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Robert Joseph Shea (February 14, 1933 - March 10, 1994) was an American novelist and former journalist best known as co-author with Robert Anton Wilson of the science fantasy trilogy Illuminatus!. It became a cult success and was later turned into a marathon-length stage show put on at the British Royal National Theatre and elsewhere. In 1986 it won the Prometheus Hall of Fame Award. Shea went on to write several action novels based in exotic historical settings.

The Illuminatus! Trilogy[]

Shea met Wilson in the late 1960s when they worked on Playboy magazine. They decided to collaborate on a novel. It would combine sex, drugs, religious cults and conspiracies, as well as anarchy. Their philosophical and political differences merely served to enrich their efforts. Objectivity was jettisoned, as indeed was subjectivity: no single point of view or version of reality was privileged: Illuminatus! was the three-volume consequence.

Illuminati, a card game from Steve Jackson Games, was inspired by the books. A trading card game, Illuminati: New World Order, and a role-playing game, GURPS Illuminati, followed.

Shea provided in 1983 a brief introduction for the Illuminati Expansion Set rule book. "Maybe," he wrote, "the Illuminati are behind this game. They must be. They are, by definition, behind everything."

He and Wilson, though living in Chicago and California respectively, remained good friends in later years.

Other works[]

Shea went on to write historical action novels, including Shike (1981), a two-volume novel set in Ancient Japan about the warrior monk Jebu and his love Lady Shima Taniko, All Things Are Lights (1986), and The Saracen, a novel published in two volumes in 1989 depicting the struggle between a blond Muslim warrior called Daoud ibn Abdullah and his French crusader adversary Simon de Gobignon. His last published book was the Native Americans in the Native American tale Shaman (1991). These stories were straightforward beginning-middle-end tales, but included a few sly hints about the subjects of Illuminatus!

All Things Are Lights and the outline for the unfinished novel Children of Earthmaker have been released under a Creative Commons license and are available to read and copy at Robert Shea's website. Lady Yang was finished but never published; a Creative Commons online version is in the works by Shea's son Michael.[1]

Three of his lectures and two panel discussions he participated in were recorded when he was a featured speaker at both the Starwood Festival[2] and the WinterStar Symposium (both with and without Robert Anton Wilson) and produced by the Association for Consciousness Exploration.

For several years, Shea edited the anarchist zine No Governor. The title comes from a quote attributed to Zhuangzi, "There is no governor anywhere." The zine was mentioned in and read by one of the characters in Illuminatus!.

Clipped from the Robert J. Shea Tribute page:

Robert Joseph Shea attended Manhattan Prep, Manhattan College and Rutgers University and worked as a magazine editor in New York and Los Angeles. In the 60's he edited the Playboy Forum where he met Robert Anton Wilson, with whom he collaborated on Illuminatus! After publishing Illuminatus!, Bob left Playboy to become a full time novelist. His novels include: Shike, set in medieval Japan; All Things Are Lights, a story that entwines the fate of Cathars of southern France with the occult traditions of Courtly Love and the troubadours; The Saracen, describing the intricate politics of medieval Italy through the eyes of an Islamic warrior; Shaman, tracing the fate of the survivors of the Black Hawk War in 19th century Illinois; Lady Yang, a tragic story of an idealistic empress of medieval China.[3]

Robert Shea is survived by his son, Michael E. Shea, and his second wife, author Patricia Monaghan.[4]


Recorded lectures & panel discussions[]

  • A Meeting With Robert Shea, ACE
  • Writing and Mysticism, ACE
  • Magic in the Central Empire, ACE
  • The Once and Future Legend (panel discussion with Ariana Lightningstorm, Patricia Monaghan, Jeff Rosenbaum, Rev. Ivan Stang, and Robert Anton Wilson), ACE
  • What IS the Conspiracy, Anyway? (Panel Discussion with Anodea Judith, Jeff Rosenbaum, Rev. Ivan Stang, and Robert Anton Wilson), ACE


External links[]

  • http://bobshea.net Robert Shea's Official Website: Robert J. Shea's official website maintained by his son, Michael E. Shea. The site includes creative commons licensed versions of All Things Are Lights and other works.
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