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Historical Illuminatus

Benny the Ball
01:32 / 03.08.05
Who else has read these books?

They give the back story to many of the distant relatives to some familiar characters from RAW and Bob Shea's Illuminatus!. Set in Europe and the US around the 1700's, they show the development and illumination of the 'chosen' Sigismundo Celine, from teenage want to be musical genius, to masonic leader to want away illuminated one.

I just finished the last book in this trilogy, and as much as I love RAW's work, I was slightly disappointed. Mainly by the last book itself, but possibly because of the strenght of the second book, which is just fantastic fun. The first book deals mainly with introduction, and takes a while to get going, but once you are into the story, it moves along well, and has some great moments, but the second book plays like a fun old romantic french novel. It's just a shame then that the last book becomes ever so slightly repetative and doesn't quite have the same zip or direction as the other two.

So any other thoughts?
paranoidwriter waves hello
04:04 / 03.08.05
I read it a long time ago now, but it blew me away (I read the trilogy within a single anthology). Even today I get flashbacks: e.g. when the Live8 concerts were on, I kept expecting to hear reports of a submarine full of zombie Nazi's rising to the surface of a Loch somewhere. The "Bavarian Fire Drill" bit is one of my favourite excerpts to use in conversatiom. i.e. "It's funny 'cuz it's true".

Overall, my memory is: the first two hundred pages were a struggle, although genius in conception and well-worth sticking with: the middle is brilliant; but the end loses itself in analogous and metaphorical imagery (i.e The Leviathan).

That typed, for some reason I didn't read all the Appendixes, which I'm told is where all the real meat is hidden, so I may have missed out on more than I realised. Indeed, I got the impression this book was jam-packed full of info, secrets, allusions to various truths, etc, and one could get more and more out of re-reading it, the more one learns about life/society/etc in general. Weirdly, of late, I'd been thinking I should re-read the trilogy in light of recent world events (etc), and this thread has definitely confirmed it as next on my reading list. Nice one, BtB!

All that typed, I thought 'Schrodinger's Cat' was a better read (etc) than 'Illuminatus', and may I recommend 'Prometheus Rising' (non-fiction) to those who haven't got round to reading it yet? It's a very interesting take on "Circuits of Consciousness", brainwashing, identity, perspective, etc, and could be seen as one of the best self-help books ever written.
paranoidwriter waves hello
04:17 / 03.08.05
Sheesh, I don't know what's wrong with my brain today. I thought you were typing about the original 'Illuminatus Trilogy'; didn't know there were companion "History" books. Looking forward to learning more though. That is if I'm getting the right end of the stick now (?) I'm confusing myself...ignore me....
Benny the Ball
10:25 / 03.08.05
No problem. The original trilogy is a great read, very very funny and great fun. I agree that Schrodinger's Cat is the better of the two series though. This HISTORICAL Illuminatus is a re-issue of a series that I think Wilson wrote in the 80's or 90's, but which has been out of print for a while. As I said, the first two books are great reads, but if you've read anything else by Wilson, especially his non-fiction books, then the last one seems a little flat in comparisson and repetative.
15:44 / 03.08.05
Have to jump in here, because Illuminatus (the original trilogy, not the Historical trilogy) is probably my favorite book ever. Some fun facts:

1. Shea and Wilson wrote the book between 1969 and 1972, editing and altering it several times. When Gravity's Rainbow came out in '72, Wilson claims they went back in and did another edit, adding GR-type bits to the book.

2. Dell finally bought the book and then held on to it, not sure what to do with it. Finally they decided to split the massive manuscript into three volumes. Sadly, they also requested Shea and Wilson to cut 500 pages (!) from the manuscript. Wilson claims he no longer has these pages. 500 pages, lost just like that! In a 1976 interview, RAW mentioned this cut material, and said it was stuff "too weird" for Dell to publish. He also mentioned that the original manuscript featured representatives from every race and animal on the planet (?), but the book, as published after Dell cut out all those pages, only featured a squirrel and a dolphin to represent the animals.

3. The Dell paperbacks, published in late 1975, featured great covers by some guy named Carlos Victor, very '70s-ish drawings. Books 2 (The Golden Apple) and 3 (Leviathan) featured prologues specifically stating "SOME of this you already know if you read the previous book," which featured not only rundowns of events occuring in previous books, but also wholly new (albeit slight) material, some of which aided in the understanding of the book. (For example, the Golden Apple prologue reveals that Carmel's hooker died from some virus she picked up at the crazy scientist's ((Mocigenco?)) house, something which was only hinted at in Eye in the Pyramid.) These prologues were not reprinted in the trade paperback collection of the three novels.

