August 2015 Eris of the Month: My Goddess, It’s Full of Stars by Rev. Creepy the Inexcusable (Video)



Send us your Eris of the Month Club submissions (more info here)
by using the form at the bottom of The MGT. page.

Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!

Posted in art, discordianism, eris of the month, floyd anderson, video | 2 Comments

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The State of the Art of Research on Discordianism by Christian Greer

Christian Greer

Despite numerous attempts to analyze its history, symbols, practices, and beliefs, scholarship on Discordianism has been largely deficient. The most pressing problem is that scholars have neglected the majority of Discordianism’s primary source materials, and are thus unable to provide the necessary contextual understanding for the readily available texts (and web-resources) they do study. The effect is that academic treatments of Discordianism have essentialized the religion according to a small, self-selected number of commercial publications entirely removed from their historical context.1  

One of Discordianism’s two founders, Kerry Thornley, famously declared that if ‘religion is the opium of the masses, [then] Discordianism is the marijuana of the lunatic fringe,’ and this is made nowhere more clear than in its material culture over the last fifty-six years.2   The majority of Discordianism’s material culture has been comprised of self-published work in the form of religious certificates, ‘zines’, APAs (amateur press associations), live audio recordings of Robert Anton Wilson lectures, and, with the advent of the internet, BBSes (Bulletin Board System), PFDs, and blogs.3   The paper ephemera of Discordianism’s material history has not been catalogued by libraries, nor preserved by universities, but commonly remains in the possession of its initial recipients, or forgotten in the boxes that compose private zine archives. Lacking any familiarity with this ‘underground’ material, scholarly analysis of the mass-marketed Discordian texts, and Discordianism in toto, has been altogether superficial.

The front piece to the Paste-Up Discordia (The Sacred PUD). Courtesy the Discordian Archives.

There are three major issues that have so far marred the study of Discordianism. The first concerns what has emerged as the locus classicus of Discordianism, the Princpia Discordia. As the first major Discordian text, the Principia Discordia went through four different versions before the publication of the Loompanics 4th/5th edition in 1979/1980, which most Discordians and scholars consider definitive.4   Deriving an interpretation of Discordianism from the Loompanics version of the 4th/5th edition, or any other edition of the Principia, effectively ignores the decades of doctrinal development that took place from its founding to the first printing of the 4th edition in 1970 by Rip Off Press. In neglecting the historical developments that led to the mass-marketed 4th/5th editions of the Principia, as well as the enormous amount of other self-produced Discordian materials dating from the late 1950s onwards, scholars have anachronistically defined Discordianism according to aspects of its present existence.5  

The second issue concerns the lack of scholarly convention concerning which version of the Principia is regarded as authoritative. As a result of the 4th edition Principia’s ‘copyleft,’ or anti-copyright status, there are no less than five different published versions of the 4th/5th edition, in addition to innumerable online versions. While there is not a great deal of difference between versions, scholarly neglect of this point, as well as the lack of convention concerning which version of the 4th/5th edition of the Principia should be treated as authoritative, has instilled an unnecessary amount of irregularity into the study of Discordianism.6  

The third issue is partly based on the first, but regards a more general misinterpretation of the meaning of the Principia within the Discordian milieu. Scholars regard the 4th/5th edition of the text as the central Discordian holy work, and it is not hard to understand why; it seems to offer all of the requisite data for a normative appraisal of a religious movement. It contains an origin story for the religion, a list of commandments, a liturgical calendar, a list of saints, and an account of Discordianism’s principle deity, Eris. In sum, the 4th/5th edition of the Principia seems to be a perfect index of everything a ‘real’ religion needs. This, of course, is precisely the problem. Leaving aside the fact that many of the aforementioned ‘religious’ aspects of Discordianism were added in successive editions of the Principia, the primary issue here is that Discordianism is explicitly not based on liturgical observance or orthopraxis, but rather on the utilization of beliefs as heuristic tools. Scholarly preoccupation with the religious minutia contained in the Principia evidences that scholars have missed an essential aspect of the Discordian ludibrium.

