This is Part Two of The Illuminati Files by Brenton Clutterbuck. If you missed Part One, here you will find A Conspiracy is Born.
Suddenly, nothing happened!
Or at least not much. While the Illuminati had copped the blame for trying to challenge the power of church and state in Germany (a fair cop), instigating the French Revolution, and interfering with the founding years of the United States (both substantially less likely), for most of the late 1800s, concern about the Illuminati died down, only to return mutated and with a vengeance in the 1900s. Conspiracy author Nesta Webster brings them back in 1919, characterising them as a Jewish conspiracy dating back to the days of Jesus. She produced several works across her lifetime about the Illuminati. In 1965, the rightwing monthly The Cross and the Flag published by Gerald L. K. Smith featured an article that named the Illuminati as the second most important enemy in the world (pipped to the post by those dastardly world bankers!) Around the same time, a man named Robert Welch was beginning his own crusade against the Illuminati, via the organisation he founded — the highly influential rightwing organisation, the John Birch Society, which characterised the Illuminati as the precursor to Communism.
We find ourselves in the United States of the 1950s and 1960s, in a society being rocked by social change and in an environment where conspiracy theory (some of which would ultimately be proved correct!) was running wild. Campaigns of propaganda helped to overload the bullshit detectors of many, and very quickly, large numbers of people developed the firm suspicion that somewhere, someone was doing something, and whatever it was, it wasn’t good.
Into this paranoid stew of confusion and confoundment, came a new religious movement. It was called ‘Discordianism’, and perhaps unsurprisingly it was obsessed with chaos, disorder, and the impossibility of reaching out to grasp objective truth. Truly, this was a movement of its time.
With such fixations of the nature of truth, confusion, and the great unknown, it is no wonder that many Discordians were themselves entranced by ideas of conspiracy. The Principia Discordia, among other Discordian materials, satirised this re-emergence of Illuminati fever. Riffing on the Illuminati led to the ‘Illuminati letter’ appearing in the Principia Discordia. As with much of the PD, it is influenced by a mixture of sources.
Episkopos Mordecai, Keeper of the Notary Sojac, informs me that you are welcome to reveal that our oldest extant records show us to have been fully established in Atlantis, circa 18,000 B.C., under Kull, the galley slave who ascended to the Throne of Valusia. Revived by Pelias of Koth, circa 10,000 B.C. Possibly it was he who taught the inner-teachings to Conan of Cimmeria after Conan became King of Aquilonia. First brought to the western hemisphere by Conan and taught to Mayan priesthood (Conan is Quetzlcoatl). That was 4 Ahua, 8 Cumhu, Mayan date. Revived by Abdul Alhazred in his infamous Al Azif, circa 800 A.D. (Al Azif translated into Latin by Olaus Wormius, 1132 A.D., as The Necronomicon.) In 1090 A.D. was the founding of The Ismaelian Sect Hashishim) by Hassan i Sabbah, with secret teachings based on Alhazred, Pelias and Kull. Founding of the Illuminated Ones of Bavaria, by Adam Weishaupt, on May 1, 1776. He based it on the others. Weishaupt brought it to the United States during the period that he was impersonating George Washington; and it was he who was the Man in Black who gave the design for The Great Seal to Jefferson in the garden that night. The Illuminated tradition is now, of course, in the hands of The Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria (A.I.S.B.), headquartered here in the United States.
Our teachings are not, need I remind you, available for publication. No harm, though, in admitting that some of them can be found disguised in Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, Burroughs Nova Express, the King James translation of the Holy Bible (though not the Latin or Hebrew), and The Blue Book. Not to speak of Ben Franklin’s private papers (!), but we are still suppressing those.
The letter goes on for quite some time, but luckily for the human race, the Discordian articulation of the Illuminati quest turned out to be actually, pretty wholesome!
Look, if you people out there can keep from blowing yourselves up for only two more generations, then we will finally have it. After 20,000 years, Kull’s dream will be realized! We can hardly believe it. But the outcome is certain, given the time. Our grandchildren, Mal! If civilization makes it through this crises, our grandchildren will live in a world of authentic freedom and authentic harmony and authentic satisfaction. I hope I’m alive to see it, Mal, success is in our grasp. Twenty thousand years….!
Ah, I get spaced just thinking about it. Good luck on the Principia.
Also included in the preceding pages are an advertisement for the Bavarian Illuminati, and a telegraph, apparently from the illuminati to the Discordians, with a comically unbreakable cypher that could be used to permanently render incoherence to any sensitive messages (let’s just hope nobody —ever— needs to decode them!).
Discordian elder Robert Anton Wilson got on board the Illuminati train in a major way. He had been drafted into the Discordians in ’67, but they wouldn’t provide his first exposure to the Illuminati conspiracy. By the time the Discordians drafted him into their weirdness, he’d already been working at PLAYBOY‘s letters section for two years, alongside co-conspirator Robert Shea. PLAYBOY — being a magazine dedicated to all kinds of sexual and moral freedoms — attracted the attention of those who felt their freedoms were being infringed on in the most bizarre and unbelievable ways. This ‘nut mail’ from some of the more paranoid PLAYBOY patrons inspired Wilson and Shea to write a series in which all of the conspiratorial fantasies of their readers were 100% true. The resulting novel The Illuminatus! Trilogy returned to the more sinister power-hungry characterisation of the Illuminati.
The work was already invested in exploring the most deranged and bizarre (though not, of course, impossible) theories about who controlled the world. Wilson and Shea further muddied these illuminated waters of truth by sneaking articles into publications under assumed identities years before, then quoting those sources in their fictional trilogy to develop a strange and unreliable synthesis of truth and fiction. The book was about conspiracy, was produced as the result of conspiracy, and was a satirical exploration of a phenomenon that was far from just a light-hearted joke.
Illuminatus! of course then became another significant popularizer of the modern Illuminati mythos into popular culture. It also popularised the new foundation myth alluded to in the Illuminati letter from the Principia — that the Illuminati originated from the Islamic Assassin cult led by Hassan-I-Sabbah — though they attributed this idea to the John Birch Society.
Illuminatus! as a work, seems to have had a wide influence, although its authors would surely have liked to see more of that influence translate into royalties! It’s been speculated that the work influenced Umberto Eco, whose work Foucault’s Pendulum shares a number of similarities with the Illuminatus! Trilogy. More recently Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons also portrayed the Illuminati within the substance of its plot.
Steve Jackson Games, whose forays into the fringe frequently step into Discordian territory, loosely adapted the Trilogy into a board game (if it had been a ‘tighter’ adaptation they would have had to pay!).
The KLF, music weirdos who burned a million pounds, were also influenced by Illuminatus! Both members were exposed to the Trilogy through Ken Campbell’s epic 10 hour theatre adaptation of Illuminatus!, and this influence can be seen explicitly through the first name they took; The JAMS, a reference to the Illuminatus! Trilogy.
From here, the flow of influence for both the Illuminatus! Trilogy and the Illuminati mythology get pretty hard to track. You can see the source of a trickle, but how do you point to the home of a wave? With the hippie movement as a powerful vector, the Illuminati entered the public consciousness, permeating vast swathes of public life and awareness.
When I was doing my interviews for Chasing Eris, I spoke with Ben Graham who gave one example of how awareness of the Illuminatus! Trilogy, and the associated conspiracy consciousness passed from hippies to members of the electronic scene.
Because of the ravers that had been having free festivals out in fields, [members of the electronic scene] ended up teaming up with guys who’d been having hippy rock festivals in fields forever. Those guys ended up getting into a lot of techno music, but they would have been guys who were reading the Illuminatus! books in the early 70s. It had the whole kind of esoteric hippy knowledge and stuff behind it… You had the club rave kids meeting the hippy travelers, one side being electronic techno music and ecstasy, and the other bringing this kind of like hippy philosophy and ethos and knowledge and it all kind of crossing over. And certainly I think a lot of the kind of Illuminati ideas. Suddenly it became cliché to be referencing the number 23 for one thing.
As for the Illuminati itself, well, today it is Well Known enough that the very term has become a euphemism for any vaguely shadowy institution. When some say ‘the Illuminati’ control the world, they perhaps don’t mean Weishaupt’s group, but instead ‘the Deep State’ ‘the Ruling Class’, ‘the Bourgeoisie’, or maybe ‘the Shadow Government.’ Maybe, in some sense, they are all absolutely right.
The Illuminati perhaps remains so powerful in the public consciousness today because it speaks to the need to fill in the gaps — the dark shadowy gaps — in our knowledge of the world. Every trove of top secret documents that spills out from a Wikileaks page or a pastebin, every release of unclassified documents, every whistle-blower and truth-teller betrays the existence of a murky world of conspiracy that lives beneath the surface of our otherwise normal and logically consistent existence. Voltaire once said that if God didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him. Perhaps the same is true of a Godlike conspiracy. Fortunately, Adam Weishaupt did us that favor many years ago, and things have only been getting stranger ever since.
One legacy of the Discordian Society has been its part solidifying the place of the Illuminati in contemporary pop culture. Once an obscure and poorly understood quirk of European history, the Illuminati is now sincerely regarded by some to be responsible for 9/11, global economic collapse, the entire pop music industry, and are claimed to include such high ranking members as Jay-Z, Beyonce and George W. Bush.
While on my Chasing Eris journey, I was able to pay a visit to some historic Illuminati sites. I had taken a train to visit Ingolstadt, the historical birthplace of the Illuminati. Some part of me expected to see signs of the Illuminati everywhere; poorly made Eye-in-the-Pyramid shirts with INGOLSTADT BAVARIA written on them and ‘take our Angels and Demons Illuminati tour…’ but there was nothing. I realised how nothing there is when I try to buy a friend a gift—an owl. While triangles and the Eye in the Pyramid (more properly known as the Eye of God) are recognised in popular culture as the sign of the Illuminati, the original symbol of the Illuminati was an owl. This is the symbol of Minerva, and implies wisdom. Despite this, it took a few hours of solid searching before I found a cute glass owl at the markets. I suspect this scant acknowledgement of Barvaria’s conspiratorial past is a mostly conscious effort to avoid attracting conspiracy freaks.
The first location I successfully tracked down was the Adam Weishaupt house at Theresienstraße 23. It wasn’t anything stunning; today it is a bank (which should be a delight to the tin-foil crowd). I did note the curvy stylistic 23 with some satisfaction however; a good number for a conspiracy.
It was here, apparently, that Weishaupt began the meetings that would lead to the development of the Illuminati.
Adam Weishaupt was born in 1748. Accounts suggest his father died when he was only seven years old, leaving him in the care of his liberal grandfather. He had two educations; one by the Jesuits, and another self-delivered amongst the considerable tomes of his grandfather’s bookshelf (potentially one of the largest personal collections in Europe), and it was this second education that was to most fully impact young Weishaupt.
Every teenager is rebellious, and in Bavaria where the Jesuits essentially had total control of the education system since around 1549, there was a lot to rebel against. This was a particularly extraordinary situation when one considers that throughout the rest of Europe, the enlightenment was taking place, and the power of the Catholic Church was slipping.
I continued through the Bavarian streets. There was a thick fog, and the day was crisp and grey. Eventually as I walked, I came to a large building; the University of Ingolstadt.
While the location may have changed, it was at this institution that in 1772, with his grandfather’s help, Weishaupt was given the position of Professor of civil law. He climbed that ladder relatively quickly, earning the ire of the Jesuits. The feeling was mutual.
On the first of May, 1776, Adam Weishaupt founded the first historically supported instance of the Illuminati. Weishaupt’s most profound prejudice was against the Jesuits whose education he had obviously not appreciated, and whose continued objections to his activities within the University he resented. His organisation was also opposed to all forms of modern occult, was closed to Jews, and actively persecuted the Rosicrucians. They reserved their support for rationalist philosophy, science, and a doctrine of equality, though as translator and poet Jeva Singh-Anand comments, they were a little too early for feminism (one of the few proposals of women in the Illuminati suggests them as providing ‘voluptuous pleasures’ to the male members). Instead they promoted a type of patriarchal tribal society, free from inequitable concentrations of power or goods. They also expressed admiration for the liberalizing effect of high populations and promoted the improvement of society through moral education. Singh-Anand also states that they promoted Hermetic and Esoteric philosophy, to a degree:
“There’s an operative part of the esotericism and then there’s metaphysics and esotericism as a branch of philosophy. That’s where you get people like Stoics. That’s where you get people like Idealists, Platonists. All these things. If we define it this narrowly; metaphysics and esoteric ideology, yes they were very much into that. But when it comes to stuff like astrology, redesigning the tarot, Goetic Invocations, things like that, they had a very, very dim view on it.”
