Friday, August 19, 2016

THE SEVEN FORBIDDEN WORDS ~ by Robert Anton Wilson (repost)

OR: How George Carlin Made Legal History
by Robert Anton Wilson
(from Quantum Psychology)

Everybody understands that you cannot drink the word "water," and yet virtually nobody seems entirely free of semantic delusions entirely comparable to trying to drink the pixels that form the word "water" on this page or the sound waves produced when I say "water" aloud. If you say, "The word is not the thing," everybody agrees placidly; if you watch people, you see that they continue to behave as if something called Sacred "really is" Sacred and something called Junk "really is" Junk.

This type of neurolinguistic "hallucination" appears so common among humans that it usually remains invisible to us, as some claim water appears invisible to fish, and we will continue to illustrate it copiously as we proceed. On analysis, this "word hypnosis" seems the most peculiar fact about the human race. Count Alfred Korzybski said we "confuse the map with the territory." Alan Watts said we can't tell the menu from the meal. However one phrases it, humans seem strangely prone to confusing their mental file cabinets - neurolinguistic grids - with the non-verbal world of sensory-sensual space-time.

As Lao-Tse said in the Tao Te Ching, 2500 years ago:

The road you can talk about is not the road you can walk on.


The way that can be spoken is not the way that can be trodden.)

We all "know" this (or think that we do) and yet we all perpetually forget it.

For instance, in the United States = an allegedly secular Democracy with an "iron wall" of separation between Church and State written into its Constitution - the Federal Communications Commission has a list of Seven Forbidden Words which nobody may speak on the radio or television. Any attempt to find out why these words remain Tabu leads into an epistemological fog, a morass of medieval metaphysics, in which concepts melt like Salvador Dali's clocks and ideas become as slippery as a boat deck in bad weather.

One cannot dismiss this mystery as trivial. When comedian George Carlin made a record ("Occupation: Foole") discussing, among other things, "The seven words you can never say on television," WBAI radio (New York) played the record, and received a fine so heavy that, although the incident occurred in 1973, WBAI, a small listener-sponsored station, recently announced (1990) that they have not yet paid all their legal costs in fighting the case, which went all the way to the Supreme Court. The Eight Wise Men (and One Wise Woman) thereon upheld the Federal Communications Commission.

The highest court in the land has actually ruled on what comedians may and may not joke about. George Carlin has become something more than a comedian. He now has the status of a Legal Precedent. You will pay a heavy fine, in the U.S. today, if you speak any of the Seven Forbidden Words on radio or television - shit, piss, fuck, cunt, cocksucker, motherfucker and tits.

The words have been forbidden, "our" Government says, because they "are" "indecent." Why "are" they "indecent"? Because a certain percentage of people who might turn on the radio or TV experience them as "indecent."

Why do sombunall people experience these words as "indecent"? Because the words "are" "dirty" or "vulgar."

Why "are" these words "dirty" and "vulgar" when other words, denoting the same objects or events, "are" not "dirty" or "vulgar"? Why, specifically, can a radio station be fined if a psychologist on a talk show says "He was so angry he wouldn't fuck her anymore" but not fined at all if the psychologist says "He was so angry he stopped having sexual intercourse with her"?

As Mr. Carlin pointed out in the comedy routine which led the Supreme Court to perform their even more remarkable comedy routine, fucking seems one of the most common topics on television, even though nobody uses the word. To paraphrase Mr. Carlin, many guests on the Merv Griffin and Donahue shows have written books on how to fuck or who to fuck or how to fuck better, and nobody objects as long as they say "sexual intercourse" instead of "fucking." And, of course, as Carlin goes on, the main topics on soap operas, day after day, consist of who has fucked whom, will she fuck him, will he fuck somebody else, have they fucked yet, who's getting fucked now, etc.

Some say "fuck" "is" "dirty" and "sexual intercourse" isn't because "fuck" comes from the Anglo-Saxon and "sexual intercourse" comes from the Latin. But then we must ask: how did Anglo-Saxon get to be "dirty" and why does Latin remain "clean"?

Well, others tell us, "fuck" represents lower-class speech and "sexual intercourse" represents middle-and-upper class speech. This does not happen to accord with brute fact, statistically: I have heard the word "fuck" in the daily (non-radio) conversation of professors, politicians, business persons, poets, movie stars, doctors, lawyers, police persons and most of the population of sombunall classes and castes, except a few religious conservatives.

And, even if "fuck" did occur exclusively in lower-class speech, we do not know, and can hardly explain, why it has been subject to a huge and bodacious fine when such other lower-class locutions as "ain't," "fridge" (for refrigerator), "gonna" and "whyncha" (why don't you) have not fallen under similar sanction. Nor have we yet seen a ban on the distinctly lower class "Jeet?" "Naw - Jew?" (Did you eat? No, did you?)

