Discordianism Through Its Literature

Discordianism Through Its Literature July 14, 2016

Greetings from the Starwood Festival! I’m honored to be on the speaker’s roster here again. Yesterday I presented my talk on “Discordianism Through Its Literature”. I’m cleaning up my notes a little and posting them — though I’m on a tablet and a thin Internet pipe, so I’m not polishing format as much as I usually would. I’ll do some clean-up and web linking once I’m home. I hope to have a video of the presentation for later posting.

Did you know that God Is A Crazy Woman named Eris? Well, God is a crazy woman named Eris. And if the word of some random guy in a purple top hat and a sarong isn’t enough to convince you of that, my friends, take a look around the Universe. Adherents of certain discredited Abrahamic monotheisms like to say, “look at how ordered the universe is, blah blah blah, someone had to put all this order here.” Order? Have you LOOKED at this place? Somebody had to put all this chaos here!!!!! And that someone was Eris Discordia, Goddess of Holy Chaos.

So lets talk a bit about Discordianism Through Its Literature.

Why do I say “through its literature?” Because that’s how I found Discordianism, and how most people have found it. I never met Greg Hill or Kerry Thornley or Robert Anton Wilson, but their writings are here for everyone. So hooray for the written word.

I’ve got a threefold objective here:

1) to let you in on the joke. Discordianism first came to my attention in the 90s, back in the days of USENET, when I would see references to the “Paratheoanametamystichood of Eris Esoteric” and “Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!” often enough to see that there was some joke there that I wasn’t in on. It was many years until I found the Illuminatus! trilogy and the Principia Discordia and knew the backstory. So if you don’t know this stuff, I hope to short-circuit that process for you a bit. Because it’s important to get hip to the joke; as Robert Anton Wilson said, “Actually, the Discordian Society is a new religion disguised as a complicated joke, although some skeptics think it’s a joke disguised as a religion.”[Elliot]

2) to counteract some Internet ignorance. The good name of the Discordian Society has, of late, been taken up by some boorish folks who throw shit around like monkeys and then yell “Disco!” to justify themselves. They’re Doing It Wrong. They got their freedom but haven’t figured out what to do with it. So after today’s talk, if you come across them you’ll have some context.

3) to encourage you to read a book or two. Read a book, read a book, read a motherfscking book! (By the way, I have two books available, neither of which is totally or even mostly Discordian though there are references….)

So what’s the deal?

Around 1958, Gregory Hill (aka Malaclypse The Younger, or Mal-2, among other names) and Kerry Thornley (Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, among other names) and their friend Bob Newport (aka Rev. Hypocrates Magoun) made up their own secret club. As boys will do. I guess girls too, but I was never a girl so I can’t testify about that. They were in their late teens or twenty, a year or two out of high school, spending a lot of time drinking beer in bowling alleys (because they had cheap beer and were open late) and discussing life, as drunken (and probably stoned) teens will often do. But unlike most boy’s secret clubs, theirs was founded on a weird and esoteric idea: chaos and disorder is not inherently a bad thing but can be a source of creative power.

Discordianism’s main literary work is the Principia Discordia, mainly written by Hill but with some parts by Thornley and other writers. The first edition was sort of their secret club’s handbook, and just a few copies were printed in 1964 — reportedly on the mimegraph machineof District Attorney Jim Garrison, who became famous a fw years later for his JFK conspiracy theory. Due to the bizarre circumstance of Thornley’s life — he also got caught up in the JFK assassination weirdness vortex — a copy of an early edition ended up in the National Archives, preserved for posterity and unearthed and Internet-posted a few years ago.[Principia 1st ed]

So as recorded that first edition, here’s Thornley’s mythical version of the origin of the Discordian Society:

Discordianism, as a disorganization, was founded back in 1958 or 59 or something when my colleague, now Malaclypse (The Younger) and I were observing the chaos spread out before us- the immediate vicinity, the state, the nation, the world, verily: The Universe!; when all of a sudden the air became still and no sound arose from around us! And, for no apparent reason, the glare became black as the bowels of midnight! Then…a piercing scream arose from my friend hidden in the dark, and the earth began to rumble–then light of fantastic intensity, from nowhere yet from everywhere; and then nothing but stillness and I could stay conscious no longer. Eventually I came to, to find men in the aisles weeping and women mysteriously prostrate across the lanes (we were in a bowling alley at the time) and there before me: Malaclypse (The Younger) in a spasmatic fit on the floor. Quite obviously, something profoundly supernatural had occured. My friend was revived and stammered out the following account of his vision:

