Prometheus Rising (1983)

PROM_RISE_TAPE Prometheus Rising (1983) by Robert Anton Wilson is a mind-blowing neuropsychological manual on how to reprogram your own brain. The book combines Timothy Leary’s Eight Circuit model of consciousness, psychological imprinting and conditioning theory, Gurdjief’s self-observation exercises, Quantum Mechanics, Yoga, Cybernetics, Freudian psychoanalysis, sociobiology, psychedelics, Alfred Korzybski’s general semantics and much more to construct a strange but enlightening lens for viewing the world and our place in it. Prometheus Rising began as Wilson’s Ph.D. dissertation called “The Evolution of Neuro-Sociological Circuits: A Contribution to the Sociobiology of Consciousness” in 1978-79 for University Paideia, but in 1982 Wilson rewrote the manuscript for commercial publication by removing footnotes, adding chapters and exercises, sketching out diagrams and illustrations, and injecting plenty of humour. Oh, and he threw in a chapter on how to brainwash yourself and others titled ‘How to Wash Brains and Robotize People’. Each chapter in Prometheus Rising sets up and explains in detail one of the Eight Circuits of the brain that governs our consciousness and moulds the ego or sense of self that we identify with. Drawing from Piaget’s Stages of Development, Wilson suggests that at different points in our life we are subject to a period of ‘imprint vulnerability’, which is when our brains are susceptible to rapid hard-wired learning that shapes all subsequent learning or conditioning. At these moments a certain thought system or behaviour is imprinted in one of the eight circuits. For example, Konrad Loranz found that the newborn gosling (baby goose) is vulnerable to imprinting a protective mother entity immediately after hatching. During this vulnerable period, anything roughly matching the genetic archetype will be imprinted. These experiments resulted in Lorenz having geese following him around thinking he was their mother, and he also reported a gosling that imprinted a ping-pong ball and followed it about attempting to nest with it and vocalizing to it as it would toward a real Mother Goose. Evidently, the fact that the ping pong ball has a round white body, like a Mother Goose, was enough to trigger the genetic imprinting process. Wilson insists that the model is not to be taken too seriously and is merely a map that can help guide us, and often reminds us that ‘the map is not the territory’, or ‘the menu is not the meal’. The eight circuits, as outlined by Wilson are as follows:

1 – The Oral Bio-Survival Circuit – This is imprinted by the mother or the first mothering object and conditioned by subsequent nourishment or threat. It is primarily concerned with sucking, feeding, cuddling, and body security. It retreats mechanically from the noxious or predatory – or from anything associated (by imprinting or conditioning) with the noxious or predatory.

2 – The Anal Emotional-Territorial Circuit – This is imprinted in the ‘Toddling’ stage when the infant rises up, walks about and begins to struggle for power within the family structure. This mostly mammalian circuit processes territorial rules, emotional games, or cons, pecking order and rituals for domination or submission.

3 – The Time-Binding Semantic Circuit – This is imprinted and conditioned by human artifacts and symbol systems. It ‘handles’ and ‘packages’ the environment, classifying everything according to the local reality tunnel. Invention, calculation, prediction and transmitting signals across generations are its functions.

4 –  The ‘Moral’ Socio-Sexual Circuit – This is imprinted by the first orgasm-mating experiences at puberty and is conditioned by tribal taboos. It processes sexual pleasure, local definitions of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’, reproduction, adult-parental personality (sex role) and nurture of the young. The development of these circuits as the brain evolved through evolution, and as each domesticated primate (human) brain recapitulates evolution in growing from infancy to adulthood, makes possible gene-pool survival, mammalian sociobiology (pecking order, or politics) and transmission of culture. The second group of four brain circuits is much newer, and each circuit exists at present only in minorities. Where the antique circuits recapitulate evolution-to-the-present, these futuristic circuits precapitulate our future evolution.

5 – The Holistic Neurosomatic Circuit – This is imprinted by ecstatic experience, via biological or chemical yogas. It processes neurosomatic (‘mind-body’) feedback loops, somatic-sensory bliss, feeling ‘high’, ‘faith-healing,’ etc. Christian Science, NLP (neuro-linguistic programming) and holistic medicine consist of tricks or gimmicks to get this circuit into action at least temporarily; Tantra yoga is cocnerned with shifting consciousness entirely into this circuit.

