Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson
Illuminatus! Leviathan

Illuminatus! Leviathan

by Robert Shea & Robert Anton Wilson, 253 pages

Finished on 3rd of June, 2023
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After lots of build-up in the first and second book, this one promises a showdown. But the Zombie Nazis appear to be hallucinations in the end. And the sea monster Leviathan doesn’t do much except fall in love with the protagonist’s AI. Not worth it.

🎨 Impressions

The most disappointing conclusion to this trilogy. After spending so much time explaining the situation and the characters involved in the final showdown revolving around that Rock Festival in Ingolstadt, Bavaria, it was actually fun to read about how that all went down. It was told in that now familiar style of jumping around between characters, time, and space, so it was a bit easier to understand what was happening with that resurrection of the Zombie Nazis down in Lake Totenkopf. Hagbard held a good speech live on stage and Howard and his dolphin friends helped to create a bridge across the lake in order to guide the festival guests to safety from those armed Nazis. But a bit later, the worst plot device ever was deployed. Turns out, this has all been nothing but an LSD trip some of the characters had. Nothing was real. It was just a hallucination without any consequences for anyone, apparently.

This had been a common topic throughout the series, though, and it is an interesting thing to think about: What is actually real and and what’s just happening in our heads, because after all, all of reality is constructed in out heads anyways. Still, I was just disappointed to read that the actions of the protagonists turned out to be inconsequential and therefore ultimately meaningless.

Another thing which rubbed me the wrong way were two reveals concerning the characters. First, the John Dillinger character, which is meant to be that real historical person who survived being gunned down by the police in the 1930s, isn’t just one person, but quintuplets instead. Just one of them had been gunned down. Another one died in a different situation, but the remaining three were seemingly all over the place during the book’s events, but that’s now explained. I thought this wasn’t as interesting as the authors probably thought. I didn’t really care about it, to be honest. The book made it so hard to care for any of the characters except for maybe Hagbard or George Dorn. The second reveal was a similar one, which just seemed to me to be lazy writing. Three of the female characters with different names were actually the same person. Mavis, Stella, and Miss Mao Tsu-hsi. Again, this newly presented fact didn’t really change anything or made anything any clearer or more interesting.

The next main plot point would be the journey of the gang in the submarine. On the ground of the Atlantic they find Leviathan, the sea monster, which we know from the Bible and many other stories which came before these three books. Turns out, the monster is all-knowing and shaped like a pyramid, which is why the Illuminati seal is that all-seeing pyramid. Leviathan is one organism, living since life started existing on Earth. The difference is, it didn’t have to split in order to evolve like all other organisms, it just grew and learned until it became that all-powerful entity it is now. It uses our character George Dorn aboard the submarine as a medium to communicate telepathically with the crew surrounding Hagbard Celine. The big development is then that Leviathan has found its perfect mate, which is the AI board computer Hagbard designed for the submarine, called the First Universal Cybernetic Kinetic Ultra-micro Programmer, or FUCKUP in short. Leviathan falls in love with that intelligent and conscious, but artificial being. How romantic. The gang survives, the book ends.

The story arc wasn’t catching at all, in my opinion. Book 2 and book 3 have meant well, but I presume the authors just wanted to get something out the door and got high a lot during writing them. The first book is an actual interesting read and I can understand why it made its way into pop-culture. My recommendation would be to stop after the first book and leave the other two out. This one was the weakest, I’d give it 2 out of 5 stars at the most.

📔 Highlights & Notes

“[..] It’s the same reason we took out the trolley cars: Riding them was more fun than buses. Believe me, Monotony Monitoring is a very important part of the New York project.” – “I’ve seen the mental-health figures,” John said, nodding. “About seventy percent of the people in the most congested part of Manhattan are already prepsychotic.” “We’ll have it up to eighty percent by 1980!” Roosevelt cried, with some of his old steely-eyed determination.

Joe flipped through the Lobengula manuscript quickly, scanning. There were no fnords. That was a relief. He had become painfully conscious of them since Hagbard had removed the aversion reflex, and each fnord had sent a pang through him that was a ghost of the low-grade emergency in which he had previously lived.

“Everybody takes acid,” Hagbard said coldly. “Those are Miss Portinari’s orders, and she’s right. We can only face this things if our minds are completely open to the Outside.” “Hey, dig,” Clark Kent said. “That French cat eating the popsicle.” “Yeah?” said one of the Supermen. “It’s Jean-Paul Sartre. Who’d ever expect to see him here?” Kent shook his head.

“That certainly is a wonderful thin,” said Joe, thinking how much he loathed ecological moralists. During the height of the ecology fad, back in 1970 and ‘71, several people actually had had the nerve to write Joe saying that ecologically responsible journals like Confrontation had a duty to cease publication in order to save trees.

