A Startling of Saints

They're smart. They're weird. And they're dead.

Provided you have enough mental aptitude (or methamphetamine) to follow along, the works of the following geniuses are guaranteed to permanently alter your ideas of reality, perception, consciousness, existence, truth, fiction, and 'what it all means'. Apply vigorously at first signs of consensus trance.
 


Aleister Crowley

Guy DeBord

R. Buckminster Fuller

Gregor I. Gurdjieff

Bill Hicks

James Joyce

Carl Jung

Andy Kaufman

Marshall McLuhan

Alfred Jarry

Robert Anton Wilson


Q: Does one have to be dead to be a saint?

A: Not really, it's not like a prerequisite or anything, but it seems to be the way it goes. Certainly the words of Austin Kleon are true: "The great thing about dead teachers is they can't refuse you as a student." But besides this, the living are just too easy to shoot down. And so, basically, if you can still meet us, you're just a beatus.



"Success is the ability to go from one failure to another with no loss of enthusiasm."
- Winston Churchill

Robert Anton Wilson

"There are periods of history when the visions of madmen and dope fiends are a better guide to reality than the common-sense interpretation of data available to the so-called normal mind. This is one such period, if you haven't noticed already."

Field: Author, Philosopher, Orator.

Born: Robert Edward Wilson, 18 January 1932, Brooklyn, New York.
Departed: January 11, 2007, Berkeley, California

Background: RAW worked as an associate editor for Playboy magazine from 1966-71 and wrote several dozen mind-expanding books, including the infamous Illuminatus! Trilogy (co-authored with Bob Shea). Wilson described his writing as an "attempt to break down conditioned associations--to look at the world in a new way, with many models recognized as models (maps) and no one model elevated to the Truth." He said "My goal is to try to get people into a state of generalized agnosticism, not agnosticism about God alone, but agnosticism about everything."

Works: Wilson wrote 35 books, and many other works. Most are highly recommended, and none are bad. His works include:

  • Playboy's Book of Forbidden Words (1972)
  • The Sex Magicians (1973)
  • The Book of the Breast (1974)
  • The Illuminatus! Trilogy (1975) (with Robert Shea)
  • The Eye in the Pyramid
  • The Golden Apple
  • Leviathan
  • Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati (1977)
  • Neuropolitics (1978) (with Timothy Leary and George Koopman)
  • The Game of Life (1979) (with Timothy Leary)
  • The Illuminati Papers (1980)
  • Schrödinger's Cat Trilogy (1980–1981)
  • The Universe Next Door
  • The Trick Top Hat
  • The Homing Pigeons
  • Masks of the Illuminati (1981)
  • The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles
  • The Earth Will Shake (1982)
  • The Widow's Son (1985)
  • Nature's God (1991)
  • Right Where You Are Sitting Now (1983)
  • Prometheus Rising (1983)
  • The New Inquisition (1986)
  • Wilhelm Reich in Hell (1987)
  • Natural Law, or Don't Put a Rubber on Your Willy (1987)
  • Coincidance (1988) {ISBN 1561840041}
  • Neuropolitique (1988) (with Timothy Leary & George Koopman) [[revision of Neuropolitics]]
  • Ishtar Rising (1989) [[revision of The Book of the Breast]]
  • Semiotext(e) SF (1989) (editor, with Rudy Rucker and Peter Lamborn Wilson)
  • Quantum Psychology (1990)
  • Three-Fisted Tales of "Bob" (edited by Ivan Stang) (1990) (one of several contributors)
  • Cosmic Trigger II: Down to Earth (1991)
  • Reality Is What You Can Get Away With: An Illustrated Screenplay (1992)
  • Chaos and Beyond (1994) (editor and primary author)
  • Cosmic Trigger III: My Life After Death (1995)
  • The Walls Came Tumbling Down (1997)
  • Everything Is Under Control (1998)
  • Email to the Universe (2005)

Lesson: We can't get beyond words; what we've got to do is get more cynical about our words.

R. Buckminster Fuller

"I determined to give up forever the idea of "earning a living" for my family and self while depending entirely on ecological precession to provide the critically needed material, tools, and monies to carry on the work..."