Since the various publications of the 4th and 4th/5th editions of the Principia read like conventional holy texts, or at least as a parody of one, scholars have mistakenly taken it as the text that has governed Discordianism since its inception. While some contemporary Discordians may revere it as such, familiarity with previous editions of the text, let alone the history of Discordianism, make it clear that this was not always the case. Discordianism did not reach underground audiences until nearly two decades after it was founded, and even then it was not an edition of the Principia that publicized the religion, but a trilogy of novels. Despite having numerous quotes from the Principia, the fictitious nature of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! trilogy (1975) of novels led many to believe that the Principia did not actually exist á la Lovecraft’s Necronomicon. Needless to say, Discordianism’s underground popularization was not based on teachings outlined in the first, second, third, or fourth editions of the Principia, but Wilson and Shea’s interpretation of them in Illuminatus! The first widely popular edition of the Principia was published nearly five years after Illuminatus! as a result of Loompanics publisher Mike Hoy reading the trilogy, and querying Hill himself as to the existence of such a text.7   The shift to institutionalization in contemporary Discordianism has led to the formalization of Discordian beliefs, and, central to this has been the reframing of the Principia as foundational to the religion. The scholarly preoccupation with the contents of the Principia illustrates the way in which scholars’ research agendas owe more to the contemporary trend towards institutionalization within the religion than rigorous historical research on it.

Read in terms of its evolution and alongside other Discordian material, it is evident that the various editions of the Principia were never merely parodies of sacred texts, nor were they strictly genuine attempts to fashion one. Instead, they were iterations of an idiosyncratic form of genre appropriation based on the conviction that all beliefs are heuristic tools for creating models of reality. Said more precisely, the various editions of the Principia were not just satire, but prime examples of the assiduous playing with religious forms that epitomizes Discordian belief. Essentially, this type of humorous play functions as the liturgical language of Discordianism. Reflecting William Burroughs’s famous adage, ‘nothing is true and everything is permitted,’ Discordianism is a meta-belief system in which abstract concepts like ‘holy scripture’ are utilized as expedient means to destabilize fixed assumptions about reality. Though more salient in later editions, the Principia appropriated the genre of sacred scripture in the same way that Camden Benares’ Discordian treatise, Zen Without Zen Masters (1977), utilizes tropes associated with Zen koan books, and the same is true for the appropriation of conspiracy theory in Wilson and Shea’s Illuminatus! trilogy. Discordian texts have taken the form of science fiction epics, historical dramas, anarchist philosophy, psychologized-occult manuals, and Zen teachings, and regardless of their form, the dynamics of these genre appropriations are the same. Discordian authors appropriate genre conventions only to exploit their ability to communicate the central metaphysical truth of their religion, namely, that the experience of reality entirely depends on the belief system, or model through which it is comprehended.8  

Christian Greer is a PhD researcher in the field of Western esotericism at the University of Amsterdam. His primary focus is the history and material culture of Discordianism, the Church of the SubGenius and the Moorish Orthodox Church, particularly in the 1980-1990s. His dissertation, Angelheaded Hipsters: From Beatnik Antinomianism to Psychedelic Millenarianism is an intellectual history of the “counterculture” beginning with the revolutionary movements of the 1960s and ending in the 1990s with cyberpunk and fin de siècle cyberculture.

https://uva.academia.edu/ChristianGreer

 


1   For a more detailed analysis of this problem in the work of one scholar, see Greer, Christian. ‘Review of Carole M. Cusack’s Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith,’ Correspondences 2.1 (2014), pp. 109–114.

2   Thornley, Kerry. ‘Introduction’ in Principia Discordia 4th/5th edition, Lilburn, GA; Illuminet Press, 1991, p.i.

3   See Greer, ‘Occult Origins’, pp. 166-187.

4   The Loompanics edition (1979) is known as the ‘4th/5th edition’ because it reprinted the original 4th edition published by Rip Off Press in 1970, as well as the 5th edition, which was nothing more than a Western Union telegram filled with the letter ‘M’. The Loompanics version is most likely considered authoritative on account of it being the first to include the 5th edition telegram, as well as material that was not included in previous editions, e.g. ‘the Gypsie Skrypto interview,’ and an introduction by Robert Anton Wilson. For a more comprehensive overview of the publishing history of the Principia Discordia see Gorightly, Adam. ‘Adam Gorightly on the Publishing History of the Principia Discordia’ https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bUqVrH4luXc accessed 04/05/13; see also f.8.