Despite their disdain for contemporary occulture, the Illuminati adopted a number of ancient practices, at least aesthetically, using an hierarchical ordering system and calendar adopted from ancient Persia. As initiates moved through the order, they were revealed new ‘secrets.’ Superstitious notions were conveyed in the “Lesser Mysteries,” while in the “Greater Mysteries” the veil of superstition was torn away and those deemed worthy were initiated into the truths of rational understanding of God, writes German Illuminati expert Monika Neugebauer-Wölk.
The aims of the Illuminati were to abolish both religion and the monarchic powers of the state, through all peaceful means. Every violent reform is to be blamed, wrote Weishaupt, because it will not ameliorate things as long as men remain as they are, a prey to their passions; and because wisdom needeth not the arm of violence. However, evidence exists that at least at some point the Illuminati had considered the poisoning of political rivals, and it’s impossible to know what might have been revealed by documents the Illuminati burned when the tide turned against them.
Weishaupt’s formation of the Illuminati predated his membership in the Freemasons, which took place a year later. Once in though, he set about trying to discover Masonic secrets and link the Illuminati to the Masons in advantageous ways. In effect, the Illuminati became a secret society hidden inside a secret society.
Weishaupt quickly found a great friend in writer Adolf Freiherr Knigge. Knigge contributed much to the Illuminati, publicising it and adding to the ritual and mythology of the organisation. He and Weishaupt often disagreed; Weishaupt considered the best structure of the Illuminati as Monarchic, Knigge thought it should be a Republic. Knigge also worried that the structure was open to abuse. In the end, like Simon and Garfunkel, their creative partnership ended through creative differences. Before their separation though, Knigge represented the Illuminati at the Masonic Congress of Wilhelmsbad, an event that sealed the association between the Freemasons and the Illuminati.
The earlier (pre-1776) origins of the Illuminati are the result of much embellishment, mostly on the part of Weishaupt and Knigge. Weishaupt drew a fictional genealogy back to the King of Persia, Yadzegerd III. Knigge created a separate origin, bringing the birth of the Illuminati back to Biblical Noah. Funnily enough, none of these claims related to the the Knights Templar, an organisation continually included in many conspiratorial genealogies, and today strongly associated with the Illuminati. Like other aspects of modern Illuminati mythos, the Templar’s connection is to Freemasonry—they were claimed by some Masons to be the origin for German Freemasonry—a claim that seems akin to Knigge or Weishaupt’s in terms of credibility.
Working towards abolishing the institutional power of both church and monarchy, the Illuminati couldn’t remain enough of a secret to avoid making powerful enemies. By 1785 it was all over. Weishaupt was on the run, the Illuminati was outlawed and disbanded by the King of Bavaria. The Illuminati was finished.
OR WAS IT? Several sources following this point make the claim that the Illuminiati continued to exist beyond their supposed end.
The squishing of the Illuminati took place quickly—for some, too quickly to be believed. The continued paranoia of enemies of the Illuminati, including European kings and the mysterious Rosicrucians, led to a continued hyper-vigilance for signs of their re-emergence. When, in 1789, the French Revolution left Parisian streets awash with blood of the ruling class and their own revolutionaries, some considered this the work of the dreaded Illuminati.
This claim was made in Vienna Magazine, various pamphlets, and the 1797 work Proofs of a Conspiracy by John Robison. Much of Robison’s historical information about the Illuminati seems well sourced, until it approaches his discussion of the French Revolution.
Almost immediately, this Illuminati paranoia spread across the pond, to the USA. According to Vernon Stauffer’s work New England and the Bavarian Illuminati, only a year after Proofs of a Conspiracy was released, clergyman Jedediah Morse (the father of the single-wire telegraph inventor Samuel Morse) gave a speech claiming that the Illuminati had begun operations in America:
On the morning of May 9, 1798, in the pulpit of the New North Church in Boston, and on the afternoon of the same day in his own pulpit at Charlestown, the occasion being that of the national fast, the Reverend Jedediah Morse made a sensational pronouncement. He first discussed with his hearers “the awful events” which the European Illuminati had precipitated upon an already distracted world, and then proceeded solemnly to affirm that the secret European association had extended its operations to this side of the Atlantic and was now actively engaged among the people of the United States, with a view to the overthrow of their civil and religious institutions.
Other sources in this period, continue along the same theme, that of a continuing tradition of Illuminism, perhaps involving or influenced by the very earliest participants in the Illuminati, that had passed through Paris and into the United States, remaining hidden in Masonic lodges. Various works make claims of conspiracies in or around New England. The 1802 work Proofs of the Real Existence, and Dangerous Tendency, of Illuminism by Samuel Etheridge claims the existence of documents supporting the presence of 1700 Illuminati scoundrels in the USA. One possible reason for this seems to be political opportunism—many of these conspiracies were directed towards defaming Alexander Hamilton’s Federalists. (Perhaps it was an effort to stop them singing!) The conception of the Illuminati began to move away from any ideological goals, and became instead characterised as a group who desired ‘power for power’s sake’.
This massive twist in the characterisation of the Illuminati complete, the stage was set for the next chapter in Illuminati history: its complete transformation into a contemporary conspiracy theory, egged on by yet another institution that was to be born out of the strange chaos of the United States post-WWII period.
As you’ll soon see documented in Part Two of the Illuminati Files, that “institution” would be the Discordian Society promoting a parody religion known as Discordianism.
The opinions expressed in this article are solely those of the author, although the command staff here at Historia Discordia has no reason to doubt the central thesis presented herein, based–as it is–on evidentiary documentation referenced by Mr. Clutterbuck, not to mention his own personal journey down the sock-puppet filled Rev. Loveshade rabbit hole. – The MGT.
I am writing this article not just as a Discordian, but as an Award Winning Discordian, having been granted the Order of the Pineapple, an award that has been bestowed (dare I say, imposed) on other Discordians including Professor Cramulus, Adam Gorightly, Sondra London, Miley Spears, Pope Hilde, Gypsie Skripto and Princess Unicornia.
The order of the Pineapple was first presented in 1982 by the Ek-Sen-Trik-Uh Cluborguild. Except it wasn’t – which is the problem. It wasn’t invented in ’82, more likely it was invented in 2015. And many of the recipients – Spears, Hilde, Skripto, Unicornia etc – are entirely fictional.
This is just one symptom of the problem that lives very, very deep in current day Discordianism. It is the problem of Reverend Loveshade.
The Loveshade Family Tree
How do you write the history of a serial liar? It doesn’t make sense to simply assemble their lies and present them. Loveshade is a difficult liar because he is a Discordian liar – he is always winking at the camera. Many of the claims he makes are tongue in cheek and ridiculous, but there are certain ‘facts’ that are presented repeatedly. For instance, Loveshade’s involvement in adult film when younger, or his commune, or his persecution by the government—all are consistent moments referenced both seriously and playfully in different places. But why bother? If we can trust anything about Loveshade, it’s that we can rely on him to be a liar.
Loveshade appears to be a member of a large and eclectic community of Discordians, whose brand of Discordianism is liberty driven, owing much to the free love movements of the hippie scene. The community involves a number of young, often related young girls, including some of the above recipients of the Order of the Pineapple. There’s the Spears clan, the Black family, and the Loveshades, and a sprinkling of outsiders. Interactions between what we might call ‘the Loveshade family’ and others tend to be fraught with tension; some on philosophical grounds, some because I can tell you from experience that Loveshade’s adventures in forums and comment sections can be a tad antagonistic, and some because he likes to namedrop.
We can trace Loveshade’s internet history back to somewhere between 1998 and 2000. Loveshade’s mythology often references a bygone figure called Bloodstar/Alien Loveshade. Bloodstar appears real (in some sense), a figure on Geocities around the turn of the millennium. Bloodstar had some interactions with another Geocities user, A.D. Lea.
Between the two, the evolution of the Loveshade family can be seen. Both websites (Bloodstar and Alien Loveshade) have a fixation on copyright and image use that resembles current Loveshade family pages. Both pages pay tribute (including photos) to a model skull referred to as Binky the Wonderskull. Both pages link to the five key beliefs and other writings of Loveshade. A.D. Lea writes about gender in a passage called Gender Genesis – this is now on ‘Alden Loveshade’s’ page, attributed to him.
A.D. Lea also has photos of a Halloween party, some of which appear now on pages run by Alden Loveshade. This involved a kind of spooky tour, with pictures of wizards, wackos and wolfmen. The aforementioned ‘wacko’ is a bearded cleaver wielding maniac named Dr Sinister Craven. The man in that picture will come up again soon. The ‘Wizard’ is also later referenced as ‘The Wizard Lea’. It is a picture many will recognise as the self-portrait of Alden Loveshade. Most pictures are copyright A.D. Lea, but this one is attributed to another person called Dan, who will also come up again.
Bloodstar has another classic Loveshade attribute; he puts forward an interest in nudism, linking to several pages. Those pages often have a focus on selling images of ‘family nudity’. He also shares a ‘self-portrait’–a photoshopped floating head with exaggerated facial hair. The unedited image is commonly used as a self-portrait by Alden Loveshade.
Both A.D. Lea and Bloodstar link to Loveshade’s page at different times, often with the suggestion that it is coming soon – both linked to the Loveshade page as a work in progress. In fact, Bloodstar may even have alluded to creating Reverend Loveshade in his 1998 end of year letter (a tradition Alden Loveshade continues) – I established a Secret Earth Identity this year. I can’t talk about that too much, either.
We can assume A.D Lea and Bloodstar/Alien Loveshade are the same, and that they’re both Reverend Loveshade.
It wouldn’t quite be a Discordian story without dramatic jumps through space and time, but I feel this is a good time to talk about ‘The Biography of Alden Loveshade’ because I will be making references to it from here on, and I want to give credit where due.
The current Loveshade preoccupation of Wiki editing has not made Loveshade (or his ostensible community members ‘Pope Hilde’ and ‘Miley Spears’) many friends. In the SubGenius community in particular, there has been push-back against Miley Spears’ hostile takeover of the Subgenius Fandom Wikia. I’m unclear of the specific details, but around two years ago some members did some digging into Loveshade, and made a host of accusations, and were told to come back with proof.
They did. This PDF documents Loveshade’s court records from 2002 and identifies a few things about those early Geocities pages that I hadn’t spotted — in particular, his use of meta descriptions that seem designed to attract a… questionable community of fans.
“…closer inspection of the HTML shows a trend that becomes all too frequent in Loveshade-related online materials. Meta Descriptions, such as those seen in the screenshot below, containing tags like, ‘pregnant, pics, children, preteens, teenagers,’ and so on.”
I stumbled across this PDF through a series of leads, each more tenuous than the last. This lead—a guy I’d seen fall out with Loveshade on Facebook—was deeply paranoid of me when I introduced myself. Even after I sent a video of myself, clearly stating my name, it didn’t stop his suspicions that I was–or was affiliated with–Loveshade. I have to say, I don’t blame him.
In the end though, he was kind enough to decide to trust me. His name was M. Otis Beard, and he was himself an internet celebrity of a kind, a member of the Ur-Internet Troll association of ‘Kibologists’, and in particular had become a kind of unofficial spokesperson for faking your own death on the internet, something he did in 1999. Beard mentioned ‘the PDF’ offhand, assuming I knew of it, before directing me to a Subgenius group where I could find it.
Around this same time, I received an email from another individual, stating simply:
Heard your asking about Loveshade. I can tell you shit.
This was followed by a completely different document with an aesthetically similar cover. However the title was ‘The Biography of Reverend Loveshade’, and the content was wildly different. Without going into full details, there’s a simple reason for this; the person who sent it to me is Reverend Loveshade and he’s trying to muddy the waters, so that the reaction to the Subgenius document is the same as the current reaction to the whole of the Loveshade saga– ‘this is a weird mess, so I’m just not going to think too hard about it.’ In total, the moral of this second document is as follows – the man you think is Loveshade is framed, the real Loveshade is another person, and all his sock-puppets are real, too.
