Amoeba Design artwork
By Charles Faris, Cosmic Trigger online reading group guest bloggerI’m sitting in a little corner coffee shop in a green leafy neighborhood of an old-suburban/new-urban section of a major American city, surrounded by mothers and children. Lots of toddlers, pre-toddlers, and post-toddlers. The majority of the mothers’ time is taken up in the task of clipping the rough bristles of wildness from their children. It is easy to see the varying levels of wildness allowed each child according to age, development, and parental proclivity, and to notice that the older the child is, the less “correcting” they need. This is a very liberal neighborhood in a famously liberal city, so I don’t see any physical force being used, and i don’t hear any harsh tones, sharply raised-voices. I do hear a lot of sh-sh-sh’s, and a lot of redirecting, both gentle physical redirections and soft verbal ones, and I notice that every parent has a distinct style of correction and level of wildness allowed.
I also notice age-related energy-level differences. Infants are relatively inert when they aren’t eating, crying, or pooping, and the older they get the more active they get, until somewhere around the age of five, by which time most children have a team of professional socializers on their case. As they get older of course, they also begin to socialize teacher other.
Interestingly, this process of stripping away the inborn wildness begins with emotional socialization— note the emote in emotional. As children begin to move around their environment physical socialization comes into play, with toilet training being one of the most deeply intimate of these ritualized behavior-modification projects. Note the use of the word training — we are domesticated apes indeed. What monkey would teach its children how to properly poop?
Such is my state of mind after seven months of being immersed in the mind-fuck that is Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati (with a heavy dose of Quantum Psychology thrown in during months 3 &4). I can now state with confidence that the 23rd secret of the Illuminati is that immersing yourself in Cosmic Trigger, deeply, obsessively, over an extended stretch of time, is guaranteed to grant you an extended tour of Chapel Perilous. As Hermann Hesse would say, “Welcome to the Magic Theater. Price of admission: your mind!”
Everywhere around me I see these subtle and not so subtle cues to acceptable behavior. Political news is a great place to look, especially right now with the extreme polarizations playing out across Planet Earth. Sometimes I think that if I found the right pair of magic sunglasses I would be able to look out at the world and see hordes of people wearing signs on their chests reading Tell Me What To Think! And a group of people wearing signs that read I’ll Tell You What To Think!. Of course, most of those people would be wearing one of the Tell Me What To Think Signs as well. It really is at the point where I think the highest form of art is in the expression of non-coercion and the refusal to Tell Me What To Think!
Which brings me again to Cosmic Trigger, which actually takes that highest form of art one step higher, floating six inches above the top run of the ladder, as it were, due to its inherent nature, aim, and purpose, which is to assist the reader in taking off one damned sign and not putting on the other. That he succeeds in his aim is on the one hand a miracle of sorts, and on the other an indication of the powerful alignment of will and action Robert Anton Wilson had attained by the time he finished writing Cosmic Trigger. What else would one expect from a writer who once recommended reading Ulysses 40 times to improve one’s prose style?
Looking back then at the beginning of this extended journey into the heart and mind of RAW, I come back to the notion of maps, the reading of and the creating of, as well as keys to open the various doors to the various rooms in the chapel of Bob. If I had to choose between one and the other, I would take a nice sets of keys over the most complete and accurate collection of maps available — you don’t have to open very many doors in this chapel to find yourself lost in uncharted territory where the only accurate map is the one you make yourself (and even that is provisional). It’s a shifting landscape, in other words, which would be obvious about everything if we where accustomed to thinking in terms of space-time rather than acting as if physical space were actually separate from time. Been to the old neighborhood lately?
And so herewith are a few of the keys that I have been using in this journey (as always I’m really looking forward to reading about your own keys, as well as any maps you have managed to create in the process of reading Cosmic Trigger “one more time”).
The first and most valuable key for me is Bob’s use of various personality types to describe himself. Rather that the typical I, me, mine, the Author of Cosmic Trigger uses 34 different personality descriptors to indicate the actions of his “self.” This conceit offers the reader a tightly packed clue to of the state of mind the Author was acting from during the incident described, as well as gradually revealing that the Author is more than an author, that he is a mystic, a father, a robot, a poet, and a crazy pauper — note how this engages the self with time in a similar way that space-time engages space with time. Note also that it’s not just Bob who operates this way.
The stars of the show are the Skeptic and the Shaman. The Skeptic makes 25 appearances; the Shaman makes 23.The Materialist (15) is a strong supporting actor, along with the Libertarian (9), and the unholy triad of the Reporter (6), the Numerologist (6), and the Fool (6) make their presence known. The Suspect, the Wizard, and the Investigator are among the personalities that act as faces we recognize, showing up 3-5 times in the course of the tale, while the Mark, the True Failure, and the Libertarian Hedonist fall in the collection of aspects we only see once or twice.
The use of the 34 personalities certainly makes Bob’s actions and motivations more understandable and thereby adds a helpful depth to the reading. It also turns out handy in parsing the actions and motivations of pretty much anyone you run into, including yourself. Just to be complete, I’ll post a full list of the personalities in comments, including page numbers and number of occurrences.
The next key I’ve been using is a list of themes, which is necessarily incomplete and idiosyncratic. Looking at CT through the lens of these themes has added a rich level of dimensionality to this particular reading. Some of these themes function as story arcs such as the “process of deliberately induced brain change through which [Bob put himself] in the years 1962-1976,” some as educational projects such as Which Drug Does What?, or Against Attributing Objective Reality to Magickal (or any other) Acts. Many of them, such as 8 Circuit Theory, Programming and Meta-Programming in the Human Bio-Computer, and Synchronicity/Coincidance show up in Bob’s work time and time again. All of them can be utilized to bring a rich level of dimensionality to the felt experience of our lives as well. As with the personalities, I’ll include a list with page numbers in comments.
A third key that really broke down the wall between the book and my life was the incredible list of people who contribute to this story one way or another. Some of these people are major players in Bob’s life: Timothy Leary whom I identified early on as Virgil to Bob’s Dante, and Alan Watts, who gets credit for pushing Bob into the study of Aleister Crowley. Others, like Crowley, who has a profoundly magical effect upon the Author in his numerous incarnations, and Buckminster Fuller, whose techno-optimism shines through in all of Bob’s work, influence RAW through their writings.
The list of remarkable people mentioned in Cosmic Trigger (and indexed, thankfully) includes those who show up again and again, such as Wilhelm Reich, psychologist and sex-economist, Alfred Korzybski, whose work in General Semantics is vital to all of Wilson’s work, and John Lilly, fearless explorer of human consciousness. It also includes quite a few cameo players such as H. P. Lovecraft and Brian Barritt, who show up only once or twice in it’s pages, yet are obviously pointed to as Subjects for Further Study. As above, I will includef a list of People Bob Likes in the comments. If you have any experience delving into the writings of these Bad Hombres, please do chime in below. I know that my own world view has been and continues to be greatly influenced by the writings of people I discovered from reading Cosmic Trigger.
The final key that I will mention here is the number of books referred to in these pages. There are too many to mention here, although I do think that The Principia Discordia deserves special mention, as does The Sirius Mystery. As above, list in comments, your experiences with books from CT greatly desired.
Okay — that’s it for me. It’s been a very “real” experience! I definitely paid a deep visit to Chapel Perilous. And I’m definitely very happy to be back home. I think the final secret of the Illluminati (which I interpret as “Come back with all the positive energy you have”) is very helpful when traversing that tricky landscape. I hope you have found this collection of posts and commentary helpful as well.