“It is so obvious now! How blind we have been! All of this chaos could not have just happened–it is no coincidence that Pickering’s Moon goes around in reverse orbit, or that the Pentagon is riddled with–aye, founded upon–confusion! Somebody had to put all this discord here!” “Yes, yes, yes,” shouted I (for then it was clear, now once stated). Cried he: “And you. my friend, and I have a Holy Appointment; together we shall found a new religion–The True Religion–under the guidance of the supernatural Power you just witnessed: that of the Goddess of Discord!” And with that, he promptly swooned again, not to awaken for five days and five nights. Over the next five years, we, together, probed and researched the philosophies of the world, discovering that the Greeks and Romans had known Her (in an imperfect form) and that She had lain all but dormant as a known deity for two thousand years. As time passed, and the work continued, and insight followed glorious insight, the Erisian DISCORDIANISM was born.

It didn’t really happen in a single flash that way, but it’s a good story. And I think it’s noteworthy that we have here in the late 1950s — hardly a time when feminism was in the air — young American men invoking a Goddess.
A tangent about Eris: the only myth that we have left about her is the story of the Golden Apple. According to the “official” version, almost all the Olympian gods and goddesses were invited to the wedding of Peleus and Thetis — the couple who would later be parents to Achilles. But Zeus left Eris, that no-good troublemaker, off of the guest list. In revenge Eris took a golden apple, wrote on it “For The Prettiest One” (the Greek version of which is usually said to be “Kallisti” or some variant) and tossed it into the wedding feast.

Athena, Aphrodite, and Hera each insisted that they were the prettiest one, and a great row ensued. Zeus wanted no part of the argument so he had Hermes take the three goddesses to the mortal Paris Alexander and commanded him to act as judge in this divine beauty contest, the famous Judgment of Paris. (Which, since it features Naked Goddesses, has been a favorite artistic subject for a long time.) The goddesses each tried to bribe Paris: Hera promised to make him a great and wealthy ruler, Athena promised to make him a great warrior and skilled in every craft, and Aphrodite promised him Helen of Troy, most beautiful woman in the world, as his wife.

Well, Paris had a healthy libido and we all know that sex sells; he declared Aphrodite the prettiest one, and the small difficulty that Helen was already married led to the Trojan War. That didn’t end well for Paris, who was killed in the war. And Eris gets the blame for the discord and chaos of war.

But a few years ago, I was granted some unconfirmed personal gnosis that pointed out that this version of the story makes no sense.

First, a golden apple is no trinket. You don’t just pop over to Super Fresh or Kroger’s or whatever and pick one up. Obtaining a golden apple was one of the labors of Heracles, no small thing. They were the property of Zeus, and guarded by an immortal dragon with a hundred heads. But we’re asked to believe that Eris repeated one of the greatest feats of Heracles in order to pull off a prank? I don’t think so.

Second, Eris gets the blame in the official version. But it’s Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite who each egotistically assert that they are the fairest and attempt to cheat in the beauty contest. Yes friends, the deities cheat. This explains much about our world.

Finally, recall that the whole thing got started at wedding feast. Now, who is the prettiest one,at any wedding? It’s not one of the guests, it is none of the bridesmaids, nor the mother of the bride or groom. In ancient Greece or in modern times, the bride is inarguably The Fairest on the day and at the place of her wedding. The golden apple rightly belonged to Thetis.

So consider the story this way instead: plain-spoken and honest Eris was once again out of Zeus’s favor, probably for daring to speak truth to power. As punishment Zeus refused her admission to the wedding, the social event of the season. But Eris bore no grudge! At considerable inconvenience she obtained a valuable wedding present, and — not being able to enter the feast — left it plainly labeled. That was a compliment to the bride, but also maybe a little dig at how the various goddesses had been cattily cutting on each other in the weeks leading up to the event, about how they were each going to outshine the other. Can you imagine that? Then the rest is up to ego and short-sighted desire, and tricksters who point out the pomposity of the powerful end up getting blamed for things that were not their fault.

