Toby’s Philpott’s reflections on the Maybe Logic Academy dovetails nicely with the new Afterword written for the Hilaritas Press edition of Prometheus Rising. A bit of Toby’s correspondence with RAW appears in the new Afterword. The MLA no longer exists, but lives on in the memories of the participants, and in their words and actions, so influenced by their MLA experiences of Model Agnosticism as presented in Bob’s inimitable style.
Interacting, processing – the Maybe Logic Academy
By Toby Philpott aka Bogus Magus
My path to the Maybe Logic Academy started with a friend handing me the Dell edition of the first volume of the Illuminatus! Trilogy, The Eye In the Pyramid, back in the 70s. That same volume, with the yellow submarine, had inspired Ken Campbell, who eventually staged a ten-hour adaptation of the complete trilogy to open an extension of the National Theatre in London – which I witnessed with glee. This gets a mention in Cosmic Trigger, of course, in the dedication, and in the text.
So, I remained a fan of RAW for years, spent a lot of time in Compendium (the import book shop), and grabbed copies of each and every book as it turned up – often tucked away on different shelves, as his books defied categorization. In those days of Castaneda, and other solemn ‘alternative’ books, his clarity, good humour and sheer intelligence never faltered, never disappointed. But I didn’t have many friends who shared my enthusiasm for the whole range of his work.
Although I had a complete collection of his books, I had never had a chance to see or hear Bob (you can easily find him on YouTube these days), so I ordered a copy of a limited edition DVD of “Maybe Logic – the Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson”. I guess that put me on a mailing list, as, in June 2004, I got an invitation from Deep Leaf Productions to study with Bob online in the Maybe Logic Academy. I dived in, without hesitation, and became one of the first 15 to sign up, which gave us all the perk of having the opportunity to email personal questions to Bob for the first 12 weeks!
Full of excitement I logged into the forum on 23 July 2004; new to online groups (Facebook had only just started a few months before); unused to talking to people who also understood mosbunall of the esoteric references; and immersed myself in three courses, all run by Bob. What a fascinating group of people turned up! RAW’s writing attracts all kinds of people, of course, not all of whom agree about things, but we stuck to the guideline – “In this area of cyberspace we only have one rule: If you can’t achieve tolerance, at least attempt courtesy”. And RAW would frequently join in conversations, with gnomic interventions.
That first season, Bob offered these four courses: Ideogrammic Method (covering Ezra Pound, vivid poetry, language/image, hieroglyphics, McLuhan, Korzybski and so on); 8 Dimensions of Mind (the 8-Circuit Model, with Prometheus Rising as core text); Illuminatus! and Conspiracy, Coincidence and Code. That last one got a bit distracted by the US election (Bush getting elected for a second term), but the other three proved thrilling. In particular, studying the Illuminatus! Trilogy so closely with the author. I posted about my long love for the trilogy in the forum (9 Nov 2004):
Bogus Magus: Little did I know, however, that I would end up treating it the way we are now – poring over the text like a Joycean scholar!
And Bob replied
10 Nov 2004
Of course, I wanted at least some readers to
pore over the text like Joyce scholars….that’s
why I made it so Joycean
It has taken 29 years [plus the 5 years
lost in getting it published] but that
dream seems real at last,
and I thank everybody
For those courses we would receive weekly projects from Bob, and then work asynchronously, as students living all over the world. He didn’t expect ‘right answers’ to anything. He might simply post an article and add “cuss and discuss,” or offer a detailed series of exercises.
According to a press release (in 2005) the Academy had something like 200 participants at that time, and after the first batch of courses (which Bob found exhausting to run alone) it attracted other extraordinary tutors, from R. U. Sirius to Douglas Rushkoff, Patricia Monaghan, Erik Davis , Peter Carroll, Antero Alli, Philip H. Farber, etc.
Even so, that year (2005) Bob offered Quantum Psychology (exercises based on his book); Crowley 101 (theory, not practice) and the Tale of The Tribe. TOTT incorporated material for the book that you will find announced at the end of the New Falcon edition of “TSOG: the thing that ate the constitution” in an 11 page summary, but which, sadly, he never completed). The students on that course felt like researchers and collaborators with an author putting together his last book – a book which referenced the Internet, and would have ranged across the influence of minds from Giordano Bruno to Marshall McLuhan, Joyce to Burroughs, Claude Shannon to Bucky Fuller.
In addition to the closed course areas of the website we had a thriving general forum, open to all. Creativity blossomed in this market place, exchanges of books and CDs, collaborations (within the year we had created a student online magazine – Maybe Quarterly), and then a blog (Only Maybe) – and in 2008 we even made and distributed a limited edition hard copy of the magazine. Exhilarating and giddy times. It totally spoiled me for later adventures into online social spaces, which I found, so often, full of ignorance, trolling and general abuse and ego.
By contrast, we bunch of musicians, clowns, poets and artists found each other so fascinating that eventually a European contingent decided to meet up face-to-face, and that tradition continued for a few years, visiting a different city, in a different country, each year.
Of course, my mental picture of Bob (from the videos) remained one of a chunky guy, glowing with good health, and I had no idea of just how weak, frail and bird-like he had become. As it became clearer, when he had to cancel the Neurologic course in 2006, we tried everything we could to entertain him, including making up his own currency (artwork by the wonderful Bobby Campbell). Then we realised that he had serious financial problems, on top of the health issue, and we bought stuff from his auctions, and also helped spread the word, which contributed to that outpouring of love that caused money to arrive from all over the planet, so that he could live out his last few months with dignity.
The academy carried on for some years after Bob’s death in January 2007, with a wide range of tutors, but slowly the energy dissipated, and the core students drifted away. However, to synchronize with the launch of the Cosmic Trigger play in Liverpool in 2014, four of the alumni re-ran versions of the various courses we had experienced.
A self-directed version of Tale of The Tribe course did get released in late 2007 (incorporating material from The Ideogrammic Method and Tale of The Tribe courses) but it felt less exciting (to me) to work on the material alone, without the stimulus of the group mind, or feedback from RAW.
I enjoy the idea that, as Bob got weaker, and unable to travel and lecture, or work on new books, his last few years as a tutor and mentor still kept his mind alert, allowed him to carry on “interacting, processing, interacting, processing”, and hopefully it amused him, too.
It’s a shame that the Maybe Logic Academy seems to have ended. Love(ed) the idea behind.
A great tribute to one of the utopian outposts of the World Wild Web’s heyday. I too was a happy mutant member of the Maybe Logic Academy, and long for the days before the hijacking of Operation Mindfuck by darker forces.
Praise Eris and pass the admonition…..