The Earth Will Shake: The History of the Early Illuminati (The Historical Illuminatus Chronicles, Volume I), by Robert Anton Wilson
New Falcon Publications, 1561841625, 369 pp., 1982, 1984, 2003
In Naples, Italy, 1764, fourteen year old Sigismundo Celine witnesses the murder of his Uncle Leonardo on Easter as he’s about to perform mass. Thus begins the coming of age story of young Sigismund, who, through his efforts to prove his manhood, discovers the world is far more sinister than he was lead to believe.
Sigismundo adventures into the world of music from unknown Johann Sebastian Bach, befriends the Monster, the wunderkid Wolfgang Mozart, he even meets the hermetically inclined Dr. Frankenstein – or one of them. All the while, everyone from the Freemasons, the Rossi, Alumbrados, the Carboni, and even the MAFIA want seem to want him to ‘learn their secret handgrips and join their very own special conspiracy’.
The characters are brilliantly entertaining, from Sigismundo himself who is ‘the most brilliant young musician in all Italy since Antonio Vivaldi, in the estimation of only the two people whose opinions mattered, himself and Uncle Pietro’, to clever Uncle Pietro who spares him time and time again, naive Maria whom Sigismundo is hopelessly in love with – and terrified of, to Sir John: ‘“Yes,” Sir John said wearily, with a strange, crooked grin. “I do not know what to believe. I have read too much and travelled too far. Certitude belongs to those who have only lived in a place where everybody believes the same thing”’.
The chapter headings loosely follow cards of the Tarot (the Fool, the Empress, the Magician, the Priestess, the World, the Hanged Man, the Devil), but out of order. Obviously influenced by Aleister Crowley, Masonic ritual and occult thought with Wilson’s characteristic ‘maybe logic’ philosophy evident even in this earlier work.
Any fan of the any branch of Illuminati or secret society lore will immediately find this book appealing. Brilliantly written, clever, funny, and with more than a hint of intrigue, what more could one possible look for in a great novel.