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Masks of the Illuminati

really liked it 4.0  ·  Rating Details ·  1,568 Ratings  ·  40 Reviews
Young and wealthy Englishman Sir John Babcock has discovered that an ancient criminal order is preparing to take over the world. He seeks the help of two brilliant, yet unlikely, drinking buddies--James Joyce and Albert Einstein--the only people genius enough to uncover the wretched scheme!.
Paperback, 336 pages
Published April 1st 1981 by Pocket Books (first published 1981)
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(showing 1-30)
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Oct 05, 2015 Jacob rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
A wonderful, brilliant novel. Erudite, fun, psychedelic, all-brow and all around awesome. Highly recommended for anyone into Detective Fiction, Metaphysical or Surreal storylines/narratives, conspiracies, Classic Literature, James Joyce, Albert Einstein, Aleister Crowley, History, etc. Put this on your TBR.
Maria Thomarey
Dec 28, 2016 Maria Thomarey rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Andrew Schwartz
Dec 23, 2009 Andrew Schwartz rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A clever metaphysical detective story masquerading as a Gothic horror, this book casts James Joyce and Albert Einstein as its super-sleuths, with the two trading off the roles of Sherlock Holmes and Watson as the plot demands it. The sinister Aleister Crowley is also integral to the plot, acting as their Moriarty-like foil.

Though set in pre-WWI Europe, this novel shares many themes and concepts with Wilson's other works (generally set in the mid-to-late twentieth century.) There is the familiar
"Who profits? Who else but the Devil?" he answered rhetorically, giving vent to the kind of unwholesome laugh that makes people move away uncomfortably.

"If you listen to seemingly dull people very closely, you'll see that they're all mad in different and interesting ways, and are merely struggling to hide it."
Apr 02, 2013 Shane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
The mystery isn't very mysterious, and the ersatz Joyce passages are tedious, though there is some amusement in the book. Go read Wilson's Illuminatus! trilogy instead, or almost anything else he's written. I love old Bob, but this is a weaker work. (Second read, ~ 17 years after the first)
Mar 02, 2008 Ron rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who want their mindset irrevocably rewired.
Shelves: mindblowing, magickal
I read this book when I was in high school and there are passages that still keep me up late at night just thinking about them, even though the last time I read it was maybe about eight years ago. Two years ago, when the NY Times Book Review was trotting out the usual suspects for its list of the greatest novels of the late twentieth century, I said this should have been on it, and I stand by that. Easily the best, most tightly constructed novel Wilson ever wrote.

Here's an extremely short recap:
Chris Brown
Mar 26, 2011 Chris Brown rated it really liked it
Very fun read. A tad indulgent at times but, for the most part, I recommend it. You will especially like it if you are interested in secret societies, nature of reality,magic, Aleister Crowley, OTO, Golden Dawn, cabbala, poetry, relativity. It works OK as just a mystery.
Geoff Gander
Jan 14, 2014 Geoff Gander rated it really liked it
Not as overtly mind-blowing as the Illuminatus! Trilogy, but a nevertheless fun read that manages to explore early 20th century Hermeticism, psychology, and related topics.
Mar 12, 2017 Mkfs rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
"Have we really been sitting here laughing like fools for three or four hours?"
"Something like that."
"Is it over yet?"
"I don't think so - do you see what I see?"

Thus the curtain falls on this novel whose sequel is the writing of Ulysses. An excellent - and literary - variation on the "I received instructions from Future Me on how to build this time machine, which has become commonplace in his era thanks to my invention" narrative loop.

Another one that I first read around 1990, and that holds up
Jul 02, 2013 Sarah rated it really liked it
There's really only one vein of Wilsonerei, and you either like it or you don't. I do. RAW was one of my major influences.

As a member of the species, Masks of the Illuminati is less deep and heartwrenching than the Illuminatus! trilogy, but more sound and interesting than Prometheus Rising.

This one involves Jung, Einstein, and Joyce solving an occult mystery and helping a Young Man Who Got In Over His Head. Aleister Crowley makes an appearance.

Wilson's good at fake-Joyce. I enjoy it. He's one
Cassie Walker
May 23, 2016 Cassie Walker rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I loved the trilogy and thought this shorter work was even better! More articulate (if you can call it that, his style often borders on gibberish) and the character development was even more compelling. Wilson's ability to weave the past, present, and future with truth, myth and hilarity is inspiring and thought provoking.
Zulu Adams
Oct 11, 2013 Zulu Adams rated it it was amazing
A brilliant brain exercise disguised as a novel.

