Monday, April 4, 2016

Cosmic Trigger reading group pre-reading post

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!


By 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.


supergee said...

I’m still in touch with Neal Wilgus, who remains an amusing guy.

I became a RAW fan in the 60s, reading him in The Realist. The first thing of his that I specifically remember reading (1965 or so) was an attack on mind-body dualism in which he suggested that intellectuals who supported "the murderous abstractions of Joseph Stalin" did so because they were incapable of "loving flesh." Though I loved some people and did not love Joseph Stalin or his murderous abstractions, there seemed to be something wrong with that formulation. Eventually, by a process much slower than Treppenwitz, I put together a comeback: "Of course I love flesh. That's why I eat some of it every day." I was wrestling with multidimensional geometry in grad school and decided that it offered a better approach to mind-body issues than any other, an idea that might not have come to me had I not read RAW.

I followed him from then, tracking down the Playboy books, and even The Sex Magicians, read the Trilogy as it was published, and started the Illuminatus! Nut Cult because no one else had. So I was ready for Cosmic Trigger.

chas said...

Thanks for chiming in, Arthur. I'd love to hear some stories about Neal--from my research it appears that The Iluminoids was his only full length book and that as a writer he mostly sticks to poetry and reviews. I'd also love to hear your thoughts on mind-body multidimensionality!

I'm sure that your long history with All Things Bob will help make this reading Fertile and Enlightening!

Cleveland Okie (Tom Jackson) said...

When I was in college (1974-1978, University of Oklahoma), I fell in with a group of libetarian science fiction fans. (There was considerable overlap between the campus libertarian group, and the campus science fiction club, OUSFA, which I formed with some friends). I must have heard about the Illuminatus! trilogy from them (although I really can't remember.) I still have those Dell paperbacks; according to them, the books originally came out in late 1975, so perhaps I came across them in 1976 or 1977.

For the next several years, as a result of Illuminatus!, I read libertarian books such as Murray Rothbard's "For a New Liberty" and Jerome Tuccile's "It Usually Begins With Ayn Rand," but also any Wilson books I could find. "The Illuminati Papers," Sphere Books Unlimited, copyright 1982 in Great Britain -- I must have found that thing as an SF convention. My Pocket Books paperback of Cosmic Trigger says its first printing was in March 1978, although I can't tell when my copy was printed. It's quite possible I found my copy when Charles found his. For several years, I used to go up to Boulder/Denver after college to visit friends or attend SF conventions (I worked at a newspaper in Lawton, Oklahoma, after college), so my path could have more or less crossed with Charles'.

Oz Fritz said...

I believe it was in 1980 at the age of 21 that I joined a band called Relay as their soundman/roadie. The lightman, Bob Gregory, was 5 or 6 years older and he had a modest occult library of excellent titles that he took with him whenever we were on the road. I ended up sharing a house with him. He turned me on to qabala, Crowley and Israel Regardie and told me about this incredible, very difficult to get book that was like a Rosetta Stone for occultism and science. That book was Cosmic Trigger. It couldn't be found where I lived, Calgary, but I finally found a copy at a O.T.O. owned bookstore in Edmonton. It changed my life.

Dustin said...

I stumbled across Cosmic Trigger, my intro to RAW, at the age of 23. It was 1997, and I was seeking "enlightenment." I was a graduate of the east coast Rave scene where I majored in candy-flipping. At the time I was attracted to "The Politics of Ecstacy" because I thought it was about MDMA. I became a devoted Learyite by the end of that book.

I ran across a reference to CT on the back of a book called "Nothing in This Book Is True." I didnt like this book, but that reference stuck in my head. Something about it being a psychedelic mind bender. When I first saw CT at a Barnes and Nobles, being a fan of Learys I noticed the forward by him. I figured it couldn't be that bad. Little did I know the trigger would blow my mind, and I never fully recovered...

supergee said...

Neal Wilgus and I have never met, but we exchange writings.

The Oxford philosopher Gilbert Ryle ridiculed mind-body dualism as “the ghost in the machine,” thus demonstrating the adage that a good slogan can stop though for a generation. Thinking of numbers as complex, with real and imaginary parts (like life) and knowing that geometrically there is nothing special about three dimensions suggests better images.

Cosmic Trigger was originally published in 1977, and I found it at Weiser’s bookstore.

gacord said...

Great intro and introductory idea! I was around 20 (somewhere in the 1990 range) I find it intriguing that the starting ages seem similar even though the decades might be different. I was working as an art handler and most of my coworkers were artists. I played guitar. All were older than me by at least 10 years. I was already interested in conspiracy theories and reading Crowley et al by then. One day after some particularly "deep" conversations about art, philosophy, conspiracies... you know, your average work day, one fella said, "I have a book you should read. I'll warn you ahead of time. It's acid in book form." Having never dropped acid, I was nonetheless intrigued. He brought Illuminatus! (I later learned this was the omnibus edition) to me the next day. I read it. My earth shook. Next he lent me the Shroedinger's Cat Trilogy. I've been doomed ever since. I started hunting down everything RAW wrote. Some I found in lending libraries, some I found in half price book shops, some in a local O.T.O. shop in Dallas. I can't remember the order but I'm pretty certain I went through the all historical illuminati books before read CT. I didn't get to books like Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology until I found Tom's blog here.

chas said...

Super Oz-some to see you here, man behind the curtain--looking forward to you insights and experiences re CT as the weeks roll on!