Like I said, I don’t blame Beard for his paranoia.
A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum
The first notable instances of Loveshade interacting with other Discordians is on a Yahoo group called Illuminatusinnersanctum. His first post is in July of 2001, and he speaks of being invited by user ‘Chezire_Katt’, who seems to have performed several membership runs to gather new users. His last is in 2012, by which point the forum was basically a wasteland of spambots.
This puts Loveshade as a participating member of Illuminatusinnersanctum forum at the time of his reported 2002 arrest by Texas Law Enforecement officials, which allows us to put together a timeline. Further details can be found in the PDF.
On March 19, 2002, Loveshade posts his last message on the Illuminatusinnersanctum forum, after being an incredibly active poster.
‘The Biography of Alden Loveshade’ lists March 29, 2002 as Loveshade’s arrest.
On May 13, 2002, Chezire_Katt mentions that they wonder where Loveshade is.
On Feb 14, 2003, George_W._Bust (could be Loveshade out on bail, or a friend) writes the following message:
Somebody brought up an old message of Reverend Loveshades so I thought I’d better comment.
For those who dont remember him, he used to be a frequent poster here. That was until he was investigated by the FBI and the Secret
Service and arrested on an imaginary charge. He’s currently being held in solitary confinement.
He’s been threatened many times with arrest because of his fights for freedom. Now that fundamental American freedoms are being
threatened in the name of security, we are all vulnerable.
His writings can be found on many web sites. Please read the first one below at least. It has suggestions for what you can do. Don’t bother emailing him now. He has no way to respond.
We are hopeful that the Rev will soon be released. Remember his words when he said:
“Don’t wait for your grandchildren to ask you why you watched fundamental American freedoms being stripped away and did nothing.”
Loveshade’s sentencing date is April 12, 2003.
Suddenly, on October the 18th, 2005, Loveshade reappears:
As Mark Twain once said, “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated.”Yes, Ladies and Gentlemen, I’m back!
I’d like to clarify several things, but I won’t because other people are involved and everything is yet to be resolved. And frankly, I’m still a little scared myself (for a while, I was scared as hell). A lot of what I write is B.S., but the rest of this is as true as I can make it.
I and some of my associates were a part of a national investigation in the U.S.A. which may have extended internationally, we aren’t sure. This began not too long after Sept. 11, 2001. Part of that investigation, and perhaps only a small part, was an attempt to learn the true identity of the Discordian “BloodStar,” who still remains in “hiding,” and of “Reverend Loveshade.”
As I have no reason to want to pin down my “true” identity, I’ll leave it at this:
* we were investigated for a number of “crimes,” many having to do with freedom of speech. As one of our group is on the edge of having the last charge dismissed, I don’t want to go into details
* there were almost certainly bugs planted, and informants for government agencies planted as well (some of this was well done, and some was so clumsily handled as to be almost laughable)
* one of us was held for months in solitary confinement
* several of us were threatened by citizens/government agencies/police officers
* there were several searches conducted in various parts of the U.S.A.
* the work (writings, photos, etc.) of many of us were seized (including writings of some people who posted to this site, some of whom are likely still unaware of the investigations)
* at least two people who posted to this site were questioned in person by the authorities (we suspect more)
* at least a dozen agencies in the U.S.A. were involved in the investigation, including the FBI (we don’t have official documentation that the Secret Service was involved, and at this point their involvement seems doubtful. But an attorney said it appeared quite probable that a then-prominent person in the federal
government was our “enemy”)
* not a single agency found a single thing that agency identified as being illegal–except for a small-town police department. (Note that the “evidence” from this local cop was turned over to various agencies including the FBI, which had it for almost a year–after that cop held it for two years–before admitting they found nothing illegal).
As to posting “jokes” about Sept. 11, some of the postings almost certainly were a part of the investigation. Fortunately, some investigators had enough brains to realize the postings were jokes before more people who posted here were questioned.
Be careful what you kid about in a public forum; be careful what you take photos of (you never know what contemporary community standards are out there); be careful what you write in fiction that someone might think is true; and be careful claiming that the government is a bigger threat to freedom than terrorists–especially if they are.
So the timeline is consistent. Loveshade was investigated, arrested, found guilty, went to jail, and came out again, to resume his online Discordian career where he left off.
Co-opting Wikis For Fun and Profit
One oft repeated piece of mythology is a variation of this: ‘Loveshade married a 15 year old girl to three grooms and everyone was naked.’ The truth of that matter is that a bunch of people had a goofy conversation in chat in November 2001. Loveshade has tendency to exaggerate the innocuous and downplay the serious. But there’s some things to note. One is that one of the three grooms, Danacasso, is known to Alden in the real world. Remember the Wizard photo? On his website, Alden attributes it to the photographer’s real name; on Facebook he attributes it to Danacasso. I contacted Danacasso, but received no reply.
Not so notable, but interesting to see, are Loveshade’s interactions with Shereed Volva on Illuminatusinnersanctum. There’s no speculation here – Shereed Volva, the editor of an edition of Discordian Open Source periodical ‘Intermittens’ outed himself as Loveshade, and gleefully pointed out that his name was an anagram for Reverend Loveshade. So when you see Volva and Loveshade interact remember – this is a man conversing with his own sockpuppet account.
One of Loveshade’s goals, in both Discordianism and Church of the Subgenius, is to rewrite the history of both to his liking. There’s a few tools he’s used to achieve these ends. The absolute control of basically all Discordian and SubGenius wikis is one. (The simplicity of this is almost admirable. Disused wikis lie around everywhere, waiting to be infiltrated with a sock army.) Another is presenting things as rumour from a sockpuppet, followed by a kind of smirking not-quite-denial from Loveshade. This is the method he’s used to suggest that he may be the child of Robert Anton Wilson’s murdered child Luna Wilson (it goes without saying, but no). And the final, most ambitious, is the wholesale construction of historical figures.
Richard Marshall. Gypsie Skripto. Mike Quinn ‘The MGT’. All historical figures. All bullshit.
Here’s the rule for working out if it’s a Loveshade sockpuppet. Can you draw lines between one verified human and another? If not, it’s a puppet. And the same is true of these ‘historical figures.’ There’s no evidence for Gypsie’s existence, outside of being a construction of Greg Hill in the 4th Edition afterword of the Principia Discordia. There’s no evidence of Mike Quinn/The MGT existing outside of the character created by Robert Anton Wilson. And the proof of Richard Marshall is that an obituary exists for a James Richard Marshall… but the links to Discordians? Nada.
One strategy Loveshade used to create these characters is through the purchase of the website kerrythornley.com, run under the pseudonym ‘Johnny Shellburn’ (the protagonist from Kerry Thornley’s Idle Warriors). Apart from all of the other painfully obvious clues I managed to avoid seeing at the time, I realised this connection when interviewing Shellburn for my book Chasing Eris, and my email bounced, delivering this message:
Your mail message to the following address(es) could not be delivered. This is a permanent error. Please verify the addresses and try again. If you are still having difficulty sending mail to these addresses, please contact
Customer Support at 480-624-2500.
188.8.131.52 failed after I sent the message.
Remote host said: 554 Message not allowed – [PH01] Email not accepted for policy reasons. Please visit http://postmaster.yahoo.com/errors/postmaster-27.html 
The site exists to put ‘Shellburn’ in contact with seekers who he can baffle with bullshit. It also exists to muddy the waters of fact and fiction. Sondra London’s entirely credible interview with Kerry Thornley sits beside Richard Marshall’s fake interview with ‘Pope Hilde’. Possibly credible letters from Thornley sit alongside Thornley’s ‘Order of the Pineapple award.’
A Sea of Sock-Puppets
A few years ago, in a moment of astonishingly bad judgement, I agreed to do an interview with ‘Alden Loveshade’ for Yahoo News. (At the time, I regarded Reverend Loveshade as simply a troll, and Alden Loveshade as a separate person.) That news story never happened, and Alden instead, under the name ‘Johnny Shellburn,’ used my interview in his history-rewriting edition of Intermittens. In particular, he contrasted my entirely true allegations that ‘Gypsie Skripto’ and ‘Richard Marshall’ are bullshit, against his own evidence that they existed. It’s not enough for Loveshade to be able to make his own sandcastles in the sandpit – anyone who points out that the castles are made from sand must be punished.
Here’s another one: Reverend Loveshade developed a strong disagreement with a latter day Discordian who I refer to in my book Chasing Eris by the name ‘Smith’. Loveshade chased Smith around with a series of sock-puppets, and when Smith insulted Miley Spears, Loveshade looked up Smith’s address and mailed him cease and desist letter to demand a retraction for Smith’s supposedly defamatory statements. Then, in another scheme using sock-puppets, Loveshade tried to further entangle Smith into his web by posting in multiple places a lengthy conspiracy theory that he and Smith were the same person.
While googling Chasing Eris one day (vanity, darling), I discovered a website I hadn’t created called chasingeris.com. It had a decidedly Loveshadian look to it. Panicking, I contacted the webmaster to request they state clearly that they had no official connection to me, and to my great surprise they offered to transfer me the site. Phew! The owner then made a massive song and dance about how their name was a secret.
Now we’ll ask you a big favor. For me to do the transfer and for you to pay $30 into my paypal account, I’ll have to give you my real name. PLEASE don’t give this out. When you see my name, you may understand why. Or not.
Who am I.
Their first name was one that Loveshade commonly claims is his real name. Their surname was Smith’s real-life surname. I believe Loveshade was leaving breadcrumbs towards the theory that he and Smith were somehow connected. In fact, many of his schemes seem based on leaving little clues for internet detectives, surnames, anagrams, numbers, etc. It must be hard to be a big-brain genius that nobody appreciates.
Remember the trick to telling a human from a sock-puppet? A line between one flesh and blood human to another? I’ve only seen this twice – One between Alden and Daniel/Danacasso. The other is Alden and Doctor Sinister Craven.
Remember that Halloween party where many of Loveshade’s pictures come from? There’s a man with an evil grin and a meat-cleaver. He is the only person on that page that I’ve seen reappear over and over. He uses his real name, not Craven, however I won’t repeat it here. You’ve seen it though if you’ve viewed Loveshades’ blog – one clueless real human making comments in a sea of sock-puppets.
I bring up Craven because of what I’ve seen on his Facebook page. He writes a lot of poetry for Melissa Spears who is perhaps catfishing him, and has had disagreements online with members of the Loveshade clan. Craven posts online to say that his psychologist is telling him there is no such person as Melissa Spears, and Loveshade alts rush to contradict him. Alden warns Craven that MU Spears, who is defending Melissa’s honour, is a trained killer from the military. Bob Black scoffs at Craven, saying MU Spears could break his arm with his little finger. Of course, the Blacks, the Spears, the Loveshades; they’re all Alden.
Craven is not well, and Loveshade is using his army of sock-puppets to harass, threaten, gas-light and perhaps cat-fish him all at the same time.
It Gets Darker
By far the most creeped out I felt in the great Loveshade atrocity exhibition was in perusing the diary of Lorien Loveshade aka Princess Unicornia (but really, again, who cares – they’re all one person). Lorien’s diary, incidentally, is where scepticism about Loveshade’s sock-puppet army goes to die. Forget the ice-bucket challenge, forget the bird-box challenge, it’s time for the Loveshade challenge.
1. Spend 5 – 10 minutes perusing Lorien Loveshade’s page.
2. Look somebody in the eyes.
3. Repeat these words; “It’s totally plausible that this is the website of a 30 year old woman with a career in education.”
You just can’t do it.
The ‘Biography of Alden Loveshade’ covers this page quite well:
Lorien Loveshade is a webpage which began in 2005, presenting itself as that of an 18-year-old girl’s online diary, sharing intimate details of her life from pre pubescences forward, while simultaneously being heavily steeped in discussions of a sexual nature–Essentially erotic fiction geared towards pedophiles.
But this only gives a rough outline of the whole thing, and while I don’t want to be grotesque for the sake of it, I do want to give a sense of what’s there.
The diary entries are divided into three sections – preteen, teen and adult.
These diary entries include two preteen stories that are deeply uncomfortable to read. One is of a ten year old Lorien having her first tongue kiss while having her bottom fondled. Another is of a young Lorien having a fun day on the internet playing on chat with a stranger encouraging her and her friend to strip and touch each other (fortunately, that is not what happens).