4. Shea and Wilson remained friends until Shea's death in '94. In the early '90s they decided to do a sequel, Bride of the Illuminatus. Set 50 years after the original trilogy (2026; RAW has finally confirmed that the original trilogy takes place in 1976), it was going to feature a resuscitated Winifred (female member of the evil Illuminati-primus villains The American Medical Association, in the original trilogy) being re-introduced to the world, mostly through Virtual Reality. Shea only lived long enough to help with the outline of the trilogy, but after his death RAW repeatedly stated he was working on the book himself. Ten years later, it still hasn't surfaced. RAW no longer mentions it.

About Schrodinger's Cat:

I'm not sure why anyone could say this trilogy of RAW's is better than Illuminatus. I found it hard to get through, very slight on characters, and more of just Wilson going on and on about how smart he is. Also it gets old if you've read any of his other books, namely Cosmic Trigger and Prometheus Rising, because he keeps repeating the same information!

Interestingly, the original volumes of this trilogy, published in paperback by Pocket Books between 1979 and 1982 -- The Universe Next Door, The Trick Top Hat, and The Homing Pigeons -- also differ from the trade paperback collection published in 1988. Two hundred pages were cut from the original version (!), and Wilson extensively rewrote the book for the trade paperback edition. For example, the Pocket Books paperback edition of The Trick Top Hat, from 1981, was filled with sex, most of it material reprinted from RAW's long out of print (and impossible to find) 1972 pornographic novel "The Sex Magicians." This material is not to be found in the trade paperback edition of Schrodinger's Cat.

I haven't read the Historical Illuminatus trilogy, but plan to. Wilson considers the second volume the best book he's ever written. I still think the original Illuminatus is where it's at.
15:59 / 03.08.05
there's the first chapter of bride of illuminatus up at
not too irked that it'll never see the day really, way nineties.

got the historical illuminatus in the past few months just for the geek-gap collecto thrill. the first two be pretty good, the deselbyism guff just isn't that hilarious to my mind though. the third one - hmmm, maybe works better as a series of aphorisms and the mayjgickqall battle between 'mundo and the medicine man is cool, but too many chapters end with those 'i'm writing this in the twentieth century you know' bits which just aren't necessary and kinda smack of 'i don't know how to finish this chapter'ism

none as good as masks of the illuminati if y'ask me.
16:02 / 03.08.05
Wanted to add one more thing -- Paranoidwriter, Illuminatus definitely benefits from repeat readings. There are lots of hidden clues and payoffs which are revealed if you look for them.

For example, there is the question of Joe Malik's dogs. I've seen several '70s interviews where RAW is badgered with this question. If you read the book, the first part, Eye of the Pyramid, focuses heavily on Saul Goodman's investigation of Malik's disappearance. Several times he reads about neighbors complaining about Malik's dog barking. Yet Goodman never finds these dogs. This goes unexplained in the trilogy. RAW finally answered the puzzle in an interview -- if you read the book and look between the lines, you'll see the dogs never existed. In a later section of the book, it mentions that Malik would enjoy relaxing with a drink and some "natural sounds" recording blaring on his turntable, like the Songs of the Whales, or occasionally, the howls of wolves. It was these wolf-howls on vinyl that his neighbors would hear, and assumed Malik had dogs in his apartment.

Pretty inconsequential, but just one example of how hidden and slight details can become apparent with multiple readings of this funky, psychedelic, fun-filled novel.
16:10 / 03.08.05
Thanks for the reminder, Gumbitch, I meant to post a link to the RAW fans "writings" section:

RAW writings

The first chapter of Bride of the Illuminatus was published in Trajectories 14, HERE -- PDF file.