5   Cusack’s Invented Religion (2010) exemplifies this error insofar as her familiarity with the Principia Discordia is limited to two mass marketed 4th/5th editions of the text, which bear little resemblance to the first edition produced decades earlier. This is made obvious by the fact that she seems unaware that the first edition had a different title as well as entirely different contents. See Cusack, Carole. Invented Religions: Imagination, Fiction and Faith, Farnham: Ashgate, 2010, p.28-29 as compared to the first edition reproduced in Gorightly, Adam. Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society. New York: RVP Press, 2014, pp.25-80. Cusack is by no means the only scholar to make this mistake, indeed, the difference between editions of the Principia has not been noticed within any notable study of Discordianism; see also Urban, Hugh. Magia Sexualis: Sex, Magic, Liberation in Modern Western Esotericism. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006, p. 233-235; Versluis, Arthur. American Gurus: From Transcendentalism to New Age Religion. New York: Oxford University Press, 2014, p.123-138.

6   The three most important academic texts on Discordianism have all used different versions of the 4th/5th edition of the Principia: Cusack cites the Steve Jackson Games version in Invented Religion (2010), Urban references the Loompanics version in Magia Sexualis (2006), and Versluis based his work in American Gurus (2014) on the Illuminet edition.

7   The earliest version of the popular Loompanics edition of the Principia was published in 1979, and it featured an introduction by Hoy. This version was superseded by the popular 1980 edition, which contained Wilson’s introduction. See Gorightly, ‘Adam Gorightly on the Publishing History of the Principia Discordia’.

8   Wilson refers to the means by which an individual can ‘meta-program’ their own reality as the ‘final secret of the Illuminati’. See Wilson, Robert A. Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati Vol.1, Tempe, AZ.: New Falcon Publications, 1997, pp.29, 68-71.

Posted in book, discordian timeline, discordianism, greg hill, illuminatus!, illuminet press, kerry thornley, principia discordia, robert anton wilson, robert shea, writings | 4 Comments

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Was Kerry Thornley CIA?

“If they prove
that you are CIA,
demand back pay.”



—Letter from Discordian Society
co-founder Greg Hill to Kerry Thornley
dated February 19th, 1968

 

It’s long been rumored that Kerry Thornley was a CIA agent, a salvo first fired by Jim Garrison in his February 21st, 1968 press release which stated that Thornley was among a “…number of young men who have been identified as CIA employees, Thornley had a post office box in the federal building across from Banister’s office. Such post office boxes are customarily used by federal employees with clandestine assignments as ‘message drops’ as well as an acceptable excuse for regular visits into a federal building. Another of the young men having such a post office box was Lee Harvey Oswald. What this means is simply that Kerry Thornley and Lee Oswald were both part of the covert federal operation operating in New Orleans….”

Jim Garrison’s February 21, 1968 press release
'identifying' Kerry Thornley as a CIA employee.

Download PDF

During the course of research for The Prankster and the Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture (Amazon), I was unable to pin down any tangible evidence supporting these Thornley-CIA allegations and eventually just wrote them off as more of Garrison’s unsupported theories. Thus it came as a bit of a surprise to me when—in 2006—I happened upon Joan Mellen’s Farewell To Justice (Amazon) which stated in its preface:

“Kerry Thornley, the Marine Corps buddy of Lee Harvey Oswald, who told the Warren Commission that Oswald was a Marxist, turned out himself to have been a CIA employee trained, according to a CIA document, in Washington D.C., in chemical and biological warfare…”

At the time, this claim that Thornley was a documented CIA spook came as quite the stunner, and shortly afterwards I shared Mellen’s provocative pronouncement with Thornley’s long time friend, Louise Lacey, whose initial response was a sudden burst of laughter, followed by: “Dear, if Kerry was CIA, I think I would have known.”

“Dear, if Kerry was CIA,
I think I would have known.”

—Louise Lacey

Louise, it should be noted, edited Thornley’s book Oswald for New Classics House back in 1965 and then later worked for Ramparts magazine as research director during Ramparts in-depth investigation of the JFK assassination, the first national magazine that was openly critical of the Warren Report. To this end, Louise worked alongside such notables as David Welsh, Mae Brussell, David Lifton and William Turner, and so when speaking of Thornley and/or the JFK assassination, Louise not only comes to the subject as someone who was a close friend of Thornley’s, but also someone involved very early on in JFK assassination research.

