By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger reading group guest bloggerWelcome to week four of the RawIllumination group reading of Cosmic Trigger. This week we are diving in to the text proper starting at page 1, Prologue: Thinking About the Unthinkable.
Right there in the section title Bob tips off the alert reader that this is “a cryptic and ambiguous book,” and of course he reiterates that in plain English a few pages later as he winds up the first of many descriptions of Chapel Perilous, which seems to be one of the major themes of the prologue, which functions as a bit of a guide to how best to approach the rest of the book.
The alert reader might also notice that there is a lot in this prologue that Bob later inserted into his introduction to Neal Wilgus’s The Illuminoids (the text of which can be found here, not least being the opening line—"As the late, great HP Lovecraft might begin this narrative . . .”
Be that as it may, I want to bring your attention to a few of the post-markers that Wilson offers us here. Perhaps you can find others?
Starting in the middle of page four and stretching all the way through the top of page five Bob introduces us to Chapel Perilous in one of my favorite bits of writing by any writer, bar none:
Chapel Perilous, like the mysterious entity called “I," cannot be located in the space time continuum; it is weightless, odorless, tasteless and undetectable by ordinary instruments. Indeed, like the ego, it is even possible to deny that it is there . . .
Awesome writing indeed. Of course Bob goes into much more detail regarding Chapel Perilous, just so we might recognize it if necessary. I especially enjoy some of the more colorful descriptions:
An Insect Horror Machine, a Hall of illusions, Invisible to radar, a Fun House at a rather seedy Amusement Park.
The multi-model approach also gets a strong mention. Bob attributes this approach to Niels Bohr and goes so far as to claim that "any single-theory approach is premature and causes a truncation of our intelligence"—p13.
And of course what introduction by Robert Anton Wilson would be complete without a healthy dose of name dropping; amongst our cast of characters we will find Aleister Crowley, Marshall McLuhan, and Alfred Korzybski.
There is far too much in this tightly packed 14 pages to touch upon it all, so I will leave that to you. What is your favorite bit in the prologue?
Next week we will embark upon Part One: The Sirius Connection, from the Introductory Fables to the Simonton Pancakes. I’ll take mine with extra wheat germ!
What pages do we read this week? "(Rising organ music, please.)" on page 3 contains an anatomical joke. I find it interesting that in 2016 many young people believe in an Illuminati that includes Beyonce. Did Adam Weishaupt have a hangover on May 2, 1776?
Depending on your edition--this week is the prologue (new edition 1-14) and for next week it's 17-29. I'm listing the titles of the chapters since there are so many paginations available. I suppose I can rethink that since I have two different editions at home. The And/Or edition I have from 1978 would be 3-16 for this week, and 19-31 for next week.
I never got that organ joke before! Thanks! Just goes to show you what a little sex magic can do for your Illuminati investigations!
I remember Tupac shouting out Illuminati on occasion--I think it can definitely increase attention if you cultivate a bit of Illuminati possibility. It didn't hurt Bob.
Thanks, Chas. I like the fact that this book has an index. Michael Johnson did a great job on the index for Cosmic Trigger III. This prologue mentions the Shadow's laugh, courtesy of Mr. Orson Welles.
Fair warning for anyone that hesitates long enough to think about "Thinking about the unthinkable"......yea, ok.
I find it hilarious how RAW covers seemingly dark matters with such levity. I, also, find it hilarious to consider a seed planted by groups of pranksters in the 1960's flowering in the world of Pop music today.
Maybe Hip Hoppers got into contact with the Secret Cheifs because sombunall smoke so much Sirius plant:)
I thought that was the Secret Chefs they contacted to help them with their food cravings.
"Everything you know is wrong" - great way to start a book! Wilson soon reveals his knowledge of magick when he advises getting armed with the traditional magical weapons before entering Chapel Perilous. (p.4) These weapons correspond to and represent the four elements: fire, water, air,earth. The opening quote attribution - "The Firesign Theater' suggests Fire. The opening phrase, "As the late..." = 40 by adding its initials as per the qabalistic method of Notariqon used regularly by Wilson in his works, particularly his fiction. 40 = Mem = the element Water. He immediately follows a fire sign with water. Right there seems a huge clue to Chapel Perilous - CP = 88: look it up in 777.
Fire and Water combine to make steam, pressurized Air. RAW will bring up the steam engine fairly soon in CT in relation to time. The notion of steam, the motive force resulting from the careful use of fire and water, as a transformational force is referenced in the chapter in Alice in Wonderland where the baby changes into a pig significant to Thelemites because pig = 93; also see ch. 83 in The Book of Lies - the book RAW says first opened the door to CP for him.
Dylan has a "steam shovel to keep away the dead and a dump truck to unload my head," in "From A Buick 6" (Highway 61 Revisited) which easily lends itself to a resonant qabalistic interpretation. The fact that Dylan fits into the Illuminati conspiracy because he was inspired by the poet Dylan Thomas, a protege of Victor Neuburg, himself a dedicated student and collaborator (perhaps casualty) of Crowley's for a time, appears pure coincidence.
