108 of 118 people found the following review helpful
on September 25, 2000
First, let me say that this book is thoroughly engaging, thought-provoking, multi-layered, and completely worthy of all the praise that it's been given. Why am I giving "Cosmic Trigger" only 4 stars? Because not everybody will be ready for it. And even those who are will need to read it more than once for the full effect. Like James Joyce, who RAW seems extremely fond of quoting and whose "Ulysses" I suspect he seeks to emulate, Wilson has written a book that you just can't take in all at once.
One of the deeper "surface" lessons, the one Wilson shouts the loudest and at the same time refuses to do any more than tease you with, is that you have to decide for yourself what to believe -- but that deciding to believe anything limits what you will be able to observe in the world around you. This is heavy stuff, and ground-breaking to the average reader. As such, I've walked away from reading sessions alternately convinced that:
* Wilson is completely serious about all and sundry, straining to persuade you to approach the world with a more open mind; and
* Wilson is shoveling good-sounding but meaningless drivel on his readers for the sole purpose of a good belly laugh.
But even in this he's got a multi-layered agenda. Interpreting the book in line with one of the theories above -- as an earlier reviewer has done, with the former -- goes completely against the point of the book. WILSON IS NOT TRYING TO MAKE YOU BELIEVE. He presents no evidence nor standards of evidence (which the earlier reviewer did correctly note), EXACTLY BECAUSE his entire "surface" thesis is that one must constantly question THEIR OWN beliefs, within their own frameworks and based on their own observations (which the earlier reviewer seems to have missed).
Wilson's like that. Labyrinthine but consistent. Except he isn't, really. He ... Oh, just read the book.
In conclusion, this is a work that has earned a place on my bookshelf ... although I might have to wait a while to re-read it. "Cosmic Trigger" is a great foil to dogma of all stripes, but going through it too many times in succession makes it a piece of dogma itself, and the message gets lost.
28 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on February 3, 2007
I was amazed at several of the reviews here which give this book a low rating. They say it was "unreadable", "silly" "garbage" and other such put-downs, just because they were unable to comprehend it. This book has so many levels to it that many people WON'T get it (unfortunately) but just because quantum equations look like a bunch of scribbles to me, I don't go around referring to quantum physics as "silly" "garbage".
This is one of the best books on ontology and the nature of reality for the layman which has ever been written (or at least in the top ten). Please keep in mind, all who would criticise, that just because you yourself were not properly equipped to understand and enjoy this volume, that does not make it drivel. R.A.W., one of the best, at his best.
Rest in peace Mr. Wilson....
83 of 97 people found the following review helpful
on April 19, 2004
This book is a rambling account by R.A.W. that winds together accounts of the author's life in the 70's and his association with other 60s-70s drug and occult counter-culture figures (especially Timothy Leary) - to put forth a strange theory about aliens seeding life here on Earth and guiding our evolution (in consciousness) so that ultimately we can join them as immortal space beings.
In the process of spinning this "theory" Wilson touches on everything from the Illuminati, mythology, religion, psychology, physics, the occult, etc.
This is my first exposure to Wilson and in this book he comes across as highly intelligent and well read, but also very ego-centric and paranoid.
Also, - he makes the excellent point about how our sensory perception is intricately associated with our specific chemical biology - thus hallucinagenic drugs (chemicals) alter our perceptive ability and open us up to perceiving reality in a whole new way. And it's hard not to agree with that up to a point because we, as physical beings, are awash in a cosmic sea of signals, and are only consciously aware of a tiny, tiny percent of all of that information that is around us. However, Wilson, at least in this book, never seems to question the validity of the extra information that is processed when you wack your brain out on drugs and every conceivable occult activity. Nor does he seem to question very seriously the bizarre conclusions he reaches based on this information received. And while acknowledging Leary's ideas regarding the dose, set and setting as having a strong effect on one's experience with psychedelics Wilson didn't seem to catch on that this whole UFO-alien scheme could simply have been the result of a bunch of overworked imaginations and wacked out perceptive abilities operating in a very free-thinking, government hating, ego-centric, paranoid "set and setting".