Field: Inventor, designer, poet, futurist.
Born: 1895, Milton, Massachusetts.
Background: Leaving Harvard early, Bucky educated himself while working at industrial jobs and serving in the U.S. Navy during World War I. One of the century's most original minds, he freelanced his talents to solve problems of human shelter, nutrition, transportation, environmental pollution, and decreasing world resources, developing over 2,000 patents in the process. Developed the Dymaxion ("dynamic and maximum efficiency') House in 1927, and the Dymaxion Car in 1932. Inventor of the Geodesic Dome (1947). An enthusiastic educationist, he held a chair at Southern Illinois University (1959-75), and in 1962 became professor of poetry at Harvard. In his later decades he was a popular public lecturer, promoting a global strategy of seeking to do more with less through technology.
Works: Fuller wrote some 25 books, most notably Nine Chains to the Moon (1938), Utopia or Oblivion (1969), Operating Manual for Spaceship Earth (1969), and Critical Path (1981).
Lesson: You get what you need.

Marshall McLuhan

"The extreme and pervasive tactility of the new electronic environment results from a mesh of pervasive energy that penetrates our nervous system incessantly."

Field: Writer.
Born: 21 July 1911, Alberta, Canada.
Background: McLuhan studied English literature at Manitoba and Cambridge. In 1946 he made professor at St. Michael's College in Toronto, and in 1963 he was appointed director of the University of Toronto's Centre for Culture and Technology.
Works: The Gutenberg Galaxy (1962), Understanding Media (1964), The Medium is the Message (with Quentin Fiore, 1967), Counter-Blast (1970).
Lesson: Schizophrenia may be a necessary consequence of literacy.

James Joyce

"The object of the artist is the creation of the beautiful.

What the beautiful is is another question."

Field: Writer.
Born: 2 February 1882, Dublin, Ireland.
Background: Joyce is hailed as the father of literary modernism. His work revolutionized the novel form, partly through the abandonment of ordinary plot for "stream of consciousness', but more fundamentally through his unprecedented exploration of language. But his early years were unprofitable and seemingly lacking in direction. He studied in Dublin until 1902, when he went to Paris to study medicine, then took up voice training for a concert career, and finally returned to Dublin where he published a few stories but was unable to make a living at it. In 1909 he started the short-lived Volta Cinema Theatre, leaving Dublin the next year. 1915 found him in Zürich, where he formed a company of English players. He settled in Paris for two decades (1920-40) while he wrote most of his well-known works, then returned to Zürich, where he died.
Works: Joyce's early work includes the short stories "Dubliners" (1914), and "A Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man" (1914--15). His best-known book, Ulysses, based on one day in Dublin (16 Jun 1904), appeared in Paris in 1922, but was banned in the UK and USA until 1936. Work in progress began to appear in 1927 which finally emerged as Finnegans Wake (1939).
Lesson: A man of genius makes no mistakes. His errors are volitional and are the portals of discovery.

Guy DeBord

"Where the real world changes into simple images, the simple images become real beings and effective motivations of hypnotic behavior."

Field: Filmmaker, Writer, Anti-Artist, Socio-Political Theorist.
Born: .
Background: Father of the Situationist movement and founder of Situationist International (SI), DeBord was one of the most influential "anti-artists" who sought to transcend the Surrealist legacy and combat the homogenization of western consumer culture. His definition of a situationist was "One who engages in the construction of situations." A "constructed situation" is "a moment of life concretely and deliberately constructed by the collective organisation of a unitary ambience and a game of events." DeBord wrote "The new revolutionary currents of present-day society, however weak and confused they may still be, are no longer restricted to a marginal underground: this year they are appearing in the streets." The SI influenced the postmodern movement in the creation of deliberately-staged public spectacles, merging installation art with a new form of civic activism. Echoes of their work (sans irony) can be seen most clearly in postmodern advertising and reality television. In his later years, DeBord began to believe that the integrated spectacle of state capitalism had outstripped any human ability to escape it, and grew increasingly pessimistic about the future of our culture. He wrote "the goal of the spectacle today is to turn revolutionaries into secret agents and secret agents into revolutionaries," and concluded that "the spectacle is now free to absorb what were formerly spectacle-free zones (science, history, culture): power believes that it no longer needs to think; and indeed it can no longer think." DeBord committed suicide on November 30, 1994.
Works: Howls in Favour of Sade (film, 1952), The Society of the Spectacle (1968), The Society of the Spectacle (film of the book, 1973), In girum imus nocte et consumimur igni (film, 1978)
Biographies: Guy Debord (by Anselm Jappe, 1999).
Lesson: Death remains the ultimate commodity.

