The following review of Illuminatus! entitled “Anarcho-Surrealism” was among the Discordian Archives I was first turned onto by Bob Newport in the early 2000s. At first blush, the document appeared to have been composed by Greg Hill — under the pseudonymous moniker of “Mordecai Zwack” — circa 1974-ish during the period he was living in NYC.
Later, while combing through correspondence between Robert Anton Wilson and Greg Hill from the period, I soon discovered that they actually collaborated on the piece. This would explain the Mordecai moniker in the byline, as Mordecai — it just so happens — was the first name of RAW’s Discordian persona, Mordecai Malignatus aka Mordecai the Foul.
In retrospect, “Anarcho-Surrealism” seems a prime example of Discordian Culture Jamming, in the sense that RAW was writing his own clandestine review of Illuminatus! with the covert aid of Discordian Society co-founder Greg Hill, aka Malaclypse the Younger, Omnibenevolent Polyfather of Virginity in Gold (K.S.C.).
Back in 2004, Brian Doherty of Reason Magazine reviewed The Prankster and the Conspiracy (Amazon Kindle, Paperback) and titled his review “Historia Discordia,” a title that, with Brian’s consent, I’ve decided to use for this website, as well as the forthcoming book Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society coming soon from RVP Publishers.
Reprinted with permission, here’s Brian’s article from Reason Magazine:
Among the many curiosities discovered in the Discordian Archives is what appears to be the first collaboration between Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley, predating Principia Discordia by five years, which, of course, corresponds to the Discordian Law of Fives. (Hail Eris!)
In 1960 — following Thornley’s Marine Corps discharge — he returned to Whittier, California and reunited with Hill at that time and the two produced a humor zine called Apocalypse: A Trade Journal For Doom Prophets.
Hill and Thornley published only one issue of Apocalypse, mainly because no one else, besides them, found it the least bit humorous. As Thornley later noted: “Things we thought were funny, nobody else did.”
Apocalypse: A Trade Journal For Doom Prophets will appear in its entirety in the forthcoming Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society available soon from RVP Publishers.
On November 23rd, 1976 (which just so happens to be a high holy day in Discordianism, both due to the mystical manifestation of the number 23 and because it’s Harpo Marx’s birthday) an Englishman named Kenneth Campbell premiered a ten-hour stage production of Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus! (Amazon Kindle, Paperback, Hardcover) at the Science-Fiction Theatre in Liverpool. In true Discordian fashion, the production consisted of five plays of five acts each, with each act 23 minutes in length. As Wilson wrote in Cosmic Trigger (Paperback):
Ken Campbell’s adaptation was totally faithful to this nihilistic spirit and contained long unexpurgated speeches from the novel explaining at sometimes tedious length just why everything the government does is always done wrong. The audiences didn’t mind this pedantic lecturing because it was well integrated into a kaleidoscope of humor, suspense, and plenty of sex (more simulated blow jobs than any drama in history, I believe.)
Working with the National Theatre (under the Patronage of Queen Elizabeth, no less!), Campbell arranged for the two Bobs, Wilson and Shea, to be flown across the pond for the London production premiere. In appreciation of Her Majesty’s largesse, Wilson made a cameo appearance: “The cast dared me to do a walk-on role during the National Theatre run. I agreed and became an extra in the Black Mass, where I was upstaged by the goat, who kept sneezing. Nonetheless, there I was, bare-ass naked, chanting ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’ under the patronage of Elizabeth II, Queen of England, and I will never stop wondering how much of that was programmed by Crowley before I was even born.” According to Michael Coveney’s Ken Campbell bio, RAW was so nervous about his nude cameo that he dropped some acid before going on stage, as well as doling out hits to other actors in the play.
At some point, during the course of the production (if I got the story straight), Kenneth Campbell’s daughter, Daisy Eris Campbell, was conceived backstage. More on the adventures of Daisy Campbell in a bit….
A year after of the Illuminatus! stage production, a Discordian reunion of sorts took place that included Bob and Arlen Wilson, Louise Lacey, Greg Hill, Bob and Rita Newport, as well as several other friends of the Wilson’s who traveled to Seattle to take in the Illuminatus! stage production during its stateside run.