There's lots of good stuff on that Writings page, but my favorite is a short story RAW wrote in '72 called I Opening. Some of it was reprinted in Schrodinger's Cat, but as its own piece it's a very cool synthesis of Crowley, Leary, and lots of themes from Illuminatus: I Opening.
17:27 / 03.08.05
%It'd be awfully cool to see some discussion of the Historical Illuminatus in this thread about RAWilson's work in general. I see no one's mentioned it.%

I was trying to decide whether Historical Illuminatus would be worth buying. For someone who read Ill.3, quite liked it for awhile, and then outgrew it (please don't take this as permission to rant any more about how great Ill.3 is, there's bound to be another thread you can do that in), is it worth it? What do the people who have read Historical Illuminatus think?
Benny the Ball
02:21 / 04.08.05
I would say read it, but be prepared for the third book being nowhere near as good as the second. The first two books are just all round fun reads. I know what Buttergun means when hir says that Schrodinger's Cat contains too much of RAW's ideas if you have read any of his non-fiction stuff, but the 3rd Historical Illuminatis book is worse than that. If you enjoyed Neil Stevenson's Baroque Trilogy, then definately read them. I cannot recommend the second book enough though, it is just a perfect read, full of great fun moments. But yeah, Illuminatus the original does often feel like that book you read when in your teens/twenties and think 'wow', and does bare re-reading, but can feel a little cool for cool's sake at times, however I was really plesantly suprised with this trilogy, and, again, the 2nd book 'The Widow's Son' is just out and out fantastic.
Baz Auckland
02:02 / 05.08.05
How did you get part 3 of the Historical ones? I thought it had been out of print!

I read (and really enjoyed) parts 1 and 2 years ago, but gave up on finding the third...
Never or Now!
03:12 / 05.08.05
It's been reprinted quite recently, by New Falcon Publications.

I thought "Nature's God" was pretty good. Perhaps a bit slight - and a fair chunk of it already appeared in "Coincidance" - but Sigismundo vs scared shaman worked well, both by itself and as an echo of the War of Independence going on all around. The ending suited me too: an energetic rush to set up various conflicts - which may or may not ever get resolved, depending on whether RAW intends to actually finish the series...
13:21 / 05.08.05
Yeah, the whole "to be continued in Volume 4" thing really pissed me off- apart from anything else, it kind of implied he was making it up as he went along, having initially described it as a trilogy.
Enjoyed the first three, though.
15:33 / 05.08.05
Just curious what all of you think of Wilson himself. I enjoy most of his work, but he does tend to come off as an insufferable egotist. I know he tries to play off it, like spoofing egotists through himself (ie the multiple references to "Wilson the genius" in Schrodinger's Cat), but after a while it becomes a bit too much.

Here's another thing. Who's read the first Cosmic Trigger? I kept laughing throughout it, because during the sections in which Wilson and family were basically penniless, due to RAW quitting his job at Playboy and going off to live in the country and write, Wilson's wife had to go out and make the money. Meanwhile Wilson himself would sit at home, meditate, and read about Crowley or Sirius or something. Wilson the man's man, huh? Of course, RAW doesn't see it this way.

I also read an interview with Grant Morrison somewhere and Morrison said he'd only met RAW once, and RAW totally ignored him.

I can see how someone could "grow out of" Illuminatus, but at the same time, I don't see the point. I don't see why books need to be serious or earth-shattering. Illuminatus is a fun book, and can be read and re-read. Plus, the idea of living on an anarchic golden submarine while toking on Kallisti Gold has just always appealed to me. Plus, I would love to have met Tarantella Serpentine.
16:56 / 05.08.05
Blimey, a thread about RAW. It's like the 'Lith of old.
Benny the Ball
23:52 / 05.08.05
I really enjoy his books, and his humour, to a point. The cosmic trigger series is great, but the stuff like his un-made film, and play (Can't remember names and very tired, sorry) just didn't do it for me, his more Discordian stuff just reads like 60's fanzines trying to be clever and odd for the sake of it. I'm not sure I'd like him if I saw him speak though, he has a great literal voice, but I'm sure he'd just come across as clever clever (in fact isn't there a film of one of his lectures? I think I saw a clip, and just didn't go in for it at all). He seems to be becoming more angry and impatient with age - he seems to have had a lot of tragedy or loss (one of his daughters shot, his friends getting old and dying and his wife also died fairly recently I think). Not sure if it was his latest book, but The Thing That Ate The Constitution just came across as the incoherent ranting of a very old and grumpy Michael Moore - maybe RAW has finally been overtaken in the thought and information exponential increase that he rates so highly. But I really do love Illuminatus (I've given it as gifts to several people) and cosmic trigger and Schrodingers Cat.
Baz Auckland
01:41 / 06.08.05
It's sort of sad to read things like Cosmic Trigger now, with all his "By 1990 we'll all live forever on Mars!" stuff... sad in the sense that it really is too bad we're not all immortals living on other planets right now... I can see why he's angry.
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