The fact that some enclaves of religious conservatives do not use the word "fuck" (or are embarrassed if they get caught using it) seems to provide the only clue to this mystery. The Federal Communications Commission, it seems, bases its policy upon persons who believe, or for political reasons wish to seem to believe, that the rather paranoid "God" of the conservative religions has His own list of Seven Forbidden Words and will become quite irate if the official Tabu list of our government does not match His list. Since that particular Deity has a reputation for blowing a few cities to hell whenever he feels annoyed, the F.C.C. may, in the back of their heads, think they will prevent further earthquakes by maintaining the Tabu on the Seven Unspeakable Words.

The Wall of Separation between Church and State, like many other pious pronouncements in our Constitution, does not correspond with the way our government actually functions. In short, the Seven Forbidden Words remain forbidden because pronouncing them aloud might agitate some Stone Age deity or other, and we still live in the same web of Tabu that controls other primitive peoples on this boondocks planet.

Some light seems about to dawn in the semantic murk... but let us press further and ask why the conservative's Stone Age "God" objects to "fuck" and not to "sexual intercourse" or such synonyms as "coitus," "copulation," "sexual congress," "sexual union," "love-making," etc.? Should we believe this "God" has a violent prejudice against words which, in reputation if not in reality, seem to reflect lower-class culture? Does this "God" dislike poor people as much as Ronald Reagan did?

Perhaps the reader will appreciate the immensity of this mystery more fully if I ask a related question:

If the word "fuck" "is" obscene or "dirty," why isn't the word "duck" 75% "dirty"?

Or, similarly:

If the word "cunt" "is" unacceptable to the conservative's "God," why does the word "punt" not receive a 75% unacceptability rating? Why do we not see it spelled "p---" in the daily press?

To quote the admirable George Carlin one more time, "Such logic! Such law!"

1. Try to explain the difference between a Playboy centerfold and a nude by Renoir. Discuss among the whole group and see if you can arrive at a conclusion that makes sense when stated in operational-existential language.

2. Perform the same delicate semantic analysis upon a soft-core porn movie and a hard-core porn movie. Remember: try to keep your sentences operational, and avoid Aristotelian essences or spooks.

3. When U.S. troops entered Cambodia, the Nixon administration claimed this "was not" an invasion, because it "was only" an incursion. See if anybody can restate this difference in operational language.

4. The C.I.A. refers to certain acts as "termination with extreme prejudice." The press describes these acts as "assassinations." Try to explain to each other the difference. Also, imagine yourselves as the victims. Do you care deeply whether your death gets called "termination with extreme prejudice" or "assassination"?

5. In the 1950s, the film "The Moon Is Blue," became a center of controversy and actually got banned in some cities because it contained the word "virgin." How does this seem in retrospect? Discuss. (If anybody finds Mr. Carlin's paraphrased jokes offensive let them explain why the above film no longer seems offensive.)

Robert Anton Wilson © 1990

master of hilaritas, George Denis Patrick Carlin 
(12 May 1937 ~ 22 June 2008)

[Kindly brought to my attention by Steven Pratt. First posted 11 December 2008, reposted 16 November 2013 & 27 December 2015]

Wednesday, August 17, 2016


By Rabindranath Tagore (1861-1941)

Those who in the name of Faith embrace illusion,
Kill and are killed.
Even the atheist gets God’s blessings –
Does not boast of his religion;
With reverence he lights the lamp of Reason
And pays his homage not to scriptures,
But to the good in man.

The bigot insults his own religion
When he slays a man of another faith.
Conduct he judges not in the light of Reason;
In the temple he raises the blood-stained banner
And worships the devil in the name of God.

All that is shameful and barbarous through the Ages,
Has found a shelter in their temples –
Those they turn into prisons;
O, I hear the trumpet call of Destruction!
Time comes with her great broom
Sweeping all refuse away.

That which should make man free,
They turn into fetters;
That which should unite,
They turn into a sword;
That which should bring love
From the fountain of the Eternal,
They turn into poison
And with its waves they flood the world.
They try to cross the river
In a bark riddled with holes;
And yet, in their anguish, whom do they blame?

O Lord, breaking false religion,
Save the blind!
Break! O break
The altar that is drowned in blood.
Let your thunder strike
Into the prison of false religion,
And bring to this unhappy land
The light of Knowledge.

[Borrowed with thanks from Jonson Chong's blog, Malaysian X]

RABINDRANATH TAGORE was born in Calcutta, India into a wealthy Brahmin family. After a brief stay in England (1878) to attempt to study law, he returned to India, and instead pursued a career as a writer, playwright, songwriter, poet, philosopher and educator. During the first 51 years of his life he achieved some success in the Calcutta area of India where he was born and raised with his many stories, songs and plays. His short stories were published monthly in a friend's magazine and he even played the lead role in a few of the public performances of his plays. Otherwise, he was little known outside of the Calcutta area, and not known at all outside of India.