‘Twas a chilly Seattle night (as the story goes), so someone (who shall remain nameless) produced enough MDMA for Wilson and all his colleagues (ingested between the second and third acts) which in due time took the chill from the bones of the assembled Discordians—and cranked up the glow surrounding their collected auras—as they sat entranced by the spectacle which unfolded.
The MDMA notwithstanding, Louise Lacey recalls the Illuminatus! stage production as a “sublime experience” which had one and all rolling in the aisles.
In the spirit of the Illuminatus! stage play—and filled with the same sort of Erisian inspiration as her dearly departed father—Daisy Eris Campbell has taken on the task of creating a stage adaption of Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger, which you can find out more about in the YouTube video to follow.
John F. Carr has just recently published the long ago written and much anticipated (at least by me!) first book in the Crying Clown series, A Certain Flair For Death (Amazon Kindle, Hardcover), a collaboration with his good friend and fellow Discordian, the late, great Camden Benares, a result of their many “pot and plot” sessions of the mid-70s through late-90s.
Robert Anton Wilson once described A Certain Flair For Death as “The best psychological science-fiction novel since The Demolished Man… the tension mounts and mounts… I couldn’t put it down… it might do your head as much good as an Encounter Group with the Marx Brothers!”
I recently contacted John to get some background about how and when the Crying Clown series were written, and he was kind of enough to share the following response. —Adam Gorightly
Twenty years ago this holiday season in 1993, Kerry Thornley, the Discordian Co-Founder & Pope known as Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst or more simply Lord Omar, was corresponding with a friend who was an inmate at the time in Georgia’s prison system. This friend of Thornley’s, as it were, just so happened to be a pen pal with none other than notorious Tate-LaBianca murders mastermind, Charles Manson, then being housed at Corcoran State Prison in California.
As Thornley told The Atlanta-Journal Constitution at the time, “I have a friend in jail who was a tattoo artist. He got into drawing pastels, and he drew a picture of Manson and sent it to him. And Manson wrote him back, and then he asked Manson to write me.”
Charles Manson responded by sending Thornley a Christmas postcard of sorts. The card was a folded-up piece of paper featuring a sketch by Manson of a dark-haired Santa Claus on the “front” with hand-written rants ranging from God to Buddha to Dennis Wilson of The Beach Boys on the other “sides” of the postcard.
During this period, one of Thornley’s Little Five Points friends from Atlanta, a young lady known as Molly, who Thornley characterized as “little brown-haired Molly,” traveled to Los Angeles where she was brutally attacked and sexually assaulted.
According to Kerry’s friend, Chris Wilhoite, “Molly had a mental breakdown over that and ended up in a public asylum. She wrote Kerry, asking for help and we Xeroxed the Manson Xmas card and raffled off the original to free Molly.”
Thornley made up flyers, as was his wheelhouse, and contacted local press to announce he had an authentic Christmas card from Charles Manson and would be raffling off tickets to win the Manson postcard for $5 a pop. As Thornley stated on some of the flyers, “So we Friends of Molly Moonie Rainstar, a slightly schizoid but very warm and wonderful young Discordian lady in her late teens, are raffling off my Manson letter. According to all I have been able to learn on short notice, any letter from Manson is worth at least $850.00 to collectors. Some have auctioned for tens of thousands.”
Molly was soon released and brought back home to Atlanta due to Thornley’s fundraising efforts. Thornley thus declared, “Charles Manson, by the way, has been appointed Superintendent of Sunday Schools in the Discordian Society.”
As Wilhoite recalls of Molly, “She turned out to be a handful and I remember babysitting her during a dissociative episode. Kerry eventually managed to reconcile her with her mum in Maine, so we sent her home…”
In 1962, Marine Corps Pvt. Kerry W. Thornley (and Discordian Society co-founder with Greg Hill) finished writing his first novel based on a friend and fellow Marine buddy, Lee Harvey Oswald, who strangely ended up defecting to the U.S.S.R. in the middle of the Cold War.
Little did Thornley know that his former friend, Oswald, who he used as a template for his main character Johnny Shellburn in his oh-so-hot-new-first novel, The Idle Warriors, would soon become the most-hated-man-in-America, unbelievably accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy. As a founder of Discordianism, perhaps a young Kerry should have expected some turn-about-is-fnord-play from his sweetheart Eris, the Goddess of Discord, in this matter.