So that’s my UPG about the Golden Apple story.

So Eris was the patron deity of this new sect invented by beer-drunk teenagers. What mission did she send them on? Thornley explained,

For centuries, men have probed the secrets of nature to discover and explain the laws of the universe, to find out the shape and source of order.

Today, that search is ending. It used to be the function of religion to provide explanations for the order of things which science discovered but was unable to explain. Today, that function is vestigal.

So interested have men been with order, throughout history, that they left another field entirely neglected: DISORDER.

Science is unable to explain, for example, why today’s world goes right on ignoring science–paying more tribute to superstition, totalitarianism, and war.

Why are the secrets of the atom used to promote chaos among men? Why are the most generous motives of men played upon to produce slavery? Why do otherwise sane people attend church on Sunday?

The purpose of The Discordian Society is to provide false, comforting answers to questions of this sort; to give mystical reasons for the disorder around us; to promote unworkable principles of discord–in short, to provide the world with a workshop for the insane, thus keeping them out of mischief as Presidents, Ambassadors, Priests, Ministers, and other Dictators.

The Discordian’s key insight was that disorder could be creative:

Magicians, especially since the Gnostic and the Quabala influences, have sought higher consciousness through assimilation and control of universal opposites — good/evil, positive/negative, male/female, etc. But due to the steadfast pomposity of ritualism inherited from the ancient methods of the shaman, occultists have been blinded to what is perhaps the two most important pairs of apparent or earth-plane opposites: ORDER/DISORDER and SERIOUS/HUMOROUS.

Magicians, and progeny the scientists, have always taken themselves and their subject in an orderly and sober manner, thereby disregarding an essential metaphysical balance. When magicians learn to approach philosophy as a malleable art instead of an immutable Truth, and learn to appreciate the absurdity of man’s endeavours, then they will be able to pursue their art with a lighter heart, and perhaps gain a clearer understanding of it, and therefore gain more effective magic. CHAOS IS ENERGY.

This is an essential challenge to the basic concepts of all western occult thought, and POEE is humbly pleased to offer the first breakthrough in occultism since Solomon.



The Aneristic Principle is that of APPARENT ORDER; the Eristic Principle is that of APPARENT DISORDER. Both order and disorder are man made concepts and are artificial divisions of PURE CHAOS, which is a level deeper that is the level of distinction making.

With our concept making apparatus called “mind” we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality which our cultures give us. The ideas-about-reality are mistakenly labeled “reality” and unenlightened people are forever perplexed by the fact that other people, especially other cultures, see “reality” differently. It is only the ideas-about-reality which differ. Real (capital-T True) reality is a level deeper that is the level of concept.

We look at the world through windows on which have been drawn grids (concepts). Different philosophies use different grids.

A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids. Through a window we view chaos, and relate it to the points on our grid, and thereby understand it. The ORDER is in the GRID. That is the Aneristic Principle.

Western philosophy is traditionally concerned with contrasting one grid with another grid, and amending grids in hopes of finding a perfect one that will account for all reality and will, hence, (say unenlightened westerners) be True. This is illusory; it is what we Erisians call the ANERISTIC ILLUSION. Some grids can be more useful than others, some more beautiful than others, some more pleasant than others, etc., but none can be more True than any other.

DISORDER is simply unrelated information viewed through some particular grid. But, like “relation”, no-relation is a concept. Male, like female, is an idea about sex. To say that male-ness is “absence of female-ness”, or vice versa, is a matter of definition and metaphysically arbitrary. The artificial concept of no-relation is the ERISTIC PRINCIPLE.

The belief that “order is true” and disorder is false or somehow wrong, is the Aneristic Illusion. To say the same of disorder, is the ERISTIC ILLUSION.

The point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirely. Pick a grid, and through it some chaos appears ordered and some appears disordered. Pick another grid, and the same chaos will appear differently ordered and disordered.

Reality is the original Rorschach.