This all suddenly changed in 1912. He then returned to England for the first time since his failed attempt at law school as a teenager. Now a man of 51, his was accompanied by his son. On the way over to England he began translating, for the first time, his latest selections of poems, Gitanjali, into English. Almost all of his work prior to that time had been written in his native tongue of Bengali. He decided to do this just to have something to do, with no expectation at all that his first time translation efforts would be any good. He made the handwritten translations in a little notebook he carried around with him and worked on during the long sea voyage from India. Upon arrival, his son left his father's brief case with this notebook in the London subway. Fortunately, an honest person turned in the briefcase and it was recovered the next day. Tagore's one friend in England, a famous artist he had met in India, Rothenstein, learned of the translation, and asked to see it. Reluctantly, with much persuasion, Tagore let him have the notebook. The painter could not believe his eyes. The poems were incredible. He called his friend, W.B. Yeats, and finally talked Yeats into looking at the hand scrawled notebook.

The rest, as they say, is history. Yeats was enthralled. He later wrote the introduction to Gitanjali when it was published in September 1912 in a limited edition by the India Society in London. Thereafter, both the poetry and the man were an instant sensation, first in London literary circles, and soon thereafter in the entire world. His spiritual presence was awesome. His words evoked great beauty. Nobody had ever read anything like it. A glimpse of the mysticism and sentimental beauty of Indian culture were revealed to the West for the first time. Less than a year later, in 1913, Rabindranath received the Nobel Prize for literature. He was the first non-westerner to be so honored. Overnight he was famous and began world lecture tours promoting inter-cultural harmony and understanding. In 1915 he was knighted by the British King George V. When not traveling he remained at his family home outside of Calcutta, where he remained very active as a literary, spiritual and social-political force.

[For the full article on Tagore, click here]

Albert Einstein meets Rabindranath Tagore (14 July 1930)
[First posted 10 August 2008, reposted 30 August 2014. Read a transcript of their conversation here]

Monday, August 15, 2016


Roger Vandersteine, Adam and Eve in the Garden of Eden, 1975

THE GENESIS MYTH yields a rich harvest of illuminating insights. Eve is blamed for the Fall. The Serpent directs his sales pitch at her and she takes the first bite of the Forbidden Fruit which endows her with sudden self-awareness. She offers the Fruit to Adam but as he sinks his teeth into it, God's voice comes booming out from concealed loudspeakers, causing the original attack of Fear and Guilt.

"Gulp!" bleats Adam with a chunk of "apple" stuck in his throat: "She made me do it!" What else can you expect? The scriptures were authored by MEN.

From the evolutionary viewpoint, however, the Serpent is a metaphor for the Vital Force (which yogis call kundalini); and Eve is the principle of curiosity, receptivity, adventurousness. In other words, the spirit of scientific research. What about Adam? He robotically obeys his programming until encouraged by Eve to experiment. But before he can swallow and digest the Experience, he goes into a total funk and tries to pass the buck.

Quite despicable and most unmanly (or should I say unwomanly?) - but fairly typical behavior in male-dominated power politics. To cover up their moral cowardice men perform assorted acts of physical bravado. As a child Saddam Hussein had his cheeks pinched by all his aunts and uncles, but just look at him now: SADDAM! Even his name sounds like the pounding of great big guns.

People used to call George Bush a sneaky little wimp. Not any more: BUSH! and there's a great big crater in the desert. Being extremely horny may be a nice macho feeling - but it's no excuse for rape.

I know two well-circulated feminist jokes. The first is about the astronaut who encounters God in deep space. On his return to Earth he's asked to describe God and he just laughs and says: "Boy, have I got a surprise for you. She's black!" The other joke has it that women are superior to men for the obvious reason that God is a perfectionist who learns from his mistakes; when God decided to create Woman he was a little more experienced.

Consider next the structure of the sex chromosome: females are double X-rated while males result from XY combinations. Geneticists say the Y chromosome is really just a deformed and undersized X chromosome. Sorry, guys, but facts is facts.

Did I hear Harry yell, "Traitor!" Hey, I'm not undergoing a sex change. I'm quite happily male, thank you, and the preceding polemic is essentially a scheme to improve my chances of getting laid. Seriously, though, I do have genetic memories (or at least vivid fantasies) of having lived female lives and I'm convinced that individuals often switch genders in the course of their earthly incarnations. They also tend to experiment with a variety of ethnic and geographic combinations - so let's all hurry up and outgrow racialistic-nationalistic nappy-rash jingoism. It's not so cute anymore.

