The ILLUMINATUS! Trilogy

written by Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea


The Midget versus the Digits

The Midget, whose name was Markoff Chaney, was no relative of the famous Chaneys of Hollywood, but people did keep making jokes about that. It was bad enough to be, by the standards of the gigantic and stupid majority, a freak; how much worse to be so named as to remind these big oversized clods of the cinema's two most famous portrayers of monstro-freaks; by the time the Midget was fifteen, he had built up a detestation for ordinary mankind that dwarfed (he hated that word) the relative misanthropies of Paul of Tarsus, Clement of Alexandria, Swift of Dublin and even Robert Putney Drake. Revenge, for sure, he would have. He would have revenge...

Damn the science of mathematics itself, the line, the square, the average, the whole measurable world that pronounced him a bizarre random factor. Once and for all, beyond fantasy, in the depth of his soul he declared war on the "statuatory ape," on law and order, on predictability, on negative entropy. He would be a random factor in every equation; from this day forward, unto death, it would be civil war: the Midget versus the Digits....
His first overt act began in Dayton the following Saturday. He was in Norton's Emporium, a glorified 5 & 10 ¢ store, when he saw the sign:
NO SALESPERSON MAY LEAVE THE FLOOR WITHOUT THE AUTHORIZATION OF A SUPERIOR.
THE MGT.
What! he thought, are the poor girls supposed to pee in their panties if they can't find a superior? Years of school came back to him ("Please, may I leave the room, sir?") and rituals which had appeared nonsensical suddenly made sense in a sinister way. They were trying to reduce us all to predictable units, robots. Hah!...The following Wednesday, the Midget was back at Norton's and hiding in a coffee urn when the staff left and locked up. A few moments later, the sign was down and a subtly different one was in its place:
NO SALESPERSON MAY LEAVE THE FLOOR OR GO TO THE DOOR WITHOUT THE AUTHORIZATION OF A SUPERIOR.
THE MGT.
He came back several times in the next few weeks, and the sign remained. It was as he suspected: in a rigid hierarchy, nobody questions orders that seem to come from above, and those at the very top are so isolated from the actual work situation that they never see what is going on below. It was the chains of communication, not the means of production, that determined a social process.. Nothing signed "THE MGT." would ever be challenged; the Midget could always pass himself off as the Management.




``Very nice,'' I said. ``But why did you bring me up here?''
``It's time for you to see the fnords,'' he replied.
Then I woke up in bed and it was the next morning. I made breakfast in a pretty nasty mood, wondering if I'd seen the fnords, whatever the hell they were, in the hours he had blacked out, or if I would see them as soon as I went out into the street. I had some pretty gruesome ideas about them, I must admit. Creatures with three eyes and tentacles, survivors from Atlantis, who walked among us, invisible due to some form of mind shield, and did hideous work for the Illuminati. It was unnerving to contemplate, and I finally gave in to my fears and peeked out the window, thinking it might be better to see them from a distance first. Nothing. Just ordinary sleepy people, heading for their busses and subways. That calmed me a little, so I set out the toast and coffee and fetched the New York Times from the hallway. I turned the radio to WBAI and caught some good Vivaldi, sat down, grabbed a piece of toast and started skimming the first page.
Then I saw the fnords.
The feature story involved another of the endless squabbles between Russia and the U.S. in the UN General Assembly, and after each direct quote from the Russian delegate I read a quite distinct ``Fnord!'' The second lead was about a debate in congress on getting the troops out of costa Rica; every argument presented by Senator Bacon was followed by another ``Fnord!'' At the bottom of the page was a Times depth-type study of the growing pollution problem and the increasing use of gas masks among New Yorkers; the most distressing chemical facts were interpolated with more ``Fnords.''
Suddenly I saw Hagbard's eyes burning into me and heard his voice: ``Your heart will remain calm. Your adrenalin gland will remain calm. Calm, all-over calm. You will not panic. you will look at the fnord and see the it. You will not evade it or black it out. you will stay calm and face it.'' And further back, way back: my first-grade teacher writing FNORD on the blackboard, while a wheel with a spiral design turned and turned on his desk, turned and turned, and his voice droned on, IF YOU DON'T SEE THE FNORD IT CAN'T EAT YOU, DON'T SEE THE FNORD, DON'T SEE THE FNORD . . .
I looked back at the paper and still saw the fnords. This was one step beyond Pavlov, I realized. The first conditioned reflex was to experience the panic reaction (the activation syndrome, it's technically called) whenever encountering the word ``fnord.'' The second conditioned reflex was to black out what happened, including the word itself, and just to feel a general low-grade emergency without knowing why. And the third step, of course, was to attribute this anxiety to the news stories, which were bad enough in themselves anyway. Of course, the essence of control is fear. The fnords produced a whole population walking around in chronic low-grade emergency, tormented by ulcers, dizzy spells, nightmares, heart palpitations and all the other symptoms of too much adrenalin. All my left-wing arrogance and contempt for my countrymen melted, and I felt a genuine pity. No wonder the poor bastards believe anything they're told, walk through pollution and overcrowding without complaining, watch their son hauled off to endless wars and butchered, never protest, never fight back, never show much happiness or eroticism or curiosity or normal human emotion, live with perpetual tunnel vision, walk past a slum without seeing either the human misery it contains or the potential threat it poses to their security . . .
Then I got a hunch, and turned quickly to the advertisements. it was as I expected: no fnords. That was part of the gimmick, too: only in consumption, endless consumption, could they escape the amorphous threat of the invisible fnords. I kept thinking about it on my way to the office. If I pointed out a fnord to somebody who hadn't been deconditioned, as Hagbard deconditioned me, what would he or she say? They'd probably read the word before or after it. ``No this word,'' I'd say. And they would again read an adjacent word. But would their panic level rise as the threat came closer to consciousness? I preferred not to try the experiment; it might have ended with a psychotic fugue in the subject. The conditioning, after all, went back to grade school. No wonder we all hate those teachers so much: we have a dim, masked memory of what they've done to us in converting us into good and faithful servants for the Illuminati.