Verily! So much for all that.[Malaclypse]

There were clearly influenced by Zen — or at least an interpretation of it which emphasized the unconventional antics of enlightened masters. To some extent it was what Alan Watts called “Beat Zen” — we’re around the height of the Beat movement here. Beat Zen sometimes tended to be (in Watt’s words) “a shade too self-conscious, too subjective, and too strident”. He contrasted that to “Square Zen” of traditional temples and masters and Certificates of Enlightenment, “a quest for the right spiritual experience, for a satori which will receive the stamp…of approved and established authority.” (You can find Watt’s essay “Beat Zen, Square Zen, and Zen” on-line, it’s recommended reading.)

Watts’ essay came out in 1958 as part of a special issue of the Chicago Reader about Zen. That’s the year as Jack Kerouac’s The Dharma Bums was published — it was a big year for Zen and Buddhism in the United States. And this is right before or at the same time that the Discordians were forming their club.

I don’t know if any any of the Discordian principals had read Kerouac or Watts at the time but certainly those ideas were in the air. Thornley later made very explicit references to Zen, especially his book Zenarchy, and Camden Benares (aka John Overton) wrote two books on Discordian Zen, Zen Without Zen Masters and A Handful of Zen.

Here’s a story by Benares which made it into a later edition of the Principia and is also found in his book Zen Without Zen Masters. It’s been called the first American Zen story:

A serious young man found the conflicts of mid-20th century America confusing. He went to many people seeking a way of resolving within himself the discords that troubled him, but he remained troubled.

One night in a coffee house, a self-ordained Zen Master said to him, “Go to the dilapidated mansion you will find at this address which I have written down for you. Do not speak to those who live there; you must remain silent until the moon rises the tomorrow night. Go to the large room on the right of the main hallway, sit in the lotus position on top of the rubble in the northeast corner, face the corner, and meditate.”

He did as the Zen Master instructed. His meditation was frequently interrupted by worries. He worried whether or not the rest of the plumbing fixtures would fall from the second floor bathroom to join the pipes and other trash he was sitting on. He worried how would he know when the moon rose on the next night. He worried about what the people who walked through the room said about him.

His worrying and meditation were disturbed when, as if in a test of his faith, ordure fell from the second floor onto him. At that time two people walked into the room. The first asked the second who the man sitting there was. The second replied, “Some say he is a holy man. Others say he is a shithead.”

Hearing this, the man was enlightened.

Between ’64 and 1969 more editions of the Principia followed along the same rag-tag lines, and more people entered the Discordian fold, including Robert Anton Wilson (aka Mordecai the Foul). The fourth edition was more professionally printed and sort of broke the surface in 1970 — and readers wondered who this guy “Malacylpse the Younger” was. Robert Anton Wilson said:

In 1968, virtually nobody had heard of this wonderful book. In 1970, hundreds of people coast to coast were talking about it and asking the identity of the mysterious author, Malaclypse the Younger. Rumors swept across the continent, from New York to Los Angeles, from Seattle to St. Joe. Malaclypse was actually Alan Watts, one heard. No, said another legend — the PRINCIPIA was actually the work of the Sufi Order. A third, very intriguing myth held that Malaclypse was a pen-name for Richard M. Nixon, who had allegedly composed the PRINCIPIA during a few moments of lucidity. I enjoyed each of these yarns and did my part to help spread them. I was also careful never to contradict the occasional rumors that I had actually written the whole thing myself during an acid trip.

The legendry, the mystery, the cult grew slowly. By the mid-1970’s, thousands of people, some as far off as Hong Kong and Australia, were talking about the PRINCIPIA, and since the original was out of print by then, xerox copies were beginning to circulate here and there.

When the ILLUMINATUS trilogy appeared in 1975, my co-author, Bob Shea, and I both received hundreds of letters from people intrigued by the quotes from the PRINCIPIA with which we had decorated the heads of several chapters. Many, who had already heard of the PRINCIPIA or seen copies, asked if Shea and I had written it, or if we had copies available. Others wrote to ask if it were real, or just something we had invented the way H.P. Lovecraft invented the NECRONOMICON. We answered according to our moods, sometimes telling the truth, sometimes spreading the most Godawful lies and myths we could devise fnord.

