The Illuminatus! Trilogy – Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson

Robinson – 1998
illuminatus

This is one of my favourite books. It combines the writing styles of Joyce, Lovecraft and William S. Burroughs in a narrative about sex, mythology, aliens, drugs, Nazis, the mafia, rock’n’roll, magick, Abrahamic religions, satanism and conspiracy theories: it ticks all my boxes.

The plot is difficult, and it’s pretty easy to get  the characters mixed up with each other. After a while though, you realize that this is part of the point of the book. The book is about conspiracies, and all conspiracies bleed into each other in some way. Everything in here effects everything else that’s going on. It’s similar to Ulysses in the way that it requires a great deal of engagement from the reader to make sense of what is happening. In a way, the reader almost becomes a character in the book; just as the characters fall victim to Operation Mindfuck, so too does the reader. If you put any kind of effort into reading this book, it will fuck with your mind.

It’s a pain in the arse at times though. It’s bloody long, and parts of it are fairly tedious. It’s actually three books in one: The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple and Leviathan. Apparently it was originally going to be 500 pages longer, but the publisher demanded it be abridged. I took about two weeks to get through the whole thing as it stands, and that involved reading for a few hours every day and listening to the audiobook version until I feel asleep. I spent so much time with this book that it started to affect both my dreams and waking thoughts. Every time I encountered any kind of small coincidence during the two weeks it took to read, I imagined that I had just stumbled upon a clue that would eventually lead me to some drastic cover-up.

It actually happened that I took a break from reading this book to watch a documentary on the JFK assassination theories. (Yeah, I get pretty hung up on things when I’m excited.) When I woke up the next morning, I found that my mother had emailed me a picture of herself with a statue of JFK in Wexford, Ireland. I was deeply disturbed by this, and I momentarily suspected my mother of being involved in the assassination.

I have a weird thing with JFK anyways. I remember waking up one morning about two years ago with the Misfits’ song “Bullet” stuck in my head. (It’s a song about the assassination.) I made sure to put the song on my phone before I left for work, and I allowed myself to listen to it twice on the bus into work. (I remember it specifically, because listening to a song twice in a row is a rare indulgence for me.) I got into work and checked the news, as is my custom. Well, lo and behold; there was Johnny in the headlines! It turns out that it was the 22nd of November, 2013: the 50 year anniversary of the JFK assassination.

“The more frequently one uses the word ‘coincidence’ to explain bizarre happenings, the more obvious it becomes that one is not seeking, but evading the real explanation.” Or, shorter: “The belief in coincidence is the prevalent superstition of the age of science.”
The Eye in the Pyramid  (p. 296)

It’s too much to think that these events were just coincidence. I firmly believe that the ghost of JFK is trying to communicate with me to explain what really happened in Dallas. Johnny, if you’re reading this, please don’t give up on me. I am ready to accept your secrets.

Anyways, this is a great book. It’s funny, clever and extremely entertaining. It takes a bit of work, but I thought it was definitely worth it. 8/10.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy – Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson

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