There’s a narrative at play here. Compare to the story behind Miley Spears, or some of Lorien’s more vivacious friends. Lorien has been fondled, tongue kissed, exposed to internet perverts, visited the set of a porn shoot, and as a result? Has remained pure and virginal well past the legal age of consent. Miley Spears however was protected by her parents from sex, and as a result, had sex very early. Not only does exposure to sex apparently not harm a child, it actually is really good for them!
We don’t need to guess at this worldview – ‘Lorien’ spells it out for us in an article tastefully titled ‘Teen Sex.’
“One of my best friends was raised extremely strictly. Her father wouldn’t let her have email because he thought the Internet was a bad influence. She couldn’t even use it at school. He spied on her, searched her bedroom, called to check on her wherever she went, and wouldn’t let her go to parties unless it was all girls or there were a lot of adults there.
One day when she was 14, school was cancelled because of a teacher’s conference. She didn’t tell her parents school was closed that day. She left just like she always did. But she met her secret boyfriend near her school, then he took her somewhere and they had sex. All her father’s spying and trying to protect her meant nothing.”
We could get more examples from Alden’s various ‘community members’, but why bother? It’s there in black and white, for all to see, again, and again, and again.
It’s weird because, in case you forgot, NONE OF THESE PEOPLE EXIST. They are the creations of a 62 year old man who is writing the great American weirdo novel for people who aren’t allowed within 500 metres of schools or public parks.
But I’m sorry to say, dear reader, it gets darker. In 2013 Lorien’s diary went private. Alas, that doesn’t mean that ‘she’ took it offline like a normal person. If you access her diary in the conventional way, you’ll see mostly normal text titles, with a few hyperlinks that take you to stories, and a few hyperlinks that ask you to log in. Diary entry My and Beckys 14th b-day slumber party! Mar 15 2002 asks you to log in. So does the opinion piece I’M A VIRGIN AT A PORN SHOOT.
At http://lorien.loveshade.org/diary_public/special.html, the story is different. Every single diary entry is a hyperlink, and most invite the reader to log in. I’ve spent hours upon hours on Loveshade’s pages this week, and honestly don’t even remember how I found that this separate page existed, and was just fortunate to find it in again in my Internet history. My guess is that there’s some secret path in one of the many pages of utter crap. [My friends > Becky > Becky’s Mom’s Dog > Diary] or something. But the links on Lorien’s main page do not direct you to this page. It is hidden.
Who gets to log in? What do you think is on the other side of that login page? How do you get the login? Probably by sending a message to Lorien via the email ‘she’ puts on the front of her website. As stated on ‘her’ opinions page: “IF YOU WANT TO PRIVATE FILES, SEE SOME OF MY SEND ME A REQUEST EMAIL! MY ADDY IS ON MY HOMEPAGE”.
When a man who sees a diary filled with a young girl’s sexually charged experiences emails another man who fantasizes about young girls what happens? What do they talk about? What do they send each other? What plans do they make?
When All Else Fails Go Look At Goats
Very soon I will offer you a link to a funny goat compilation to shake off some of the worst vibes of this utterly horrible mess. But let’s go over it again.
Reverend Loveshade was arrested in 2002 for Obscene Wholesale Promotion. (Source: ‘The Biography of Alden Loveshade’)
Runs a massive sock-puppet army which essentially have full control over the SubGenius and Discordian wikis.
Actively constructs historical figures out of whole cloth and develops elaborate schemes to try to have them accepted as historical fact.
Runs ‘Lorien Loveshade’s Diary’ which contains a hidden page where all entries are accessible to persons who have obtained log-in credentials.
Discordianism is the most influential parody religion you’ve never heard of. However, the half-century old “joke disguised as a religion” is experiencing something of a resurgence, with events such as Daisy Eris Campbell’s Cosmic Trigger play and the ‘Find the Others Festival’ organized by a team of chaotic pranksters including Ben Graham.
Now that chaos is returning to the UK (in style!), I talk to Ben Graham to look back on the long strange journey it’s taken to get here. From the pop sensation that burned a million pounds, to the reclaim the streets movement, Graham tracks chaos from comics to the Cosmic Trigger play.
Chaos culture is coming to you;
here’s where it’s coming from.
In 2015 trend forecaster K-Hole made a bold prediction; the next big thing would be Chaos Magic. To their credit, they seemed to have their finger firmly on the pulse of the zeitgeist—bit by bit, Chaos seemed to start waking up. A sudden resurgence of interest in Discordianism—a chaos worshipping ‘joke religion’—saw multiple book releases from names such as Adam Gorightly and John Higgs. John Higgs also began to do a tour to promote the legacy of famous Discordian author Robert Anton Wilson. Robert Anton Wilson’s family regained copyright to his works and began publishing under the name Hilaritas press. Meanwhile his book Cosmic Trigger (Amazon) was adapted into a play by Daisy Eris Campbell, and a Discordian festival was announced in ‘a south Yorkshire woodland’.
Suddenly, Chaos seemed to be creeping out from nowhere. But of course it hasn’t come from nowhere—in fact, while Anarchy may get all the attention, Chaos in the UK has a long and appropriately complicated history.
On a cold evening in London, I spoke to writer Ben Graham, an organizer of Festival 23 and author of A Gathering of Promises: The Battle for Texas’s Psychedelic Music From the 13th Floor Elevators to the Black Angels and Beyond (Amazon), who agreed to guide me through the strange trajectory of British Chaos.
I meet him at a pub up the top of Paddington Station. He has a kind of geeky manner to him, and that delightful British politeness that we see in Hugh Grant movies, shaggy sandy hair framing a friendly face well speckled with rough stubble.
From Magic Manual to Comic Book
Ben starts his tour of the chaotic in his childhood; his first forays into these concepts of chaos came as a child reading comic books. Specifically, a hugely popular series called 2000AD—the series that spawned the character Judge Dredd.
“Basically 2000AD was a British kids comic starting 1977,” he says. “It’s still going today. It started as a fairly kind of violent high-end kids comic with science-fiction themes off the back of Star Wars… it was also a primer in Chaos Magic for a few years there because the guys who were writing it were slipping all this stuff in. Alan Moore, you had Grant Morrison very into it. You also had people who never really got out—like Pat Mills did a comic strip called Slaine which had a lot of Celtic mythology—very into magic ideas. I would have been reading it as a kind of 15/16 year old.”
Grant Morrison, would go on in the late-80s to publish a strip named Zenith, notable for its themes of Chaos Magic. Here, he took influence from Chaos Magician Peter Carroll, the founder of the Chaos Magic organization Illuminates of Thanateros. The inspiration was quite overt—too overt perhaps—at one point Carroll threatened legal action against Morrison.
“You had a kind of a mainstream kids comic where three out of five strips in it would be kind of Chaos Magic primers for kids,” Ben tells me. This early transferal of Chaos Magic ideas from Carrol’s somewhat obscure special interest publications, into mainstream youth popular culture was perhaps one of the first big steps that Chaos took into the mainstream of the British public’s imagination.
Chaos Magic has another notable influence; the ostensibly jocular religion of Discordianism. In his work Oven-Ready Chaos Phil Hine describes this influence:
An important influence on the development of Chaos magic was the writing of Robert Anton Wilson & co, particularly the Discordian Society who revered Eris, the Greek goddess of Chaos. The Discordians pointed out that humor, clowning about and general light-heartedness was conspicuously absent from magic, which had a tendency to become very ‘serious and self-important’. There was (and to a certain extent remains) a tendency for occultists to think of themselves as an initiated ‘elite’ as opposed to the rest of humanity.
Unlike the variety of magical systems which are all based in some mythical or historically-derived past (such as Atlantis, Lemuria, Albion, etc), Chaos magic borrowed freely from Science Fiction, Quantum Physics, and anything else its practitioners chose to. Rather than trying to recover and maintain a tradition that links back to the past (and former glories), Chaos magic is an approach that enables the individual to use anything that s/he thinks is suitable as a temporary belief or symbol system. What matters is the results you get, not the ‘authenticity’ of the system used. So Chaos magic then, is not a system—it utilizes systems and encourages adherents to devise their own, giving magic a truly Postmodernist flavor.
Robert Anton Wilson was himself one of the original Discordians, and is probably single-handedly the person most responsible for the spread of Discordian ideas through the series of books he wrote with his friend Robert Shea—The Illuminatus! Trilogy (Amazon). This strange trilogy featured Discordians fighting against the evil plans of the Illuminati, and proposed that nearly every conspiracy theory popular at the time of writing was simultaneously true.
Epic Productions: Illuminatus! on Stage and the KLF
The event that bought Wilson’s ideas across the pond from the USA was the adaption of his Illuminatus! Trilogy into a play in 1977. Such a feat seemed impossible to do; luckily the discovery of the trilogy came to Ken Campbell; a man who regarded nothing as worth doing unless it was impossible. He was also the father Daisy Eris Campbell, who recently produced the play of Wilson’s book Cosmic Trigger.
Campbell was a theatre legend. His production of Illuminatus! into a play was a testament to his drive and creativity—the final presentation was performed as five acts across five nights, followed by an epic 10 hour presentation of all acts together. The opening date—November 23, 1976—took advantage of the Discordian obsession with the number 23.
As part of Ben’s writing career, he had the opportunity to interview one of the participants in this epic scale caper—Bill Drummond, who had developed the visionary set design of the play, creating surreal sequences with sets out of proportion to the actors, and using innovative techniques to position audiences in surprising ways, such as presenting actors horizontally to allow for a birds eye view of a tarot reading.
“So when I interviewed him, it wasn’t long after Ken Campbell had died,” Ben tells me. “So I wanted to ask him about that. And he was very effusive about the influence Ken Campbell had had on him when he worked on the 1977 production of Illuminatus! at the Liverpool Theatre and how he introduced him to those book and those ideas. Also I didn’t realize that Ken Campbell had been a lifelong friend. He would go to his house, keep in touch, for dinner, stayed like a friend with his family, more or less up to the point where he died. He said he was like a friend, not just a mentor from way back. He’d lost somebody who was an important guiding light.”
“He was always working in the now, he wasn’t thinking in terms of making films, writing books; it was always like, the event, what’s actually happening in the room,” Graham’s 2010 Quietus interview quotes Drummond as saying. “That was one of the big things I learnt from Ken Campbell. And taking risks, and just making things happen. That continued to inspire me about what he does, what he did do, right up until he died. And so I always got a lot out of getting together with Ken Campbell, or going to see a Ken Campbell production.”
Drummond is actually more famous for his role in music than for his role in the Illuminatus! play. He, together with Jimmy Cauty, founded The KLF, a sample based pop outfit. Their original name was The JAMS, a name alluding explicitly to a group in Wilson and Shea’s Illuminatus! Trilogy.
By the time Ben had had his interview, the band had been long broken up. They ended their career in an extraordinary way—by announcing their retirement, shutting down their record catalogue and traveling out to a small island on Jura to burn the money they made—an entire million pounds. (For those interested, aforementioned author John Higgs has brought this strange tale back into the spotlight with his book, The KLF: Chaos, magic and the band who burned a million pounds (Amazon.)
When the band first burned the money, they followed up with a tour where they invited audiences to ‘tell them’ why they burned the money. Ben was in attendance at one of these nights in 1995, and detailed it for his fanzine News From Nowhere.
“They came to Bradford where I was staying and did a showing, a Q&A. I took part in the Q&A, so I had some interaction with the guys but it wasn’t an interview. I did write up the piece. I kind of tied it in with a lot of Discordian Illuminati type thing to sort of put my spin on why they’d done that. It did kind of get back to the KLF chaps, and I gathered that they thought that that was kind of the best piece on it at the time.”
Ben later sends me a copy of it. It is a good piece. The mood of the gathering is palpable, an audience frustrated at being asked questions rather than being given answers, in parts angry, congratulatory and indifferent.
“It was at the One in Twelve Club, Bradford, which was the kind of Anarchist underground club there, so the quotes from the people watching it were that these were kind of rich pop-stars that were burning money that could have gone to a good cause—that it was kind of an indulgent, decadent act. The guys, when they were talking, they weren’t really trying to defend themselves. Their approach was that they were trying to say, ‘we’re trying to find out why we did it, you tell us why we did it, we want to hear your stories,’ so they were being a bit of a kind of blank canvas.”
