The Illuminatus! Trilogy is a series of three novels written by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson first published in 1975. The trilogy is a satirical, postmodern, science fiction-influenced adventure story; a drug-, sex-, and magic-laden trek through a number of conspiracy theories, both historical and imaginary, related to the authors’ version of the Illuminati. The narrative often switches between third and first person perspectives and jumps around in time. It is thematically dense, covering topics like counterculture, numerology, and Discordianism.
The trilogy comprises The Eye in the Pyramid, The Golden Apple, and Leviathan. They were first published as three separate volumes starting in September 1975. In 1984 they were published as an omnibus edition, and are now more commonly reprinted in the latter form.
In 1986 the trilogy won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award, designed to honor classic libertarian fiction, despite the fact that there are several passages in the trilogy that savagely parody libertarians in general and Ayn Rand in particular.
The authors went on to write several works, both fiction and nonfiction, that dealt further with the themes of the trilogy, but they did not write any direct sequels.
Illuminatus! has been adapted for the stage, and has influenced several modern writers, musicians, and games-makers. The popularity of the word “fnord” and the 23 enigma can both be attributed to the trilogy. It remains a seminal work of conspiracy fiction, predating by years such novels as Foucault’s Pendulum and The Da Vinci Code.
The plot meanders between the thoughts, hallucinations and inner voices (both real and imagined) of its many characters, as well as through time (past, present, and future)sometimes in mid-sentence. Much of the back story is explained via dialogue between characters, who recount unreliable, often mutually contradictory, versions of their supposed histories. There are even parts in the book in which the narrative reviews and jokingly deconstructs the work itself.
The trilogy’s rambling story begins with an investigation by two New York City detectives (Saul Goodman and Barney Muldoon) into the bombing of Confrontation, a leftist magazine, and the disappearance of its editor, Joe Malik. Discovering the magazine’s investigation into the assassinations of John F. Kennedy, Robert F. Kennedy, and Martin Luther King, Jr., the two follow a trail of memos that suggest the involvement of powerful secret societies. They slowly become drawn into a web of conspiracy theories. Meanwhile, the magazine’s reporter, George Dornhaving been turned loose without support deep in right-wing Mad Dog, Texasis arrested for drug possession. He is jailed and physically threatened, at one point hallucinating about his own execution. The prison is bombed and he is rescued by the Discordians, led by the enigmatic Hagbard Celine, captain of a golden submarine. Hagbard represents the Discordians in their eternal battle against the Illuminati, the conspiratorial organization that secretly controls the world. He finances his operations by smuggling illicit substances.
The plot meanders around the globe to such far-flung locations as Las Vegas (where a potentially deadly, secret U.S. government-developed mutated anthrax 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).
The evil scheme uncovered late in the tale 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 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.
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The Illuminatus! Trilogy – Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia