|Miss Parallel Universe on the beach with Occy. Guess what we're reading on our kindles? Yep! Illuminatus! trilogy
I have been feeling very Miss Parallel Universe lately due to Absurdism – you know, the truth of existentialism that world is full of absurdities and bad things happen to good people and good things happen to bad people. It’s probably appropriate then that Occy & I have been reading ‘the cat magic book’ whose real title is ‘The Illuminatus! trilogy’ by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson. We downloaded it at the same time as ‘Schrödinger’s cat trilogy’ by Robert Anton Wilson (R.A.W.) and somehow Occy interchanged the two titles and it came out as cat magic! This book was written in the 70’s by two of the editors of Playboy magazine but due to the fact that some 500 pages were cut from it by the publisher it contains less sex than you might think. Occy loves it. The book, that is. If you’re wondering whether to read it or not my advice is do, or don’t. Do if you want a completely mind-boggling experience in alternative writing styles that skips in time frames and from first person to third person randomly and sometimes even within the same sentence! Don’t if you can’t cope with non-linear plot lines, and there about 23 different plots, talking porpoises and haven’t taken LSD beforehand and don't if you're afraid of your own intelligence. This is not for the proles!
When I first started reading Illuminatus! trilogy I hated it! Hate, hate, hate, double hate, loathe entirely! It nukes Ayn Rand mentioning her by name and as the character Atlanta Hope and it parody’s Atlas Shrugged in the chapter titled Telemachus Sneezed in which the question is constantly asked ‘What is John Guilt?’ a direct parody of ‘Who is John Galt?’ Later in the book chief protagonist Hagbard Celine makes the comment ‘If Atlas can Shrug and Telemachus can Sneeze, why can’t Satan repent.’ Now I love it with a touch of loathe ;-) The book is not afraid to take the piss out of establishments, famous people, who often make cameo appearances and even itself. The character Epicene Wildeblood, an editor, writes a review of a book - It’s basically a parody of the Illuminatus! Trilogy:
It's a dreadfully long monster of a book… and I certainly won't have time to read it, but I'm giving it a thorough skimming. The authors are utterly incompetent—no sense of style or structure at all. It starts out as a detective story, switches to science-fiction, then goes off into the supernatural, and is full of the most detailed information of dozens of ghastly boring subjects. And the time sequence is all out of order in a very pretentious imitation of Faulkner and Joyce. Worst yet, it has the most raunchy sex scenes, thrown in just to make it sell, I'm sure, and the authors—whom I've never heard of—have the supreme bad taste to introduce real political figures into this mishmash and pretend to be exposing a real conspiracy... If The Lord of the Rings is a fairy tale for adults, sophisticated readers will quickly recognize this monumental miscarriage as a fairy tale for paranoids.
— Epicene Wildeblood, The Eye in the Pyramid
“Well uh Dad and Mom were both anarchists, dig? He was the Bakuninist, I.W.W., One Big Union and keep steel helmet handy, boys, the Revolution is coming any day now. She was the Tolstoyan, nonviolence, the Jesus Trip, the next step in evolution is Universal Love. So naturally I rebelled against both of them and became a disciple of Donatien Alphonse François de Sade. For a while. But then Padre Pederastia introduced me to the JAMs.”
The JAMs—Justified Ancients of Mummu—are an ancient Babylonian secret society, worshippers of Mummu, god of chaos. (“The Chinese Taoist laughs at civilization and goes elsewhere,” Simon explains helpfully, “but the Babylonian Chaoist sets termites at the Foundations.”)Where the JAMs worship the Babylonian god of chaos, Mummu – ha! That’s what my kids call me! – I wonder why? - Hagbard’s Legion of Dynamic Discord worships Eris, Greek goddess of confusion, who is also known in Latin as Discordia. Unknown to the JAMs, Hagbard also has an alliance with the Erisian Liberation Front (ELF), a super-Zen supersecret insurrection following a program known as Operation Mindfuck (OM) and directed by the Dealy Lama, who lives in the sewers below Dealy Plaza, Dallas, Texas. Hagbards greatest invention however would have to be FUCKUP (First Universal Cybernetic Kinetic Uni-Programmer). FUCKUP “throws” I Ching hexagrams internally, reading random open circuits as yin lines and closed circuits as yang; these are then correlated with three thousand years of I Ching scholarship, current astronomical and astrological data, CBS news, and reports from Hagbard’s agents in world capitals, thereby combining FUCKUP’s memory-integration circuits a Worldgame Report unique in its comprehensive objectivity. “World War III is imminent,” FUCKUP reports blandly, “Prognosis: many megadeaths. No blame.”
What I love about the book is its exposition and parody of real world establishments through ‘fringe societies’ like The Church of the Sub-genius (which sound like something I would have come up with) and the Discordian Society. The Discordians actually believe in balance but because the world has been so heavily ordered they feel obliged to promote chaos to balance things out. They also believe in the Law of Fives and that it’s a reflection of how the human mind works, hence the frequent use of the number 5 in the book. The Law of Fives states simply that: All things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five, or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to 5. The Law of Fives is never wrong.
—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Page 00016
Appendix Beth of the trilogy considers the question of what would happen to the Law of Fives if everyone had six fingers on each hand. The authors assert that the real Law of Fives is realizing that everything can be related to the number five if you try hard enough.
