The story so far… Guided by a chain of synchronicity, much of which revolving around the number 23, Daisy Eris Campbell, daughter of Ken Campbell (who staged the 10-hour production of The Illuminatus! Trilogy in Liverpool in the 1970’s) and Prunella Gee (who played, among others, The Goddess Eris in that production – Daisy was conceived backstage) is on a mission to adapt Robert Anton Wilson’s autobiography Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret Of The Illuminati for the stage. Aided by Wilson aficionado John Higgs (of this parish) and many others, she raises the funds to secure the rights to the book, finds a gang of actors and artists ready to face the challenge, and writes the script. Now, with yet more synchronicity haunting her path, she takes her gang to Liverpool to ask an assembly of Wilson fans the Big Question – ‘shall we pull the Cosmic Trigger here, in this most symbolic of cities?’
(If you want more details, here’s John and Daisy presenting the tale as of last year in London.)
Now read on…
There is a bust of Carl Gustav Jung on Liverpool’s Mathew Street, just down the road from the site of the Cavern Club, where The Beatles first played. It’s there because in 1927 Jung had an exceptionally vivid dream about Liverpool, a city which at the time he had never visited – a dream which changed his life. He recounts the dream in his autobiography ‘Memories, Dreams, Reflections’, on page 223, thus:
I was in Liverpool.
With a number of Swiss – say half a dozen – I walked through the dark streets.
The various quarters of the city were arranged radially around the square. In the centre was a round pool, and in the middle of it, a small island. While everything around was obscured by rain, fog, smoke and dimly lit darkness, the little island blazed with sunlight. On it stood a single tree, a magnolia, in a sea of reddish blossoms.
It was as though the tree stood in the sunlight and was, at the same time, the source of light…This dream represented my situation at the time. I can still see the greyish-yellow raincoats, glistening with the wetness of the rain.
Everything was extremely unpleasant, black and opaque – just as I felt then. But I had had a vision of unearthly beauty, and that was why I was able to live at all.
Liverpool is the ‘pool of life’.
The ‘liver’, according to an old view, is the seat of life – that which “makes to live”.
The bust was placed by the alleged site where Jung’s dream was focussed, and it has become a place of reverence for Jung aficionados. As of Sunday 23rd February 2014 of the Common Era, that bust has a pair of rainbow-coloured knickers on his head.
The gathering at the Kazimer Club to preview and publicise Daisy Campbell’s adaptation of Cosmic Trigger was something I simply had to attend. Robert Anton Wilson’s work was more than a formative influence on me – it’s one of the main reasons I survived to adulthood and became what I am today. I’d been fortunate enough to be in the audience for the previous London-based gathering regarding the project and had been blown away: both by Daisy’s enthusiasm and commitment to not only doing this project but doing it right and, to judge by the brief scene which had previewed that night (a meeting at the Playboy offices between Wilson, Alan Watts and his wife, and William S. Burroughs), the skill and verve with which which she and her crew were pulling it off. The involvement of our very own John Higgs, whose works on Leary and the KLF are also helping the revival of Wilson’s ideas along, sealed the deal. The fact that the event would also feature exclusive video material from Alan Moore talking about his love of Wilson’s work was very tasty icing indeed.
And… I had this idea.
One of Daisy’s major symbols for her own journey in and out of Chapel Perilous is a pair of rainbow knickers that she wore on her head when briefly enjoying the care of a mental health facility, a result of being pulled too fast along the stream of synchronicity begun before she was even born. Her intention was to hold a street ritual to call on those powers in the service of bringing the Cosmic Trigger project to full flower, and place those same knickers on the bust of Jung.
I had an inkling that there was another significant power in regard to harnessing the power of synchronicity who could be called upon: a creation of Alan Moore, a son of Liverpool, a master of the Caper (a key phrase Ken Campbell used to describe his work)… John Constantine. I thought that maybe, with Daisy’s permission, a quick word with The Laughing Magician would not be out of place.
…but more on that later.
I arrived about an hour early for the gig, and decided to have a wander around the nearby streets – it’s been years since I’ve been to Liverpool and it’s always good to get a city thoroughly back under your feet after a long absence. As I wandered, this is what I saw drawn on the wall opposite the Kazimer:
(The guy’s headgear even resembles Ken Campbell’s habitual pork pie hat!)
Literally round the corner from there was this:
A good start!
