A Beginner’s Guide To Robert Anton Wilson Part II: Prometheus Rising

In Part I of this series, we examined Robert Anton Wilson’s autobiographical Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati. This time around, we’ll dive into Prometheus Rising, which, next to the Illuminatus Trilogy, is Wilson’s most famous work. It is, paradoxically, one of Wilson’s least commercially successful books, but its reputation in occult circles is nearly mythic. Which is to say out of a hundred people who claim this book changed their life, maybe ten read it, and only one or two has gone the extra mile to actually try the exercises. That sounds snide, but Wilson himself lamented that most of the people who came up to him and expressed admiration for the book couldn’t name a specific exercise from it. He soon learned to stop asking questions and just accept the compliments when they came.

That’s a damned shame because the exercises in Prometheus Rising can change your life if you’re diligent and don’t take yourself too seriously.

Prometheus Rising

Prometheus Rising

Prometheus Rising started off its life as RAW’s doctoral paper for a little-known university in California. Said university eventually collapsed, leaving him with a great dissertation for a degree that suddenly wasn’t worth the paper it was printed on. He redid the paper – taking out the academic footnotes and adding in his patented blend of self-deprecating humor and counter-culture slang – to give the manuscript a friendlier feel.

At its core, Prometheus Rising is an interpretation of Timothy Leary’s Eight Circuit Brain model (summarized below). Wilson prefaces this by discussing how the human brain acts as if it were composed of two elements: a Thinker and a Prover. Whatever the Thinker thinks, the Prover proves. Essentially, whatever we think, a part of our brains will diligently work to prove that it’s true, regardless of how wonky this might actually be. The Prover will ensure that any information that contradicts what we think is filtered out.

One can see this quite vividly these days by expressing a political opinion on the Internet. People will immediately begin arguing vehemently that what they believe is “truth” regardless of actual facts. Their Prover has done its job of giving them all the information they require. This was one of the reasons RAW was always adamant that we not believe or disbelieve anything 100%. It is frighteningly easy to convince ourselves of the most bizarre things. We may snort derisively at primitive beliefs, but the same mechanism that caused people to believe the sun was pulled across the sky in a chariot is still at play. This isn’t to say you shouldn’t have any beliefs, just allow that they could be wrong and never allow the notion that you have nothing else to learn to take root in your mind.

The Eight-Circuit Brain

The eight circuit brain is a model for dividing up the development of the mind into eight parts. It is not meant to represent scientific truth, but rather a convenient map that encompasses both the regular development present in all people, as well as the stranger processes that appear in a minority of people often referred to as mystics, shamans, occultists, and damned lunatics.

Circuits I-IV

The first four circuits are familiar to anyone who’s taken a class on childhood development.

  1. The Bio-Survival Circuit – this circuit is imprinted shortly after birth. Infants really only have two responses to the outside world: moving towards and moving away. We carry this forward/backwards pattern for the rest of our lives; attempting to increase our pleasure and decrease our pain. The hitch is that we often associate pain with activities that would enrich our lives, and pleasure to behaviors that inherently destructive.
  1. The Emotional-Territorial Circuit – As toddlers, we add domination or submission to our increasingly complex brain functions. We gain a rudimentary understanding that these strange, tall creatures we’ve imprinted as “parents” can be manipulated by laughing, crying, etc.
  1. The Semantic Circuit – around the age of 7-8, another growth spurt in the brain gives us logic and the beginnings of rational thinking. We start to have a better understand of time, symbols, and classification.
  1. The Socio-Sexual Circuit – comes online during puberty, typically after first orgasm. This is stage where we become aware there are multiple tribes (social groups) and begin exploring our place in them, as well as grappling with our sexual identity. Morality comes into play as we begin to develop our own ideas of right and wrong independent of our upbringing.

This is where the average person stops. The first four circuits evolved to aid in our survival. RAW points out that many people seem to take strong imprints from the second or third circuits, which may account for many political differences. The average Conservative, for example, has a strong second circuit imprint, and operates from how things “feel”. The typical Liberal, on the other hand, has a stronger third circuit imprint and is more concerned with science and facts.

Circuits V-VIII

The second group of four circuits is more recent. RAW speculates that they will become more common as man moved towards a more technological, space-faring society.

  1. The Neurosomatic Circuit – the legendary state of bliss that many meditation methods promise. Bliss feels like intense love coupled with powerful sexuality, hence the association with tantra. Turning on the fifth circuit often gives one a continual sense of ecstasy.
  1. The Neurogenetic Circuit – folks who have turned on this circuit have a greater sense of Jung’s Collective Unconscious and many archetypes of the mind may begin manifesting as gods and goddesses from ancient faiths.
  1. The Meta-Programming Circuit – this circuit gives us the understanding that we can reprogram and re-imprint ourselves at will. Folks who have only awakened the first four circuits are trapped by their early childhood imprints. The seventh circuit gives us access to change, erase, or imprint new experiences according to our will.
  1. The Quantum Circuit – imprinted by people who have had near-death experiences, OBE’s, etc. The budding shaman or damned lunatic gains an understanding that there is far more to being a human than what we experience in our bodies and that we are not limited by space/time locality.

RAW explains all these circuits in far greater detail and includes exercises to assist in bringing them online. Much of mysticism/spirituality/occultism is designed to exhaust the typical first four circuits so we lose our attachment to them and are able to move into the next stage of evolution. As long as we are trapped in the Right/Left, Capitalist/Socialist dynamic we are limited in what we can accomplish.

In today’s increasingly polarized political climate, we need RAW’s ideas more than ever. The secret to our evolution lies in pacifying and moving beyond the first four circuits, not in the constant pendulum swing between emotion and rationality. The Conservative who bristles angrily at the thought of a Liberal taking his gun is just as lost as the Liberal who thinks every problem in the world can be solved if we all just hugged it out. In Prometheus Rising, RAW calls for a neurological revolution: increasing intelligence while learning to choose our emotional responses. We can focus our nervous system as easily as we can click on an iPhone app.

RAW states that approximately 50% of the human race are still operating from the second circuit and are easily manipulated by emotional herd tactics from charismatic leaders who make the correct tribal noises. 20% of the populace live in the third and fourth circuits and are unable to process the grunts and screeching’s of the emotional primates in their midst. Another 20% have awakened the fifth circuit and are typically regarded as New Age nut cases with their talk of meditation, “good energy”, crystals, astrology, and healing.

The remaining 10% exist in the various stages of the remaining higher circuits. In Cosmic Trigger I, RAW states his theory that the much speculated about Illuminati are merely adepts who use sexual tantra techniques to awaken higher brain functions, including communication with potentially alien races. This indicates his belief that the Illuminati have awakened all eight-circuits and are slowly helping us move past our primitive instincts so we can become an immortal, space-faring race.

Since RAW made those speculations in 1983 I would say more people have moved from second circuit to third and fourth circuit awareness, as evidenced by the increasing marginalization of the Conservative mind-set in favor of facts, science, and equality.

RAW closes Prometheus Rising with a quote from Barbara Max Hubbard that bears repeating here:







Samuel Morningstar

Samuel Morningstar

Samuel Morningstar is the author of the DIRK GARRICK OCCULT DETECTIVE and SHADOW KINGDOM series. He is an occasional rock singer/guitarist, a black belt martial artist concentrating on Bujinkan and Hoshinjutsu, and has Masters Degress in Psychology and Business Management. He has been studying the occult for over 30 years and often refers to himself as a mystic, as he believes that makes it more socially acceptable to wear a black cape in public. He lives in Kansas City with his wife and two rather annoying cats.
Samuel Morningstar