In Spring 2011, while conducting research for Caught in the Crossfire: Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald and the Garrison Investigation (Amazon), I contacted Joan Mellen on how to go about obtaining a copy of this “CIA document” related to Kerry Thornley. Mellen replied that she’d send me a copy after she had time to recover from a recent medical ailment. Afterwards, I contacted Mellen periodically—on probably a half dozen occasions—but never heard back from her. Mellen, it should be noted, is still standing by her claim that Thornley was a CIA agent as evidenced in this recent interview.

More recently—on the advice of researcher Stu Wexler—I conducted a search of John Armstrong’s JFK assassination files at Baylor University online, where, lo and behold, I came across a copy of the document in question, which I post here for review.

Page 1 of Kerry Thornley's DOD file.

Download All 3 Pages in PDF

In Farewell to Justice, Mellen identified the above as a CIA document and, alternately, as a DOD document. Page one clearly identifies it as a DOD document “translation” which was created as a request to the DOD from the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1978. The upper right hand corner of the document is stamped:

DOD FILE REVIEW
PATRICIA ORR     

Patricia Orr was a researcher for the HSCA and it appears that the document is her translation of Thornley’s service record. The document confirms that Thornley received training in biological and chemical warfare, but how Mellen arrived at the conclusion that this training was conducted by the CIA is unclear. In fact, there’s no mention of the CIA anywhere in the document—unless one is reading deeply between the lines. Well, there are the three last letters of Orr’s first name to consider perhaps.

It should be noted that Thornley received this biological and chemical warfare training at Atsugi Base in Japan which served as a CIA outpost during this period. In this regard, it’s conceivable that Thornley—and other Marines stationed at Atsugi—could have received training from CIA personnel also stationed at the base, but Mellen’s assertion that Thornley was a CIA employee is unsupported by the DOD document. What the thinker thinks, the prover proves…

On page 276 of Farewell To Justice, Mellen writes:

“From the Department of Defense files comes a document placing Thornley as a CIA employee who attended Chemical and Biological Warfare School. Receiving ‘technical instruction’ in Washington, D.C., Thornley moved from ‘confidential’ to ‘secret’ clearance. His course in ‘Atomic, Biological and Chemical Warfare’ ran from June to August 1960, and had begun at Atsugi…”

The term Mellen uses—“technical instruction”—actually appears in Thornley’s service records as “Tech instruct” which was an abbreviation for “Technique of Instruction,” a Marine Corps competition Thornley entered during this period.

According to the author’s page of Oswald, Thornley “…served in the Far East, in the First Marine Aircraft Wing, and distinguished himself again as a public speaker on political/philosophical issues by winning first place in the Wing Technique of Instruction Competition. He was therefore sent to Washington to appear in the finals…”

Photocopy of author's bio page taken from Kerry Thornley's Oswald.

The August 1959 edition of Leatherneck magazine also mentions that the Technique of Instruction competition was scheduled to be held in September 1959 in Washington, DC., which is listed in an entry from page 3 of Thornley’s DOD file:


14 Sep 59
Tech instr
to TAD Wash, DC

While Joan Mellen found Thornley’s visit to Washington, D.C. somehow suspect, his service record—and other supporting documents which I post here—suggest that he was simply attending a Marine Corps public speaking competition, which was certainly nothing unusual for Thornley. According to the author’s bio page in Oswald: “While attending high school in Whittier, California, [Thornley] had won a number of public speaking competitions, including the Voice of Democracy Contest.”

A writeup from Kerry Thornley's 1957 high school yearbook
on his participation in the Voice of Democracy Contest.

According to Joan Mellen, after Thornley received his “technical instruction” in Washington, D.C., in September of ‘59, he was “…moved from ‘confidential’ to ‘secret’ clearance….” This suggested (to Mellen, at least) that Thornley had graduated from Marines Corps Corporal to Secret Agent with the CIA.