And while we're at it, let's declare a general armistice in the Battle of the Sexes and put sexism to bed where it belongs. Here, you can wear the pants. I'm quite comfortable in my sarong.

Another aspect of the Feminine Principle that fascinates me is the dramatic transformation that Motherhood brings about: from lithe and slender flowerbud to bulbous huge ripe pear state is an awesome procedure. And when they spring right back to fantasizable size, it's another miracle all over.

I know the institution of Motherhood is sacrosanct (after all it's a vestige of Goddess worship) and it brooks no criticism - but I can't help noticing the psychological stranglehold that so many mothers seem to maintain on their children. Somehow the influence of the Father appears easier to shrug off.

Not in every case, I agree, but the number of middle-aged men and women who can be plunged into depression with just one Christmas phonecall to their dear Momsies far outweigh those who continue to recoil from their Daddy's wrath when they're 45 years old. I'm curious to know what the sons of Deng Xiao-ping or Lee Kuan Yew have to say about this. (Pardon me? Can't hear you, the tanks are too noisy...) which leads me to wonder if humans might not fair better reverting to oviparous reproduction ("Quick, Dicky, the egg's getting cold!"); even so I can picture how some mothers may suffocate rather than incubate their offspring.

Smothering beats mothering! ("Oh oh, here comes Mum with the pillow... mmmpfff!") I can't speak from personal experience on this - but does the pain of childbirth leave permanent scars on a mother's brain, causing her to be ambivalent thereafter about her kids? Perhaps our conventional approach to obstetrics should be thrown out with the bathwater: I have friends who have given birth in a tub of warm water with surprising ease and no complications. And no nightmarish fluorescent lights or forceps or masked strangers who rudely snip your cord and spank you for the crime of being born. Surely we're not all too busy being neurotic to think about a few fundamental issues of life-and-death importance?

Anyhow, I'm of the opinion that Motherhood is vastly overrated: it should be gently phased out soon after the child is weaned (yes, I'm all for breastfeeding but that's about as much mothering as anybody really needs, I think).

Have I shocked anyone? Don't misunderstand: every child thrives on tender loving care and lots of attention unstintingly given. And that must come from more than just one source - especially if that one source happens to take the role of Mother too seriously, too dutifully (and perhaps resentfully too, since she seems to have no choice whatsoever).

My real point is this: anyone of any gender can play the role of Mother for a while. Such a vital role demands a platoon of stand-ins; no one should insist on hogging it. Most clear-thinking and farsighted mothers will applaud this trend of thought. But first, we humans have to learn to let go. Insecurity makes us clingy and possessive. Kahlil Gibran said it best:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which
you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.

You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth...

Get thee back to the grave, Confucius! Respect for our Youngers is what I preach, and I do try to practice it. Respect, in any case, has to be mutual and spontaneous. Or else it's pure intimidation.

Now, coming back to the idea of Woman as the manifestation of the Goddess. I happen to view ‘chastity’ and 'wantonness' as equally seductive attributes. The Virgin and the Prostitute. Surefire marketing concept, Ms Ciccone aka Madonna. Men, be honest and admit that you desire both these qualities in your women.  Opposites aren't necessarily contradictory; usually they're complementary. Innocence and Experience attract each other. Virgins are still being sold to the highest bidder. Prostitutes work at union rates, negotiable on cold nights. Over here we have a loose woman with tight lips and over there an uptight one with loose lips. Take your pick, brother.

The Goddess is nurturer and destroyer in one. Before the birth of the Cosmos, there was the Cosmic Womb which the Egyptians called Nuit, goddess of Night. Others call it the Primordial Chaos. I call it the Matrix of Infinite Possibilities. Maria or Kali, Fairy Godmother or Wicked Witch: she can soothe and she can torment. Like the calm or raging sea, like life or death, the Goddess is not a static reality. She is not rigid with rationality, though she can be entirely reasonable or unreasonable as it pleases her. 

The practice of automatically assigning God the masculine pronoun Him is disturbing, perhaps even dangerous. Our only chance of making it through these apocalyptic times is to restore the Feminine Principle in our religious reckonings; to acknowledge that the sphere of awareness implies a concave as well as a convex dimension, an inner and an outer form.

And most cogently, to realize that the two are an interchangeable oneness in perpetual dynamic equilibrium. Without this understanding, we shall continue to inherit a world governed by overgrown little boys with dangerous toys.

That's right. Don't you be fooled by that funny mustache. He's got a pea-shooter in his pants. And a hot date with Mae West. Or, as visionary historian William IrwinThompson puts it:

"Civilizations, like the penis, rise and fall, and when the towers and the battlements crumble into the earth, they return to the embrace of the Great Mother."  

Pretty Oedipal, eh?

[Written 6 January 1991 and subsequently published in The Star. First posted 18 May 2013]