Through the book’s fictional Oswald-based character Johnny Shellburn, The Idle Warriors gives a rare and first-hand insight into the mind of the man who allegedly committed the most infamous crime of the 20th Century.
The Idle Warriors is Thornley’s fictional book written about Lee Harvey Oswald before the John F. Kennedy Assassination, making the work the only unique and pre-assassination artifact completely free of later events and their subsequent biases regarding Oswald and the JFK Assassination. Unfortunately, after the events on 11/22/63 in Dallas, Texas and the subsequent Warren Commission investigation which ended-up hauling Thornley into testify about his personal relationship with Oswald in the Marines and included interest of Thornley’s own pre-Assassination writings about America’s First Lone Nut Assassin, the original type-written manuscript was somehow lost by Kerry Thornley to his eternal dismay.
Believed by Thornley himself and others to be forever misplaced and forgotten, a copy of the The Idle Warriors‘ original manuscript was miraculously rediscovered and rescued from the National Archives in the early 1990s by an unlikely pair of fellows attending a Dairy Queen Christmas-time franchisee convention in Washington, DC, who happened to have a side-interest in JFK Assassination lore, research, and materials.
Thornley gave his a copy of The Idle Warriors manuscript to the Warren Commission as background information to Oswald’s life and motives, and it languished as an obscure evidence item in the National Archives. Originally submitted as exposition to his testimony, the manuscript by Thornley had mostly been forgotten. Over the years, Thornley came to misplace his only other copy of The Idle Warriors and came to believe he had lost all copies of the manuscript.
By some Discordian Xmas miracle, the Dairy Queen franchisee amateur researchers requested, and were oddly granted, special permission by the National Archives to deconstruct the Warren Commission’s copy of the manuscript page-by-page and allowed to photocopy Thornley’s type-written The Idle Warriors pages.
Eventually this photocopy was handed over to infamous conspiracy and innovator publisher Ron Bonds of IllumiNet Press who immediately published The Idle Warriors, in conjunction with Kerry Thornley with a new introduction by Best Evidence author David S. Lifton, in 1991 under the IllumiNet Press imprint, launching the Ron Bonds conspiracy publishing empire.
The only book about Oswald before the JFK Assassination was finally published. Hail Eris and Dairy Queen dip cones!
Here’s your Christmas miracle fnord excerpt from The Idle Warriors:
Robert Anton Wilson first met Ireland’s most fnord notorious “psychedelic/garage/trash punk” band, The Golden Horde, while on vacation in Dublin in the early-80s. In 1985, The Golden Horde released their first LP, The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy!, on Hotwire Records with co-credit to Wilson, who provided lyrics and spoken word vocals on several tracks.
The Chocolate Biscuit Conspiracy! had four weeks on the 1986 UK Indie Charts, peaking at, you guessed it, #23. Hail Eris!
Kerry Thornley was many things to many people. Discordian, anarchist, Zen Buddhist, JFK assassination conspirator, acid gobbling hippie, pornographer, paranoid schizophrenic and MK-ULTRA mind control victim—to name but a few of his many personas, or how he was perceived.
The old Kris Kristofferson song sums up Kerry quite succinctly:
“He’s a walking contradiction, partly truth and partly fiction, taking every wrong direction on his lonely way back home.”
Or to quote Walt Whitman:
“Do I contradict myself? Very well, then I contradict myself. I am large, I contain multitudes.”
One person who saw Kerry Thornley in a quite positive light was Barbara Blackman who was friends with both Kerry and Greg Hill during the 70s.
In the following passage, Barbara recalls how she first met Kerry:
“My friend was taking her children for the prerequisite visit to their father during summer vacation. He had kindly arranged for us to stay at Stone House, a Quaker Commune. I was trying to find my spiritual self I suppose & connected with Kerry on a very high level. I had never sat with someone & meditated in the purpose of the two beings focused together in meditation. For me he was very much the Indian Yogi walking a path of spiritual awareness. Sometimes he was a whirling dervish, others a Shakespearean bard, then Krishna with his lovers. He was asexual in that he made love with the world.”
Below: Letter from Kerry to Barbara Blackman dated January 1, 1971. Courtesy of Barbara Blackman.