It should be noted that “secret” clearance in and of itself is not special or unique and just because Thornley received “secret” clearance doesn’t mean he was a “CIA employee.” As my friend and former Air Force Office of Special Investigation (AFOSI) Special Agent, Walter Bosley, recently informed me:

“SECRET is the first level of anything close to serious, but it’s not the big prize level. It’s the first level of stuff that can get someone in big serious trouble if they mishandle it or, God forbid, sell it. There are a lot more personnel with SECRET than with TOP SECRET and beyond, of course, but it’s not insignificant.”

According to Thornley’s DOD file, he was assigned as “Avn Elec oper”, shorthand for Aviation Electronics Operator.

These duties were performed at Atsugi Base from which the U2 flights originated during this period, at the height of the Cold War. I would venture to guess that other enlisted men in Thornley’s unit who performed similar duties also held “secret” clearance.

Kerry Thornley in the Marines.

On page 67 of Farewell to Justice, Mellen endorses Garrison’s theory that the Old Post Office Building in New Orleans (also known as The Customs House) —located “across from Banister’s office”—was some sort of CIA spook central gathering place for, as Garrison described them, a “…number of young men who have been identified as CIA employees….” Garrison erroneously identified these CIA employees as Kerry Thornley, Lee Oswald, Thomas Beckham and Jack Martin, among others.

Document produced by Jim Garrison which lists
the young men 'employed by the CIA post office....'

Download PDF

As it turns out, the Old Post Office Building was not exactly “across from Banister’s office” as Garrison described, but in reality a half mile away—or as Mellen more accurately notes in Farewell to Justice—in “close proximity.”

While Oswald was most likely involved in intelligence work during his Marine Corps service and afterwards, the claim that he was a CIA employee has never been conclusively demonstrated. To further suggest that Jack Martin or Thomas Beckham were CIA employees seems based primarily on the many sensational claims made by Beckham and Martin themselves in which I place little, if any, stock. This is not to say that I completely rule out any or all of these theories suggesting that Beckham or Martin might have been CIA agents or connected in some way to the Agency. However, these allegations are just that: theories to which Garrison never produced any substantial supporting evidence.

Lastly—to toss more water on this smoldering fire—I recently stumbled upon the following declassified CIA document (at the National Archives online database) dated January 1968.

Declassified CIA document which lists Thornley’s CIA connections as 'None.'

Given the 1968 date, one can assume that this document was prepared in response to Garrison’s allegation that Kerry Thornley was a CIA agent. In this regard, the document lists Thornley’s CIA connections as “None.”

But, of course, THEY would deny it!

Posted in book, greg hill, jfk, jim garrison, kerry thornley, lee harvey oswald, letters, louise lacey, photo, writings | 2 Comments

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July 2015 Eris of the Month: Deep Fried ‘Adoration of Eris’ by Gg

June 2015 Eris of the Month, 'Deep Fried Adoration of Eris' by Gg.


Happy Robert Anton Wilson Day!



Send us your Eris of the Month Club submissions (more info here)
by using the form at the bottom of The MGT. page.

Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!

Posted in art, discordianism, eris of the month, monkey business, photo | Leave a comment

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The Last Days of Malaclypse the Younger: This Day In Discordian History: July 20th, 2000

“And so it is that we, as men, do not exist until we do; and then it is that we play with our world of existent things, and order and disorder them, and so it shall be that non-existence shall take us back from existence and that nameless spirituality shall return to Void, like a tired child home from a very wild circus.” —Principia Discordia, pg 00058

Last known whereabouts of Malaclypse the Younger.

Greg Hill—otherwise known to the world as Malaclypse the Younger—died on July 20th, 2000, spending his final days in Pleasant Hill, California at or near the pin you see on this google map.

The address I used for the web search (of the last known whereabouts of Greg Hill) was actually the residence of a fellow named Allen “Bud” Simco, who was a long time friend of both Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley. In fact, Simco served in the same outfit as Lee Harvey Oswald and Thornley at El Toro Marine Base and actually wrote a chapter for Thornley’s book Oswald titled, aptly enough, “Oswald and Thornley.”

Greg Hill’s A History of Everything

Download PDF.

Simco lived right across the street from Greg Hill at the time of Hill’s passing, and during those final days—Simco told me—he was able to look directly across the street and see Greg through his home office window working at his computer on his final project, A History of Everything (Download PDF).