At one point Graham describes some of the outbursts of the crowd, describing the reaction of a group of punks unhappy that no explanation would be forthcoming.
“How do you get rid of piles,” they demand, amidst assorted jeers and heckles.
“Grab ‘em in your hand, right, and shove ‘em back up yer arse and hold ‘em there,” demonstrates Bill.
“It was a hostile night for them I think at the One in Twelve. My take on it; I suppose I kind of thought that one thing—it was their money. People have wasted that amount of money, music people have made that amount of money and wasted it on far more frivolous things, not many people give it to a charitable cause—they spend it on cars, houses, drugs, whatever with that money. They chose to make an art project by burning it. And I think it was quite a good reaction, they did make people think about the notion of money, money is the relationship between the paper and whatever it is you value in the world.”
His article also quotes the following passage from The Illuminatus! Trilogy:
“And you know what they do with Federal Reserve notes. Every time they get one, they burn it. Instant demurrage, they call it.”
“I doubt that it’s literal that they kind of saw this reference in the book and either it gave them the idea or said that it justifies that. You know, it’s not like the Bible where you’re looking for quotes to justify or base your actions on. But I think the action of doing that was sort of in line with the ideas that came from Discordia and the Illuminatus!…”
“And the burning of the money—it is a random act in the sense that they—they sort of knew why they were doing it I think, but you don’t really know what the consequences are going to be. You know you’re taking this money and you’re burning it and it’s a big—it’s sort of a magical ritual. In that way I think it’s very much a Discordian thing to do. And they deleted their back catalogue. Seemed sort of very much, let’s destroy the idea of the KLF but also you’re sort of creating more of a myth you know, beyond the sort of money making, the actuality of the music business, actuality of the KLF—you’re actually furthering its mythical life.”
At one point in the article Graham quotes one of the pair saying they weren’t trying to make a big statement like “chopping off our hands or something.” The joke would have been lost on the audience—Bill publicly admitted seriously considering that mad idea in his book 45, released in 2000.
One interesting point made towards the end of the article is Graham quoting Bill talking about a gender divide; men were more likely than women to support the burning.
Temporary Autonomous Zones and Radical Rave Culture
“After the KLF, some of the Illuminati stuff did spread into more general rave culture for a few years when it was in its peak,” Graham tells me. He pronounces it Illumin-ar-tai. “Kind of in the early-90s people kind of talked on—sort of around ’87, ’88 but then it went more widespread. It was also in that period when you had in the UK, the kind of club, the rave sort of techno clubs crossed over with the older traveling free festival scene that sort of came with the guy in the 60s and 70s, Hawkwind, that had been traveling hippy dreadlocked guys, because of the ravers that had been having free festivals out in fields, they ended up teaming up with guys who’d been having hippy rock festivals in fields forever. Those guys ended up getting into a lot of techno music, but they would have been guys who were reading the Illuminatus! books in the early 70s. It had the whole kind of esoteric hippy knowledge and stuff behind it, and guys who’d been living outside society for like a decade or so, going around in buses and all sorts of stuff.”
“I don’t know how much you know about this stuff; the whole peace bus in the UK, the battle of the Beanfield at Stonehenge where police smashed up, destroyed buses and a whole community, then you had the Castlemorton Festival which led to the Criminal Justice Bill which is a law in the UK outlawing repetitive beats in public places which basically killed the outdoor bass scene. But when you had that whole scene going in the 90s, you had the club rave kids meeting the hippy travelers, one side being electronic techno music and ecstasy, and the other bringing this kind of like hippy philosophy and ethos and knowledge and it all kind of crossing over. And certainly I think a lot of the kind of Illuminati ideas. Suddenly it became cliché to be referencing the number 23 and something, for one thing.”
I mention to Ben the prevalence of the concept of the Temporary Autonomous Zone, in the rave scene. This idea came from Hakim Bey, a philosopher, who described this concept of a space in which the usual laws did not apply in his 1991 book of the same name.
“Yeah,” says Ben. “And in practical terms that sort of crossed over into the reclaim the streets movement doesn’t it. What they were doing certainly kind of early on, there was a lot of theory behind it and the notion of Temporary Autonomous Zone was very much to do with what they were doing, going into the business area of London and having a big party and stopping the traffic. It wasn’t really a protest. Maybe a protest against business or car culture or whatever but at the same time it was the notion of the Temporary Autonomous Zone. It’s like the Situationist idea of beneath the pavements, the beach and in the heart of the city we can have a party, we can bring flowers, we can have a fete in the middle of the road, and that came out of that sort of politicized and radicalized rave culture. You know, they became the reclaim the streets movement and the anti-road protesters, it’s really the same people who’ve moved on from music just into protesting. They’re outdoors and they’re reclaiming their environment, on a kind of Utopian Situationist principle.”
He describes the recent Occupy as a natural outgrowth of reclaim the streets movement.
“It’s like William Burroughs says,” he tells me. “Artists legislate the world, they’re more powerful than politicians because artists create ideas and politicians just put things into action; good artists come up with something new and put it into the world and that kind of changes things.”
Ben Graham has joined forces with a number of other co-conspirators to be part of a contemporary Discordian celebration—Festival 23—that in part formed itself through the energies of the motley crew that came together for the ‘Conferestival’ that marked Daisy Eris Campbell’s opening of Cosmic Trigger. Festival 23 hosted a giant artwork by Jimmy Cauty—an industrial container filled with an epic post-riot miniature landscape. Ben Graham provided the writing on a leaflet that accompanied the artwork:
Both festivals and riots aspire towards freedom; both ultimately are only temporary negations of a stultifying status quo, but may lead to more long-term solutions catalysed by their unfettered expression of energy, anger, love and/or ecstasy. There is freedom in the heart of a riot; a wild abandon and a sense that suddenly anything is possible. Do what thou wilt is quite literally the whole of the law, for the law as defined by policemen, judges and politicians is shown to have no empirical natural authority. It is an assumed condition imposed by those temporarily in power, and can be overthrown both within and without by the will of the people, if only for a limited time and space. But if it can be done once, even for a few seconds, can such glorious lawlessness not be achieved again?
* * *
So did chaos jump from magic manual to comic book, find itself in fiction, transferred to stage before implanting itself in the minds of future pop superstars, whose rave hits implanted it into the culture of rave, and ultimately protest and party culture?
Well, of course not—such a story is far too clean for the messy madness that is chaos. But if there’s a lesson here, it’s that every strange step of history sets off another twenty-three steps in all sorts of directions. With so many chaotic steps bouncing off each other, how long do you think it will be before you too have the pleasure of being plunged into chaos?
My forthcoming book Chasing Eris will be released next month. The book documents my worldwide adventure to experience modern Discordian culture, meet its personalities, and the discovery of many elusive Erisian mysteries. —Brenton Clutterbuck
In our meeting we talk about what it was like to live with Kerry in Little Five Points, Atlanta. It seems important to mention that at the time they met, Kerry was, according to some, veering off into paranoia. I myself remain agnostic on some of his claims and skeptical of some others, especially his theory that his “real father” was a Nazi Admiral.
Tantra greets me at the entrance of her house, near a garden filled with gigantic cacti. She is smiley and excitable, and her passion for life is contagious.
She grew up in Indiana, in an area where very few people were around, few enough that one didn’t need to put clothes on to collect the mail on a hot day. She would go to Alabama, now and then, to see relatives. It was the kind of town where you couldn’t really admit to not being religious. She would attend Straight Creek Holiness Church, where people would yell and run around the congregation when the spirit seized them. When the spirit seized preachers, they would handle the snakes; a sign on the church quoted Mark 16:18, They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. The spirit never seemed to seize them in her presence. When she was in Alabama, she missed the people she could engage with in California, and when she was away she missed the nature.
Tantra has a special relationship with nature. She spent years traveling the country in her van, sometimes driving out to a natural place, and finding a spot to sleep out in the open. It was during this period of travel that she began to develop her skills in Tantric yoga, healing, and her own construction of a form of effortless movement, called ‘Lucid Play.’
Tantra was in Little Five Points when she met someone who connected her with Kerry Thornley, who was to take a significant place in her life.
“I had been in Atlanta in Little Five Points and I met this guy who was the figurehead of Little Five Points. He would stand there and he would ring his bell and he would burn his sage and he would figure out who should meet whom. So he was telling me about Kerry Thornley and showing these broadsheets that he had put up and they were great political activism mixed with absurd, wild craziness. And so I wanted to meet him, and I thought, I want to come back to Atlanta to spend time with Kerry Thornley. And he was, I guess, 60 or something like that.
“And so then later I was going to Atlanta. I thought it was going to be just for a weekend but then my van broke down so I had to find a place to live. I was reading The Illuminatus! Trilogy. It was dedicated to Kerry. I stayed with that guy that I mentioned. His friend Wilson Leary, Timothy Leary’s cousin, came by, he and I started dating. So I’ve got all these things in the world of Kerry Thornley like…” she waves her arms and makes sounds to imitate the ineffable presence of Thornleyness that was entering her sphere.
“So I was trying to figure out where I was going to live and this guy just came up to me in Little Five Points and said, ‘If you’re looking for a place to live, you can live with me, I’ve got a porch.’ I checked out this house and they’ve got a big porch and so I moved in. It was a really wild artistic kind of place. I found out that Kerry Thornley lived there in this little mother-in-law right out the back. So I went there looking for Kerry Thornley, and moved in next to him without even knowing it.”
“Do you remember the first time you actually met him?” I ask.
“Uh-huh. Coming out of my room it was like, ‘There’s Kerry Thornley!’ Or, Omar Khyaam Ravenhurst.”
“What did you two talk about the first time you met?”
“Oh, I probably was just kind of squealing and telling him how glad I was, and him just doing this great laugh. I love his laugh. It was unlike anyone else’s. I wouldn’t even try to imitate it. He had thirteen cats or something like that, some huge number of cats so you’d always hear him calling them. He was just this really sweet little cat man, and son of a Nazi, such an odd combination, he claimed. In my life I always run into these MK-ULTRA kind of people, which was a little scary sometimes, that that happens, and that’s what he was, he said.
“I was also was a little bit uneasy about how much, living with him, was that going to involve me? How much was I being watched because of it? So it became like The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Black helicopters were going over all the time, and just becoming more and more like those books.”
Kerry said there were flying helicopters over his house,” I say. I was thinking of what a friend of Kerry, Louise Lacey, had told me of Kerry’s time in Florida when I said this, though I’d forgotten the details of what I’d heard. She had told me that Jim Garrison had sent helicopters over his house.
“They were, they were,” Bensko says. “They were doing it a lot. They would even follow me around. He seemed to know what he’s talking about. People always think that he was making up these stories in his head about the mind controllers and stuff, but I don’t know. He might have been.”
It was once while they lived in this close proximity that Tantra decided to perform a Discordian ritual, after a comment Kerry made.
“He said that the beauty of Discordianism was that he didn’t have to see any other Discordian-ists. And so there were no rituals. So to fly in the face of that then and give it a little chaotic shuffle, I told him, ‘we’ve got to do a ritual then.’ He thought that was a great idea.
“So I got a stick of butter and I molded it into the shape of Eris the Goddess and I put it on the floor. We said something over it you know, and his thirteen cats came and positioned themselves around the butter so there was no space in between them. They were all just jammed into where their tongues were right in there in the butter and they all started spinning around in a circle all at the same time, so you had this circling cat-thing around Eris, licking it until it was gone while Kerry and I were just laughing.”
“So that was the core moment that I remember about that ritual. His cats after that walked off but kind of continuing to circle and just ‘woah hey’ and wobble off to the edges.”
“Did you spend much time with Kerry after that?” I ask.
“Oh yeah, I spent a lot of time with him when I lived in Atlanta because I was there a couple of years, and so we were really good friends. I think I spent as much time with him over those years as everyone else did altogether. He didn’t really have a lot of people come by. And the other people in the house didn’t go to see him that much. But we were buddies. We hung out. I just deeply love Kerry.
“I don’t agree with some of his politics like, ‘Kill Kennedy.’ But yeah, I really liked Kerry a lot. I felt like his writing with Eris might have had something to do with his feeling like he did inadvertently kill Kennedy by suggesting someone like Oswald could be a patsy. But who knows; it’s one layer after another it’s so complex at the time.”