The plot meanders around the globe moving along to such far-flung locations as Las Vegas (where a potentially deadly, secret U.S. government-developed mutated Anthrax-Leprosy-Pi epidemic has been accidentally unleashed); Atlantis (where Howard, the talking porpoise, and his porpoise aides help Hagbard battle the Illuminati); Chicago (where someone resembling John Dillinger was killed many years ago); and to the island of Fernando Poo (the location of the next great Cold War standoff between Russia, China and the USA). Cutting insight into global politics is delivered with witty characterisations:
‘He was, in fact, characteristic of the best type of dominant male in the world at this time. He was fifty-five years old, tough, shrewd, unburdened by the complicated ethical ambiguities which puzzle intellectuals, and had long ago decided that the world was a mean son-of-a-bitch in which only the most cunning and ruthless can survive. He was also as kind as was possible for one holding that ultra-Darwinian philosophy; and he genuinely loved children and dogs, unless they were on the site of something that had to be bombed in the National Interest. He still retained some sense of humour, despite the burdens of his almost godly office, and, although he had been impotent with his wife for nearly ten years now, he generally achieved orgasm in the mouth of a skilled prostitute within 1.5 minutes. He took amphetamine pep pills to keep going on his gruelling twenty-hour day, with the result that his vision of the world was somewhat skewed in a paranoid direction, and he took tranquilizers to keep from worrying too much, with the result that his detachment sometimes bordered on the schizophrenic; but most of the time his innate shrewdness gave him a fingernail grip on reality. In short, he was much like the rulers of China and Russia.’ – on the President of the U.S. and other dictators.
The book is also laced with hilarious characters like Markoff Chaney (a play on the mathematical random process called Markov chain) who exemplifies the key Discordian practice known as "Operation Mindfuck". The world has pronounced him a random factor so ‘…in the depth of his soul he declared war on the statuatory ape, on law and order, on predictability, on negative entropy. He would be a random factor in every equation.’ He is an anti-social dwarf who engages in subtle practical joking in a deliberate attempt to cause social confusion. One such joke involves the forging and placing of ‘improved surrealist signs’ that are signed by "The Mgt." (leading people to believe they are from "The Management" instead of "The Midget") that contain absurdities like Midget who is sexually frustrated because all he wants to do is fuck a real life giantess so he takes out his sexual frustrations by sabotaging store signs to create chaos. Absurdities like ‘Slippery when wet. Maintain 50mph.’ and ‘No salesperson may leave the floor or go to the door without the authorisation of the MGT.’ Everyone thinks these are signed by the management because he’s abbreviated it to MGT but actually it stands for Midget.
A spoof of James Bond known as ‘Fission Chips’ a.k.a. 00005 is also interlaced in the plot and at one stage has him talking with the Dealy Lama (you can guess who that’s meant to be).
’I say,’ he ventured, ‘you’re not some sort of mystic, are you? I must tell you that I don’t intend to convert to anything heathen.’
‘Conversion, as you understand it,’ the aged figure told him placidly, ‘ consists of pounding one’s own words into a man’s ears until they start coming out of his mouth…’
The evil scheme uncovered late in the tale of Book 3, The Leviathan, referring to the Biblical sea monster Leviathan, which is a potential danger to Hagbard's submarine Leif Erickson (from the name of the Icelandic discoverer of America), is an attempt to immanentize the eschaton (a catchphrase coined by Eric Voegelin), a secret scheme of the American Medical Association, an evil rock band, to bring about a mass human sacrifice, the purpose of which is the release of enough "life-energy" to give eternal life to a select group of initiates, including Adolf Hitler. The AMA are four siblings who comprise four of the five mysterious Illuminati Primi. The identity of the fifth remains unknown for much of the trilogy. The first European "Woodstock" festival, held at Ingolstadt, Bavaria, is the chosen location for the sacrifice of the unwary victims, via the reawakening of hibernating Nazi battalions from the bottom of nearby Lake Totenkopf. The plot is foiled when, with the help of a 50-foot-tall incarnation of the goddess Eris, the four members of the AMA are killed: Wilhelm is killed by the monstrous alien being Yog-Sothoth, Wolfgang is shot by John Dillinger, Winifred is drowned by porpoises, and Werner is trapped in a sinking car. The greed of capitalism and inequality of a hierarchical societal system is consistently and disarmingly dismantled. This is one of my favourite passages:
‘ And the gorillas themselves are too shrewd to talk to anybody but another anarchist. They're all anarchists themselves, you know, and they have a very healthy wariness about people in general and government people in particular. As one of them told me once, 'If it got out that we can talk, the conservatives would exterminate most of us and make the rest pay rent to live on our own land; and the liberals would try to train us to be engine-lathe operators. Who the fuck wants to operate an engine lathe?'The major protagonists, now gathered together on board the submarine, are menaced by the Leviathan, a giant, pyramid-shaped single-cell sea monster that has been growing in size for hundreds of millions of years. The over-the-top nature of this encounter leads some of the characters to question whether they are merely characters in a book. This metafictional note is swiftly rejected (or ignored) as they turn their attention to the monster again. The threat is neutralized by offering up their onboard computer as something for the creature to communicate with to ease its loneliness. Finally, Hagbard Celine reveals himself as the fifth Illuminatus Primus; he has been playing both sides against each other in order to keep balance. He is a representative of the "true" Illuminati, whose aim is to spread the idea that everybody is free to do whatever they want at all times – yes bring on the existentialist anarchy!
I’m now reading Wilsons follow up book Shrödinger’s Cat trilogy which develops the alternate-universe model of quantum physics using permutations of the same characters and settings in Illuminatus! Trilogy and in which most of mankind fails to realise that he is in fact just another primate.