I was first informed of Greg Hills’s passing in an email from Bob Newport, which included a photo of Greg taken just a few days before he died with text below the photo announcing Newport’s successorship of the Norton Cabal Archives. In this regard, Newport was referring to the Discordian Archives later passed on to me, your humble Discordian chronicler, in 2009.


Daily Planet News Flash: Greg Hill and the Norton Cabal Archives.

Below is an excerpted email from Allen Simco regarding Greg Hill’s passing, which gives a good snapshot of Greg in his final days.

Excerpted email from Allen Simco re: Greg Hill’s passing.

Greg Hill’s dear friends and fellow Discordians—Bob Newport and Louise Lacey—each wrote obits for Greg, shared with you here.

Bob Newport’s obit for Greg Hill.

Louise Lacey’s obit for Greg Hill which she sent to the San Francisco Chronicle. At the bottom of the page Louise wrote: 'This was my obit. The papers didn’t carry it. His mother was glad. She didn’t want any acknowledgement because, she said, Greg didn’t.'

Posted in book, discordianism, greg hill, kerry thornley, lee harvey oswald, louise lacey, robert newport, writings | Leave a comment

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June 2015 Eris of the Month: Eris Apple with Rainbow Eye by Palimpsest the Pointillist

June 2015 Eris of the Month, 'Eris Apple with Rainbow Eye' by Palimpsest the Pointillist,
aka Victoria Grimalkin.



Send us your Eris of the Month Club submissions (more info here)
by using the form at the bottom of The MGT. page.

Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!

Posted in art, discordianism, eris of the month, official business | Leave a comment

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The Brunswick Shrine Has Gone Dark!

Brunswick Shrine: Friendly Hills Bowl.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

THE PROFITCIES WERE SOLD!
THE SIGNS WERE SEEN!
GREYFACE HAS COME!

Sad news, my fellow Discordians. The Brunswick Shrine has gone dark!

The announcement came through the following news reports detailing the end of an era, the closure of the birthplace of Discordianism, the Friendly Hills Bowling Alley:

Whittier’s Friendly Hills Lanes closes
Three Historic L.A. Bowling Alleys Go Dark

And now, let’s take a look back at the Brunswick Shrine and its Erisian vibe with a series of Historia Discordia posts we like to call…

“Tales of the Brunswick Shrine”

Tales of the Brunswick Shrine (Part 00001)
Tales of the Brunswick Shrine (Part 00002)
Tales of the Brunswick Shrine (Part 00003)
Tales of the Brunswick Shrine (Part 00004)
Tales of the Brunswick Shrine (Part 00005)

Brunswick Shrine: A Sign From Eris.
Courtesy of Discordian Archives.

Posted in brunswick shrine, discordian timeline, discordianism, greg hill, kerry thornley, monkey business, photo, principia discordia | Leave a comment

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Greg Hill Gets Letters (Part 00007) #orgybutter

A letter to Dr. Iggy (aka Greg Hill) dated September 1970 from Mrs. Elio (whoever she may be) from Scheneetady, New York thanking Greg “for the chicken shit” and enclosing a “stamp and $1 for Principia. If no Principias left, keep the buck for orgy butter.”

ORGY BUTTER PRINCIPIAS:
Mrs. Elio's letter to Rev. Iggy (Greg Hill), dated September 1970.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

Posted in discordianism, greg hill, letters, principia discordia | Leave a comment

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VIDEO: Discordianism — The Chaos Religion of Kerry Thornley

Here’s a snippet of an interview of Adam Gorightly discussing Kerry Thornley with Michael Parker on his show Antidote available on the LipTV.


 

For those with the time (about 40 minutes)
and the interest, here’s the Full Interview entitled
“UFOs, Cults & Charles Manson Connections + Conspiracy with Adam Gorightly”:

Let us know what you think!

Posted in book, charles manson, discordianism, greg hill, illuminatus!, interview, kerry thornley, lee harvey oswald, official business, robert anton wilson, robert newport, video | Leave a comment

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The Cosmic Trigger Experience — Two Days That Shook The Wirrall

Adam Gorightly at The Find The Others Conferestival, Liverpool, England, Nov. 23, 2014. Photo by Adam Clark.

Last November, during the Discordian Holy Days of November 22nd and 23rd, I had the distinct and mind blowing privilege to attend the Cosmic Trigger Play and Find The Others Conferestival in Liverpool, England, the cradle of yellow submarine civilization.

