Back Cover: "I was astonished and delighted. . . Wilson managed to reverse every mental polarity in me, as if I had been pulled through infinity." -- Phillip K. Dick
One fateful evening in a suitably dark, beer-soaked Swiss rathskeller, a wild and obscure Irishman named James Joyce would become the drinking partner of an unknown physics professor called Albert Einstein. And on that same momentous night, Sir John Babcock, a terror-stricken young Englishman, would rush through the tavern door bringing a mystery that only the two most brilliant minds of the century could solve. . .or perhaps bringing only a figment of his imagination born of the paranoia of our times.
An outrageous, raunchy ride through the twists and turns of mind and space, Masks of the Illuminati runs amok with all our fondest conspiracy theories to show us the truth behind the laughter. . . and the laughter in the truth.
"[Wilson is] erudite, witty, and genuinely scary." -- Publishers Weekly
"A dazzling barker hawking tickets to the most thrilling tilt-a-whirls and daring loop-o-planes on the midway to higher conciousness." -- Tom Robbins
"Wilson is one of the most profound, important, scientific philosophers of this century -- scholarly, witty, hip, and hopeful." -- Timothy Leary
"Wilson's ultimate tale of conspiracy: Read this book to fathom your own paranoia!" -- Clifford Stoll, astronomer, author, The Cuckoo's Egg, graduate, Buffalo Public School #61
"Robert Anton Wilson is one of the leading thinkers of the modern age -- providing an answer to the vision gap." -- Barbara Marx Hubbard, World Future Society
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10 9 8 7
Graham, Jyoti and Karuna
Note The characters and events in this novel, like those in ordinary life, are partly real and partly the product of somebody's disordered imagination.
The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and the Ordo Templi Orientis were (and are) quite real, and the magickal exercizes described are capable of producing results similar to those in our story. The Great God Pan, The King in Yellow, and Clouds Without Water are all real books and the quotations from them are accurate. All details of assassinations and other political events are taken from standard reference works such as the Britannica and are as reliable as such sources generally are.
The author solemnly warrants and guarantees that there are no flat lies and only one hidden joke in the above two paragraphs.
The chessboard is the world, the pieces are the phenomena of the universe, the rules of the game are what we call the laws of nature. The player on the other side is hidden from us.
-- Thomas Henry Huxley, Collected Essays
One great difference between Chemical and Alchemical processes is that Alchemy only employs a gradual heat continually but carefully increased, and does not commence with violent heat.
-- Israel Regardie, The Golden Dawn
My God! Think, think what you are saying. It is too incredible, too monstrous; such things can never be. . . There must be some explanation, some way out of the terror. Why, man, if such a case were possible, our Earth would be a nightmare.
(Special to the Express-Journal)
INVERNESS, APRIL 23, 1914 -- Inspector James McIntosh of the Inverness Police Force is facing a mystery more terrible than anything in the tales of Poe or Conan Doyle, as three inexplicable suicides in a fortnight have occurred in an area adjacent to Loch Ness -- an area which the countryfolk have recently insisted is haunted, not just by "Nessie," our famous local Monster, but by creatures even weirder and more fearsome.
The first mysterious suicide was that of Bertran Alexander Verey, 68, who tragically shot himself through the head last Thursday. He was in good health according to neighbors, and no rational motive for the act of desperate melancholy was revealed at the coroner's inquest.
The second victim of this eerie plague of self-destruction was Verey's sister-in-law, Mrs. Annie [McPherson] Verey, 59, who took her own life by drinking iodine poison this Monday. She is survived by her husband, Rev. Charles Verey, the well-known pastor of the antique and lovely Old Kirk by the Loch and president of the Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth.
Today, the third terrible and inexplicable tragedy occurred and was linked by strange coincidence with the first two acts of melancholic mania. Rev. Duncan McPherson, brother to Mrs. Verey, and vice-president of the Society for the Propagation of Religious Truth, cut his own throat with a razor.
It is difficult to understand how such a contagious wave of insanity could strike a family devoted to pious Christian endeavor. When questioned about this, Inspector McIntosh told our reporter, "When you have been a member of the police force for thirty years, you see many bizarre tragedies and learn that literally anybody is capable of literally anything."