The Kazimer event itself – a pretty full house – consisted of John and Daisy each talking about their involvement in Wilson’s work, Liverpool and what, for want of a better term, one might call The 23 Current. Both were entertaining, funny and profound (which, if you’ve seen the videos linked above of the previous event, is no shock). The three Alan Moore video excerpts had The Greatest Living Englishman in fine form, talking about his affinity with Wilson’s point of view in regards to the essential silliness of conspiracy theories as compared to the actual reality of how conspiracies happen, and a fascinating retelling of his first conscious act of magic after declaring himself a magician on his 40th birthday. In this (psilocybin-aided) act, Moore had a vision of the greatest dead mages of history – the likes of John Dee, Aleister Crowley, Austin Osman Spare and such – as well as shadowy figures who appeared to have animal heads. In the middle of this gathering, who Moore took to be the ranks of the Illuminated, sat Robert Anton Wilson – who at the time was very much alive. This vision influenced his later work (and perspectives on time) greatly, and it was a pleasure to hear that tale from his own lips. There was also a guest appearance from The Goddess Eris Herself (played with tremendous verve by Claudia Egypt) in a scratch retelling of the story of The Apple Of Discord.
After an interval, Daisy introduced a scene from the show in its first live performance – typically of her audacity and drive, it was the most technically difficult scene in the play, and performed by a cast of whom half had been found locally specifically for the evening and who had barely a day to rehearse.
It was stunning.
The scene depicts Wilson’s first LSD trip: starting with a quiet domestic scene between Wilson (played by Oliver Senton, a veteran of Ken Campbell’s The Warp adaptation and other capers) and his wife Arlen (Kate Alderton) before Wilson drops acid, it rapidly spirals out into a brief re-enactment of the scene in Illuminatus! where Joe Malik (Senton-as-Wilson-as-Malik) is initiated by Simon Moon (‘Tall’ Paul Robinson) into the mysteries of the 23 Enigma, and from there into an extravaganza of symbolism, initiation and terror, featuring complex staging, two songs (music by Richard Kilgour) and the spirit of Albert Hoffman (Trev Fleming) pedalling past on first a bicycle, then a tricycle. The scene ended with Wilson being soothed from his terrors by his young-but-wise daughter Luna (Katy-Anne Bellis) – which, since I know how the story ends, had me in floods of tears.
(Picture by John Higgs)
If this is what Daisy’s vision of Cosmic Trigger will be like, it should be just as mighty as her father’s Illuminatus!, yet something apart, something of its own times, which I can only hope can bring the optimistic, multi-model perspective Wilson embodied back to a world that sorely needs it.
At the end, Daisy asked the question – should we pull the Cosmic Trigger in Liverpool, on the Discordian Holy Day of 23 November this year? The answer was a resounding YES.
After that, inevitably, was a trip to the nearest pub. And there’s very little more fun in this world than drinking with Scousers. The gathering included some old hands from Liverpool’s underground scene – including the elder statesman Peter O’Halligan, who was responsible not only for creating The Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun on Mathew Street where Ken first staged Illuminatus!, but also the Jung bust we were about to pay homage to.
I’d had a word with Higgs, who’d had a word with Daisy… who met up with me in the pub, agreed that calling on Constantine was not just apt, but useful… and asked me to do that short ritual as the opening act before her ceremonial Placing Of The Rainbow Knickers. I agreed – with some nervousness.
(I should point out that, not unlike Alan Moore and Jamie Delano before me, I had noticed a guy who bore a striking resemblance to Constantine in the audience. Well, a bloke dressed the same, suit and shabby raincoat – he was bald, so maybe it was the variation known as Jack Carter. Never got the chance to say hi… )
The group of us who still remained – according to local reporter and friend of the 23 Current Angie Sammons, about 50 people – headed along to Mathew Street. It’s a main drag in Liverpool’s city centre and, even on a Sunday night, it was thronging with Beatles buskers and amiable groups of sozzled Scousers. Our cluster of devotees reached Jung’s bust, which had already received a rainbow scarf the month before as a prelude to the working thanks to another local powerhouse, Tommy Calderbank.
Daisy introduced me to the group, and I essayed a short ceremony, calling upon John Constantine’s synchronicity-surfing powers and his cunning (and, very specifically, not his friendship) for all assembled there, with a ceremonial offering of a shared flask of single malt and a pack of Silk Cut, Constantine’s preferred smoke. Then Daisy spoke: calling on that same current which had called Jung’s soul to the Pool Of Life to bring the Cosmic Trigger to be pulled with the fullest effect, and to manifest that same spirit of destiny which had brought her so far… but, as she put it, only “just enough!”. The knickers were placed with the assistance of a rapidly constructed human pyramid (but of course), and we all cheered.
Attracted by our revelry, a few local lads in Liverpool Football Club motley wandered over to investigate. And one of them wore this shirt…
…so the spells kicking in clearly didn’t take long.
The premiere of Daisy Campbell’s production of Cosmic Trigger will take place in Liverpool in a 3 day event, from 21st to 23rd of November 2014 of the Common Era. And, I am willing to bet, Carl Jung’s rainbow-knickered head will smile upon all there.