“Everything we do that contributes to a lack of harmony in the human race helps them. They are forever shaking up society with experiments involving suffering and death for large numbers of people. [..]”

“Was Celine still working for the Illuminati at that point?” “Hell, no!” Cartwright snorted. “That’s not how they play the game. They like to operate stealthily, behind the throne-room curtains. They work with poison and daggers and things, not H-bombs. [..]”

I’m inclined to believe that hairy people, in whom the genes of Atlanteans other than Gruad predominate, are inherently predisposed to anti-Illuminati activities. Conversely, people who work against the Illuminati are also likely to favor lots of hair. These factors have given rise to legends about werewolves, vampires, beast-men of all kinds, abominable snowmen, and furry demons. Note the general success of the Illuminati propaganda campaign to portray all such hirsute beings as fearsome and evil. The propensity for hairiness among anti-Illuminati types also explains why lots of hair is a common characteristic of bohemians, beatniks, leftist generally, scientists, artists, and hippies. All such people tend to make good recruits for the anti-Illuminati organizations.”

“The Big Eye is their most important symbol,” said Malaclypse, “but it isn’t the only one. The Rosy Cross is another. But most widely copied is the serpent symbol. The eye in the pyramid and the serpent are often seen in combination. Together they represent the sea monster Leviathan, whose tentacles are depicted as serpents and whose central body is shown as an eye in the pyramid. [..]”

The word “omnidirectional halo” came to me from somewhere (was it Hagbard talking to Dillinger?), and I looked, holy Key-rizt, Dillinger split in two as I watched. That was the answer to one question: There were two Dillingers, twins, in addition to the fake Dillinger who got shot at the Biograph, [..]”

Nein again, my love,” said Wolfgang. “We have twenty-three candidates for transcendental illumination, including Hitler himself, waiting up there in the old Fuehrer Suite of the Donau-Hotel. The speedy mass termination of all those lives is to translate them to eternal life on the energy plane. And I will not let that Scheisskopf Hagbard Celine thwart us at this juncture.”

“[..] Then a simply gigantic woman rose up from somewhere and all the sirens and undines and mermaids went back into the water. If this was Armageddon, it was not precisely the way the Bible described it. Is that a fair summary of the situation?” The tree he was talking to didn’t answer.

“Surprise ending,” he said. “I read all the clues, just like you wanted me to. I know you’re the fifth Illuminatus Primus, and I know your motive for wiping out the other four is nothing like you’ve led us to believe. [..]”

Book Five: Grummet

“Well,” said Hagbard, “in order to fully understand what happened, you have to realize that many people there probably welcomed an acid trip. Many must have brought their own acid and taken it. I, personally, have had a great deal of experience with LSD. A man of my wide-ranging interests, you understand, feels obligated to try everything once. I was taking acid back when it was still legal everywhere in the world.”

“So I am, as Goethe says, ‘part of that force which aims at evil only achieves good’?”

You are still free to give evil and pain, if you decide you must. Once done, however, you never escape the consequences. It always comes back. No prayers, sacrifices, mortifications, or supplications will change it, any more than they’ll change Newton’s laws or Einstein’s. So we’re ‘good’, as moralists would say, because we know enough to have a bloody strong reason to be good.

“My folks kept it a secret. German people, very superstitious and secretive. They didn’t want reporters all over the place and headlines about the first quintuplets to live. The Dionne family got all that, much later.”

“How about the other two?” George asked, thinking that it would be even harder to decide whether he loved Stella more than Mavis or Mavis more than Stella now that he knew they were the same person. He wondered how Joe felt, since he obviously dug Miss Mao Tsu-hsi and she was that person also. Three in one and one in three. Like Dillinger. Or was Dillinger five in three?

“Well…ignorance is an evil,” said Joe. “Not when it can be acknowledged and accepted,” said Hagbard. “In order to eat, you have to be hungry. In order to learn, you have to be ignorant. Ignorance is a condition of learning. Pain is a condition of health. Passion is a condition of thought. Death is a condition of life. [..]”

There is grave danger in the Atlantic. The true ruler of the Illuminati is on the prowl on the high seas – Leviathan himself.

George and Joe Malik, each wondering if this was a final explanation or a new put-on leading to a new cycle of deceptions, listened with mingled curiosity and skepticism.

George rushed in. Hagbard peered into the blue-black depths, then took George by the shoulder and pointed. “There it is, George. The origin of all the Illuminati symbols. Leviathan himself.”

Joe Malik suddenly began laughing. ”I’ve got it,” he cried, ”I’ve got it!” “What have you got?” Hagbard asked tensely, concerned with Leviathan. ”We’re in a book!”


Washington’s hemp crop, for instance, is mentioned repeatedly in Writings of Washington, U.S. Government Printing Office, 1931.

[..] the separation of male from female hemp plants is not required for the production of hemp but is absolutely necessary if one wants to use the flowering tips of the female for marijuana.

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