Image from a 2012 Cthulhu Mythos calendar. (Source).
(This week: Page 262, "It was the night of February 2, 1776" to page 272, "Except for Drake's power drive.")
This passage is one of the most energetic and interesting in Illuminatus!, tying together many different threads and concepts in prose that shifts rapidly in space and time. The energy and density is exciting, and this passage exemplifies the virtues of Illuminatus! Let's see if we can follow some of those threads, or rather, some of those time tracks.
" ... it reminded him, uncomfortably, of the shoggoths in that damnable Necronomicon that Kolmer was always trying to get him to read ... " (page 253).
The reference to H.P. Lovecraft's work ties Illuminatus! to one of the biggest "conspiracies" in fantasy, the Cthulhu Mythos, in which many other authors have used elements of H.P. Lovecraft's universe. Here is a long list of Cthulhu Mythos writers, which unfortunately does not include Wilson and Shea. A cheap, large ebook of Cthulhu Mythos stories is available from Amazon.
'He held up his hands, looking at the five fingers on each ... " (page 263.) The peace sign has two fingers up and three down, 2 + 3 + 5. Adam Gorightly's Historia Discordia asserts that the Discordians revived the World War II "V for Victory" hand sign because it fit so well with the Law of Fives and that it was then widely adopted by the counterculture.
"Even so, the Aztecs grew more frantic toward the end," (page 264). The Aztecs allow Wilson and Shea to tie together the Holocaust (page 264), the monsters of the Cthulhu mythos (e.g., with Aztec deities such as Tlaloc who demand blood sacrifices) and even Atlantis (Atlantis is cited as an influence on both Mesoamerican and Egyptian art).
"Tobias Knight," the pentuple agent for FBI, CIA, A A, the Illuminati and the Legion of Dynamic Discord.
"Why me?" Hagbard repeated with a smile. "The question asked by the soldier as the enemy bullets whistle around him, by the harmless homeowner as the homicidal maniac steps through the kitchen door hunting knife in hand, by the woman who has given birth to a dead baby, by the prophet who has just had a revelation of the word of God, by the artist who knows his latest painting is a work of genius." (page 265) Aren't these great lines? Compare with Abraham Lincoln, "Fellow citizens, we cannot escape history."
Sir Francis Drake
"He was holding a bowling ball in his hand ... " page 267. Robert Putney Drake's ancestor, Sir Francis Drake, who helped preserve English liberty (and thus the classical liberal tradition) from the would-be invaders of England from the Spanish Armada; he allegedly was playing bowls when informed of the approach of the Spanish fleet, and supposedly remarked cooly that there was plenty of time to finish the game. He also sailed around the world, tying together with the exploration theme in Illuminatus!.
"Saul's angry, triumphant eyes start into mine, and I look away guiltily," (page 268). This is what comes right after (page 192) "I don't know what your game is but I sure as hell know who you are. You're Joseph Malik!"
" ... in another time track ... " page 270. Illuminatus! can be described as a sequence of seemingly random time tracks that gradually can be seen to coalesce into one very elaborate, but generally coherent plot.
"shoggoth," page 270, monster from H.P. Lovecraft, which Wilson and Shea tie together with the "Bugs Bunny Mythos." I loved Bugs Bunny when I was a kid.
"That same mixture of revelation and put-on is always the language of the supra-conscious," page 271. It's certainly the language of Illuminatus! Being serious about the put-on is also the habit of science fiction fandom; the model for Simon Moon, who is speaking here, is prominent science fiction fan Neal Rest. Shea also was a fan. Fans helped give birth to many aspects of popular culture, such as the zine movement.
"Crazy bastard thinks he's Captain Nemo." (page 271). Hagbard's submarine alludes of course not just to the Beatles song but to Jules Verne.
"Except for Drake's power drive," page 272. Which, in the end, undoes Robert Putney Drake. In Richard Blake's novel The Blood of Alexandria, a mysterious character named the Mistress tells the protagonist Aelric, an important official in the Roman Empire, "Yours is the empire of the sword and the tax gatherer. My empire is of the imagination." The Cthulhu Mythods and the "Illuminatus! mythos" are both empires of the imagination.
(Next week: Page 272, "I. THE FAUST PARSON, SINGULAR" to "not huddled around my shower stall, Page 282).