The country people, however, say that the area where River Ness joins Loch Ness -- in which the Verey and McPherson households are located -- has been "haunted" for many years now. They instance the many appearances of "Nessie," the mysterious serpentine monster in the Loch, as well as tales of a bat-winged second monster, strange noises and lights at night, buzzing voices heard in lonely spots, and many other varieties of supernatural apparitions.
"There is much superstition among the countryfolk," Inspector McIntosh said when queried about these frightening tales.
Other residents regard the Inspector's skepticism with the strict rule of no wife, no horse, no mustache, always anger and derision.
Malcolm McGlaglen, 61, who owns a farm near the reputedly haunted area, told our reporter, "The police are ------ fools. Every man, woman, and child in these parts calls that land 'The Devil's Acres' and nobody will go into it after dark. 'Nessie' is the least of our worries. The ungodly sounds at night around there, and the lights in the sky and on the ground, and the monstrous creatures people have seen, are enough to make your hair turn white."
Another farmer, who asked that his name be withheld from publication, added more grisly details to McGlaglen's macabre tale, saying that his own son had encountered one of the "monstrous creatures" two years ago and is still under medical attention. He refused to describe the creature, saying, "City folk would laugh at us."
Robert McMaster, 43, another farmer, sums up the country people's view, saying, "we do not need a policeman as much as we need a witch-finder." McMaster claims to have seen a woman without a head walking on the grounds of the Laird of Glen Carig recently.
"Superstition," says Inspector McIntosh; but our reporter admits he was glad to be back in the city before night came down on "The Devil's Acres."
From the diary of Sir John Babcock, June 25, 1914: What manner of man is he, or what creature in the form of man? True, I have only met him in the flesh two times, but he has been a perpetual presence in my life for these two years now-- since I bought that accursed Clouds Without Water and became drawn into the affairs of the Verey family and the horrors at Loch Ness. Even before the blasphemous incident of the inverse cross that drove me out of Arles, he haunted my sleep, appearing in the most grotesque forms in constant nightmares that verged on sheer delirium. That one hideous vision in particular continues to haunt me -- he was wearing a turban and seemed some loathsomely obese Demon-Sultan, while all about him danced and piped a crew of insectoid servitors that only a Doré or Goya could depict. Like King Lear, I would fain cry out, "Apothecary, give me something to sweeten my imagination!" But this is not imagination; it is horrid reality. I still recall his last words to me in London: "Your God and Jesus are dead. Our magick is now stronger, for the Old Ones have returned." Sometimes, almost, my faith wavers and I believe him. That is the supreme horror: to bedrawn passively, without further struggle, all hope gone, to that which I dread most, like one who stands at the edge of an abyss and cannot resist the seductive demoniac voice that whispers, "Jump, jump, jump. . ."
EXTERIOR. RAILROAD STATION, BASEL, SWITZERLAND, 1914. EARLY EVENING. TRACKING SHOT.
Railway platform. We pan over several faces. Three normal-average men and women, a frightfully ugly man, a dwarf, more ordinary faces.
Railroad sounds. Preparations for departure. First voice in crowd: ". . . not the Almighty. . ."
Second voice: "You take it," I told him, "and stick it where the moon doesn't shine." He was positively vivid.
Third voice: "I nearly reached India."
Engine whistle shrieks. Full orchestra: the Merry Widow Waltz.
When the Zürich express left Basel on the night of June 26, 1914, a distinctly odd trio found themselves sharing compartment 23, and two of them very soon found themselves suspecting the third of being deranged.
"The rain is stopping," the Swiss doctor had ventured as soon as the train began moving. It was an announcement of the obvious, but the intent was clearly to open a friendly conversation.
"Ja," the Russian said in a cold curt tone, clearly uninterested in idle chatter.
"No more rain," the Englishman agreed amiably, but his polite smile went no farther than his mouth. His eyes were as remote from humanity as a mummy's.
The doctor looked at that empty smile for a moment and then tried another direction. "The Archduke Ferdinand seems to be enjoying a cordial reception on his tour," he said. "Perhaps the Balkan situation will cool down now."
The Russian made a skeptical noise, not even offering a word this time.
