Thursday 22 January 2015

Pulling the Cosmic Trigger Part 1: Fish-Tailed Extraterrestrials

I was up in Liverpool in November for a mind-bending celebration of the guerilla ontologist, Discordian Pope (and Finnegans Wake nut), Robert Anton Wilson. The occasion was the stage production by Daisy Eris Campbell, of RAW's classic book, Cosmic Trigger. 

I posted here over a year ago about Daisy's planned production. Not only had she pulled off a four-hour stage play but, with the help of the writer John Higgs, she'd programmed a whole weekend of high weirdness, including a Discordian Papal Ball and a 'Find the Others' Conferestival.  

The mind-bending began on the train from Euston, when Lisa and I found ourselves sharing a table with a distinguished-looking American and his English wife. Halfway through the journey, he pulled out a copy of Cosmic Trigger and started reading it.

Me: 'Are you going to Cosmic Trigger? So are we!'
His wife: 'He's giving a talk there!' 
Me: 'Gosh! Which one are you?'
He: 'I'm Robert Temple.'
Me: 'Wow! The Sirius man!'  

And so we met Robert and Olivia Temple

It was Robert Temple who came up with the phrase 'cosmic trigger' in his 1976 book, The Sirius Mystery. In this astounding book, he suggested that civilization on earth was kick-started by fish-tailed amphibious extraterrestrials from the Sirius system. Temple based this on traditions among the Dogon people of Mali that their ancestors were visited by such beings, called Nommo.

A Dogon drawing of a Nommo
'I would even venture that we may be under observation or surveillance at this very moment, with an extraterrestrial civilization based at the Sirius system monitoring our development to see when we will be ready ourselves for their contacting us...Would they think that [this book] was their cue? If what I propose in this book is really true, then am I pulling a cosmic trigger?'  

Temple, The Sirius Mystery, quoted by Wilson in Cosmic Trigger

Temple's book amazed Robert Anton Wilson who, since July 1973, had supposed he was receiving telepathic transmissions from somewhere near Sirius. At other times, Wilson supposed that the same messages might be coming from a Pookah, a giant white rabbit spirit from County Kerry, like the one in my photo on the right of this page.

The Sirius theory inspired Philip K Dick, who loved Cosmic Trigger ('Wilson managed to reverse every mental polarity in me, as if I had been pulled through infinity. I was astonished and delighted.' Philip K Dick, quoted on the back of Wilson's book). Dick felt that he was receiving his own transmissions from a 'Vast Active Living Intelligence System' (VALIS) he located in the Sirius system.

Temple's book also inspired Timothy Leary, who was channelling his own aliens at the same time ('the Starseed Transmissions').

It was a thrill to meet Robert and Olivia, and we had a fascinating conversation all the way to Liverpool. I mentioned his influence on Wilson, Leary and Dick. He knew about the first two – the copy of Cosmic Trigger he was reading was a present from Wilson, who wrote to him, though they never met. But Robert didn't know about Dick's Valis.  This got us onto science fiction, and Arthur C Clarke:

'I was a good friend of Arthur C Clarke. You know, until he was 21 he never left Somerset, yet he could imagine all those worlds.'

The train announcements 'Beware of suspicious items' set off another conversation: 'I'm a suspicious item. So are you!'

We talked about Ancient Egypt, early Islam and Christianity. Robert said, 'Jesus never came from Nazareth, which didn't exist for 300 years until after his time. According to Jewish traditions, he was short, ugly and covered with tattoos!'

Me: 'I haven't heard that one! Wasn't he supposed to be the illegitimate son of a Roman centurion, Panthera?' (I knew this from Ulysses).

Robert: 'I see you've looked into it. Yes, he came from Capernaum where he was a rabbi, but they threw him out of the synagogue because he was preaching a new kind of Judaism. So he said, 'OK, I'll go and preach to the fishermen!' And the fishermen were pleased because nobody had bothered with them before.'
Visiting the Virgin train toilet, I was startled to find it speaking to me in a female voice: 'Please do not flush nappies, sanitary towels, old mobile phones, unpaid bills, your ex's jumper, hopes, dreams or goldfish down the toilet'.  I'd entered a Philip K Dick story!

We said goodbye at Liverpool. The Temples went off to see a film about the Romanian singer, Maria Tanase. We checked into our hotel, the Four Feathers, where I watched a youtube of Robert being inteviewed about Sirius by Nabil Shaban. 

'We are being monitored....We may not be being monitored in what's known now as 'real time'. It may be a retrospective recording by cosmic anthropologists, with technology that's got recording devices that are now so small that they're invisible to us, as ours are becoming....There could be a speck of dust floating in this room which would be quite up to recording our conversation.'
Look everyone. it's Robert Temple!
We met up with the Temples several more times over the weekend. Here's a photo Lisa took of me with Robert at the 'Find the Others' Conferestival, named after Timothy Leary's call to arms: 

'Every time you say club passwords like “Have a nice day” and “Weather’s awful today, eh?”, you yearn inside to say forbidden things like “Tell me something that makes you cry” or “What do you think deja vu is for?”. Face it, you even want to talk to that girl in the elevator. But what if that girl in the elevator (and the balding man who walks past your cubicle at work) are thinking the same thing? Who knows what you might learn from taking a chance on conversation with a stranger? Everyone carries a piece of the puzzle. Nobody comes into your life by mere coincidence. Trust your instincts. Do the unexpected. Find the others.'

We'd certainly found an other in Robert Temple!

And here's a fish-tailed extraterrestrial I photographed in Liverpool on the Sunday

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