I’d planned to do a write up of the Cosmic Trigger event, but each time I attempted to put pen to paper, I felt I could never do justice to the experience, as it had a profound effect on me—equally hilarious and heartbreaking—and each time I attempted to write about it, my words fell short.

Fortunately, Ian “Cat” Vincent did all the heavy lifting for me in his review of the event from the December 2014 issue of Fortean Times and gave us the go ahead to reprint it. Goddess willing, Daisy Eris Campbell and Her Band of Merry Pranksters will soon bring their glory to us from across the pond. Hail Eris and keep the rainbow knickers flying!
Adam Gorightly


The Cosmic Trigger Experience —
Two Days That Shook The Wirrall

by Ian Vincent

“This is too important to take seriously.”
Robert Anton Wilson (1932-2007 CE)

This is not, and could never have been, an objective review. Robert Anton Wilson matters too much to me.

Wilson – writer, philosopher, occasional past Fortean Times contributor and woefully unsung cultural influence on everything from conspiracy theory to comic books – matters to Daisy Campbell, too. She literally would not be the woman she is today without him.

Daisy Eris Campbell was conceived backstage at the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun, during her father Ken Campbell’s ground-breaking stage adaptation there in 1976 of Wilson and Robert Shea’s novel Illuminatus! (“It was a long play” noted her mother, actress Prunella Gee.) Unsurprisingly, theatre was in Daisy’s blood and drew her on to work with her father on his 24-hour-long adaptation of Neil Oram’s The Warp and other productions.

A while after Ken’s death in 2008, several people approached Daisy about the possibility of her directing a revival of Illuminatus! for the stage. This idea didn’t appeal – but the string of synchronicity which had begun at the moment of her conception seemed to be tugging her towards doing something connected to both Wilson and Ken’s work. Daisy’s idea was to create a stage version of Wilson’s autobiography, Cosmic Trigger: Final Secret of the Illuminati which, since it included scenes from when Wilson came over to London to meet Ken and make a cameo appearance in the notorious Black Mass scene in Illuminatus!, would allow her to pay homage to both Wilson and her dad alike. The fact that Daisy had just reached the same age as her father was when he mounted Illuminatus! was icing on the golden apple.

After getting both the blessing and the rights to the book from Wilson’s surviving daughter, Daisy (along with co-conspirator John Higgs, author of the recent splendidly Discordian biography of The KLF, whose Bill Drummond worked on the Illuminatus! sets) took to the road to both promote the entirely crowd-funded show and test out early scenes with a hopefully sympathetic audience. It’s here that I enter the story.

In October of 2013 (on the 23rd, of course), Daisy and Higgs appeared at London’s Horse Hospital venue with a pair of talks about both Wilson and the production, and to offer a couple of preview scenes to view – and I made a point of being there. Wilson had been a significant influence on me since my early teens, and I was delighted to see a revival of interest in his work, especially in times where rising dualistic us-and-them narratives trouble the globe… maybe a little of Wilson’s multi-model approach and Gnostic Agnosticism coming back into the cultural conversation could help, in some small way.

The preview scenes – a meeting between Wilson, William S. Burroughs, Alan Watts and his wife at Playboy Magazine in 1968, and an interview with Ken Campbell during the Illuminatus! production&mdashwere smart, funny and hinted that the final production would be something special. Adding further interest was the news that writer, magician and Wilson fan Alan Moore would be contributing his recorded voice and visage to the play in the role of the artificial intelligence FUCKUP.

Cut to February 23, 2014.

Daisy and Higgs brought their act to the Kazimer Theatre in Liverpool. With the crowdfunding well on course and the play close to having a finished script, the next question was: where to mount the play? Daisy’s first instinct was Liverpool – both for the connection to Ken’s original and the synchronistic echoes with both the production and the life-changing vision of C.G. Jung, who had once dreamed that Liverpool, a city he had never before visited, was the Pool Of Life. The Kazimer gathering was partly to share the progress, show some exclusive footage on Alan Moore talking about Wilson’s influence on both his attitude to conspiracy theory and magic, and to air another preview scene – a recreation of Wilson’s first LSD trip. All of these were spectacularly impressive – especially the LSD sequence, which successfully employed clever scene-changing, music and some heart-rending acting from Oliver Senton, the actor cast as Wilson. By the end, it was clear that Liverpool was going to be the right place.