"Politics is all a masquerade," the Englishman said with the same polite smile not reaching his vacant, evasive eyes.
The Russian ventured a whole sentence. "There is one key to every masquerade," he pronounced with the ghoulish cheerfulness of those who plot apocalypse in a garret, "and the old Romans knew it: Cui bono?"
" 'Who profits?' " The Englishman translated the Latin into the German all three were speaking. "Who else but the Devil?" he answered rhetorically, giving vent to the kind of unwholesome laugh that makes people move away uncomfortably.
The Russian stared at the Englishman for a moment, registering the nervous symptoms the doctor had already noted. "The Devil," he pronounced firmly, "is a convenient myth invented by the real malefactors of the world." And with that he opened a newspaper and retreated behind it, clearly indicating that any further conversation directed at him would be an invasion of his privacy.
The doctor remained cordial. "Few people these days believe in the Devil," he said, thinking privately: Nine out of ten schizophrenics have a Devil obsession, and eight out of ten will produce some variation on that masquerade metaphor.
"Few people these days," the Englishman responded with a grin that had grown mechanical and ghastly, "can see beyond the end of their own nose."
"You have reason to know better, eh?" prodded the doctor.
"Are you an alienist?" the Englishman asked abruptly.
There it is again, the doctor thought: the astonishing intuition, or extrasensory perception, these types so often exhibit. "I am a physician," he said carefully, "and I do treat mental and nervous disorders -- but not from the position of the traditional alienist."
"I do not need an alienist," the Englishman said bitterly, ignoring the doctor's refusal to accept that label.
"Who said that you did?" asked the doctor. "My father was a minister of the gospel. In fact, I am interested merely in why you are so vehemently convinced of the existence of the Devil, in an age when most educated men would agree with the opinion of our cynical companion behind the newspaper there."
A skeptical sound came from behind the newspaper.
"Have you ever seen a man vanish into thin air, right in front of your eyes?" the Englishman asked.
"Well, no," said the doctor.
"Then don't tell me I need an alienist," the Englishman said. "Perhaps the world needs an alienist. . . perhaps God Himself needs an alienist. . . but I know what I've seen."
"You've seen a man vanish as in a magic act on the stage?" the doctor asked gently. "That is certainly most extraordinary. I can understand why you might fear nobody would believe you."
"You are humoring me," the Englishman said accusingly. "I saw it all. . . and I know it. . . the conspiracy that controls everything behind the scenes. I had all the evidence, and then it simply vanished. People, post-office boxes, everything. . . all removed from the earth overnight. . ."
Overnight, overnight, overnight: it was as if the train wheels had picked up the rhythm of the word.
"You have had some dreadful experience, certainly," the doctor said very gently. "But is it not possible that you are confused about some of the details, due to shock?"
Overnight, overnight, overnight, went the wheels.
"I have seen what I have seen," the Englishman said flatly, rising. "Excuse me," he added, leaving the compartment.
The doctor looked at the Russian still in retreat behind the protective newspaper.
"Did you hear the Beethoven concert while you were in Basel?" he asked cheerfully.
"I have more important business," the Russian said in his cold curt tone, turning a page with exaggerated interest in the story he was reading.
The doctor gave up. One passenger deranged and the other uncivil: it was going to be a dreary trip, he decided.
The Englishman returned with drooping eyes, curled in his corner and was soon asleep. Laudanum, or some other opiate, the doctor diagnosed. An acute anxiety neurosis, at least.
Overnight, overnight, overnight, the wheels repeated. The doctor decided to nap a bit himself.
He awoke with a start, realizing that the Russian had involuntarily grabbed his arm. Then he heard the Englishman's voice:
"No. . . no. . . I won't go into the garden. . . not again. . . Oh, God, Jones, that thing. . . the bat wings flapping. . . the enormous red eye. . . God help us, Jones. . ."
"He's totally mad," the Russian said.
"An anxiety attack," the doctor corrected. "He's just having a nightmare. . ."
"Gar gar gar gar," the Englishman went on, almost weeping in his sleep.
The Russian released his grip on the doctor's arm, embarrassed. "I suppose you see a dozen cases like this a week," he said. "But I'm not used to such things."
