Although yellowing and frayed, this almost now forty year old classic—published in the Year of Our Goddess 1975—continues to evoke a sense of wonderment ever since that immortal day back in the summer of ‘84 when I happened upon this “fairy tale for paranoids” during the wee, weird hours while passing by Bart’s Books in Ojai, California—as the spirit of Krishnamurti hovered nearby. (As a sidebar, an early and part-time Discordian named Alan Kishbaugh is now a high ranking muckety-muck with the Krishnamurti Foundation in Ojai. Kishbaugh’s Discordian handle back in the day was “The Earl of Nines,” a title concocted as an effort to combat the chaos unleashed by The Law of Fives.)
As has been the honor system policy at Bart’s all these years, when the store is closed you can still buy books lining the outside shelves and toss money for them through a slot in the door, which explains my reference to “wee, weird hours.” Envision me then, a long haired reprobate, toking on the herb superb as I stumbled upon—in my intoxicated haze—this weirdo cover of the One-Eyed Pyramid with a dolphin swimming over it and such. Which takes us to the present…
So—as I reintroduce myself to Illuminatus! by way of the RAWillumination.net group reading—I plan to point out the many Discordian references I’ll encounter along the way, the first of which happens immediately in the dedication page to none other than Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley. (And if you don’t know who these dudes are by now, just start poking around here at Historia Discordia and all will be revealed!)
The next Discordian reference occurs on the first page of the opening chapter, an introductory quotation that is lifted directly from some obscure religious (or irreligious) tract called The Honest Book of Truth by an equally obscure character named “Lord Omar Khayaam Ravenhurst, K.S.C.”:
The Purple Sage opened his mouth and moved his tongue and so spake to them and he said:
The Earth quakes and the Heavens rattle; the beasts of nature flock together and the nations of men flock apart; volcanoes usher up heat while elsewhere water becomes ice and melts; and then on other days it just rains.
Indeed do many things come to pass.
—Lord Omar Khayaam Ravenhurst, K.S.C.,
“The Book of Predictions.” The Honest Book of Truth
Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, despite the misspelling in Illuminatus! of Khayyam as “Khayaam,” and more commonly seen as just “Lord Omar,” was, of course, Kerry Thornley’s Discordian name—or at least one of them, with the K.S.C. standing for Keeper of the Sacred Chao. As for The Honest Book of Truth, it has been commonly held over the years that no such book actually existed, because all that anyone had ever seen of it were short quotations from either Illuminatus! or the Principia Discordia.
During a conversation with RAW once, I asked him what he thought of Thornley’s writings, and he stated unequivocally that the best thing Kerry had written was The Honest Book of Truth. Of course, sometimes I’d wonder if RAW was pulling my leg about certain things, so I filed this anecdote away in my memory banks for future pondering. Later, after having acquired the Discordian Archives, I one day happened upon a most amazing discovery: none other than The Honest Book of Truth, which is 15 pages in length and includes “The Book of Uterus,” “The Book of Explanations,” “The Book of Predictions,” “The Book of Advice,” “The Book of Gooks,” and “The Gospel According to Fred.”
The Honest Book of Truth will appear in its entirety in the forthcoming book compilation, Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society.
Mae passed on a bundle of these beauties to me during a visit last year to Emperor Norton’s groovy grave site which she orchestrated.
In addition, Mae gave me a few Lysergide stickers that she and her crew created a while ago, which in short order I stuck on the back of my keyboard synthesizer, just because it looked cool there.
Lysergide, for those not in the know, was the trademarked name for LSD back when a group of someones were trying to market the drug before it became illegal.
The unique feature of the card is the backside that includes 5 privileges which, of course, correspond to the fabled Law of Fives.
Along the way, Fred made a pilgrimage to Emperor Norton’s grave and the rest, as they say, is history.
Afterwards, I got the notion to take said rubbing and combine it with some other Discordian Archives artifacts, which I only finally got around to doing the other day. Anyway, here ‘tis, including the third edition of Principia Discordia, flax notes from both Omar and Mal, not to mention a Hail Eris bumper sticker designed by RAW himself, as well as several fnords!
Here’s more info from the press release for the group reading:
The ostensible subject of the book is the Illuminati, an alleged secret society that seeks to control the world and is still the subject of many conspiracy theories. Many of the book’s protagonists are either battling the Illuminati or struggling to figure out what is really going on.