Why not? We felt that this book was a true Classic (literatus immortalis) and, since the alleged intelligentsia had not yet discovered it, the best way to keep its legend alive was to encourage the mythology and the controversy about it. Increasingly, people wrote to ask me if Timothy Leary had written it, and I almost always told them he had, except on Fridays when I am more whimsical, in which case I told them it had been transmitted by a canine intelligence — vast, cool, and unsympathic — from the Dog Star, Sirius.[Wilson]

Hill eventually sort of let the weirdness burn itself out of his life. He went on to a successful if bland career in computer programing — though he did help write on one of the first computer solitarie games, throwing a wrench into the productivity of many an office.

In 1979, in the afterward of the Loompanics re-printing, he took a remarkably Pagan perspective and spoke of Mal-2 as a sort of spirit that inhabited him for a while.[Hill]

[Mad] Malik: Come on Greg, you just think that we are your characters….

[Rev. Dr.] Occupant: You were inhabited by Malaclypse the Younger. He caused you to create roles and those roles are being performed by us spirits.

[Ignotum Per] Ignotius: A perfectly normal pagan relationship.

[G. H.] Hill: Well you can look at it like that if you want to, but I created Mal2 to my specifications just as I conceived all the rest of you.

Occupant: You didn’t invent Eris. She caused you to think you created the spirit of Malaclypse.

Hill: Oh bull! Besides, I changed her so much the Greeks would never recognize her.

Occupant: That’s what She wanted!

Ignotius: Deities change things around all the time.

Malik: What you don’t realize is that a spirit has a self identity.

Hill: Nope. A spirit is a product of definition and the one who is doing the defining around here is me. Your identity is what I say it is. Just to prove it, I’m going to change your name.

SINISTER DEXTER: It’s OK with me. Fate is fate. I never much liked “Mad Malik” anyway.

But other Discordians kept the weirdness burning bright. Robert Anton Wilson went on to become, well, Robert Anton Wilson, co-author of the cult classic Illuminatus!, in which a ficitonalized Discordian Society struggles against the Bavarian Illuminati to save the world. Wilson and his co-author Robert Shea basicly took the idea that all the conspiracy theories running around in the late 60s and early 70s — *all* of them, even the contradictory ones — were true, and ran off the edge of the world with it.

Jeffrey Elliot, a SF writer, critic, and political science professor, said of Wilson:

Robert Anton Wilson is an important thinker and doer, a renowned mystic and revolutionary, whose books and articles are read and debated with delight and fervor. His work has won the plaudits of the literary establishment as well as the literary underground. Alan Watts has dubbed his writing “subversive, esoteric, and extremely interesting.” Timothy Leary has proclaimed it “scholarly, literate, witty, and great!” David Harris has declared it “the anarchist acid-rock answer to Tolkien.” Henry Miller has pronounced it “something we’ve needed for a long time!”

So he was getting props from some heavyweights there.

But Kerry Thornley had the weirdest tale of all. He joined the Marines, where for a brief while in 1959 he served in the same unit as Lee Harvey Oswald. He ans Oswald shared some intellectual and political interests, and they had a lot of conversations, if not quite a friendship. When Oswald defected to the USSR, Thornley wrote a novel, The Idle Warriors, about based on this guy he found interesting — that is, he wrote a novel about Oswald *before* the JFK assassination. After the assassination, this association got him drawn into the deep conspiracy weirdness vortex.

He testified before the Warren Commision, and later on was accused by Jim Garrison of being involved in the Great Conspiracy that Garrison was always trying to prove. And the stress seems to have taken a toll on Thornley’s mental health, to the point that he came to actually beleive that he had been subject to mind-control and brainwashed into playing a role in the Grand Conspiracy! (If that’s your thing I recommend Adam Gorightly’s book The Prankster and the Conspiracy.)

One of the less crazy theories is that their unit was subject to the MK-ULTRA mind-control experiments and that this drove Oswald nuts enough to kill JFK and left Thornley unbalanced; or it may have just been the stress — and too much chemical enhancement — that drove poor Lord Omar to the edge.