When I first talked to Bensko over the Internet she pointed out that she wasn’t a Discordian and wasn’t any kind of expert, but when I spoke to her in person, she said she was identifying sometimes with the title. I asked her to tell me what about the ideology meant to her.
“It’s postmodernist,” she says. “There’s many angles, and none of them are true.” She likes that Discordia is essentially difficult to take too seriously, and finds the attitude of believing without believing useful to her work. “There’s lots of Gods in Tantra Yoga too, and I see them as physics principles,” she tells me.
We chat for a long time; Tantra is someone who it is immensely easy to be around. She carries an effortless friendliness that invites you in and asks you to engage, without needing to say the words. She talks about many things, including her time in Little Five Points, her Yoga experience and her book, Collapsible Horizon.
I walk home. The air is warm and still. I arrive back to the marijuana-scented hostel doors, and make my way up the winding stairs to my room.
The following article is yet another 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. —Brenton Clutterbuck
One of the Saints of Discordia (and saints do not have to be dead, agreed upon or even have a factual existence) is a historical figure by the name of Emperor Norton.
I set off on a mission to visit Norton’s grave, while I was in San Francisco. It turned out I wasn’t the only one who would do so with some frequency. After I walked all the way up, to the top of the steep hill of the graveyard, I gave up on finding Norton’s grave by myself and walked back down to the reception space to ask for help.
“I’m looking to visit a particular grave,” I said. “They’re a well known figure, known as Emperor Norton.”
The lady behind the desk knew immediately who I was after, and produced a photocopied map out from behind the desk.
“We get a lot of people coming to see the Emperor,” she said.
Emperor Norton was born in 1819 in England, but was taken very young to South Africa from where he emigrated to San Francisco in 1849. He made his money as a business person for sometime, until he lost his fortune in a bad investment in Peruvian rice. Norton claimed the supplier had misled him and appealed to the courts to help him out. While early rulings were in his favor, the Supreme Court of California ruled against him. He left San Francisco after this poor fortune, but returned again years later. When he did, he was to become a local legend.
On Norton’s return he no longer took the name of Joshua, and now claimed to be of royal lineage. In a conversation with his friend Nathan Peiser, he explained that he believed himself to be French royalty, sent to England as a child for his own safety, as indeed many children of French Royalty had done during the French revolution, as a response to the generally negative health implications of combining guillotines with angry mobs. Norton realized he had been given the Jewish name Joshua from his adoptive parents as a way to protect him from assassins.
Upon his return, he demanded the dissolution of the United States Government and declared himself Emperor of the United States of America, through the following notice, published by the San Francisco Bulletin in 1859;
At the peremptory request and desire of a large majority of the citizens of these United States, I, Joshua Norton, formerly of Algoa Bay, Cape of Good Hope, and now for the last 9 years and 10 months past of S. F., Cal., declare and proclaim myself Emperor of these U. S.; and in virtue of the authority thereby in me vested, do hereby order and direct the representatives of the different States of the Union to assemble in Musical Hall, of this city, on the 1st day of Feb. next, then and there to make such alterations in the existing laws of the Union as may ameliorate the evils under which the country is laboring, and thereby cause confidence to exist, both at home and abroad, in our stability and integrity. —NORTON I, Emperor of the United States.
Norton, in many other cities, would have been a curiosity quickly forgotten, but San Francisco embraced him wholeheartedly. It had after all, become a tourist destination in recent history, and Norton had proved himself a character worth writing home about. Tourists were good for Norton personally, as well as San Francisco, providing a market for his Imperial Treasury Bond Certificates (to be repayed, apparently, at 7% interest in the year 1880).
As an additional title, for a little under a decade, Norton also took on the title of Protector of Mexico. He eventually gave up the title, stating “It is impossible to protect such an unsettled nation.”
While certainly destitute and possibly mentally ill, the city of San Francisco celebrated Norton so that he was never plunged too desperately into despair. While some tales of Norton seem suggest that his eccentricity allowed him to effectively live the regal life of an emperor, this seems to be quite the exaggeration. William Drury’s biography Norton I, Emperor of the United States seems to be the main source of most information available anywhere on Norton’s life, painting a somewhat less rosy picture of Norton’s economically challenged existence. However, some companies would set aside tables or seats for Norton’s use and deliver him meals in specially reserved plates and accept his self-issued currency, generally given out in 50 cent denominations.
Norton would be dressed in a blue uniform, with gold-plated epaulets provided by army officers and a beaver hat further decorated with a peacock feather and rosette. There are accounts that say he was known to inspect the condition of public property and the dress standards of police officers, to give philosophical expositions, to attend plays in seats reserved for him, and to eat for free in establishments that valued his presence for the publicity, sometimes with brass plaques under the entrance declaring “by Appointment to his Imperial Majesty, Emperor Norton I of the United States.”
The Encyclopedia of San Francisco suggests he spent 50 cents-a-night (not self-issued currency) for accommodation. He would walk to the Empire Hostel to read his paper, then spend the day on a park bench with friends including the Chinese man Ah How. Norton would decry the unequal treatment of the Chinese in San Francisco.
One story suggests that Norton once stood between a violent mob and Chinese workers during an anti-Chinese riot, protecting the Chinese workers by repeating the Lord’s Prayer until the rioters dispersed.
Norton was said to be good at chess and a great reader who spent much time in these activities at the libraries of various San Francisco clubs. He also used their stationary for the purpose of writing some of his proclamations. He attended church on Sundays, alternating the church he visited. On Saturdays, he attended a Jewish temple. Of this, Norton said, “I think it is my duty to encourage religion and morality by showing myself at church and to avoid jealousy I attend them all in turn.”
William Drury said of Norton, “He carried a dignified and regal air about him, but was seen as a kind, affable man, inclined to be jocular in conversation. He spoke rationally and intelligently about any subject, except about himself or his empire.”
It is suggested, by Samuel Dickinson in Tales of San Francisco, that Norton would be accompanied at plays by two other San Francisco celebrities, a pair of mongrel dogs named Bummer and Lazarus, who were by some accounts, pets of Norton. Stray dogs were, by law, destroyed, but these two had been adopted by the Board of Supervisors, as a reward for their duties in killing the rats that overran the city. Both dogs were well known in San Francisco, and SF resident Mark Twain provided a eulogy for Lazarus when he died. Twain also knew Norton, and based the character of “the King” who appeared in The Adventures of Huck Finn on him. Of Norton he said; “O dear, it was always a painful thing for me to see the Emperor begging, for although nobody else believed he was an emperor, he believed it.”
In 1867 Norton was arrested and placed in a mental institution, though outrage from the public ensured his release. He offered an Imperial Pardon to the policeman responsible, and thereafter was saluted by the police as he passed.
Norton was occasionally the victim of practical jokes in this mode. He was occasionally sent telegrams that alleged to be from other political figures of the time, or he would discover that some other bright spark had been issuing proclamations in his name. As far as can be known, he seems to have suffered these indignities with good grace, with the exception of a broken window in the case of a particularly insulting cartoon. Certain falsified telegrams, perhaps a prank on the emperor, were found amongst his possessions upon his death, along with very small amounts of money.
Norton died in 1880, succumbing to a sanguineous apoplexy. His funeral was large, by some accounts having 30,000 attendees. He was buried in a rosewood casket, provided by a business men’s association, the Pacific Club, at the Masonic Cemetery and at the expense of the city of San Francisco.
Norton now lies with the other previous residents of the Masonic cemetery, in the graveyard in Colma. His grave is between two trees atop a hill, a large dark grave with deep gold letters emblazoned in it. In front of his grave is a surprising second; the grave of The Widow Norton, who I later discovered was reserved for the still living drag queen Jose Sarria, a San Francisco feature, the first openly gay person in the USA to run for political office. Only a few months after my visit, Jose continued his journey to the big drag show in the sky. At his funeral, “fit for an empress” Bay Area Reporter columnist Donna Sachet performed a song titled “The Norton Family” to the tune of “The Addams Family.” The Gay and Lesbian Freedom Band played “As The Saints Go Marching In” as his casket was lowered.
I spent a little time at Norton’s grave site. In a funny way I felt thankful to him for his example, for the audacity of his madness, and the way in which he gave an example of creating a new reality through consensus, by inviting others to play along. I left some coins, as others had, at the base of his tombstone, and a Pope Card too.
The group E Clampus Vitus hold a party yearly at Norton’s grave. Other groups, such as one assembly of KallistiCon as mentioned in the Portland chapter, as well as individual Discordians, hold events or pilgrimages to Norton’s grave.
Norton’s laws and directives included the following;
1859: Congress is to be abolished.
1859: Gov. Wise of Virginia is dismissed from office, for the hanging of John Brown.
1860: Congress, having refused Norton’s imperial decree is to be forcefully disbanded by the United States Military.
1861: A new theater, Tucker’s Hall, opened with a performance of “Norton the First,” or “An Emperor for a Day.”
1862: The Roman Catholic and Protestant church need both publicly recognize Norton as Emperor.
1869: The Republican and Democratic parties of America are both abolished.
1869: Sacramento is required to clean its muddy streets and install gaslights.
1872: A $25 fine is issued to any person who refers to San Francisco as ‘Frisco.
1872: A suspension bridge is to be built between Oakland and San Francisco. (This one was eventually obeyed long after Norton’s death)
Norton influenced the works of writers such as Twain, Neil Gaiman and Robert Lewis Stevenson. He is also heavily represented in Discordianism.
Norton is listed in the Principia Discordia as an example of a second class saint—being Saints who, by their existence, are ineligible for higher levels of Sainthood, which are reserved for nonexistent saints.
Page 14 of the Principia is taken up entirely by an altered image of Norton’s money.
One manifestation of the Discordians Society in San Francisco was titled The Joshua Norton Cabal. Their slogan was: Everybody understands Mickey Mouse. Few understand Hermann Hesse. Only a handful understood Albert Einstein. And nobody understood Emperor Norton.
This cabal was fictionalized in Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shae’s classic Discordian work Illuminatus! as a renegade gang poised to resist the Illuminati. Character Doc Iggy gives the following explanation of the cabal
Well, chew on this for a while, friend: there were two very sane and rational anarchists who lived about the same time as Emperor Norton across the country in Massachusetts: William Green and Lysander Spooner. They also realized the value of having competing currencies instead of one uniform State currency, and they tried logical arguments, empirical demonstrations and legal suits ‘to get this idea accepted’. They accomplished nothing. The government broke its own laws to find ways to suppress Green’s Mutual Bank and Spooner’s People’s Bank. That’s because they were obviously sane, and their currency did pose a real threat to the monopoly of the Illuminati. But Emperor Norton was so crazy that people humored him and his currency was allowed to circulate. Think about it.
In the introduction to the purple cover edition by IllumiNet Press of the Principia Discordia, Kerry Thornley has the following to say on Norton:
We asked Goddess if She, like God, had an Only Begotten Son. She assured us that She did and gave His name as Emperor Norton I—whom we assumed was probably some Byzantine ruler of Constantinople. Diligent research eventually turned up the historical Norton, as we call Him, in the holy city of San Francisco—where He walked His faithful dog along Market Street scarcely more than a century ago….
He ended by saying:
Perhaps occasionally the soul of Emperor Norton descends once more into the world to momentarily inhabit the body of an otherwise undistinguished infidel. One day I was sitting in a hamburger stand in rundown Midtown Atlanta. A burned-out speed freak at a nearby table looked at me with a pleasant smile and said, “I’m King of the Universe. I don’t know what I’m doing in a place like this.”
And perhaps that’s the big attraction of our faith. If you want, you can be King of the Universe. Jesse Sump is Ancient Abbreviated Calif. of California. I am Bull Goose of Limbo and President of the Fair-Play-for-Switzerland Committee. Camden Benares is Pretender to the Throne of Lesbos. Greg Hill is Polyfather of Virginity-in-Gold. Sabal Etonia is High Constable of Constantinople. You can declare yourself Archbishop of Abyssinia or Curator of the Moon—we don’t care, but your mailman will be impressed.
* * *
The final version of this article will appear in my forthcoming book Chasing Eris.
The following is another 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.
We’ve reached part two of the Chasing Eris adventure. I’ve taken my accommodation in Bristol, a city full of artistic energy, close to my intended interviewees. On one of my first days in the city, I jump on a train to London.