Robert P. Drake's Tarot Reading c. 1928

"You have the talent," Drake said coldly, "but you are still basically a fraud, like everyone in this business. Your worst victim, madam, is yourself. You deceive yourself with the lies that you have so often told others. It's the occupational disease of mystics. The truth is that it doesn't matter whether I destroy myself alone or destroy this planet -- or turn around and try to find my way to the right-hand path in some dreary monastery. The universe will roll blindly along, not caring, not even knowing. There's no Granddaddy in the clouds to pass a last judgement -- there's only a few airplanes up there, learning more and more about how to carry bombs. They court-martialed General Mitchell for saying it, but it's the truth. The next time around they'll really bomb the hell out of civilian populations. And the universe won't know or care about that either. Don't tell me that my flight from Death leads back to Death; I'm not a child, and I know that all paths lead back to Death eventually. The only question is: Do you cower before him all your life, or do you spit in his eye?"

"You can transcend abject fear and rebellious hatred both. You can see that he is only a part of the Great Wheel and, like all other parts, necessary to the whole. Then you can accept him."

"Next you'll be telling me to love him."

"That too."

"Yes, and I can learn to see the great and glorious Whole Picture. I can see all the men defecating and urinating in their trousers before they died at Château-Thierry, watching their own guts fall out into their laps and screaming out of a hole that isn't even a mouth anymore, as manifestations of that sublime harmony and balance which is ineffable and holy and beyond all speech and reason. Sure, I can see that, if I knock half my brain out of commission and hypnotize myself into thinking that the view from that weird perspective is deeper and wider and more truly true than the view from an unclouded mind. Go to the quadruple-amputee ward and try to tell them that. You speak of death as a personified being. Very well: Then I must regard him as any other entity that gets in my way. Love is a myth invented by poets and other people who couldn't face the world and crept off into corners to create fantasies to console themselves. The fact is that when you meet another entity, either it makes way for you or you make way for it. Either it dominates and you submit, or you dominate and it submits.
Take me into any club in Boston and I'll tell you which millionaire has the most millions, by the way the others treat him. Take me into any workingman's bar and I'll tell you who has the best punch in a fistfight, by the way the others treat him. Take me into any house and I'll tell you in a minute whether the husband or the wife is dominant. Love? Equality? Reconciliation? Acceptance? Those are the excuses of the losers, to persuade themselves that they chose their condition and weren't beaten down into it. Find a dutiful wife, one who truly loves her husband. I'll have her in my bed in three days, maximum. Because I'm so damned attractive? No, because I understand men and women. I'll make her understand, without saying it aloud and shocking her, that the adultery will, one way or another, hurt her husband, whether he knows about it or not. Show me the most servile colored waiter in the best restaurant in town, and after he's through explaining Christianity and humility and all the rest of it, count how many times he steps into the kitchen to spit in his handkerchief. The other employees will tell you he has a 'chest condition.' The condition he has is chronic rage. The mother and the child? An endless power struggle. Listen to the infant's cry change in pitch when Mother doesn't come at once. Is that fear you hear? It's rage. Insane fury at not having total dominance. As for the mother herself, I'd wager that ninety percent of the married women in the psychiatrists' care are there because they can't admit to themselves, can't escape the lie of love long enough to admit to themselves, how often they want to strangle that monster in the nursery.
Love of country? Another lie; the truth is fear of cops and prisons. Love of art? Another lie; the truth is fear of the naked truth without ornaments and false faces on it. Love of truth itself? The biggest lie of all: fear of the unknown. People learn acceptance of all this and achieve wisdom? The surrender to superior force and call their cowardice maturity. It still comes down to one question: Are you kneeling at the altar, or are you on the altar watching the others kneel to you?"

"The wheel of the Tarot is the wheel of Dharma," Mama Sutra said softly when he had concluded. "It is also the wheel of the galaxy, which you see as a blind machine. It rolls on, as you say, no matter what we think or do. Knowing that, I can accept Death as another part of the wheel, and I can accept your nonacceptance as another part. I can control neither. I can only repeat my warning, which is not a lie but a fact about the structure of the Wheel: By denying death, you guarantee that you will meet him finally in his most hideous form."

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Last modified: Saturday, August 08 2009,02-58.