The work makes liberal use of Discordianism, a tongue-in-cheek religion devoted to worship of the Greek goddess Eris, who was blamed for starting the Trojan War, and of the Kabbalah, an esoteric mystical system that began as part of Judaism. The text also reflects the authors’ strong interesting anarchism and libertarianism.
Readers of the RAWIllumination.net website will participate in an online discussion of the book beginning on Feb. 24. The discussion will proceed at a pace of 10 pages a week, to give readers time to untangle many of the esoteric references and meanings in the text. The slow pace also will allow time for readers who missed the initial announcement to get caught up and participate. The standard paperback edition has 805 pages, so the discussion is expected to take well over a year.
Each week, an entry on a 10-page section of the book will be posted on the website’s blog, and readers will be invited to weigh in using the comments.
If you’ve never read The Illuminatus! Trilogy, this is a fine opportunity to get in on this underground classic of subversion.
As one character in the book, Epicene Wildblood, puts it while reviewing Illuminatus! in Illuminatus!, it’s “a fairy tale for paranoids.”
For some reason, this story has always resonated with me and, in many ways, I find it one of the more memorable things that Kerry wrote. While it has no date on it, my guess is that Kerry composed it in the early to mid-70s.
Enjoy this bike ride down memory lane.
To begin my story with anything but The Man on the Bicycle is by now nearly unthinkable to me.
The Man on the Bicycle probably had what by 1942 standards was long hair. He was certainly bearded fully—I remember that much clearly.
My mother says he always wore swimming trunks and carried somehow along with him a butterfly net.
Every morning and every evening of the Los Angeles summer. Up one way and down the other along the boulevard (Hoover Street).
The Man on the Bicycle had a deep sun tan and his hair was like burnished gold. Undoubtedly. Or maybe not. But he certainly seemed a superbly impressive phenomena to my four-year-old mind.
Even passing on a daily basis he managed to surpass in my eyes the occasional canvas-covered trucks of soldiers. And they waved. The Man on the Bicycle probably never gave us more than a passing, casual glance. But there were many soldiers in those days.
That Man on the Bicycle—he was one of a kind.
“If you depend on radios and record players for your music, you owe your soul to the power company.”
—The Secret Teachings of Paul Beihl
At the time, Louise Lacey was visiting Santa Cruz, so on the way I picked her up and gave her a lift to the event, which was located right off the Santa Cruz Beach Boardwalk where I’d spent so many days of my youth and teenage years. So it was nostalgic in that sense, conjuring up memories of days gone by, and also a sense of fond nostalgia about RAW’s influence on all of us Discordians attending the event. In many ways this day signaled the end of an era, although those in the crowd did not dwell on the maudlin, but to the contrary came and celebrated and laughed and lifted a glass (or two) to RAW’s passing into the land of We Know Not What.
As we entered the ballroom, RAW’s ashes were on display in a wooden box that was appropriately topped off with a Golden Apple. Louise stopped in her tracks and did a double take, recognizing it as the very same Golden Apple she’d given RAW a few years earlier at the premiere of the Maybe Logic documentary at the Rio Theatre in Santa Cruz back on July 23 of 2003. (July 23rd being a holy Discordian date that celebrates the rising of the star Sirius and RAW’s encounter with otherworldly entities. Maybe.) Outside during intermission, RAW had stepped out to have a cig when Louise presented him with said Golden Apple and recalled that he was completely enchanted with the gift, and couldn’t take his eyes off it as he cradled it in his hands. This was the last time that Louise saw him.
During the Meme-Orial, many took to the stage with their RAW remembrances, including his daughter, Christina, who shared his last message:
“I no longer claim to know anything, but I still have some persistent suspicions. My greatest suspicion holds that all my suspicions may prove wrong. Intelligence recognizes that nothing now seems impossible. Have a good, hearty laugh and do not dare to mourn me.”
The event was attended by my good friends Kenn Thomas of Steamshovel Press fame, The Excluded Middle’s Greg Bishop and Tim Cridland (aka Zamora The Torture King), who all, in one way or another, were touched by RAW’s work. Coming of age during the late-80s zine movement, it seemed RAW was a unifying force binding us all together, not only because he had penned such mind bending classics as Illuminatus! and Cosmic Trigger, but due as well to his optimistic and open minded outlook which seemed an inspiring path to follow.
To this end, Greg recalled how his life was literally saved when—during a period of deep depression—he fortunately discovered RAW’s writings about the loser and winner scripts, and immediately took them to head and heart, turning his world around.