From a letter to “Doc Hambone”, a conspircy theory enthusiast:

I also believe, for a great number of half-assed reasons, that I am the product of a Vril Society breeding/environmental manipulation experiment which is also somenow involved, at least as cover, with Parsons, Crowley, et. al. Methinks the typical Magickal Child is actually simply a baby farm infant disguised as something else in order to account for all the covert attention it is getting. My parents appear to have been spying for Japan during WWII and for North Korea during the Korean War. And at least two lodges of the OTO appear fascinated with me despite my lack of much interest in their teacnings. I have received what I believe are a few indications that the OTO is backed by Pepsico, by the way.

Anyhow, according to his autobiography, Howard Hunt was stationed with the CIA at Atsugi at the same time I was there, and I’m rather certain it was E. Howard Hunt, the Watergate burglar, who later discussed assassinating JFK with me in New Orleans — and that man knew a great deal about Nazi secret societies. In recent years I’ve heard rumors that Hunt was working for my (probably Vril) family. This man, presuably Hunt, also talked about the Reichstag(?) Fire and how if Van der Lube(?), the Comunist who was blamed, had a friend who knew he was innocent, that friend could have cleared Van der Lube and saved everybody a lot of trouble. Mark Lane’s very first remark to tne press, upon becoming Lee Oswald’s mother’s attorney, was that the JFK murder was a Reichstag Fire. I was supposed to take the hint, but didn’t. Later on, when Garrison was after me, Lane told David Lifton that it serve me right because my role had been to clear Oswald and instead I wrote a book (OSWALD, New Classics House, 1965) attributing psychological motives for his alleged act of assassination, (That I actually believed Oswald was the lone- assassin when I wrote that book did not appear plausible to to Lane, who obviously thought I was paying more attention than I was.) So perhaps the Vril are Nazis who think the Reichstag Fire was a bad idea.

So that’s kind of nuts. Or maybe it was all a great Discordian performance: Thornley was alway interested in the great San Francisco madman Emperor Joshua Norton (about whom more later), and may have just decided “Fuck it, I’m going to try to be a 20th century Norton.”

He spent his later years living as what he described as a “Zen Dishwasher”; he was also heavily involved in the Church of the Subgenius, Praise Bob. And he was credited by Margot Adler in Drawing Down the Moon as the first Westerner to use “Paganism” in its modern sense, though that’s questionable and Thornley always downplayed it.

Later he said that if he’d have known that after starting a religion about Chaos it was all going to come *true*, he’d have started a religion based on Aphrodite rather than Eris. (And who could blame him? But I suspect the deities are always greener on the other side….)

Thornley also wrote the most sensible book about politics since Thoreau’s Civil Disobedience: Zenarchy. Zenarchy is essentially the application of Discordian theory to politics, and it echoes ancient Taoist teachings about government — that the wiser we are the less of it we have. Zenarchy was first published as a set of essays in various underground newsletters starting in August 1968, finally collected in book form in the 90s; you can find the complete text online.

ZEN is Meditation. ARCHY is Social Order. ZENARCHY is the Social Order which springs from Meditation.

As a doctrine, it holds Universal Enlightenment a prerequisite to abolition of the State, after which the State will inevitably vanish. Or – that failing – nobody will give a damn.

He then quotes Matter of Zen by Paul Wienpahl [New York University Press, 1964]

“Having said that zen study is knowing yourself, the roshi went on: In America you have democracy, which means for you government of the people, by the people, and for the people. I in my turn am bringing democracy to Japan. You cannot have democracy until people know themselves. The Chinese said that government was unnecessary and they were right. When people know themselves and have their own strength, they do not need government. Otherwise they are just a mob and must be ruled. On the other hand, when rulers do not know themselves, they push the people around. When you do not know yourself, you busy yourself with other people. Zen study is just a matter of getting your own feet on the ground.”

and Thornley then goes on to say:

Zenarchy is new in name alone. Not only is it the Bastard Zen of America which has grown to flower over the recent decades in nearly everybody’s pot – it is the heretofore nameless streak that zig-zags back through the Zen Tradition, weaving with delirious defiance in and out of various sects and schools – slapping the face of an Emperor here, rejecting a high office there, throwing a rule-blasting koan at a bureaucrat elsewhere – and coming to rest finally in the original true words of Lao Tzu…”When the world yields to the principle of Tao, its race horses will be used to haul manure; when the world ignores Tao, war horses are pastured on the public common.” [Thornley credits “a translation in Laotzu’s Tao and Wu-wei by Dwight Goddard, Thetford, Vermont, 1939”]:

One of my treasures is a signed copy of Zenarchy, which the author adorned with a sketch of a tiger and the words “Kill the Buddha! Smash the State!” It seems clear that he’s drawing an analogy with the famous advice of the Zen master Linji: “If you meet the Buddha on the road, kill him!”

Now the historical Buddha was a thousand years dead when Linji said this, so he was not advocating violence. The “Buddha” that one might meet on the road can only be a socially-conditioned mental construction. And if you wish liberation from your socially-conditioned state of mind you must deconstruct that “Buddha” that you think you see. Same way, the “state” that one encounters is a socially-conditioned mental construction. And in order to experience subjective liberation, in order to feel free, one must deconstruct — “smash” — the state.

Thornley has the best take on the origin and nature of human rights I’ve come across:

The Seven Noble Natural Rights

There are at least seven natural rights, or the Tao of human activity in society possesses seven attributes, or people are like machines only in the respect that they don’t work good if you neglect their maintenance requirements.

What are the maintenance requirements of the human being? Life, liberty, the pursuit of happiness and food, clothing, shelter and medical care.

Keeping us confused and divided against one another about these rights, the multinational power elite teaches us in America that only life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness are rights. In socialist nations they promote the view that only food,clothing, shelter and medical care are rights.

We are further encouraged to argue about whether rights must be earned or whether it is the duty of the government to guarantee them. Everyone necessarily struggles for their rights, and no government can ever guarantee anything except death and taxes.

All that bickering begs the relevant question: What can we do in voluntary cooperation to see that our natural rights, our intimate functional needs, are respected? Without that much, human beings are incapable of behaving as constructively rational and loving members of any population.

[At this point I shared several excerpts from Discordian works, as time allowed.]

I’d like to leave you with four brief pieces that seem relevant to our troubled times.

A Sermon On Ethics And Love [from the Principia 4th edition]

One day Mal-2 asked the messenger spirit Saint Gulik to approach the Goddess and request Her presence for some desperate advice. Shortly afterwards the radio came on by itself, and an ethereal female Voice said YES?

“O! Eris! Blessed Mother of Man! Queen of Chaos! Daughter of Discord! Concubine of Confusion! O! Exquisite Lady, I beseech You to lift a heavy burden from my heart!”


“I am filled with fear and tormented with terrible visions of pain. Everywhere people are hurting one another, the planet is rampant with injustices, whole societies plunder groups of their own people, mothers imprison sons, children perish while brothers war. O, woe.”


“But nobody wants it! Everybody hates it.”


At which moment She turned herself into an aspirin commercial and left The Polyfather stranded alone with his species.


Suchness In Action [from Zenarchy]

An art of Zenarchy consist of saying “No!” or “I won’t” to oppression. As the active ingredient of the strike, it becomes a potent factor when a critical mass of rebels transform “I won’t” into “We won’t”.

Other policies rigidly and aggressively attack the opposition. No Politics heeds the advice of Chairman Lao to “always be on the defensive at first”. A good offense is not the best defense; the best defense is no offense at all.

Recognizing the utility of conscious inaction, of refusal, is mindful of the humanity of the so-called enemy. Struggle aimed at complete annihilation is alien to the Zenarchist spirit. Victories in battle are celebrated with tears of mourning.

A “willow tree” mentality that avoids ideological constipation is possible through the Zen knack of seeing the “suchness” of things. They are so much what they are. So are people. Every person does a perfect job of being that particular individual and no other. So living, changable and surprising humanity takes precedence over the urgency of winning at all costs each and every contest. For the one is a territory of flesh and blood; the other is only based on our map of who is friend or foe.

Great is the mind kept forever sharper than the sword. Reading the Tao Teh of Lao Tzu is useful in absorbing this style of struggle that emphasizes a mood of restraint, with conscious and decisive action at crucial moments.