"I see them when they're going through these visions wide awake," the doctor said. "They are still human, and they still deserve sympathy."
"Nobody of his class deserves sympathy," the Russian said, returning to his cold curt tone and drawing back into his corner.
"The Invisible College," the Englishman mumbled in a silly schizophrenic singsong. "Now you see it, now you don't. . . into air, into thin air. . ."
"He's talking about a secret society of the seventeenth century," the doctor said, amazed.
"Even Jones," the Englishman went on muttering. "He existed but he didn't exist. . . Oh, God, no. . . not back to the garden. . ."
The outskirts of Zürich began to appear outside the window.
The doctor reached forward and touched the Englishman's shoulder with careful gentleness. "It is only a dream," he said softly, in the Englishman's own language. "You can wake now and it will all be over."
"You were having a bad dream," the doctor said. "Just a bad dream. . ."
"A lot of nonsense," the Russian said suddenly, coming out of his aloof coldness. "You would be wiser to forget all these imaginary demons and fear instead the rising wrath of the working classes."
"It wasn't a dream," the Englishman said. "They are still after me. . ."
"Young man," the doctor said urgently, "whatever you fear is inside your own mind. It is not outside you at all. Please try to understand that."
"You fool," the Englishman said, "inside and outside are the same to them. They can enter our minds whenever they will. And they can change the world whenever they will."
"They?" the doctor asked shrewdly. "The Invisible College?"
"The Invisible College is dead," the Englishman said. "The Black Brotherhood has taken over the world."
"Zürich!" shouted the conductor. "Last stop! Zürich!"
"Listen," the doctor said. "If you are going to be in Zürich for a while, come see me, please. I really believe I can help you." He handed the Englishman a card.
The Russian arose with a skeptical rumble in his throat and left the compartment without a farewell.
"This is my card," the doctor repeated. "Will you come to see me?"
"Yes," the Englishman said with that mechanical insincere smile again. But after the doctor left he sat th alone staring into space with empty eyes, dropping the card to the floor absently. He had only glanced briefly at the name on it: Dr. Carl Gustav Jung.
"I don't need an alienist," he repeated listlessly. "I need an exorcist."
IN THE HEART OF THE
Stately, plump Albert Einstein came from the gloom-domed Lorelei barroom bearing a paleyellow tray on which two mugs of beer stood carefully balanced, erect. Baggy trousers and an old green sweater, their colors dark-shadowed in the candlelit Rathskeller, garbed carelessly his short gnomic frame, yet his black hair was neatly combed, dandyish, and his black mustache jaunty.
"Oolf," said Professor Einstein, almost colliding with another beer-laden figure in the gloom.
James Joyce, gaunt and pale, raised drunken blue eyes to survey with a lean intense look the shadowdark and the diminutive figure of Einstein approaching. "Ah," he said thoughtfully, too sozzled to articulate further.
Einstein deposited the amber tray with care on Joyce's plain unpainted table; but before seating himself he danced three Dionysian steps to the tune of an accordion played by a one-eyed factory worker in the corner. Something almost girlish in the grace of the dance struck Joyce, who once again said, "Ah."
"Jeem," said Einstein, "why so silent suddenly?" He seated himself carefully, watchingfeeling for his chair the candlelit gloom. Seated safely, he at once drank deep dark drafts of the mahogany-hued beer, relishing it. Joyce continued to survey him with pleasant, amoeboid impassitivity: a spiflicated Telemachus. "Are you drunk?" Einstein demanded.
"An Irishman is not drunk," Joyce proclaimed dogmatically, "until he can fall down three flights of stairs and the coal chute without hurting himself. I was thinking in fact of the Loch Ness sea serpent. Today's paper had a story about some Scotsman named the Laird of Boleskine who's here to climb mountains. Reporters asked him about the monster and he said, 'Oh, Nessie is quite real. I've seen her many times. Practically a household pet.' "
EXTERIOR: CITY STREET, NIGHT. MEDIUM CLOSE-UP.
SATAN and SIR JOHN BABCOCK confronting each other, BABCOCK terrified. [This shot is held for the minimum possible time to almost register as a distinct image; the audience cannot quite be sure they saw it.]
Q: What did Joyce find most admirable in Einstein?