Gregor I. Gurdjieff

"Remember you come here having already understood the necessity of struggling with yourself - only with yourself. Therefore thank everyone who gives you the opportunity."

Field: Guru, Writer, Choreographer, Psychiatrist, Musician, Doctor, Master Cook.
Born: circa 1866, Alexandropol.
Background: Gregor Ivanovitch Gurdjieff burst upon the unsuspecting world fully-formed around 1912, when he began attracting attention as the master and teacher of unique philosophy that united the physical, intellectual, and emotional aspects of self into a complex and multi-centered structure. In October 1922 Gurdjieff took a 200-acre chateau in Prieuré at Fontainebleau-Avon, and turned it into a unique institute for self-study, which was unprecedented in Europe. His music, dance, and eupsychian "therapies" were as much a part of his teachings as his words, and he quickly developed a following among influential intellectuals. His teachings have been carried down in various forms by such students as J. G. Bennett and A. R. Orage, informing the underlying structure of much of Western mysticism. Gurdijeff died on the 29th of October, 1949.
Works: Beelzebub's Tales to His Grandson (1950), Meetings with Remarkable Men (1963), Views from the Real World - Talks of G. I. Gurdjieff (1973).
Lesson: Everything about you is a buffer.

Carl Jung

"The images of the unconscious place a great responsibility upon a man. Failure to understand them, or a shirking of ethical responsibility, deprives him of his wholeness and imposes a painful fragmentariness on his life."

Field: Psychiatrist.
Born: 26 July 1875, Kesswil.
Background: Jung's broad interests - biology, zoology, paleontology, philosophy, and the history of religion - made his choice of career difficult. He studied medicine at the University of Basel from 1895-1900. Received his MD from the University of Zurich in 1902. Later he studied psychology in Paris. Began his professional career in 1900 at the University of Zurich, where he worked out methods of "association testing" and coined the term "complex." He sent his publication Studies in Word Association (1904) to Sigmund Freud, marking the beginning of their collaboration and friendship from 1907 to 1913. Ultimately, Jung accused Freud of dogmatism, while Freud reproached Jung for mysticism. From 1913 to 1921 he developed the basic structure of his own model of the human psyche, now called Jungian Typology, and his definition of archetypes in the human subconscious. The focus of his interest was the realm of the collective unconscious - he understood all human fantasies as being universal and archetypal - and his sources were historical and mythological as well as personal and empirical. The methods he evolved depended on the acceptance of irrational impulses and bizarre symbology, along with the careful observation and recording of every fantasy, vision, dream, and thought, however odd. He saw the process of becoming whole - consciousness of the unconscious - as the central concept of developmental psychology and called it "the individuation process." Ultimately, after suffering ostracism for his beliefs and approaches for many years, he came to realize that there was a strong relation between his own quest for knowledge of the psyche and the works of the 17th century Alchemists. He died in 1961 at the age of eighty-five.
Works: Studies in Word Association (1904), The Psychology of Dementia Praecox (1907), Psychology of the Unconscious (1912), The Relations between the Ego and the Unconscious (1916), Two Essays on Analytical Psychology (1916, 1917) Psychological Types (1921), On Psychic Energy (1928), The Secret of the Golden Flower (with Richard Wilhelm, 1929), Synchronicity : An Acausal Connecting Principle (1955).
Lesson: Who looks outside, dreams. Who looks inside, awakens.

Bill Hicks

"The world is like a ride in an amusement park... Some people have been on the ride for a long time and they begin to question, "Is this real, or is this just a ride?" And other people have remembered, and they come back to us, they say, 'Hey - don't worry, don't be afraid, ever, because this is just a ride...'

And we kill those people."

