(Excerpted from The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson)
You recall the story of the Golden Apple, in the exoteric and expurgated version at least? The true version is the same, up to a point. Zeus, a terrible old bore by the way, did throw a bash on Olympus, and he did slight Our Lady by not inviting Her. She did make an apple, but it was Acapulco Gold, not metallic gold. She wrote Korhhisti, on it, to the prettiest one, and rolled it into the banquet hall. Everybody — not just the goddesses; that’s a male chauvanist myth — started fighting over who had the right to smoke it. Paris was never called in to pass judgement; that’s all some poet’s fancy. The Trojan War was just another imperialistic rumble and had no connection with these events at all.
What really happened was that everyone was squabbling over the apple and working up a sweat and pushing one another around and pretty soon their vibrations — Gods have very high vibration, exactly at the speed of light, in fact — heated up the apple enough to unleash some heavy fumes. In a word, the Olympians all got stoned.
And they saw a Vision, or a series of Visions.
In the first Vision, they saw Yahweh, a neighboring god with a world of his own which overlapped theirs in some places. He was clearing the set to change its valence and start a new show. His method struck them as rather barbarous. He was, in fact, drowning everybody — except one family that he allowed to escape in an Ark.
“This is Chaos,” said Hermes. “That Yahweh is a mean mother’, even for a god.”
And they looked at the Vision more closely, and because they could see into the future and were all (like every intelligent entity) rabid Laurel and Hardy fans and because they were zonked on the weed, they saw that Yahweh bore the face of Oliver Hardy. All around him, below the mountain on which he lived (his world was flat), the waters rose and rose. They saw drowning men, drowning women, innocent babes sinking beneath the waves. They were ready to vomit. And then Another came and stood beside Yahweh, looking at the panorama of horrors below, and he was Yahweh’s Adversary, and, stoned as they were, he looked like Stanley Laurel to them. And then Yahweh spoke, in the eternal words of Oliver Hardy: “Now look what you made me do,” he said.
And that was the first Vision.
They looked again, and they saw Lee Harvey Oswald perched in the window of the Texas School Book Depository; and he, again, wore the face of Stanley Laurel. And, because this world had been created by a great god named Earl Warren, Oswald fired the only shots that day, and John Fitzgerald Kennedy was, as the Salvation Army charmingly expresses it, “promoted to glory.”
“This is Confusion,” said Athena with her owl-eyes flashing, for she was more familiar with the world created by the god Mark Lane.
Then they saw a hallway, and Oswald-Laurel was led out by two policemen. Suddenly Jack Ruby, with the face of Oliver Hardy, stepped forward and fired a pistol right into that frail little body. And then Ruby spoke the eternal words, to the corpse at his feet: “Now look what you made me do,” he said.
And that was the second Vision.
Next, they saw a city of 550,000 men, women, and children, and in an instant the city vanished; shadows remained where the men were gone, a firestorm raged, burning pimps and infants and an old statue of a happy Buddha and mice and dogs and old men and lovers; and a mushroom cloud arose above it all. This was in a world created by the cruellest of all gods, Realpolitik
“This is Discord,” said Apollo, disturbed, laying down his lute.
Harry Truman, a servant of Realpolitik, wearing the face of Oliver Hardy, looked upon his work and saw that it was good. But beside him, Albert Einstein, a servant of that most elusive and gnomic of gods, Truth, burst into tears, the familiar tears of Stanley Laurel facing the consequences of his own karma. For a brief instant, Truman remembered the eternal words: “Now look what you made me do,” he said.
And that was the third Vision.
Now they saw trains, many trains, all of them running on time, and the trains criss-crossed Europe and ran 24 hours a day, and they all came to a few destinations that were alike. There, the human cargo was stamped, catalogued, processed, executed with gas, tabulated, recorded, stamped again, cremated and disposed.
“This is Bureaucracy,” said Dionysus, and he smashed his wine jug in anger; beside him, his lynx glared balefully.
And then they saw the man who ordered this, Adolf Hitler, wearing still the mask of Oliver Hardy, and he turned to a certain rich man, Baron Rothschild, wearing the mask of Stanley Laurel, and they knew this was the world created by the god Hegel and the angel Thesis was meeting the demon Antithesis. Then Hitler spoke the eternal words: “Now look what you made me do,” he said.
And that was the fourth Vision.
They did then look further and, lo, high as they were they saw the founding of a great republic and proclamations hailing the new gods named Due Process and Equal Rights for All. And they saw many in high places in the republic form a separate cult and worship Mammon and Power. And the Republic became an Empire, and soon Due Process and Equal Rights for All were not worshipped, and even Mammon and Power were given only lip-service, for the true god of all was now the impotent What Can I Do and his dull brother What We Did Yesterday and his ugly and vicious sister Get Them Before They Get Us.
“This is Aftermath,” said Hera, and her bosom shook with tears for the fate of the children of that nation.
And they saw many bombings, many riots, many rooftop snipers, many Molotov cocktails. And they saw the capital city in ruins, and the leader, wearing the face of Stanely Laurel, taken prisoner amid the rubble of his palace. And they saw the chief of the revolutionaries look about at the rubble and the streets full of corpses, and they heard him sigh, and then he addressed the leader and he spoke the immortal words: “Now look what you made me do,” he said.
And that was the fifth Vision.
And now the Olympians were coming down and they looked at each other in uncertainty and dismay. Zeus himself spoke first.
“Man,” he said, “that was some Heavy Grass.”
“Far fuckin out,” Hermes agreed solemnly.
“Tree fuckin mendous,” added Dionysus, petting his lynx.
“We were really fuckin into it,” Hera summed up, for all.
And they turned their eyes again on the Golden Apple and read the word Our Lady Eris had written upon it, that most multiordinal of all words, Korhhisti. And they knew that each god and goddess, and each man and woman, was in the privacy of the heart, the prettiest one, the fairest; the most innocent, the Best. And they repented themselves for not having invited Our Lady Eris to their party, and they summoned her forth and asked her, “Why did you never tell us before that all categories are false and all Good and Evil a delusion of limited perspective?”
And Eris said, “As men and women are actors on a stage of our devising, so are we actors on the stage devised by the Five Fates. You had to believe in Good and Evil and pass judgements on your creatures, the men and women below. It was a curse the Fates put upon you! But now you have come to the Great Doubt and you are free.”
The Olympians thereupon lost interest in the god-game and soon were forgotten by humanity. For She had shown them a great Light, and a great Light destroys shadows; and we are all, gods and mortals, nothing else but gliding shadows.
Do you believe that?