Q: What did Einstein find least admirable in Joyce?
A: Hibernian irascibility and feckless willingness to drink until arriving at deplorable and bizarre alternative states of consciousness.
Q: What conspicuous differences between Mr. Joyce and Professor Einstein were neither noted nor commented upon by either or both of them?
A: Joyce had escaped from the normal constrictions of ego by pondering deeply what it feels like to be a woman; Einstein had escaped from the normal constrictions of ego by pondering deeply what it feels like to be a photon. Joyce approached art with the methodology of a scientist; Einstein practiced science with the intuition of an artist. Joyce was living happily in sin with a mistress, Nora Barnacle; Einstein was living unhappily in marriage with a wife, Mileva Einstein.
EXTERIOR. SCOTS FARMLAND, DUSK. MEDIUM SHOT. Little MURDOCH FERGUSON, age 10, walking across a cornfield.
SOUND Voice of Rev. Charles Verey [over]: "Then, in 1912, came the appalling case of the Ferguson boy -- young Murdoch Ferguson, age 10, who was quite literally frightened out of his wits, returning home around twilight."
EXTERIOR. SAME. CLOSE-UP.
MURDOCH stops in his tracks and stares with horror at something off-camera.
Verey's voice [over]: "I fear you might smile at what the lad claims he saw. . ."
"And what is our sense of choice?" Joyce demanded. "Inescapable, I admit, but therefore doubly to be suspected."
Einstein smiled. "Thinking about thinking about thinking puts us in a strange box," he said. "Let me show you how strange that box is." He sketched a box neatly with quick fingers on a napkin and wrote rapidly within it. "Here," he said, offering his Talmudic trap to Joyce:
Joyce laughed. "Exactly," he said. "Now let me show you how we get out of the box." And he sketched and wrote on the other side of the napkin:
"We were talking about socialism when I went to the bar," Einstein remarked, "and now we are flying perilously close to the clouds of solipsism. Jeem, at once now, no cheating: What do you really believe is real?"
"Dog shit in the street," Joyce answered promptly. "It's rich yellowbrown and clings to your boot like an unpaid landlord. No man is a solipsist while he stands at the curb trying to scrape it off." Le bon mot de Canbronne.
"Another quantum jump," Einstein pronounced, beginning to laugh. "Well, Freud and Jung are studying these discontinuities of consciousness scientifically."
Nora, Stanislaus: Did they? Don't think. Judas, patron saint of brothers and lovers. They did. I know they did.
The crypt at St. Giles: How does that go again?
The accordionist started a new tune: Die Lorelei. Joyce watched dim shadows ambiguously move, fleeing across the walls starkly as foolish laughter erupted at a nearby table. "I probably never would have met you anywhere but here," he commented softly. "Distinguished professors from the University of Zürich do not move in the same circles with part-time language teachers from Signor Berlitz's adult kindergarten in Trieste. Not unless they both detest bourgeois society and have a liking for low bars. I acquired most of my real education from cheap bars and bawdy houses, like Villon."
The accordionist's friends began drunkenly to sing:
Ich weiss nicht was soll es bedeuten. . . "My mother loved that song," Einstein said softly, as the singers created the image, from childhood, of the Lorelei, beauty and death in her dank embrace.
Overnight, overnight, overnight.
"The last time I was in Zürich," Joyce said, following his own flight of thought, "was eight or nine years ago. Nora and I stayed at the Gasthaus Hoffnung and the name cheered me. I needed a House of Hope that year. Now we're staying there again, on vacation, and it's changed its name for some inexplicable reason to Gasthaus Doeblin -- my hometown, you see, Dublin. . . Is that not an omen or something of the sort?"
From deep neath the crypt of St. Giles. And something and something for miles. They did. My brother's keeper.
"Nora is your wife?" Einstein asked.
"In every sense," Joyce pronounced with unction, "except the narrowly legalistic and the archaically ecclesiastical." They did: I know they did. Fucking like a jenny in heat. I know. I think I know.
Q: Locate Bahnhofstrasse precisely in time-space.