I suggested people look up Chapel Perilous (CP = 88) in 777. By that I meant the Sepher Sephiroth section of "777 and Other Qabalistic Writings of Aleister Crowley." Here's a link to it for those who don't own a copy:
RAW begins Cosmic Trigger by invoking H.P. Lovecraft and his writing. I see this as kind of a warning that things might get as strange and weird as a Lovecraft story not only in this book, but also in real life to those actively trying similar experiments. Of course, like Joyce and Crowley, RAW loves puns and multiple meanings.
p. 1 - "Like a Lovecraft hero.." adds to 66 by its initials, which again, appears a technique Wilson frequently used in his fiction - the addition of initials in a phrase. 66 = Aleph = The Fool (tarot). It seems accurate to describe the function of The Fool as "Like a Love craft hero." Don't worry, I won't cite every instance of Notariqon that appears significant to me. Just demonstrating the validity of this method of exegesis for a qabalistic literary technique RAW deliberately used.
p.4 RAW suggests a successful trip through CP can be had "... if you're armed with the wand of intuition, the cup of sympathy, the sword of reason and the pentacle of valor..." He connects each of these four qualities with a traditional ritualistic weapon. He also doesn't directly say how to go about getting armed with them. Suggesting something then not obviously giving the answer of how to accomplish it - suggesting a line of work then leaving it open and incomplete for the astute reader to complete if so inclined, seems common to didactic books of consciousness expansion/transformation where the author wants the reader to think and act for themselves. See "Making A New World" by J.G. Bennett for more on "unfinished lines of work" in Gurdjieff's methods. That's one reason I like CT a lot, there is so much to expand upon - many areas that open up further research and experimentation get shown.
“Everything you know is wrong”. Or, to paraphrase Dante, “Abandon all dogmas, ye who enter here”.
Prologue: Thinking about the Unthinkable. This is the book’s “Executive Summary”. Wilson tells you what he will be telling you in the course of his narrative. “Unthinkable” here means both “difficult or impossible to conceive of” and “things that various authority figures don’t want you thinking about”.
Wilson begins by introducing himself and the Bavarian Illuminati, with examples of the mythologies surrounding the latter. (p. 1-4)
Chapel Perilous is then introduced, as well as Aleister Crowley, a major player in the book, and Wilson’s magickal experiments. Crowley’s “Holy Guardian Angel” concept is mentioned as a bridge to the UFO material, as is the Dogon’s alleged knowledge about Sirius. (p. 4-9)
The Simonton Pancake story and a couple of similar narratives add some leaven to the material, ere we start taking all of this too seriously, and Simonton is contrasted to those UFO contactees who have started cults centered around themselves. (p. 9-12)
Wilson then gives us 6 possible explanations of “Chapel Perilous” events, which function as an example of his Multi-Model Approach. (p. 12-14)
“… the Skeptic, who is one of the 24 selves…” (p. 1). Wilson will tell us which “self” is speaking when this is relevant to the narrative. (The Skeptic may also be Wilson’s authorial voice.) This also may be a personification of Korzybski’s “consciousness of abstracting”, i. e., which filter is being used to describe, interpret, etc., events.
Perhaps the pancakes arrived courtesy of the Secret Chefs via the UFOnauts? That RAW chose to use the example of the UFO "pancakes" out of all the other UFO instances he could have chosen and that "pancakes" puns into a Joyce-like portmanteau with similar occult inclinations as "keep the lasagna flying," appearing in the Prologue to a book that communicates occult instruction on one strata, is interesting to me.
Hopefully, we can also abandon the dogma of skepticism, at least temporarily at times, as RAW must have done when fully engaged in some of his experiments.
The first time "Rising organ music," appears (p. 1) it follows the phrase, "evidently propelled by some mysterious momentum." This does seem to me to reference sex magick. The second time it appears on p. 3, it follows the phrase which starts, "accidents have a way of a way of happening ...," and this time it appears in conjunction with the voice and mood from "The Shadow" radio show which always began, if memory serves, "Who knows what evil lurks in the hearts of men. The Shadow knows..." Now, it seems to me, he references something else. I did not know Orson Welles voiced The Shadow. That connects more exposure to the CP space because several of Welles' films capture the distinctly eerie mood and feel of CP: Touch of Evil, The Third Man, and Lady From Shanghai spring to mind.
Giordanista Heliopoleos brought up a point I wanted to make, too. I also liked all of the possible explanations, and how they fit with switching from one reality tunnel to another. I also liked the joke about how you can stand yourself standing at the door of Chapel Perilous when you think you are doing something mundane, such as "reading a cryptic and ambiguous book."
RAW's joke about how you don't know you are a member of the Illuminati until it is too late to get out reminds me of Eric Wagner's joke that science fiction fandom is like the Irish Republican Army -- you never really leave.
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