Following the performance, a group of us went to Mathew Street, just down from where the old Cavern Club had stood, to conduct a small street ritual to the bust of Jung there, which had been commissioned by Peter O’Halligan, founder of the Liverpool School of Language, Music, Dream and Pun, many years before. Being not unfamiliar with the idea of street magic, I suggested we combine the ritual with a calling upon the synchronistic powers of Alan Moore’s Liverpool-born creation, John Constantine… and so we did.

(For more about this event and ritual, see my Daily Grail post: http://tinyurl.com/cosmicliverpool)

By the time the play was ready for its first performance on November 22nd at the Camp And Furnace venue in Liverpool’s docklands, the weekend of its premiere had expanded considerably – Daisy and her cohorts not being the type to do things by halves, it was now going to be a two day celebration of the thought and works of both Wilson and Ken Campbell.

The play itself began by setting out a new standard instruction for theatre… “Start with a striptease, and then build to a climax”. The striptease is a recreation of the story of Ishtar, surrendering all her clothes and symbols before entering, naked and pure, into Hell. From there, Senton’s Wilson takes up the tale of how he entered that most illuminating of Hells, The Chapel Perilous – from which one can only emerge as a stone paranoid, or an agnostic.

There are many astonishing things about the play of Cosmic Trigger itself: the sheer range of emotion and theatrical styles (from hilarity to tragedy, from crisp two-person dialogue scenes to full-blown song-and-dance numbers); the dedication and enthusiasm of the cast (all were excellent, but stand-outs were Senton, Kate Alderton as his wife Arlen, Josh Darcy as Ken Campbell and 15 year old Dixie McDevitt, Daisy’s daughter, as Luna Wilson); the back-projected sets by Scott McPherson combined with recreation of Bill Drummond’s original Illuminatus! sets; Steve Fly’s music, songs and live drumming… but one thing I especially appreciated was the skill with which Daisy adapted Wilson’s book with great fidelity, while not allowing it to fall into hagiography – both Bob and Ken are shown as fragile, deeply human men, faults and all – and their work all the better for it.

It is also likely to remain the only stage production in which a woman, playing her own mother, recreates the moment of her own conception.

The rest of the festival was overflowing with joys. The evening show following the performance included outstanding work from a range of performers, including Ken’s former lover & protege Nina Conti, whose skilled and twisted ventriloquism routine had the audience crying with laughter, and music from T. C. Lethbridge and a DJ set from Youth of Killing Joke.

The Sunday – the 23rd, Harpo Marx’s birthday – was no less significant, with a range of talks, workshops and performances. It began with a powerfully moving ritual to the Ancestors, given by Rupert and Claire Callender of the Green Funeral Company (http://www.thegreenfuneralcompany.co.uk/). Speakers included Robert Temple (whose book ‘The Sirius Mystery’ had been such an influence on Wilson and who coined the term Cosmic Trigger), Discordian archivist Adam Gorightly and Robin Ince (who spoke movingly and hilariously of his love of Wilson’s angle on skepticism). The art show contained contributions from the likes of Jimmy Cauty, the other half of the KLF (who also designed the posters) and Melinda Gebbie. There were also bands, DJ sets and a film show (which included one of Wilson’s favourites, Orson Welles’ ‘F For Fake’ and the first showing of the video of Alan Moore’s ‘Moon and Serpent Grand Egyptian Theatre of Marvels’ performance/ritual of 1994).

And then there was one last twist for me… when Daisy asked if I happened to be an ordained priest (I am – thanks, Universal Life Church!) because she had decided that it was the perfect day to marry her long time partner, Greg Donaldson – “all my friends are here!”. It was half-improvised, a bit ramshackle in places… but, somehow, a glorious wedding. Much like the whole event.

‘Cosmic Trigger’ the play went on to a sold-out 5 performance run in London the following week. Plans are being made for an international tour. Keep an eye on cosmictriggerplay.com for details.

Fnord.

Posted in art, book, daisy eris campbell, discordianism, illuminati, monkey business, robert anton wilson, robert shea, video, writings | Leave a comment

fnord