Photo from the 1978 Nova convention in 1978 in New York City
By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger online reading group guest bloggerThis week we are looking at the Forewords by Timothy Leary, Ph.D.
Every time I read the Forewords to Cosmic Trigger I am once again in awe of just how awesome Tim Leary was, as a writer. In just four pages, he expresses so much, so simply, about the essence of what Bob is offering us, that it is very easy to get why Bob held him in such esteem. This is also the piece of writing I wish I could quote, from start to finish, whenever someone wonders why they might read Cosmic Trigger.
Here are just a few of the clues Tim sprinkles into the “set” he offers for How To Read Cosmic Trigger.
Ontology recapitulates phylogeny, i.e. as we develop we repeat the evolution of the species.
This leads to the notion that "the great alchemist, philosophers, mystics, and sages" pre-capitulate, revealing future traits in the evolution of the species.
Lao-tse, Buddha, Gurdjieff, Crowley, all revealed wisdom and consciousness far beyond that of the standard terrestrial hairless ape of their times, as do Cosmic Trigger and its author -- "modern links in this unbroken chain of alchemical philosophers and Intelligent Agents.”
Tim then gets on a riff about Bob's "attempts to correlate inner, subjective vision with the external, objective language of the energy sciences,”and finishes off with the claim that all great writers are "encyclopedic and epic.”
Dante, Boccaccio, Joyce, & Hesse; Gravity's Rainbow, Illuminatus!, Cosmic Trigger, once again Bob gets hauled in to stand with the best of them. Tim goes on to list some of the entries in this encyclopedia: from the Illuminati Conspiracy to the Lee Harvey Oswald conspiracies, from UFOs to the number 23, from Aleister Crowley to William Burroughs.
I love the next line: "In each of these academic references there is an anecdotal flash so that these important names and topics become alive on the page. This is good writing." So true.
His description of the epic aspects of Bob's adventurers also reveals how much the love between Bob and Tim travelled both ways.
My 2 cents
Imagine that you’ve never read Cosmic Trigger, or any other books by Robert Anton Wilson, excepting Illuminatus!, of course. Imagine that it is 1977 and Bob hasn’t written Prometheus Rising, or Quantum Psychology, or even Schrodinger’s Cat! It’s just Cosmic Trigger and Illuminatus!, and you are reading Cosmic Trigger for the first time.
The subtitle of the book is Final Secret of the Illuminati. The first sentence takes us to the “ill-fated day” that Bob first began investigating the Illuminati, and the last sentence announces that he has “learned the final secret of the Illuminati." It’s Illuminati yesterday, today, and tomorrow, and it’s an awesome secret.
There is so much in here of an epic, encyclopedic, and timeless nature that it took Bob 25 years and countless more books to fully “explain” the myriad dusty occult subjects he brings to the surface here. In some ways what we have here is a template for everything else Bob ever did. This book is PACKED! Ten pages a week might seem like too much, especially if you are of the mind to “do the damn exercises,” which I encourage you to try on!
Oh well, how deep we dive down the rabbit hole is, of course, a personal matter. Rest assured you’ve got plenty of seasoned traveling companions.
Next Week—Prologue: Thinking About the Unthinkable, pages 1-14.
Our guest blogger, Charles Faris