Synchronicities were often abundant during personal interactions with RAW, as Kenn Thomas recalled:
“The twenty-three coincidences came up twice when RAW visited me in St. Louis way back in 1978. We were talking about it at lunch one day when the number we were given at the pizza place to wait for our order was 2323. Later, I took him to a radio interview in the nearby burb of Clayton, MO—near where George Noory does his show these days—and I pointed out that the name of the building where the radio station was located must have some mystical significance. It was called the Sevens Building. “Maybe,” he said, “and maybe so does that” and he pointed the top of the tall building across the street which had a large “23” marking its street address. RAW tells some version of this story on one of his videos, saying that the incident reflected a koan ‘Who is the Master who makes the grass green?’”
Any decent memorial—as all good Irishmen and Discordians know—has a well stocked bar to which I soon made passage. After securing an ice cold Anchor Steam—and taking a long cool drawl thereof—I worked my way back through the crowd, in the process bumping into R.U. Sirius of Mondo 2000 fame. Though no meaningful words were exchanged between us during the course of our passage, we shared that knowing nod that only RAW initiates know, clinking our bottle necks together, a toast in cosmic unison, as each of us then continued moving through the crowd.
The next RAW initiate I encountered was his long time friend, Scott Apel, who spent a lot of time with Bob during his final days. Scott mentioned that, at one point, RAW had handed him a copy of The Prankster and The Conspiracy and said, “If you want to know what really happened with the early Discordian scene, read this book!”—which was a wonderful anecdote to hear.
There are some very cool clips from the RAW Meme-Orial at this YouTube playlist:
Included is a stirring rendition of Auld Lasagna, as well as the procession where we were all given kazoos and such to blow upon and make mad music as we marched out to the beach to watch RAW’s ashes scattered to the sea, and to Eris.
At one point, Kerry had even toyed with the idea of taking out a post office box at the Pentagon (if that’s even possible) and making it the official address of the Discordian Society headquarters. Grace Caplinger (Zabriskie) is also mentioned on the postcard.
The following is a draft excerpt from my forthcoming book Chasing Eris. The book documents my worldwide adventure to experience modern Discordian culture, meet its personalities, and discover elusive Erisian mysteries.
Discordia has long been immersed deeply in copyright liberation and geek culture. What you may not know though is the surprising role it played in the birth of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose history begins in Austin, Texas.
Robert Anton Wilson, who I’m sure you will recall as one of the Early Discordians, released his popular The Illuminatus! Trilogy in 1975. In 1981, Steve Jackson, who published the “black cover” Principia Discordia, held discussions with freelance artist Dave Martin about adapting Illuminatus! into a game. Instead of taking on the book, due to the complexity (and, one might speculate, perhaps payment for creative rights), his company, Steve Jackson Games, began to make a game built instead on the concept of the Illuminati generally, throwing in a couple of explicit Discordian references. To play with their interest in conspiracies and Discordianism, Steve Jackson Games had on their BBS the tongue-in-cheek announcement:
Greetings, Mortal! You have entered the secret computer system of the Illuminati, the on-line home of the world’s oldest and largest secret conspiracy. 5124474449300/1200/2400BAUD fronted by Steve Jackson Games, Incorporated. Fnord.
In 1990, Steve Jackson Games was also working on another project, GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System), a system allowing players to develop role-playing scenarios of their choice. The company was developing materials for a GURPS Cyberpunk role-playing game, written predominantly by recent hire Loyd Blankenship.
In other circles, Blankenship was known as +++The Mentor+++, an experienced computer hacker. He’d moved to Austin in 1976, in grade five or six. Without knowing anyone, he began to get into computers, mostly just for the gaming. At his mother’s workplace he met a number of the system operators who maintained the PDP Mainframe, who showed him a text-based game called Star Trek, which he then convinced the operators to printout the BASIC code for him. It was through porting the game over to a CompuColor computer in the college library where he used to hang out that he first began to teach himself BASIC.
He began to break into computers when his guest password expired on the university computers he’d been using.
By 1988, Blankenship was fairly established as a hacker and attended Summercon, the longest running hacking convention in the U.S., where he spent time with The Leftist, Doom Prophet, Phantom Phreaker, Control C and Urvile/Necron 99 amongst others. Together, they became the second incarnation of a group known as the Legion of Doom.
Summercon was arranged by a hacking magazine called Phrack, established in 1985.