A: Bahnhofstrasse was part of the city of Zürich: which was part of the canton of Zürich: which was part of the Democratic Republic of Switzerland: which was part of Europe: which was part of a 4½-billion-year-old planet, Terra: which completes one rotation upon its polar axis in relation to the sun in every diurnal-nocturnal 24-hour cycle and 1 revolution about a type-G star called Sol in 365 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 46 seconds: which is part of the solar system of nine planets and myriads of asteroids: which is moving together with Sol toward the constellation of Hercules at about 20,000 kilometers per hour: which is part of the galaxy popularly named the Milky Way: which is rotating on its own axis every 8 billion years: which is part of a family of many billion galaxies: which make up the known universe: which Professor Einstein is beginning to suspect is both finite and unbounded, being curved back upon itself four-dimensionally: so that one with infinite energy traveling forever would pass through galaxy after galaxy in a vast space-time orbit coming back eventually to the origin of such an expedition: so that such a one would eventually find again the Milky Way galaxy, the type-G star called Sol, the planet Terra, the continent of Europe, the nation of Switzerland, the canton of Zürich, the city of Zürich, the street called Bahnhofstrasse, the Lorelei Rathskeller: where such thoughts were conceived in the mind of Albert Einstein.
Q: How long had James Joyce and Nora Barnacle been lovers?
A: Ten years and ten days.
Q: How many times had James Joyce suspected Nora Barnacle of infidelity?
A: Three thouand six hundred sixty times.
Q: With what regularity did these suspicions occur?
A: Usually at about midnight; occasionally earlier in the evening if Mr. Joyce had started drinking in the afternoon.
Q: What actions usually resulted from these suspicions?
Q: Were there any exceptions to this otherwise consistent pattern of inaction?
A: Yes. In 1909, Joyce had expressed the suspicions with all the eloquence and fury of a great master of English prose. When persuaded that he was wrong on that occasion, he subsided once more into his pattern of silent distrust.
Q: Explain the motivations of this passivity.
A: Desire for peace and quiet in which to pursue literary work; morbid self-insight into the probably phantasmal origin of said suspicions; devout and baffled love for the object of both his concupiscence and his paranoia; democratic sense of belonging to the largest fraternal order in Europe, the cuckolds.
The debate between Albert Einstein (Prof. Physik) and James Joyce (Div. Scep.) in the charming old Lorelei Rathskeller on that memorable evening as the Föhn wind began to blow across Zürich covered diverse and most marvelous topics in epistemology, ontology, eschatology, semiotic, neurology, psychology, physiology, relativity, quantum theory, political science, sociology, anthropology, epidemiology and (due to Mr. Joyce's unfortunate tendency to dwell upon the unwholesome) more-than-liberal scatology. In epistemology, Joyce stood foursquare behind Aristotle, the Master Of Those Who Know, but Einstein betrayed a greater allegiance to David Hume, the Master Of Those Who Don't Know; while in ontology, Einstein leaned dangerously close to the ultra-skepticism which he was later to denounce when it was propounded more boldly by Dr. Niels Bohr as the Copenhagen Interpretation (viz: the universe known to us is the product of our brains and instruments and thus one remove from the actual universe), but Joyce, with cavalier disregard for both consistency and common sense, went even beyond the Copenhagen Interpretation to ultimate agnosticism, attempting to combine the Aristotelian position that A is A with the non-Aristotelian criticism that A is only A so long as you don't look close enough to see it turning into B. In eschatology, Einstein held stubbornly to the humanist position that science and reason were making the world significantly better for the greater part of the species Homo Sap., whilst Joyce mordantly suggested that all work in progress was always followed by work in regress. The great ideas of Bruno and Huxley, Zeno and Bacon, Plato and Spinoza, Machiavelli and Mach bounced back and forth across the table like ideological Ping-Pong balls as each became increasingly impressed by the verbal backhand of the other, recognized a mind of distinctly superior quality, and realized that ultimate agreement between two such divergent temperaments was as unlikely as the immanentization of the Gnostic eschaton next Tuesday after lunch. The workers who overheard bits of this ontological guerrilla warfare decided that both men were awfully smart guys, but the Russian gent from the train, had he been there, would have pronounced them both contemptible examples of petite-bourgeoisie subjectivism, decadent Imperialistic idealism and pre-dialectical empirio-criticism.