There are two great stories of Discordia waiting to be told here. One is of The KLF, the superstar band that took the world by storm, before quitting the music business and burning a million pounds of cash. The starting point of that first story grows out of the fertile, imaginative ground of our second story—the Illuminatus! Play of November 23, 1976.
He said, very early in our relationship that one of the things we needed were God models that were appropriate to anarchism. And he had written some stuff about Taoism and the spirit of the Valley Lady: the eternal female, and about Shang Dynasty matrism and so on and so forth. So I suggested to him Eris Discordia and told him about the Discordian Society, and he was just very enthused about it, plunged into it, got very active in it, and was responsible for a lot of our creeds and dogmas and so on and so forth.
Robert Anton Wilson would become involved in Operation Mindfuck that next year, participating in various Discordian shenanigans, including the development of a large mythos built-up around the Bavarian Illuminati. This mythos would appear to have gone on to influence the modern pop-cultural idea of the Illuminati, from books such as Umberto Eco’s conspiracy classic Foucault’s Pendulum (Amazon) to the pop-culture runaway successes of Dan Brown’s novels The Da Vinci Code (Amazon) and Angels and Demons (Amazon), and the film adaptation of Lara Croft: Tomb Raider (Amazon Instant Video), though Wilson’s influence is seldom credited.
Robert Shea, the editor of anarchist zine No Governor was Wilson’s partner in crime. The pair were working together editing the Playboy Forum letters section. A number of the letters they received were from paranoids (or most likely letters Shea & Wilson planted), alleging that they were the target of various conspiracies. Using the concept that perhaps every single one of the alleged conspiracies was true, they began work on the Illuminatus! Trilogy (Amazon).
One of the plot devices of Illuminatus! was that it featured a long-running feud between the Discordians and the Illuminati. This was a theme that had previously been carried through a number of Discordian writings in the zine scene, and was invoked in the Illuminatus! Trilogy at Shea’s suggestion.
The first volume of Illuminatus! was released in 1975, and did a great deal to popularize Discordianism. Readers mistakenly assumed the mysterious Principia Discordia mentioned in Illuminatus! was one of the many fabrications of Shea and Wilson, and were later often stunned to learn the Principia Discordia was, in fact, real.
* * *
In 1976 Ken Campbell went into Compendium, a bookshop in Camden town. He was looking for a work to perform at the Liverpool Theatre of Language, Music, Dream and Pun, the site founded by poet Peter O’Halligan, who based the location of the theatre on a dream recounted by Carl Jung. In this store he spotted a copy of Illuminatus!, a yellow submarine on the cover. This was a possible synchronicity to the Liverpool music scene that spawned The Beatles who once sang about such a submarine. He opened it to a random page to see what he’d find, and the line he read was all about Jung. Synchronicities were plentiful.
As a result, Illuminatus! became the first project to be performed in Liverpool Theatre of Language, Music, Dream and Pun.
Anyone who has seen a copy of Illuminatus! has had the sheer size of the work impressed upon them. Completing it is no mean feat. Adapting it down to the size of a typical play would be an even more daunting feat. However Campbell took it a step further; instead of cutting out huge chunks of the text he kept the work at largely its original size, and developed eight-and-a-half hours of performance. In Liverpool he presented five plays over five nights, with the fifth being a presentation of all five; one after the other in a mammoth all day performance.
The creative team behind the play included Chris Langham—who helped produce the play alongside Campbell—as lead role George Dorn, Jim Broadbent in a number of minor roles including biological weapon designer Dr. Charles Moncenigo and the sadistic Sheriff Jim Cartwright, Bill Nighy as magazine editor Joe Malik, David Rappaport as Markoff Chainey, and the work of Bill Drummond, later of The KLF fame, as a set designer.
I walked up to the National Theatre. After the Liverpool shows the play moved on to performances in Amsterdam, before finally coming to London. I had come here just to stand in front of the theatre and do a small video talking about the play, but thought I’d try my luck wandering on in and asking at the theatre shop if they knew anything about the Trilogy. They referred me to the National Theatre Archive which, in my ignorance, I had not known about.
The next day I went to the archive and was given a large case full of documentation from the play. The most voluminous (and for reasons of copyright, the most off-limits, with no photocopying permitted) was the play itself, an enormous pile of A4 paper resembling more a Joycean manuscript than any play I’d ever seen. Sketches of Eye-in-the-Pyramid and designs of sets or advertising were scrawled across the backs of several of the pages.
I pulled out several newspaper articles. Most were reviews, but a small number stood out in particular as bizarre oddities that contributed an additional layer of weirdness to the already larger than life Illuminatus! saga.
One article was titled “Horror Mission of an Actor Obsessed with the Occult” from the Daily Mail, dated September 7, 1982 about Illuminatus! cast member Chris Taynton whose roles included the pimp Carmel and Robert Putney Drake, the head of the American Crime Syndicate. The article told of how Taynton, believing he had been overcome by alien forces, attacked Adrena Smith, a 57-year-old lady, by stabbing her multiple times. He blinded her in one eye, and killed her pets, including cutting the ears off her dog. Taynton’s involvement in the Illuminatus! play was raised in court by his defense lawyer, Patricia May, specifically in regard to the play’s supernatural and occult themes.
“Having taken an extremely exciting part in a somewhat bizarre play he became more and more involved in the principles that were propounded in that play,” said May.
It seems a number of the cast went on to have troubled futures. David Rappaport, a dwarf actor, who also played a main role in Terry Gilliam’s movie Time Bandits (Amazon Instant Video), struggled with depression in his later life and ended up shooting himself fatally in the chest in 1990, in Laurel Canyon Park, California.
Chris Langham too was jailed for 10 months in 2007 for possessing Level Five child pornography, which he claimed was both part of researching a character and helping himself deal with his own abuse as an eight year old child.
Before we enter into The Curse of Tutankhamen territory, it’s worth noting not all actors in Illuminatus! had such tragic futures waiting for them. Jim Broadbent and Bill Nighy continue to enjoy prosperous acting careers, and Ken Campbell left a legacy of genius (as well as a record for longest play ever—not in fact for Illuminatus!—but for his 22-hour long The Warp). He was remembered by Liverpool Everyman Theatre and Playhouse Artistic Director Gemma Bodinetz as “The door through which many hundreds of kindred souls entered a madder, braver, brighter, funnier and more complex universe.”
Another, less ghoulish article I read was titled “Raising School Fees for Gorilla,” and was published in The Guardian on April 19, 1977.
In Illuminatus!, our intrepid heroes encounter a group of gorillas. Hagbard Celine, played by Neil Cunningham, has a conversation with them in Swahili (the gorillas all speak English, but are much more comfortable with Swahili). When Malik (Bill Nighy) asks if Celine taught the gorillas to speak, he responds that the gorillas have always been able to speak, but have largely kept their abilities secret:
“…the gorillas themselves are too shrewd to talk to anybody but another anarchist. They’re all anarchists themselves, you know, and they have a very healthy wariness about people in general and government people in particular. As one of them told me once, ‘If it got out that we can talk, the conservatives would exterminate most of us and make the rest pay rent to live on our own land; and the liberals would try to train us to be engine-lathe operators. Who the fuck wants to operate an engine lathe?’ They prefer their own pastoral and Eristic ways, and I, for one, would never interfere with them.”
Meanwhile in the “real” world at Stanford University, apparently unaware of the gorillas’ long term bluff, Miss Penny Patterson was busy trying to teach English to Koko the Gorilla.
Koko, according to the book Drawing the Line: Science and the Case for Animal Rights (Amazon), knew 2000 spoken English words and 1000 words in American Sign Language as of 2003. However, in 1977, the project was in very real danger of running out of money, the result to be that Koko would find herself returned to the San Francisco Zoo.
Perhaps because of the plot connection, or perhaps for other more incomprehensible and possibly synchronistic reasons, the Science Fiction Theatre of Liverpool (the organization run by Campbell and Langham specifically to produce the play) decided to support the project, even going as far as to consider adding an optional 50p levy to the audience in addition to setting up a stall to raise money.
“It was exactly the sort of research we think should be continued,” said Nighy.
“You never know what might be found out,” Campbell was quoted as saying.
* * *
The complete version of this article will appear in my forthcoming book Chasing Eris.
The following is another 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. —Brenton Clutterbuck
Often, in detailing (and perhaps attempting to inflate) the influence of Discordia on the world, I have described Discordia’s concept of Copyleft as the spiritual predecessor to Creative Commons. But how strong is the actual link?
Creative Commons, founded by Lawrence Lessig in 2001 and run by the Creative Commons Foundation is a form of copyright that offers greater flexibility than All Rights Reserved. The loosest form of Creative Commons is Attribution, where one can use the creative work of the author provided attribution is provided as specified. Other more restrictive licenses are No-Derivs (no works may be made by remixing this work), Share-Alike (you can remix, but you must release remixed work under the same license as the source material), and Non-Commercial. Chasing Eris itself is planned to be released under one of these less restrictive licenses, by way of a tribute to the unorthodox copyright methodology of the Principia Discordia.
An unrelated, but well advertised similar license preceding Creative Commons was the GNU General Public License, developed by Richard Stallman in 1989. The contents of Wikipedia for instance, are licensed under this license. The term here evidently comes from a letter Don Hopkins sent to Stallman in 1984/5. Hopkins didn’t write the term himself, instead sticking a sticker onto the letter which read COPYLEFT, and then added his own special terms to the letter:
The material contained in this envelope is Copyleft (L) 1984 by an amoeba named “Tom”. Any violation of this stringent pact with person or persons who are to remain un-named will void the warrantee of every small appliance in your kitchen, and furthermore, you will grow a pimple underneath your fingernail. Breaking the seal shows that you agree to abide by Judith Martin’s guidelines concerning the choosing of fresh flowers to be put on the dining room table.
And so on it went.
I emailed Hopkins to ask him about the origin of the sticker and he replied, “I got the sticker in the dealer’s room of some random east coast science fiction convention (which RMS [Richard Stallman—BC] also frequents).”
That line runs dry, but we can go back further again, to an even earlier manifestation of Copyleft.
Tiny Basic was a dialect of the BASIC programming language designed to function on minimal disc space. The first lines of the source code as released in 1976 by Li-Chen Wang stated ‘@COPYLEFT ALL WRONGS RESERVED’. This appears to be the first use of Copyleft that I can find published, other than the Principia.
So was Li-Chen Wang influenced by the Principia? It seems possible. The project to create Tiny BASIC was proposed in Dr. Dobbs Journal, a journal of the Homebrew Computer Club, a small group of computer hobbyists who began meeting in 1975 around Silicon Valley. This puts him in Northern California around the period that the Principia Discordia was spreading through certain circles in California, and certainly the time that Discordian content was circulating through the zine scene.
The geek/tech crowd have always appeared to be a popular breeding ground for Discordian ideas. This is emphasized in Neophilic Religions; Richard Lloyd Smith III’s 1996 research on early-Internet prevalence of irreligion, where he points to Metacrawler data indicating that Catholic sites outnumbered the Discordians by only 33, a dramatically low number considering the real world prevalence of both (and the Unification Church had LESS results than Discordianism, by the count of both Metacrawler and Hotbot).
* * *
In Atlanta I had the privilege of sitting down with some of The MGT., surrounded by a good amount of the Discordian archives. In front of me was a copy of the Loompanics “fourth edition.”
A lot of Greg Hill’s content was included in the files as well. Of particular interest were a number of particular files that bore some relation to copyright.
While there were a number of different newsletters in the mix, one I didn’t get to view directly was The Greater Poop. Fortunately, Gorightly and Gandhi later uploaded a copy for the enjoyment of the world.
Commercial publishers are not likely to be interested in the Principia due, at least, to the counter copyright on it–for, if they had a good seller, then other publishers could print it out from under them. Consequently publication and distribution will have to occur spontaneously, thru the “underground”, as alternative cultures learn to meet their own needs and provide their own services. This non-commercial limitation of the Principia is to provide less limitations is other respects, and it is not an accident. The Principia is not simply a handbook, it is a demonstration.
For the most part rummaging piece by piece through the treasures on the table, it was a case of grabbing, glancing and putting back paper after paper after paper. However sometimes when I’d grab a piece of paper it would look me in the eye and grab me back.
“Oh my gosh,” I said, picking up one handwritten sheet.
“A contract,” said Groucho.
“He drew up a contract. Literally.”
