Robert Anton Wilson, Sex Magician!

robert anton wilson the sex magicians

Today, the 23rd of July, is Robert Anton Wilson day. Today is also the 44 year anniversary of Robert Anton Wilson’s first contact with extraterrestrials from Sirius. To celebrate the occasion, I’m going to discuss RAW’s first published novel, The Sex Magicians. fnord

I need preface my discussion of The Sex Magicians by mentioning a few facts concerning the author’s best known book. Robert Anton Wilson claimed that he and Robert Shea started working on The Illuminatus! Trilogy in 1969. He also said it took 5 years to find a publisher for this cult classic. The book was published in 1975, suggesting that it had been finished at some stage in 1970.

In 1973, after three unsuccessful years of trying to find a publisher for this massively complex and confusing masterpiece, Wilson seems to have been unable to contain himself. He took some of the characters and plot elements from the unpublished manuscript of Illuminatus! and worked them into The Sex Magicians, a work of hardcore pornography.

I was actually suprised by how much porn this book contains. At first, I thought it would be more of a novel with some porny bits than a porno with some novelly bits. I was wrong. I think every chapter has a sex scene, and they get fairly juicy. We’re talking incest, anal and gorilla cocks here. There’s also a scene that features a woman begging to be fucked by Frodo Baggins. If that doesn’t get your motor running, I don’t know what will.

Now, a cynic might assume that RAW chose to use pornography as the medium to express his ideas because he had lost hope of ever getting Illuminatus! published. Perhaps he believed that diluting his outlandish ideas with hardcore sex scenes was the only way to make them accessible to the general public. Had he become convinced that only publishers of pornography would ever accept a novel whose plot revolves around a trouble-making dwarf and the Illuminati?

While the above reasoning is fairly sensible, it doesn’t take into account the genius of Robert Anton Wilson. Personally, I refuse to believe that the publishing of The Sex Magicians represents RAW’s giving up on getting Illuminatus! published. On the contrary, I believe that the publishing of the Sex Magicians represents an attempt (that was hugely successful) to get Illuminatus! published. Fnord

Sex Magic as far as I understand it, is the harnessing of sexual energy for using in magical rituals. Grant Morrison, who incidentally is a big RAW fan, describes a very basic act of sex magic: Fnord 

  1. In sentence form, write down the goal that you want to achieve.
  2. Cross out the vowels and repeating letters from the goal. Fnord
  3. Take the remaining letters and turn them into a cool looking sigil.
  4. Masturbate and as you orgasm, focus on or visualise the sigil you have created.

Focusing on the sigil during climax charges it with sexual energy and sets the magic in motion. Like I said, this is a very simplistic ritual (one which Grant Morrison claims is effective), but it gives a basic idea of how sex magic works.

With this rudimentary understanding of sex magic, let’s re-examine Robert Anton Wilson’s decision to publish a book of hardcore pornography in 1973. Yes, pornography afficionadoes may not be primarily concerned with the plot and characters and themes of the smut that they are reading, but these elements certainly enter into their consciousness. As the reader makes their way through The Sex Magicians, their arousal and awareness of RAW’s conspiracy theories are simultaneous. This arousal charges the ideas and concepts in the background of this novel, and just like Grant Morrison’s sigil wanking, the sexual energy becomes a driving force in achieving the author’s aims. By writing a book of hardcore porn and interspersing it with characters and concepts from the unpublished manuscript of Illuminatus!, Robert Anton Wilson instigated a wide-scale act of sex magic.  Through the orgasms achieved by readers of the Sex Magicians, the characters and ideas originally from Illuminatus! became charged with enough power to drive that novel into publication. The Sex Magicians is not just a smutty novel; it is a grimoire, a veritable sexual spellbook!  Fucking genius! Fnord

Now, I don’t know if RAW ever admitted as much; he wrote quite a lot, and I haven’t read all of his books (yet), but I am quite sure that he would at least enjoy my theory. That being said, there are some pretty flagrant clues within the book itself that support my hypothesis. I mean, for the love of god, the book is called The Sex Magicians. Perhaps the most important character in the book, the mischievous Markoff Chaney, is also the most direct link to the Illuminatus! trilogy. Not only that, but the events described in the Sex Magicians end up having been set into action by Markoff committing an act of sex magic. I won’t describe what that act is in case you want to read the book, but I will say that it bears some rather striking similarities with the act (or acts) that RAW set out to instigate. Also, we’re talking about Robert Anton Wilson here. That he believed in the efficacy of magic is not up for debate, and if anyone ever had the ingenuity and sense of humour to do something like this, it would be him. (Grant Morrison did hold a wankathon to try to boost sales of the Invisibles, and while that is obviously a hilarious idea, it seems crude in comparison to what RAW “pulled off”. Plus, it’s common knowledge that Grant Morrison is a huge RAW fan, so maybe this is where he got the idea.)
So if this book is just a magical tool that RAW used to get Illuminatus published, is it worth reading? Yeah, sure it is. I mean, it’s nowhere near as mental as Illuminatus!, but it’s got fairly similar vibes going through it, and both books share characters. I don’t know how many of my readers are James Joyce fans, but I know RAW loved him, so I’ll say that if Illuminatus! was Ulysses, The Sex Magicians has the same kind of relationship to the author’s masterpiece as Portrait of an Artist, only with the readability of Dubliners. If it sounds like your kind of thing, you should give it a go. The book has been out of print for a very long time, and copies are usually fairly pricy ($300+), but somebody put the whole thing online (apparently with RAW’s permission) and a quick google search for the books title, the author’s name and .pdf will doubtlessly sort you out.

I wonder what happens if you wank off to this book now that RAW’s will has been done and Illuminatus! has been published. At what are the Illuminated King-Kong Sex Magic vibes now directed? Fnord

Robert Anton Wilson, Sex Magician!

The Illuminatus! Trilogy – Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson

Robinson – 1998

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