My World Turned Upside Down
A Prolegomena to the Art of
The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles
By Bobby Campbell
The first time I read The Earth Will Shake was during a Quantum Psychology course taught by Robert Anton Wilson at the Maybe Logic Academy. A book that is most certainly mind-blowing enough by itself, but having recourse to Uncle Pietro himself really upped the intensity!
That same week I was listening to an audiobook version of James Joyce’s Portrait of the Artist as a Young Man and had the strange experience of finding the same scene repeat in both books merely hours apart. I had just read about Sigismundo Celine being indoctrinated into the Catholic version of hell, only to then hear tell of Stephen Dedalus experiencing the same initiation, one that I’d gone through myself as a kid. RAW confirmed my synchronicity:
“No writer ever knows consciously all the influences on his work
but I did know the influence of Portrait of the Artist on Earth Will Shake
& two others you didn’t mention:
Huckleberry Finn by Twain and
Intruder in the Dust by Faulkner
Replace religious bigotry with racism
and you’ll see the Mississippi/Napoli parallels”
I promptly listened my way through The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn and confirmed I did indeed see the similarities, along with a general theme running through all three books of a cosmic coming of age, implying, but not quite saying, at the age of 23, that it felt like I was currently living one of those stories in real life.
“Huck Finn decides that even if hell exists,
he’d rather go there than send Jim back to slavery
the most moving scene in American literature to me;
I can’t even write this brief summary of it without tears coming
Siggy makes a similar choice
but I’m not as good a writer as Twain”
I respectfully contended with that last assertion :)))
A week later I finished the book, and in a thread titled “The Earth DID Shake,” announced, “it worked! This book seemed to intend on taking the reader through a transformative journey, and I in fact have gone through quite a transformative journey! Great book to include with this class! Isomorphic themes synced into a synergetic cyclone of enthusiastic (and interactive) comprehension of coordination, and at that: the adventure has only & always just begun.”
RAW the showman/shaman dutifully plugged the next installment of the Illuminatus! prequel series:
“Simon Moon’s gt-gt grand-uncle appears in the sequel THE WIDOW’S SON so does Tom Paine…”
He teased the genealogy of Simon Moon, because previously I had impulsively asked if I could borrow Mr. Moon for use in my comic book series Agnosis! as a medium aware meta character.
“Go ahead, Bobby. Have fun.”
Thus Simon Muadhen came to be, who both certainly is and definitely is not, a character from the Illuminatus! Universe.
RAW’s passing a couple years later was my impetus for finally reading The Widow’s Son, and coincidentally enough Toby Philpott had just previously and spontaneously gifted me a copy of The Third Policeman, which had turned out to be a direct stylistic antecedent to the second Historical Illuminatus Chronicle.
I read the book mostly during down time at my then day job as a Land Surveyor, where my primary duty was measuring the capacity, and laying out the expansion, of a landfill named “Cherry Island.” The symbolism of that role was mostly lost on me until someone emailed me cryptically asking for an explanation of this self portrait:
(I also read Finnegans Wake at the dump, natch!)
—————– Original Message —————–
Isn’t that a 24″ gauge & a common gavel?
You a travelin man?
—————– Original Message —————–
From: Bobby Campbell
From the west and traveling to the east, in search of light!
Actually I had never heard of any of that until I googled “24” gauge & common gavel” a minute ago. They’re really an extendable prism pole and a sledge hammer, but I see what you mean!
As I continued reading The Widow’s Son I couldn’t help but notice that my day job had all the makings of an illuminating vocation!
The Widow’s Son quickly became my favorite book.
It would be another couple years before I endeavored to read Nature’s God, as I found myself trying to savor my remaining unread RAW books, and I was barely halfway through it when I got an email, out of the blue, offering me the job of doing artwork for that very same book!
By then I’d moved on from the Land Survey job and was currently the Art Director of a small record label. I was living in Philadelphia, right down the street from Independence Hall, and within earshot of the local Occupy Wall Street protests.
“You see?” Sigismundo said. “History is coming to get us.”
This was in 2010, an earlier edition with a different publisher, the beginning of my first try at illustrating the Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, as offers to illustrate the first 2 books followed shortly after.
If I could have picked any books to illustrate it would have been these. It felt like a miracle!
A couple days after I turned in my artwork for The Earth Will Shake, on August 23rd, 2011, the U.S. east coast was ever so slightly jostled by an earthquake, the only one I’ve ever felt.
Several years later, when the rights to the series, thankfully, reverted back to the RAW Trust’s Hilaritas Press, the book rights to my scribbles remained tied up with the previous publisher, and the impossible happened yet again…
It’s a helluva thing to get invited to illustrate your favorite book series, but something else entirely to be asked to do so for a second time!
Though initially I politely declined this golden opportunity.
(Refusal of the call)
I had given absolutely everything I had to that first series of Historical Illuminatus illustrations, and honestly didn’t think I was in a position where I could top, what I’d long considered, my best work.
It wasn’t until the 2017 RAW DAY event in Santa Cruz that I found myself able to envision a bigger & better trip through The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, emphatically inspired by actually finding and conspiring with some of those long fabled others, and so yes, I said yes, I will, yes.
In my brand new art studio, with my 2 young sons watching over my shoulders, I ineluctably embraced this mulligan, went thoroughly in my bag, and shot for the goddamn moon!
I tried my best to take this unique opportunity as an invitation to elevate my craft, trying to bring my images up towards RAW’s text, meeting on the level, parting on the square, and all that good $#!+.
I tried to stretch my perspective into a hyperspatial pretzel, learning how to draw in impossible dimensions, and fractal detail, as the world around me turned upside down, all so as to do RAW’s great work justice.
I tried to move TOWARD THE ONE :)))
(the Perfection of Love, Harmony, and Beauty)
Did it work?
Get the latest & greatest
Historical Illuminatus Chronicles
from Hilaritas Press to find out!