By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger reading group guest blogger.
Next week marks the start of our group reading of Cosmic Trigger, Robert Anton Wilson’s classic tale of his adventures in Chapel Perilous whilst searching for the Final Secret of the Illuminati. Because every story has a beginning, and because Bob starts Cosmic Trigger with a riff on the deep roots of his own adventures in illuminism, I thought it would be fun to share our own beginning stories—specifically, our own stories of how we came to read Cosmic Trigger and, if this wasn’t your first adventure in the Land of Bob, how you got turned on to The Man in the First Place.
I’ll start — short version:
In the Spring of ’79 I was traveling across country and found myself spending a few days in Boulder Colorado, visiting friends. While leafing through a local Underground Publication I came across a book review that stopped me cold. Something called The Illuminoids, by Neal Wilgus, which purported to reveal the Hidden History of a Secret Organization that had been Manipulating Important Political Events behind the scenes For Millennia, leading humanity to the brink of Impending Disaster that was sure to happen next year or next week or maybe even just 23 minutes into the future.
If that wasn’t enough to get my 21 year old mind buzzing with interest, the admonishment that I’d best pick up a copy before the book, and the author, met the tragic fate of all who dare attempt to expose the doings of The Bavarian Illuminati intrigued me enough to rip out the review and put it in my wallet.
A couple of weeks later I went to my local book store and found a copy in the racks. Right out in the open! I counted out my coins, snapped it up, and went straight home to plow through it — which I attempted to do, although it was quite dense and so full of names and dates that it was all a blur by the time I had finished.
Except for the Introduction, by some guy named Robert Anton Wilson, author of Cosmic Trigger and The Illuminatus! Trilogy.
Wow. That thing hooked into me, like Rod Serling’s Earwig, or the Ceti eel from The Wrath of Khan. Nietzsche, H. P. Lovecraft, LSD (which I had not yet experienced) and the Marquis de Sade — all in the first two paragraphs! What really hooked me in was the colorful four paragraph description of Chapel Perilous, along with a hint that there was much more to say in that regard than Mr. Wilgus had offered up for our perusal.
The simultaneous sense of dread and desire that Bob ignited in that introduction kept my impoverished little monkey mind busy for weeks questioning how much ramen I would have to eat (or not eat!) to save up the $2.25 necessary to dive into the unknown quantity of Cosmic Trigger. Eventually, of course, dinner be damned, I did. And the rest is history.
And now yours, please.
And just for fun, as an appetizer before we get started with our group reading next week, here is that original Introduction to Neal Wilgus’ The Illuminoids. Enjoy. And watch out for the Green Goo Gang!
INTRODUCTIONBy Robert Anton Wilson
Say the magie word and the duck will come down and pay you $100.
It is now nearly 14 years since I first began to investigate the eldritch and awesome legendry surrounding the infamous Illuminati of Bavaria. Since no true horror is without its touch of grotesque irony, it is fitting that my original motivation for undertaking this arduous and time-consuming research was an interest in the paranoid mentality as a factor in history. Little did I suspect that the Illuminati was like that emblematic Abyss mentioned by Nietzsche, of which the eminent philosopher says so cryptically that the deeper you look into it, the deeper it looks into you.
Yea, verily, like the discombobulated narrator of one of the sinister allegories of Howard Phillips Lovecraft, I now know what it is to gaze deeply into the Abyss feel the Abyss gaze deeply into me. It is rather like LSD, actually, and a little bit like peyote, too, but more like a Three Stooges comedy performed by the inmates of the asylum of Pentagon under the direction of the Marquis de Sade.
There are two kinds of stupidity exemplified in most books about the Illuminati. There is the stupidity of the credulous conspiracy-monger, true child of the witch-hunter of yore, who will accuse anyone and everyone on the basis of wild hypothesis and unsupported inference, with no care for the elementary rules of civil courtesy or that famous Commandment which urges that we not bear false witness against our neighbor. This is an old and most murderous kind of stupidity and is the chief destroyer of innocents throughout history
But there is also the stupidity of the True Believer in the revealed visions of the Establishment press, the Establishment universities, the Establishment "experts." This is the stupidity of those who believe all American science is represented in the Scientific American; that all the news that's fit to print really will be found in the New York Times; that the little magazines, the underground presses and the minority parties in politics and philosophy are always wild-eyed kooks or unreliable fanatics. In fact, as a little open-minded investigation will convince anyone who stops parroting official consensus-reality and starts looking around independently, the current Establishment is like any other Establishment in history. It ignores, defames or persecutes really important ideas as often as the Victorian Establishment did, or the 18th Century Establishment, or the Holy Inquisition, or any other group that has enough power to shut up or drown out the signals it does not want to receive.
