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Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger Front Cover 1977 | by James Prochnik Photography
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Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger Front Cover 1977

Robert Anton Wilson's Cosmic Trigger / The Final Secret of the Illuminati (front cover)

And/Or Press 1977


I got a copy of this book in Telluride, CO when I was about 12 or 13. We used to go there in the summer, long before Telluride became the kind of upscale ski town it is today.


When we used to visit, it was an ex-mining town that had reinvented itself as a hippie Shangri La, and the local bookstore reflected, beautifully, the countercultural inclinations and explorations of the community. (That bookstore is also where I first encountered Baba Ram Dass's iconic 'Be Here Now' guide).


I loved Cosmic Trigger. It blew my mind, and I've brough a copy with me wherever I've lived since.


To me, coming from a typical suburban upbringing, the ideas and prose of the book were freeing and thought provoking.


The copy I bought back then - I don't know where it is. It had a different cover, the original cover. I lent it to someone, and maybe they lent it on to someone else. Everyone I lent it to enjoyed it, but one person maybe too much. Right around the time I lent it to this particular friend, he began exhibiting the early symptoms of schizophrenia, and I always felt bad about not understanding where he was at at that time, and what he was experiencing when he read it. He might be the one who kept that first copy of the book I bought.


I'm sure all imaginative books hold some dangers to sensitive minds - perhaps some comforts too.


But this one, with it's ideas and convincing arguments about a subjective and changeable reality must have held unique resonances to my friend who was literally seeing their reality shift and morph in the throes of their illness - something I didn't understand or appreciate till years later.


That's the kind of reality no one wants to face, and the kind of reality that can bring an early and harsh end to mystical and subjective ideas of reality. Because that's the kind of reality with consequences. And once these consequences happen, they can't really be changed.


Robert Anton Wilson actually does deal with that in the book too. The kind of reality that kills you or someone you love in the end. And it's those stories that I think give the book it's depth and enduring qualities.


It's the final lesson of the book, and, I suppose, in the journey I took with it.

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Taken on October 20, 2008