This myopic approach also is evident to the reader in that Wilson seems to raise every coincidence in his life to the spiritually significant level of "syncronicity". For example, several times during the book he mentions that it is a meaningful coincidence of great import that his daughter's first menstrual cycle came on the same day that Timothy Leary was arrested in Afghanistan?! But he never mentions WHY this coincidence is meaningful. Similarly, he is convinced that "23" is an important number in his life so any day, date, book, time, place, story, picture, conversation, etc. that includes the number 23 in any way, shape or form is taken to have some special "meaning". And because 2 + 3 = 5, the number 5 is treated likewise - as are the numbers 33,333, 666 and others. A plethera of symbols are also given meaningful status (birds of prey, etc.) So it's not hard to see why Wilson can find sychronicities wherever he looks.
It's also interesting to note that the book is packed with wild assertions about where science would be at the turn of the century (year 2000) such as people living hundreds of years, commuicating routinely via telepathy, and regular space travel via spaceships to other planets. These things, obviously having not occurred could be forgiven as overly optimistic imagining, but to the extent that they are all part and parcel of his alien theory they cast doubt on the validity of much of what he says.
Wilson struck me as an intelligent, well-read, thinker with interesting perspectives on the meaning of life. His emotional state throughout the book seemed to oscillate between loving optimism and paranoia. And while I found his ideas a good springboard to thought, it was hard ultimately to take his conclusiond very seriously. And it was clear that, while writing this book, he was so wrapped up in his own conspiracy theories and wacky ideas that he couldn't properly step outside of that box in order to objectively evaluate them, which was strange given his obvious intelligence.
Overall it's worth reading to get a strange perspective on things and I'll probably read some related material (Timothy Leary)
24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
on January 14, 2000
Cosmic Trigger is as hard to categorize as it is enjoyable to read.Wilson ties together strands as diverse as qauntum theory,psychology,occultism and good old down to earth skepticism into a fascinating tapestry.Readers may be offended, shocked, or incredulous,but they will also be entertained and ,more likely than not,stimulated from this experience.The main strentgh of Wilsons writing is his ability to offer the reader tools to evaluate any information,and a healthy but not dogmatic skepticism.Mix in a self deprecating sense of humour and you'll have an idea of what Cosmic Trigger 1 has to offer. I believe the great strenth of Wilson is his ability to appeal to a wide range of readers without dumbing down the dialogue.This is a book that I cannot recommend highly enough.
7 of 7 people found the following review helpful
on November 10, 2005
In the 2003 documentary, 'Maybe Logic: the Lives and Ideas of Robert Anton Wilson', Paul Krassner (editor of The Realist) opines that Wilson and his works act as a kind of 'alarm clock' for people's psyches, waking them from their tunnel-realities in a culture that largely works to 'lull them to sleep'. I think this is a great description of the effect Wilson's books and lectures can often have on people (usually people who are at least already interested in philosophical thought and fairly open-minded, if not out-and-out neophiles), and in my opinion Cosmic Trigger seems the ideal starting place in this respect; the most powerful wake-up call, so to speak. Unless you are stubbornly dogmatic and rigid in your belief system -- in which case you'll likely either dismiss it as nonsense or else get completely freaked out -- this book could help open you up to a much broader view of the universe and yourself. Plus, aside from these possibly profound metaphysical insights, it's a fantastic, thrilling read.
Some of the more 'far out' metaphors and hypotheses employed (such as extraterrestrial ESP, of course) can sometimes prevent readers from understanding the deeper messages, but if you remember not to take them literally -- and actively understand Wilson's introduction to this edition, where he emphasizes that 'reality' is not best conceived of as a noun, nor as immutable -- you might well realize how everything else held to be 'objective' is similarly constructed, and therefore, for one thing, find Wilson's models for his experiences (in the final part of the book) absolutely fascinating.