6 – The Collective Neurogenetic Circuit – This is imprinted by advanced yogas (bio-chemical – electrical stresses). It processes DNA-RNA-brain feedback systems and is ‘collective’ in that it contains and has access to the whole evolutionary ‘script’, past and future. Experience of this circuit is numinous, ‘mystical,’ mind-shattering; here dwell the archetypes of Jung’s Collective Unconscious – Gods, Godesses, Demons, Hairy Dwarfs and other personifications of the DNA programs (instincts) that govern us.

7 – The Meta-programming Circuit – This is imprinted by very advanced yogas. It consists, in modern terms, of cybernetic consciousness, reprogramming and reimprinting all other circuits, even reprogramming itself, making possible conscious choice between alternative universes or reality tunnels.

8 – The Non-Local Quantum Circuit – This is imprinted by Shock, by ‘near-death’ or ‘clinical death’ experience, by OOBEs (out-of-body-experiences), by trans-time perceptions (‘precognition’), by trans-space visions (ESP), etc. It tunes the brain into the non-local quantum communication system suggested by physicists such as Bohm, Walker, Sarfatti, Bell, etc. Prometheus Rising is a groundbreaking work that will make you rethink and reinterpret your belief systems and quite possibly transform your entire thought process from the ground up. If you dogmatically hold onto one map of reality then you might find the book confronting as it demands a flexible perspective. If this sounds like the book for you you can read it for free in pdf form here.  

* * * * * 5 stars 

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It’s Here Now (Are You?) (1998)

its here nowToo often we underestimate the power of thought. Thoughts manifest. Your life is what you think it is. That’s why meditating and disengaging from the thought process helps free the self’ – It’s Here Now p. 63.

It’s Here Now (Are You?) is one of the best books I have ever read. It was surprisingly very well written and kept me engaged from start to finish. Even though the book is not a work of fiction it is definitely out of this world:  `I didn’t know it that night, but we would become close friends for the next six years… our conversation would become telepathic, thought to thought. It was easy to connect with him that way’.

I found out about this book through reading Be Here Now, which told the story of how Dr Richard Alpert (Harvard psychologist turned LSD guru) had a chance encounter with a 20 year old white kid in India who spoke fluent Hindi and was accepted by all of the Buddhist monks, lamas and travelling yogis, much to Richard’s surprise. Richard ended up following this kid throughout India, and it is through him that he met his guru, Neem Karoli Baba. This resulted in his being sucked into a spiritual transformation and spat out a completely new being, freed from the chains of his ego. The young white kid’s ‘name’ was Bhagavan Das and he ended up writing a very honest account of his experiences in India, which is this autobiography that I am reviewing, now. Bhagavan Das never goes out of his way to make himself look good and actually writes into existence a lot of scenarios that put him in bad light, which is admirable considering all the spiritual figures out there who seem to want people to think they shit gold. Bhagavan Das (Michael Riggs) also shares all of his spiritual insights and divine experiences and doesn’t seem to mind if you believe them or not. Obviously this book is soaking with Indian spirituality, but even if you’re not into that sort of thing it’s still interesting to read the story of how some white kid from California escapes to India and becomes a saint pretty much over night… and to top it off there’s a lot of drug use and sex on the side.

Bhagavan Das does it all, and you can’t help but think of him as a spiritual materialist, snatching from every religion and ritual to find the sweet nectar of enlightenment. But it is this character flaw that makes for interesting reading as it allows you a peek at how spirituality is treated in India through all of its diverse religious practices. Throughout his journey Bhagavan tastes from every fruit of every tree – even forbidden fruits as he happens upon witches and demon worshipers and becomes fascinated with their `dark energy’. At one point he witnesses an Indian man meditating in a pit of fire, without so much as a scratch on his body. More impressive than that is how he also shows that at the end of the day he is still just a human primate: `Major Rikki also had a big stack of Playboy magazines, which I eventually gave into reading. I couldn’t resist the temptation. As soon as I was given the opportunity, I gave in to all of it. I was masturbating to pornographic magazines, smoking State Express No. 555, and listening to Major Rikki boast about his Military career’.

It’s Here Now (Are You) is a great companion piece to Ram Dass’ Be Here Now, and is also an excellent book on its own merit. Above everything else it is a story about a single person’s journey, and this is something we can all relate to. If you are into Hinduism, meditation, travel books or just need a good escape then this book might just be what you’re searching for!