The mish-mash of ideas and the imagining of iconic figures in odd situations is a supremely fun read, and I'll probably reread it again some day. Love how he uses the gothic and conspiracy elements as a smokescreen for a practical guide to relativity.

I haven't read any RAW in years and this was a perfect reintroduction.
Dec 15, 2014 Paul rated it really liked it
Probably Wilson's most straightforward novel in terms of narrative flow, but it still holds up on re-reading. Full of background information on the occult movement, and biographical details of Aleister Crowley. The passages written in the style of Joyce are well-done, and the final section is particularly memorable.
Jul 11, 2012 Tydar rated it really liked it
I don't even know. The occultist/conspiracy trend in literature from the later 20th century confuses me. On one level, this book could be valuable as a criticism of closed-mindedness or something else more elaborate than that that I don't really want to specify further at the moment. On the other hand, it could be ridiculous. At the very least, it was a fun read.
Joel Newton
May 21, 2016 Joel Newton rated it liked it
Very entertaining, though the final scene is a bit over-dramatic.
Clever - Foucault's Pendulum meets Ulysses, except that Foucault's Pendulum hadn't been written yet.... Then, historical psychological conspiracy.
Nick Black
Oct 07, 2012 Nick Black rated it liked it
Recommended to Nick by: Adam Wosotowsky
Shelves: likely-reread
Not nearly as good as The Illuminatus Trilogy or The Schrodinger's Cat Trilogy, but still good wholesome fun for the whole family.
interesting reading on the illuminati, hermetic order of the golden dawn, and satanism, in general. i read this one when i had a lot of time to spare and was exploring links between the french revolution, the illuminati, the freemasons, and the idea of the new world order.
Dave Peticolas

Albert Einstein and James Joyce team up to investigate conspiracies. Yes.

Chris Meger
Jun 02, 2008 Chris Meger rated it it was ok
This book won't destroy and rebuild your brain, but it's not supposed to, good for a "I'm smarter than everyone else on the bus" kind of casual read.
Nov 07, 2007 Laura rated it really liked it
This book scared me so much when I first read it that I've more or less blocked it out of my mind.
Mar 11, 2012 Laura rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Laura by: Philip K. Dick
Guerrilla Ontology for the win!

It's a rich text, and Aleister Crowley is our guide. Doesn't get much better than that.
Rog Harrison
Jul 15, 2012 Rog Harrison rated it liked it
I have read this book several times over the last thirty years and it is still an enjoyable read although in places the "Joycean" passages can be a little wearing.
Nice weird book by Mr. Wilson. In the same vein as the Illuminatus Trilogy, not as good, much weirder. Not a bad read atall, which is by the way my favorite Pacific Island.
Mike Noyes
Jan 15, 2008 Mike Noyes rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: own-it
Fascinating book. Entertaining and thought provoking, although at times it made my brain hurt.
Sep 16, 2007 Jerico rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
A good historical fiction reworking of RAW's main thematic interests. Not as good as Illuminatus or the Cat trilogies but thought provoking and well written.
Jul 18, 2014 Elyse rated it liked it
Interesting... complex... lost me in a few places... but definitely some memorable moments.
"Maybe we're just drunk, Joyce said[.]"

4/5 would fnord again.
Ben Schaffer
Nov 30, 2014 Ben Schaffer rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Apr 06, 2008 Old-Barbarossa rated it really liked it
The only book that pits Albert Einstein and James Joyce against the forces of darkness and conspiracy…or does it?
A puzzle of a book.
Esar Zafar
Mar 12, 2013 Esar Zafar marked it as to-read
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Robert Anton Wilson became, at various times, an American novelist, essayist, philosopher, polymath, psychonaut, futurist, libertarian and self-described agnostic mystic. Recognized as an Episkopos, Pope, and Saint of Discordianism by Discordians who care to label him as such, Wilson helped publicize the group/religion/melee through his writings, interviews, and strolls.

He described his work as an
More about Robert Anton Wilson...

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“We all see only that which we are trained to see.” 111 likes
“The normal is that which nobody quite is. If you listen to seemingly dull people very closely, you'll see that they're all mad in different and interesting ways, and are merely struggling to hide it.” 63 likes
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