As the Buddha himself warned on his death-bed, "Doubt everything, and find your own light."
Neal Wilgus is refreshingly free of both kinds of stupidity mentioned above; he really does think for himself; he accepts neither the inflamed hallucinations of the rabid anti-Illuminati crusaders nor the aloof dismissal of the Illuminati by the historians supported by those Establishment institutions which are allegedly funded directly through the Illuminati. Physicist Saul Paul Sirag once defined a true scientist as one "who really wants to know what the hell is actually going on." Neal Wilgus is a true political scientist in that sense. He has no axe to grind. He is looking for the truth and he is neither gullible nor too cynical to follow up on wild possibilities.
I was particularly amused and intrigued to read in English: Introduction the Preface that Neal has been haunted, while re- searching this book, by the same sort of coincidences- synchronicities that have dogged me very seriously ever since I got involved with the Illuminati mystery Such spooky accidents are a sign, as Carl Jung said, that one is approaching a high energy area of the collective unconscious. Dr. John Lilly has proposed more recently (in his Simulations of God) that research in these areas activates a hypothetical group he calls Cosmic Coincidence Control Center. CCCC seems to be working overtime on the Illuminati case these days, and I wouldn't be a bit surprised if they jostle both Neal and myself a few more times before this book reaches print.
In traditional occult metaphor, the local office of CCCC on this backward planet is known as Chapel Perilous. It's a weird place to be. Like the mysterious entity called "I," Chapel Perilous cannot be located in space-time; it is weightless, odorless, tasteless and undetectable by ordinary instruments. Even more like the Ego, it is possible to deny that Chapel Perilous is really there. And yet, once you are inside it, there doesn't seem to be any way to ever get out again, until you suddenly discover that it has been brought into existence by thought and does not exist outside thought. Everything you fear is waiting for you in Chapel Perilous, but if you are armed with the wand of intuition, the cup of sympathy, the sword of reason and pentacle of valor, you will come through it all safely.
That's what the legends say, and the language of myth is poetically precise. For instance, if you go into that realm without the sword of reason, you will lose your mind, but if you take only the sword of reason without the cup of sympathy you will lose your heart. Even more remarkable, if you approach without the wand of intuition, you can stand at the door for decades never realizing you have arrived. You might even think you are just waiting for a bus, or wandering from room to room looking for something lost, or watching a TV show in which "you" are not involved. Chapel Perilous is tricky that way.
The worst fate of all awaits those who approach CCCC without the pentacle of valor. It becomes, in their terrorized imaginations a gigantic Death Universe inhabited by Wrathful Demons and the unspeakable spawn of the Green Goo Gang. Woe unto these chicken-hearted ones, for they shall suffer for all eternity, within their own gruesome fantasies, in keeping with the Hell Law proclaimed by the late Discordian saint, Ho Chih Zen, to wit, "Hell exists only for those who believe in Hell, and it's just as bad as they can imagine it to be." Or, as the sublime Omar Ravenhurst wrote in "The Epistle to the Paranoids," "If ye lock yourselves up in cages of fear, ye shall never taste freedom.”
One recalls also in this connection the inscrutable words of the somewhat eccentric English poet, Aleister Crowley, "I slept with Faith and found her a corpse in the morning; I drank and danced all night with Doubt and found her a virgin in the morning." It is no doubt another amusing coincidence that Mr. Crowley styled himself Epopt of the Illuminati and published a magazine called The Equinox: A Journal of Scientific Illuminism. Those who are moved to browse a bit in the consciousness-altering manuals of Mr. Crowley after reading The Illuminoids might possibly come to the conclusion that, while Mr. Wilgus has most admirably sketched the architecture of Chapel Perilous, he has not quite fully depicted the many interesting mansions for rent inside.
But that is a minor quibble. This is a damned fine piece of original and fearless historical research and Neal Wilgus is to be commended for his wit and skepticism in a field too often dominated by humorless fear-mongering. His book will be equally amusing to both those who are members of the Illuminati and to those who are still living on the Planet of the Apes.