* * * * * 5 stars 

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Fahrenheit 451 (1953)

fahrenheit451-1Fahrenheit 451 (1953), by Ray Bradbury, is a short read about a fireman called Guy Montag who burns books for a living. I’ll spare you the cliche ‘in a dystopian world where firemen start fires rather than put them out…’ Wait, no I won’t. The title of the book refers to the apparent temperature at which book paper catches fire, and did I mention it’s about a fireman who starts fires instead of putting them out? I read Fahrenheit 451 right after finishing Brave New World and in my opinion the two meshed together seamlessly as the world that Ray Bradbury moulds resembles a stepping stone to the vision Huxley had imagined in his own book. The inhabitants of Fahrenheit 451, similar to those of Brave New World, cling to a life of mindless ‘fun’ and total ignorance of the sharp corners of reality as they instead immerse themselves in passive entertainment.

Both works of fiction also share the banning of books in common, but because of Fahrenheit’s smaller scope it is able to invest more time and attention into the concept. Unlike Brave New World where society had long been conditioned to be happy with the way the world was, Fahrenheit 451 shows a society that is attempting to walk this path but hints at cracks beneath the surface. The biggest crack being that there is a war going on; a war that people choose not to talk about and pretend is no big deal, but is occurring nonetheless. Amidst this strange and chaotic setting the protagonist meets and befriends an ‘abnormal’ teenage girl who embodies the free spirited nature of society’s past. Their friendship plants the seed in Montag’s mind that maybe he and everyone he knows is living a false happiness and that burning under every man and woman’s skull are existential questions whose answers might’ve once been found in books. What follows is an exciting page turner that erupts with beautiful prose and imagery. I think it’s fair to say that Fahrenheit 451 is a fitting tribute to the powerful combination of words on paper, and at the very least will make you stop and appreciate how lucky we are to have books to read in the first place. Let’s just hope that firemen don’t read it and think otherwise.

★★★★ 4 stars 

Brave New World (1932)

2382012101715Aldous Huxley’s satirical Brave New World (1932) is widely considered to be one of the greatest novels to emerge from the ether of English Literature, and while it is a fascinating exploration of human values and society, it (in my opinion) also lacks the narrative flow that transforms an interesting idea or concept into a good story. Brave New World invests the majority of its time in setting up a futuristic utopia and less in inhabiting this setting with likeable or memorable characters. Even the protagonist doesn’t arrive until halfway through the book, and by then it is too late to become emotionally attached.

Brave New World is frequently compared to George Orwell’s dystopian novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1949), which shows an opposite and even more frightening direction humanity could find itself in. In contrast to Orwell’s totalitarian vision of the future, Huxley depicts a futurist world that has eradicated all previous forms of solitary pursuits and pleasures, such as reading, and replaced them with radical conditioning and frequent doses of the psychedelic drug Soma, which they receive as rations and ingest to take ‘holidays’ from reality. The citizens of this world are also no longer ‘born’, but are grown in labs, and the mere suggestion of the word ‘mother’ or ‘father’ has become offensive to all who hear it. In contrast to Nineteen Eighty-Four, in which people are forced to cooperate with the unfair way of life set out by Big Brother, the inhabitants of Brave New World are conditioned from birth to view their strange way of life as normal.

‘The world’s stable now. People are happy; they get what they want, and they never want what they can’t get. They’re well off; they’re safe; they’re never ill; they’re not afraid of death; they’re blissfully ignorant of passion and old age; they’re plagued with no mothers or fathers; they’ve got no wives, or children, or lovers to feel strongly about; they’re so conditioned that they practically can’t help behaving as they ought to behave. And if anything should go wrong, there’s soma.‘ – Brave New World

While both novels have a great setting, Orwell executes his better by having relatable characters (a protagonist that is with you from the beginning), TENSION (where is the tension in Brave New World?), and a strong narrative thread that links the whole book from start to finish. Brave New World felt a bit directionless in comparison and often like it was two books mashed together, the first being an essay on the direction society is heading towards, and the second – an afterthought of a story to tie it all together.

★★★ 3 stars 

Be Here Now (1971)

Be Here Now Ram Dass

“Embrace the 10,000 Beautiful Visions”

Be Here Now (1971) is a classic text on Hindu spirituality that bloomed open like a lotus flower in the wake of the hippie movement. The seed for this book was planted in the mind of Harvard psychiatrist turned Indian mystic, Ram Dass, and was written – with the blessings of his guru Neem Karoli Baba – for a Western audience who were, for the most part, materially rich but spiritually poor

Be Here Now offered it’s readers and followers a drug free alternative for attaining higher states of consciousness, while its simple message to live in the present encouraged the pursuit and cultivation of inner peace. Since it’s original publication the book has sold more than 2 million copies and has had an enormous influence on the Western world’s adoption of Eastern philosophy and spirituality. I can’t speak for everybody, but my copy of Be Here Now is one of my most treasured possessions, it opened the door of spiritual discovery and casually pointed towards the way. To this day, Be Here Now’s teachings shine like the sun and penetrate even the darkest spaces. I recommend it with all my heart to those with an open mind, and a thirst for self discovery.

