new intellectual findings do not come solely from the slow drip and grind of tiny new discoveries, or from new theories simply being added to our present armamentarium of time-honoured truisms. Rather, quantum leaps, in outlook ala Teilhard de Chardin, occur with a fantastic jump to a new horizon or level of perception. This insight usually comes from a revolutionary overview which realigns or transforms former thinking into a new and more enlightening frame of reference.
This dovetails with his equally fascinating thesis that everything alive is really alive in the fullest and most dynamic sense of the word. It twitches, searches, throbs, organizes and seems aware of an upward movement. Twitches seems almost the right word, recalling to mind the myoclonisms of Wilhelm Reich's vegetotherapy which, at sometime, are infinitely disturbing to the patient on the couch who, because of them, feels he is falling apart, being shattered into a thousand pieces. He isn't really. It is as though the organism were gathering itself together for an upward or forward leap into the unknown, to a higher order of looking at things.
The transition to a higher order of functioning—or hooking on to a higher neural circuit—is often accompanied by considerable anxiety or a turbulence in personal life which seems as if the organism were falling apart or breaking up. This phenomenon of instability is really the way that every living organism—societies, human primates, chemical solutions, etc.—shakes itself, as it were, by myoclonisms or similar convulsions into new combinations and permutations for higher and new levels of development. So perhaps the space-time Utopia of a new area of primate exploration has some validity after all, as indicating that the more vigorous the disturbance or myoclonism the greater the quantum jump into a higher neurological circuit. This is one
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reason why I firmly believe that the transition to the next spiral will not be smooth nor without much suffering and chaos.
All of which suggests, with Wilson and Leary, that the brain is considerably more sophisticated than any of us previously had imagined. It is quite possible that it operates in dimensions so beyond the lower neural circuitry that it occasionally "throws us a bone" every day so that we can continue to function in the make-believe world of everyday status quo. In the meantime, it is a multidimensional structure at ease in far more than the narrow primate world we have been programmed to live in. It may interpret waves and frequencies from other dimensions, realms of "light," of meaningful unrestricted patterned reality— that are here and now—and which transcend our present myopic tunnel realities of our rigid perceptions and conceptualizations of space and time.
If so, then the title of this book Prometheus Rising is representative of more than a catchy title to a profound fascinating book. It becomes a title, instead, to the very attempt which we are now making to reach beyond ourselves with a quantum leap into a new world which has been envisaged only by a very few. Wilson is one of this group who are preparing themselves and if we allow them, the rest of us, to take our place in the New Aeon.
I will close with a quote from Wilson,
We are all giants, raised by pygmies, who have learned to walk with a perpetual mental crouch. Unleashing our full stature—our total brain power—is what this book is all about.