Nonsense as Salvation [from the Principia 4th edition]

The human race will begin solving it’s problems on the day that it ceases taking itself so seriously.

To that end, POEE proposes the countergame of NONSENSE AS SALVATION. Salvation from an ugly and barbarous existence that is the result of taking order so seriously and so seriously fearing contrary orders and disorder, that GAMES are taken as more important than LIFE; rather than taking LIFE AS THE ART OF PLAYING GAMES.

To this end, we propose that man develop his innate love for disorder, and play with The Goddess Eris. And know that it is a joyful play, and that thereby CAN BE REVOKED THE CURSE OF GREYFACE.

If you can master nonsense as well as you have already learned to master sense, then each will expose the other for what it is: absurdity. From that moment of illumination, a man begins to be free regardless of his surroundings. He becomes free to play order games and change them at will. He becomes free to play disorder games just for the hell of it. He becomes free to play neither or both. And as the master of his own games, he plays without fear, and therefore without frustration, and therefore with good will in his soul and love in his being.

And when men become free then mankind will be free.

May you be free of The Curse of Greyface.

May the Goddess put twinkles in your eyes.

May you have the knowledge of a sage, and the wisdom of a child. Hail Eris.


[From Kerry Thornley’s Introduction to the Principia 5th/Illuminet Press edition]

Gregory Hill has since become the world’s foremost authority on Joshua A. Norton who, on September 17th of 1859, crowned Himself the Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. Just before then, He vanished for a number of days – perhaps into the wilderness where maybe He was tempted by the Devil, probably to organize His life and get His affairs in order.

Certainly they looked like that’s what they needed. For on the day before his disappearance Norton, heretofore little more than a successful businessman, cornered the rice market – only to be foiled by the unscheduled arrival of a whole shipload of rice from the Orient. A lesser man would have been thrown out of step by that event which for Him became a step to the throne.

When the U.S. Congress failed to obey His Majesty’s Royal Order to assemble in the San Francisco Opera House, Norton fired every last member of that rebellious organization. Thus, the people of San Francisco knew better than to incute His Imperial wrath. His Royal Decrees were printed free of charge in the newspapers, the currency He issued was accepted in the saloons, local shopkeepers paid the modest taxes He occasionally demanded and on at least one occasion a tailor furnished Him with a new set of Royal finery.

Although a madman, Norton wrote letters to Abraham Lincoln and Queen Victoria which they took seriously.

One night a gang of vigilantes gathered for a pogrom against San Francisco’s Chinatown. All that stood in their way was the solitary figure of Norton. A sane man would not have been there in the first place. A rational man would have tried to reason with them. A moralist would have scolded them. A man as daft as Norton usually seemd would have loudly ordered them to cease and desist in the name of His Royal Imperial authority. All such tacks would probably have been futile, and Norton resorted to none of them.

He simply bowed His head in silent prayer.

The vigilantes dispersed.

Discordians believe everybody should live like Norton.

So write your legislative representatives demanding harsh laws with teeth in them requiring people of all faiths – especially Christians and especially on Sunday – to live as Joshua A. Norton did.


Elliot, Jeffrey. “Robert Anton Wilson: Searching For Cosmic Intelligence”. Starship: The Magazine about Science Fiction Vol. 18, #1, Spring 1981. Originally printed in Literary Voices #1, Jeffrey Elliot ed., 1980. pp. 50-64. http://rawilsonfans.org/searching-for-cosmic-intelligence-interview-1980/

Hill, Gregory. Afterword, Principia Dicordia 4th/Loompanics edition http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~tilt/principia/after4.html

Malaclypse the Younger. Principia Discordia. Avondale Estates: Illuminet Press, 1991. http://principiadiscordia.com/

Principia Discordia: First Edition. http://www.principiadiscordia.com/downloads/Principia%20Discordia%20(Wholly%201st%20Edition).pdf

Thornley, Kerry. Zenarchy. http://www.impropaganda.net/1997/zenarchy.html

Wilson, Robert Anton. Forward, Principia Dicordia 4th/Loompanics edition. http://www.cs.cmu.edu/~tilt/principia/intro4.html

Browse Our Archives