Because the book details a process of what Wilson describes as 'self-induced brain change', and is apt to trigger similar inner voyages in the intelligent, curious reader, it should be stressed that a firm understanding of logic (and preferably at least one science) should probably be a prerequisite for personally exploring these areas. As the author himself warns, it's easy to take some of these ideas and go completely crazy with them, if you lack a firm grip on everyday, consensus reality. If you want a more 'down to earth', 'academic' read, then some of Wilson's other -- equally intelligent and absorbing -- books (such as Prometheus Rising and Quantum Psychology) are definitely worth checking out; although, as I've already said, I'm inclined to think that Cosmic Trigger is the ideal introduction to Wilson's thought; although this obviously depends on the extent of your knowledge on some of the key issues (such as relativity, quantum mechanics and Leary's eight-circuit model of consciousness). For novices in these fields, I suspect that reading cosmic Trigger can be a great way to shake yourself free of your pre-conceived notions and tunnel-realities, so that the author's later works will make a lot more sense to you.
The book is packed with so much insight, speculation, warmth and intrigue that it's impossible to attempt any meaningful synopsis: aside from what I've personally picked out above as being 'underlying themes' there's a galaxy of interrelated material spanning everything from Jung's archetypes of the collective unconscious, to Crowlyean magick, to sufism, to JFK's assassination, to Bell's theorem, to. . . Well, find out for yourself! As R. U. Sirius said in the above-mentioned documentary, 'Cosmic Trigger was the motherload!'
24 of 30 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 1999
...depending on who you are. If you are intelligent, curious, and possessed of a sense of humor, this book will do you great good: it's a very gently humorous and extremely HUMANE examination of All The Weird Things we've been living with these past few hundred years (or more), as filtered through one Robert Anton Wilson.
However... if you respond to the book by slamming it closed and calling R.A.Wilson a liar/fraud/false prophet/agent of Satan/etc., etc., then you have completely missed the point. Wilson is not trying to convert anyone to his specific point of view, but is trying to awaken people to the possibility that their own point of view may simply be very, very small and incomplete. It's big universe out there, and to hide from it in a "dogmatic reality-tunnel" (his words) is, quite simply, counterproductive and stupid. It does not make SENSE to ignore the possibilities, or to smother them with regurgitations of unexamined prejudices.
Wilson is doing something very daring here: he is trying to write a book which is NOT meant to be read by the "converted", but by everyone, really. G'wan, you Bible-pounders -- give it a shot. You could be right and you could be wrong. It's a big universe.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 3, 2007
"Cosmic Trigger" is worth reading both for its historical value and its relevance today. Many of the important figures of the 60's and 70's, like Tim Leary, J Edgar Hoover and Robert A Wilson, are dead and gone, but the problems they represented are still with us. Permit me to quote one paragraph:
"Paul Watzlavik, among others, has performed classic experiments in which totally sane people will begin to behave with all the irrationality of hospitalized paranoids or schizophrenics - just because they have been lied to in a calculated and systematic way. This sort of 'disinformation' matrix is so typical of many aspects of our society (e.g. advertizing and organized religion, as well as government) that some psychiatrists, such as R.D. Laing, claim it is the principal cause of psychotic breakdowns. When the politics of lying becomes normal, paranoia and alienation become the 'normality' of the day. The government, as the principal liar of the 1960's, was, of course, more deluded than anyone else, since its reality-map had become a classic disinformation system. The establishment began looking around for the villains to blame for the escalating social disintegration. Tim Leary got elected, by unanimous acclaim, Villain #1."
Nominations are now open for Villain #1 of this decade. Osama seems to be leading.