We jump to 1989: As well as writing the GURPS manual, Blankenship was running a Bulletin Board System called The Phoenix Project which helped to distribute Phrack, as well as participating in the Steve Jackson Games completely unrelated Bulletin Board, Illuminati.
Computers were a big thing; a new forefront for industry and crime. The government was busy with Operation Sundevil, an operation to crack down on hackers. The U.S. Secret Service also had another target in mind for an operation, technically unrelated, but still after those wascally hackers: Phrack magazine.
In 1989, the 24th edition of Phrack published the contents of a text file giving information on the E911 system. E911 is an enhanced service for handling emergency calls. These calls take place ordinarily on the public phone lines, but are managed so as to take priority over all other calls. According to a Secret Service affidavit, the file had been stolen from Atlanta telecommunications giant BellSouth by Robet J. Riggs, and was edited into a hacker tutorial by one of the Phrack founders, Craig Neidorf (Knight Lightning).
March 1, 1990: Steve Jackson Games is unexpectedly raided by members of the United States Secret Service, accompanied by Austin police and at least one civilian expert from “the phone company.” The Steve Jackson Games webpage says agents cut locks, tore open boxes, and forced open footlockers. They confiscated four computers containing GURPS Cyberpunk files, two printers, and other hardware and files.
Steve Jackson Games was told they would get their computers back “tomorrow.” In later statements, a judge said that the Secret Service could have duplicated the material they needed in between a couple of hours and eight days. Rather than the next day as promised, or eight days, the majority of confiscated material wasn’t returned for a whole four months. The majority of the GURPS Cyberpunk manual had to be reconstructed from snippets, planning and memory. Steve Jackson Games was impacted by the raid, and had to lay off nearly half their staff. Later, Judge Sam Sparks would seek to dispute the assertion that Steve Jackson Games had been nearly bankrupted by the raid.
Why did Secret Service agents target Steve Jackson Games?
The key was Loyd Blankenship. Agent Timothy Golden had based the raid of Steve Jackson Games on the fact that Loyd Blankenship was working there, ran a bulletin board system popular with hackers from his home, and also ran a completely separate BBS at Steve Jackson Games.
In response to the Steve Jackson Games case and other similar cases, John Gilmour, John Perry Barlow, and Mitch Kapor founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990. They would later, in 1993, support Steve Jackson Games in a legal battle seeking damages from the Secret Service.
When Steve Jackson Games sued the Secret Service, the judge’s comments concluded, amongst other things, that Foley had seen the “Greetings, Mortal!” message on a printout of the Illuminati BBS, and concluded, without further investigation, that this was evidence that the Illuminati BBS was a hacking space. Judge Sam Sparks added in his comments that it would have taken only hours to determine that Steve Jackson Games was a legitimate publisher, who would have been willing to cooperate with Foley’s investigation. The judge was critical of Foley, who despite being an attorney, was led to violate the Privacy Protection Act, simply by not being aware of it. Fellow Agent Golden was also unaware of this act, and when informed in the process of the seizure, that Steve Jackson Games was a gaming publishing company, did not place importance on the fact, or realize this meant his actions were illegal.
Judge Sam Sparks was scathing of the Secret Service, whose warrant, he said, did not even meet the standards set by the Secret Service itself. He criticized Foley for not creating copies of the computer content to be made available to the company, and for the impact of the case on Steve Jackson’s personal reputation.
He asked a direct question of Foley: had he considered that his actions could harm Steve Jackson economically?
Foley replied with “No, sir.”
“You actually did, you just had no idea anybody would actually go out and hire a lawyer and sue you,” replied Sparks.
Steve Jackson Games was awarded over $50,000 for damages sustained by the raid and the retention of property belonging to the company.
Riggs was sentenced to 21 months in prison for his part in stealing the E911 code.
Craig Neidorf, aka Knight Lightning, was charged, though these charges were dismissed after only 4 days with no conviction, incurring $100,000 in legal costs. This dismissal was in part due to the revelation that the stolen document which was estimated by BellSouth at a value of over $70,000, was in fact available from BellSouth unedited at a cost of $13.
Loyd Blankenship, for his part, was never charged.
[Edit 02/19/14: Jackson didn’t state himself that the choice to adapt the concept of the Illuminati mythos rather than adapting the Wilson and Shea book Illuminatus! was related to royalty costs. I’ve adapted the article to reflect this. —Clutterbuck]
EFF.org: Steve Jackson Games v. Secret Service Case Archive.