be here now

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The Last Question – Isaac Asimov

big bang universeThe following short story, written by the famous science fiction author Isaac Asimov, is a gripping tale of Man and Machine’s evolution of consciousness, and their place in the infinite yet impermanent universe. The story was first published in the November 1956 issue of Science Fiction Quarterly, and is to this day considered by many to be his best work. The author himself even thought so, and in 1973 he said of it: “Why is it my favorite? For one thing I got the idea all at once and didn’t have to fiddle with it; and I wrote it in white-heat and scarcely had to change a word. This sort of thing endears any story to any writer. Then, too, it has had the strangest effect on my readers…” The short story is split into seven story arcs, with the first one beginning in 2061, and each one after progressing further and further into the future. Despite the changes in time, space, and characters, each of the stories share in common humanity’s relationship with a supercomputer called Multivac and its successors – every sub plot revolves around certain characters discussing the life span of the universe and then asking the Multivac computer whether entropy (destruction) of the universe can be reversed, which is a question it has insufficient data to answer until the very end. This is a great read from start to finish – I give it a 5 out of 5; it is WAY ahead of its time! Continue reading

How to Win Friends and Influence People (1938)

self help

If you never got a chance to read Dale Carnegie’s best selling book ‘How To Win Friends and Influence People (1938)’, then here’s your chance to quickly absorb some of the book’s main points and ideas. The author used to give lectures on how to become a more likeable boss in the workplace and increase staff productivity as a result, it was when he realised that these same tactics were extremely effective at getting anybody to like you that he decided to write the book. It was first published in 1936 and is widely considered to be the first ever self-help book; it has since sold over 15,000,000 copies worldwide. This book is the tome for helping you develop better relationships with anyone, whether it be at work, on the bus, or at home.

Twelve Things This Book Will Do For You:

  1. Get you out of a mental rut, give you new thoughts, new visions, new ambitions.
  2. Enable you to make friends quickly and easily.
  3. Increase your popularity.
  4. Help you to win people to your way of thinking.
  5. Increase your influence, your prestige, your ability to get things done.
  6. Enable you to win new clients, new customers.
  7. Increase your earning power.
  8. Make you a better salesman, a better executive.
  9. Help you to handle complaints, avoid arguments, keep your human contacts smooth and pleasant.
  10. Make you a better speaker, a more entertaining conversationalist.
  11. Make the principles of psychology easy for you to apply in your daily contacts.
  12. Help you to arouse enthusiasm among your associates.

The book has six major sections. The core principles of each section are quoted below.

Fundamental Techniques in Handling People:

  1. Don’t criticize, condemn, or complain.
  2. Give honest and sincere appreciation.
  3. Arouse in the other person an eager want.

Six Ways to Make People Like You:

  1. Become genuinely interested in other people.
  2. Smile.
  3. Remember that a person’s name is, to that person, the sweetest and most important sound in any language.
  4. Be a good listener. Encourage others to talk about themselves.
  5. Talk in terms of the other person’s interest.
  6. Make the other person feel important – and do it sincerely.

Twelve Ways to Win People to Your Way of Thinking:

  1. The only way to get the best of an argument is to avoid it.
  2. Show respect for the other person’s opinions. Never say “You’re Wrong.”
  3. If you’re wrong, admit it quickly and emphatically.
  4. Begin in a friendly way.
  5. Start with questions to which the other person will answer yes.
  6. Let the other person do a great deal of the talking.
  7. Let the other person feel the idea is his or hers.
  8. Try honestly to see things from the other person’s point of view.
  9. Be sympathetic with the other person’s ideas and desires.
  10. Appeal to the nobler motives.
  11. Dramatize your ideas.
  12. Throw down a challenge.

Be a Leader: How to Change People Without Giving Offence or Arousing Resentment:

  1. Begin with praise and honest appreciation.
  2. Call attention to people’s mistakes indirectly.
  3. Talk about your own mistakes before criticizing the other person.
  4. Ask questions instead of giving direct orders.
  5. Let the other person save face.
  6. Praise every improvement.
  7. Give the other person a fine reputation to live up to.
  8. Use encouragement. Make the fault seem easy to correct.
  9. Make the other person happy about doing what you suggest.

Get your very own copy of How to Win Friends and Influence People!