Field: Comedian, Social Critic.
Born: 16 December 1961, Valdosta, Georgia.
Background: When Bill was 7 years old, the Hicks family moved to Houston. There Bill formed his first comedy act with friend Dwight Slade (both aged 12). From an early age Bill was bored and mystified by the appeal of the so-called "American Dream," and began performing routines to attack the hypocritical "morality" he saw all around him. Hick's routines were angry, scandalous, filthy, and left no sacred cow unturned, but always contained a ray of hope - Bill believed that eventually, somehow, we might just cut through all the bullshit to see the beauty and mystery of life. His intense desire for the supernal led him to seek out illuminating drug experiences, which he would describe for his audiences. Kevin Booth said of Hicks, "Bill was the first person I ever met whose goal was to become enlightened." Bill was in touch with aliens, he'd seen Jesus riding a unicorn, and he didn't have time for petty politics. His unique and relentless standup style and metaphysical musings quickly earned him the respect of fellow comedians. As his act developed, Bill began performing at an amazing pace - sometimes doing 300 shows a year. His words had power, and his style is emulated (or watered down) by many of today's standups and social commentators. Bill would have hated the watered-down ones, but he would have approved of the extreme and unforgiving ones. "Listen, the next revolution is gonna be a revolution of ideas. A bloodless revolution. And if I can take part in it by transforming my own consciousness, then someone else's... I'm happy to do it." Bill Hicks died of cancer on February 26th, 1994, in Little Rock, Arkansas.

Lesson: We are the facilitators of our own creative evolution.

Andy Kaufman

"Pure entertainment is not an egotistical lady singing boring songs onstage for two hours and people in tuxes clapping whether they like it or not. It's the real performers on the street who can hold people's attention and keep them from walking away."

Field: Performance artist, comedian.
Born: 17 January 1949, New York City.
Background: Kaufman graduated from high school in 1967 and received a 4-F deferment from the draft after failing the psychological portion of the test. While studying television and radio production at Boston’s Grahm Junior College, he wrote, produced, directed, and starred in his own program Uncle Andy’s Funhouse on a campus TV station. In 1971, Kaufman was "discovered" by Budd Friedman (owner of The Improv), and began performing at the Improv locations in both New York and Los Angeles, confronting his often confused audiences with his own strange brand of performance art. He made his national television debut in 1974 on The Dean Martin Comedy Hour. In 1975 he auditioned for a new comedy program called Saturday Night Live, and made his first of 14 appearances on the show during its first-ever broadcast on October 11, 1975 (when he lip-synched "The Theme from Mighty Mouse"). Kaufman also made memorable TV appearances on Van Dyke and Company, The Tonight Show, The Mike Douglas Show, The Dating Game, and the comedy show Fridays, but the role he became most well known for was Latka Gravas, the auto mechanic on the hit sitcom Taxi (1978-1983). As a condition of his employment, Kaufman convinced the producers of the show to cast his so-called "protégé," the smarmy Las Vegas lounge singer Tony Clifton (another one of Kaufman’s alter egos) in two episodes. "Clifton" was soon fired for unprofessional behavior. Kaufman went to some lengths to maintain that he and Clifton were two separate people; his best friend and fellow comedian Bob Zmuda eventually took over the character and even appeared as Clifton after Kaufman’s death. In another dubious achievement, Saturday Night Live viewers voted 195,544 to 169,186, in a live, call-in ballot in November 1982, to keep Kaufman permanently off the show. In January 1984, Kaufman was diagnosed with a rare form of lung cancer. He had never smoked, and some even accused the consummate performer of faking his illness, even in its most advanced stages. He died on May 16, 1984, in Los Angeles, at the age of 35. After his death the legend of Andy Kaufman lived on, and to this day many people believe that the enigmatic comic is still alive.
Works: See above, and watch for reruns!
Biographies: Man on the Moon (Universal 1999), A Comedy Tribute to Andy Kaufman (NBC 1995), Andy Kaufman Revealed! Best Friend Tells All by Bob Zmuda, and Life in the Funhouse: The Life and Mind of Andy Kaufman by Bill Zehme.
Lesson: The Negative becomes Positive through Pathos and Awe. The Positive becomes Negative through Disgust and Rage. You can keep this up for quite some time.

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