Dustin--Funny thing i bought "nothing in this book is true" because of the Bob reference--welcome aboard!

gacord--interesting observation about the "age of introduction"--definitely interested in your perspective on CT--invite your friends, too!

Unknown said...

Hey all, just found out about this and wanted to sign up.

I discovered RAW aged 19 in the late 90s. I was living in Brighton in the UK, a hot bed of radical subversion and borderline personality disorders at that time. I was involved on the edges of the anarchist/ squatting scene when I met this guy who identified himself as a chaos magician. I was already interested in Crowley via being into the music outfit Coil, Throbbing Gristle etc. We sat at a bus stop while he explained the 23 enigma and a number of bus number 23s sailed nonchalantly past. I decided I was either being expertly groomed or There Was Something In This. Fortunately I decided the latter and RAW's works have been helping to turn my life arse over tits ever since (often in a good way). Rob

Rob Allen said...

Hey all, just found out about this and wanted to sign up.

I discovered RAW aged 19 in the late 90s. I was living in Brighton in the UK, a hot bed of radical subversion and borderline personality disorders at that time. I was involved on the edges of the anarchist/ squatting scene when I met this guy who identified himself as a chaos magician. I was already interested in Crowley via being into the music outfit Coil, Throbbing Gristle etc. We sat at a bus stop while he explained the 23 enigma and a number of bus number 23s sailed nonchalantly past. I decided I was either being expertly groomed or There Was Something In This. Fortunately I decided the latter and RAW's works have been helping to turn my life arse over tits ever since (often in a good way). Rob

chas said...

Nothing to sign up for, Rob--Just come back each week and offer your unique perspective!

Timothy Johnson said...

In 1984 I was traveling with my friend Keane in the Southwest. We were ostensibly attempting to find peyote somewhere out in the desert (how ridiculously naive we were!); otherwise we were just having a good time checking out the desert environment which we had never been to before. We were in I think Tuscon and found a book store. It just so happened that Henry Rollins was doing a reading that afternoon and we hung out all day waiting to see him. I was always keen in those days to find new books on my obsessions with UFOs, strange phenomena, music, new age, human potential, etc. In the New Age section I found these books by Wilson. I'm not sure if I had heard of him before, but I picked up Cosmic Trigger and was sufficiently intrigued to buy it. I spent the rest of the trip engrossed in this book, reading select tidbits to Keane when I wasn't driving. RAW has since become a huge influence in my life and thinking.

simonmoon said...

In the fall of 1969 I leaped into the just-beginning-to-ebb "Sixties" trying to feed myself selling the Chicago SEED. In the spring of '70 I somehow heard about an anarchist gathering that was going to be at Wobbly Hall on Lincoln.
And I met a bunch of people there who were the other pole of my life, along with the SEED, for years. We partied, hung out, lived together, and pulled occasional political actions. We invented a name for the group for each occasion. I missed the St. Patrick's Day leafleting under the name of the James Connolly Connection, but I named the St. Maccabeus Society (the Maccabees of the Hannukah story have beatified status in the Roman Church, so they're my patron saints of heroic peoples' liberation struggles against genocidal imperialistic aggressors) when we marched in Evanston's Fourth of July Parade.
But the longest ongoing political thing was arguing about what to call ourselves. I jokingly began calling us the Nameless Anarchist Horde, and that stuck as much as anything. Shea used it when he sent out the mailings about upcoming whatever. I still have a couple of tatteted copies of The Nameless Newsletter.
Later, I really don't remember when, I found out that two of the guys were writing a book.
I magnificently disrupted my life spending a year going around the world from '75 to '76, westward starting in Australia. I visited the Wilsons in Berkeley on the way out. Somewhere in the conversation Arlen asked, "Do you have sufis in Chicago yet? They're all over out here, but it usually takes three years for something to get back to Chicago."
When I eventually arrived in Singapore (Commonwealth!) after a couple of fabulous but reading deprived months in Indonesia, I reveled in a bookstall with square yards of Penguins. A couple said "Sufi", so I got a couple. My debt to Arlen is immeasurable.
I also got the first two thirds of Illuminatus!. I found the third in Jerusalem.
After I got back, on my next visit to California (i.e., the SF Bay area), staying at my new friend Catherine's place in Kensington, I walked along the hills to the huge house with the huge view the Wilsons were living in (with half a dozen other people to split the rent). In the conversation, I
[When I try to describe Illuminatus!, I tell people that one of the authors' central objectives was that when you finish the book you really aren't sure what was real and what the authors made up. But one thing that's totally clear is that they stole material anywhere they could find it. So the Horde in there in a variety of guises, including some of their cats.]
hesitantly asked Bob, I saw a bunch of the others in the book but not myself. Without a beat he replied, "Simon Moon is a composite." Well, I was a math major, my hair was legendary, and I'm sometimes a loose cannon. I'm name checked in Schroedinger's Cat, and so is my hair.

So with all love and respect, it was Arlen who helped expand my consciousness more than I'm aware that Bob did, and my relationship was the sort where I once got flea bites crashing on their couch in Santa Cruz after a Dead show at Shoreline.

chas said...

Timothy--Nice to hear your discovery story (and sorry about the peyote)--looking forward to reading your insight as the reading continues (and Keane's?)

Simon Moon--Awesome to have you in the group! As someone who shared water with the source (and a sufi fan), you have a lot to offer those of us with a more tangential experience of Old Bob. Please keep sharing.

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