6 of 6 people found the following review helpful
on April 22, 2002
Robert Anton Wilson is one of the most forward thinkers of his time. Wilson's first book in this series leads you down his path of exploring the changes he underwent by using mind expanding drugs and experimenting with magick rituals. Wilson's storyline of his mind expansion intersects along the way with his real life and allows the reader an insight into what types of things were influencing his decisions as he probed deeper into this fantastical realm. The timeline shifts around but the reader is never dissatisfied. The second part of the book deals with the scientific basis behind his studies and those of other free thinkers such as Timothy Leary.
I first became interested in Wilson after reading the Illuminati trilogy. This book will only add to anyone's appreciation for that book and its author. This book provides some background into the events which are covered by the trilogy. In general, the Cosmic Trigger series begins with a bang. 4 stars losing one for the sometimes cryptic nature of the writing, but then again, that is RAW.
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on December 5, 2002
Robert Anton Wilson's book "Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secrets of the Illuminati" is one of the most diverse books that I have read. Basically, Wilson is highly convinced that there is a controlled destiny for everyone's lives. He takes a very basic look on the topics of metaprogramming, chapel perilous, religion, and various secret societies. I especially love the statement "maybe the secret of the Illuminati is that you don't you're in until it is too late." I do think his argument could have been more effective without the constant referencing to LSD as a "breakthrough" in open mindedness, but perhaps this is because I have been programmed by society to not accept such explanations.
Wilson basis most of his arguments on personal experiences for both himself and others. I do not think these serve as valid premises as he openly admits that he was on drugs at the time. It makes his argument of seeing aliens, hidden patterns, etc. very weak. Where as the ideas of Sirus, Discordian Society and the metaphysical might seem sketchy, Wilson has certainly done his homework is referencing several well-established personalities in the scientific community. He challenges the reader to think outside the box using arguments that provide very compelling evidence. I do think the author discredits himself by creating the illusion of having multiple personalites, but perhaps it was the only way he felt he could express himself.
Written as clearly as one can when discussing such technical subjects as mind control and alien conspiracy, I highly recommend the reading of this book. The idea that God is something we reference only to explain things we don't understand or that are beyond our control will delight some readers, though it did not exactly thrill me. The idea that the concept of God could stem from contact with alien life seems impossible, but could always have happened. Several well-documented cases of premonition like the Mothman Prophecies, and encounters like the Simonton Pancakes add to Wilson's evidence.
The concept of chapel perilous: a mental place in which you learn so much that all your thoughts and belief structures are challeged, is highly scary, but then again, anytime a belief proves to be false devastation follows. I do not however, believe that drug use would bring one to that point.
Probably the biggest fallacy found in the book is Wilson's claim that he does not believe in anything. Is that even possible? I think you have to have some beliefs, such as you believe that breathing will bring you air, etc. I think an argument that he intended to reference as making him seem open minded did nothing more than bewilder his audience.
The book was a really good read, even though it did demand some serious time to let the information settle. I would suggest that one heed Wilson's original advice: If things start making sense, put the book down. It is not worth loosing your sanity over. If you are, however, interested in why a man would quit his job as the Editor of Playboy to pursue a career of divulging conspiracies, then this is the book for you. See you on Sirius!
10 of 12 people found the following review helpful
on January 21, 2003
This was my first introduction to the writings of Robert Anton Wilson, at a time in my life when the limited, inconsistant, and ludicrous models of reality offered by the world seemed too limiting to bear. What Wilson offers here appears (in my reality tunnel) to be a look into the largely misunderstood philosophy of agnosticism, as well as his own experiences with love, sex, drugs, yoga, magik, life, death, and governmental corruption.
Does this review capture Wilson, or Cosmic Trigger I in its entirety? Of course not, and Wilson is fully aware that his writings and non-beliefs defy any catagorization (his books are very hard to find in retail stores). All I can offer is my uninformed opinion that there is no wiser, more humorous, and generally more interesting than Robert Anton Wilson.