The contract related to the 4th editions afterward. When Mike Hoy of Loompanics decided to publish this edition, he threw in an introduction by Robert Anton Wilson (whose popular Illuminatus! Trilogy brought Discordia to the attention of the counterculture and had made the venture of taking on publication worthwhile) and an afterward by Hill. Hill wrote his afterward in the style of an interview between interviewer ‘Gypsie Skripto’ and several of his alter egos sitting in a post office box together. It was wacky, loony and did a great job of explaining a number of Hill’s creative choices.
The contract, drawn up in October 1978, and I suspect may well be the first legal example of Creative Commons style alternatives to Copyright. The contract states unambiguously that:
[W]henever the Afterword is published by Loompanics it will be accompanied by the following line:
ALL RITES REVERSED (K) Reprint What You Like
This statement being understood that the Afterward is placed in the Public Domain.
The afterward itself is also very revealing in terms of lifting the curtain on the creative process. Mal reveals the sources of many of the bits and pieces used; clips cut from magazines, pieces made by multiple Discordians, so on.
Most of the writing credited to a name is a true person and almost always a different name means a different person. Most of the non-credited, you know, Malaclypse, text is mine although some things credited to either Mal2 or Omar were actually co-written and passed back and forth and rewritten by each of us. The marginalia, dingbats, and pasted in titles and heads and things came from wherever I found them–some of which is original but uncredited Discordian output, like the page head on 12 and other pages which is from a series of satiric memo pads from Our Peoples Underworld Cabal. All page layout is mine and some whole graphics like the Sacred Chao and the Hodge Podge Transformer are mine but mostly I just found stuff and integrated it. Mostly I did concept, say 50% of the writing, 10% of the graphics, all of the layout.
In a further comment (Remember Greg Hill is ALL of the characters in the interview) Greg said the following in regards to the motivation for producing under Copyleft.
Occupant: Eris told Mal2 what to use and where to find it.
Hill: Yeah, in a way that is right. That is why my name does not appear anywhere on the PRINCIPIA and why it was published with a broken copyright — Reprint What You Like. I knew I was taking liberties and didn’t want my intentions to be misunderstood. It was an experiment and was intended to be an underground work and that involves a different set of ethics than commercial work.
Hill wrote other works expanding on his views on Copyright. One such, called “Copywrong Rip Off Write On!”, encourages people to photocopy material regardless of copyright status, and publish under the anonymous banner of the People’s Pirate Press.
If you find in a magazine, book, newspaper, or whatever, a page or so of information that you feel will contribute to the Betterment of Anything, then take it to an offset printer, or Xerox, or whatever, he suggests, and distribute it to whoever you think would dig it.
One gets the impression Hill would have been a fan of the Creative Commons movement—the least restrictive available CC license still requires the provision of attribution, which is something Hill promotes in the article, describing reproduction without attribution as akin to “psychological rape.”
It’s interesting to note that this connection between Discordia and Copyleft is one that developed over time; the first edition Principia Discordia, and in fact a good deal of early Discordian stuff is in fact explicitly copyrighted, both from Hill and from Kerry Thornley.
* * *
It was here that for the longest time the trail went cold, until I met with academic Christian Greer in Amsterdam, asked him about the term Copyleft, and told him how I was looking into the origins of the term (and if the Principia Discordia itself was in fact the mothership!).
When I first met Greer, he wasn’t your everyday academic. He had a rough unshaven face and liberal use of ‘dude,’ ‘man,’ and the occasional ‘dudeman.’ Greer is a trip of deep knowledge and excited speech, and there’s little to do in his presence but grab hold onto a thread of conversation and hold on for dear life.
Lubricated by the sweet nectar of Amsterdam’s pubs, we talked about his research. Greer’s research is mainly built around the study of Discordianism through the examination of primary sources—namely the zines floating around from the glory days of the zine scene. He told me that he had seen the term in various zines. The zine scene then, it seems relatively safe to assume, was one of the big places the term may have found itself reproducing.
“What’s the oldest use of the term you’ve seen,” I asked.
“It was in a Discordian zine,” he tells me. However, for someone who works predominantly with Discordian zines, that’s not surprising, and the mention he saw, like every other mention I’ve seen since the Principia is spelt with C, not the iconic Discordian K.
Still, it opens new grounds for wild speculation and dramatic hyperbole amongst our Discordian brethren, which is always a plus.
I don’t have the time and inclination right at this second to edit what has time and time again been a bloodbath of edit wars, but I do want to start a discussion on what knowledge of Discordian works represents an essential overview. I’ve tried to build a list based on what A) connects directly to the original Discordians, and B) has had an immediate, measurable impact on the Discordian community, or C) contributes to an enhanced academic understanding of Discordianism.
The page references a number of works. It adds information that has no place in the article, it mentions works (Liber Malorum? Infinite Conception?) that I have literally never heard any of the Discordians I’ve met—and I’ve traveled all over the world meeting Discordians—mention even once. Then there are names that never appear; Adam Go-Where-Now?
My suggestion is thus:
First Principia Discordia. I’m sure you’ve heard of it. This section should be expanded to outline the development of the work from First Edition, to what we see now; cover the Loompanics, IllumiNet, Steve Jackson Games, Synapticlipse and other such editions.
Then, we should have the Apocrypha Discordia. This is notable for being really the first new non-zine Discordian work since the original bunch came around (afaik), and I suspect is a good chronological marking point for “New Discordian Works.”
Principia Entropius is a terrible mess that makes one’s head hurt, but as it’s a rare and valuable (historically if not creatively) snapshot of Discordianism in the 90s, it deserves mention.
The Wholly First Edition isn’t really the first edition at all, but it was the first snapshot that many new gen Discordians had of the contents of what was in the Kennedy Archives. The history of that is in the book, though it’s not always easy to find. It’s notable enough to be mentioned.
Condensed Chaos by Phil Hine makes explicit references to Discordia, and may well be part of the cause of the crossover of Chaos Magic and Discordia.
Black Iron Prison was a work that has been highly influential (to the point where it’s influenced Discordian communities as far as Brazil) and thus deserves mention.
Other works, while often good, while sometimes notable, don’t need full articles but do deserve mention and context as notable and important—mostly my measure for this has been either “I’ve seen a lot of Discordians own them,” or “I’ve heard a lot of Discordians discuss them,” or often both. Hardly an academic test, but there you go. I tried to do a scratch list and gave up on it as I was bound to snub someone (and we all know how that turns out!)
Does anyone else have some thoughts on the matter?
The following is another 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. —Brenton Clutterbuck
Every year in February or March, New Orleans holds its Mardi Gras, an affair of floats and alcohol, where flashing your breasts earns a handful of shiny beads.
Each parade group is called a Krewe, many of which are named after the Greek Gods. Naturally it was the Krewe of Eris that got my attention.
New Orleans was a dead loss for me in trying to find interview subjects. I couldn’t secure any interviews with members of the Krewe. The person listed as the “media spokesperson” of the Eris Solidarity Crew never responded to my requests for interviews or questions other than a four word reply of “not sure if possible.” He did add me to Facebook however, without explaining who he was, then failed to reply to any of my Facebook messages other than to volunteer at one point that he was too busy dealing with an oncoming hurricane to reply to me. It had been now several months since then so I can only assume that he’s preparing very thoroughly.
What Google and email did not provide me with though, the Goddess did. Josh, who I met in San Francisco, was involved with the parade. As he began to tell me about the event I mentioned that I had been trying to get onto someone about it.
“Good luck,” he said, with a tone that implied I’d need it.
“They’re banned now, can’t even do anything,” he told me, “after what happened two years ago.” He’s been coming to Eris marches for seven years, and every year they get shut down, which he describes as tragically awesome.
The parade came to life in 2005 when it was founded by Ms. Lateacha and Lord Willin; previously members of the Krewe du Poux, who felt they had outgrown their previous group. The Krewe is as much about ideology as aesthetic. While other Krewes are prohibitively expensive to join in, or simply closed to new members, Eris is free, open, and the costumes and floats are all made by the participants. The “Eris Song” was written by a musician called JR who also taught would-be band members to play in the weeks leading to the parade.
While all Krewes are required by law to obtain a permit in order to march, the Krewe of Eris have consistently refused to make requests for permits, preferring instead to express their freedom by marching without permission. The parade is seen by many as an actively anti-authoritarian reclamation of space.
This anti-authoritarianism plays in significantly to the reasons I am unable to get an interview with anyone in New Orleans, Josh explains.
“The anarchist movement is closely aligned with—you might as well call it the Anarchist parade. That’s really what it is,” he tells me.
2006 the theme was Noveaux Limbeaux (welcome to Limbo), capturing the uncertainty that pervaded the city in the wake of the floods.
In 2007 the theme was Planet Eris.
In 2008 the theme was “The swarm,” which included many insect costumes and a 15 foot paper mache decomposing dog carcass that emitted smoke.
In 2009 the theme was The Feast of the Appetites.
In 2010 the theme was Desire and Light.
In 2011 the theme was Mutagenesis, a criticism of the recent BP oil spill environmental disaster, and featured a 60 person marching band. Erisians dressed as water creatures whose environment had been disturbed by the incident. It was here that things got loose. Reports go from pure, unprovoked police brutality, to reckless vandalism and disruption from Krewe members. By some accounts, participants were jumping on cars, throwing rubbish bins and painting cocks on things. Users commenting on websites often jumped to the defense of one party or the other. One one page, user Triangletess claims that they have photos of ten cars graffitied, keyed, or that have hoods damaged by stomping. Another, Leeandra saw a group ahead of the parade smashing bottles, setting off car alarms, and smashing bottles in the street.
The police intervened with the traditional NOPD restraint and sensitivity. By the end of the parade many marchers had been arrested, sprayed with pepper spray, hit with batons or tasered. Brass instruments were damaged, by some accounts, on purpose. Twelve people were arrested. One person filming the events had their phone flung from their hand by members of the police. Another blog claimed to witness police trying to bait a young man into attacking them, and when he wouldn’t, hit him with batons anyway. Another source claims that members of the police force were equally appalled with police behavior, including a failure to see to the injuries of an arrested man. The claims on the blogspot page for the legal defense of the twelve individuals arrested add to this that some of their number were beaten so badly they were hospitalized. The police in turn had tires slashed on their cruisers, and one allegedly was hit in the forehead by a brick. Six officers required medical attention.
Josh talked me through the events.
“It almost looked like a protest, everyone started getting up on the cars. I remember we were outside The Marigny, just outside the French Quarter, we we jumping, we were destroying, because we were outside this restaurant, peoples faces were just like (shows expression). There were 300 of us, maybe not 300 maybe like 250 that year, and they’re just destroying the fucking cars, oh my God! Then once we got to the quarter which was about 7 blocks later—I think we had three marching bands that year, but as soon as we got there, like 100 cop cars just like ‘you need to disperse,’ and so they kept kicking them back to the Marigny, and that’s when things escalated. Started setting fires and throwing—lighting garbage cans on fire, and trying to block the streets, and cops have guns and tasers—”
“Push then back to the Marigny?” I asked.
“Yeah, push them back, the parade always starts right on the Marigny, right on the cusp of the train tracks, and they’re trying to push them back—out of the French Quarter, trying to keep the French Quarter—you know, it’s Marti Gras. But things went horribly that year. I had one friend, she got batoned in the head a couple of times, and she was just watching. But every year it got chaotic. It was two years ago. It was rough.”
In 2012, the theme was “The Trickster’s Ball.” In place of a marching band, was recorded music. The band themselves played at a nearby ball instead. Founders Ms. Lateacha and Lord Willin were not involved. The stated aspiration was to be non-violent and non-destructive.
“Last year they went from Marigny but they marched like two blocks and then they went to a safe house real quick,” Josh told me.
The theme of 2013 was Eris Dawns.
Krewe Member Victor Pizzaro, has publicly indicated that the parade may look at applying for a permit in the future.
Four of the twelve individuals arrested faced municipal court. They were supported by the law offices of law offices of Miles W. Swanson. Four of the revelers were given fines and suspended sentences. One, William Watkins III, was given a jail term of 45 days. Two failed to appear at court.
Member Damien Weaver was awaiting an October 20 ruling on if police violated his right to due process by preventing or destroying video evidence. I’ve been unable to find the result of that ruling.
A 2011 Justice Department review of the NOPD following the Krewe of Eris incident found that the NOPD habitually used excessive force.