John Coulthart has done us all a service by reminding us of the wonderful art that appears in Robert Anton Wilson’s mind-bending follow-up (and companion) to his well-known Illuminatus! Trilogy, which bore the memorable title Cosmic Trigger with the subtitle Final Secret of the Illuminati.
The Illuminatus! Trilogy introduced readers to an incredible stew of ideas and influences that included Adam Weishaupt, UFOs, Wilhelm Reich, the number 23, John Dillinger’s penis, Carlos Castaneda, tarot, LSD—and did it via an enjoyable sci-fi/thriller plot—but Cosmic Trigger, while doing nothing to “rein in” the scope of Wilson’s occult interests, helped put some of the fictional trilogy’s meat on the bone in a semi-autobiographical context. Wilson not only told his readers how to get to the front door of Chapel Perilous, he also explained the secret “knock” required for entrance and what happened to you when you went inside.
As brilliant as he was, even Bob Wilson benefited greatly from having his ideas visualized in such a simpatico manner. John Thompson, a noted figure from the San Francisco comix scene, and someone very interested in mysticism and spirituality, was the ideal person to bring the visionary material to life.
Coulthart points out that not all editions of Cosmic Trigger included Thompson’s memorable cover (above), but most retained his internal illustrations. Here are some of those followed by a few of his other illustrations, which are just as creative and stimulating as the Cosmic Trigger material.
Daisy Eris Campbell’s Cosmic Trigger: The Play is currently being staged at The Cockpit in London. Buy tickets here.
Above, Thompson’s portrait of the author
More after the jump…