Before embarking upon this, his latest video documentary odyssey, Adam paid me a visit here at my humble abode in the Sierra Nevadas, and we spent a few hours discussing Thornley, Greg Hill, and RAW, interview footage of which may in fact appear in the series.
Since turnabout is fair play, Adam let me interview him at the time, the result of which appeared on my short-lived podcast, Radio GoGo.
And if that wasn’t enough, and of course it never is, I also penned an afterword for the RVP-never-to-be, which is a little dated in some regards, as it was composed in 2015 prior to a number of states in our great union legalizing marijuana, among them California where I currently reside and frequently indulge in Indica gummies.
God bless the Golden State. And away we go…
Reaching Boldly for the Stars
“They live happiest who have forgiven most.”
—Robert Anton Wilson
The intellectual synergy Leary and RAW generated during the Starseed Signals period was one of those high watermarks Hunter S. Thompson described in Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas; a wave that tragically crashed to shore with the brutal death of RAW’s 15-year-old daughter, Patricia (Luna in Cosmic Trigger), on October 3rd, 1976, an incident that made headlines in San Francisco-Bay Area newspapers.
This tragedy must have been a true test to RAW’s convictions, seen in light of the views expressed in Starseed Signals about the U.S. penal system, and how he felt that a large portion of the prison population was unjustly incarcerated. The natural reaction to the brutal murder of one’s child naturally elicits, in most of Starseed Signals, a sense of rage and vengeance, however robotic those emotions may be. However, RAW wisely learned along the way that cages exist not only in the physical realm, but in our minds as well, and that the only way to truly free ourselves from these self-imposed prisons, is to let them go. (Easier said than done.) One way of doing this is through the practice of forgiveness, a sentiment RAW shared repeatedly throughout his final years. In retrospect, I now understand why RAW placed such importance on the practice of forgiveness; he realized that the more we can do to unchain those ghosts of the past that haunt us, the freer we can be to live and love.
A proponent of space exploration, life extension and cryogenics, RAW made the bold leap—in the aftermath of his daughter Patricia’s death—to have her brain cryonically preserved. As he informed the San Francisco Examiner: “We thought that if we could make a contribution to science something good could come out of this tragedy… We feel it is a long shot, but it’s our way of expressing our belief in life and our rejection of the casual acceptance of murder and death in our society.” It should be noted that this was the first time in history that an attempt had been made to preserve a human brain.
As much as RAW and Leary tried to push things forward, evolutionary-wise, the more things stay the same. Marijuana—the dreaded killer weed—is still illegal in most states of this great nation, and we are still arguing about the rights of women to decide the fate of their own bodies, while thousands of our young battle ever-changing enemies in undeclared wars without end. Sometimes it seems like two steps forward, three steps back on the evolutionary treadmill. Or to mix metaphors even more, our species is akin to Sisyphus, pushing that rock slowly and painstakingly up the mountain, but never quite making it to the crest, to come rolling back down again like Hunter Thompson’s famous wave that crashed to shore and symbolized the end of a generation’s aspirations. But RAW and Leary were having none of Dr. Thompson’s fatalism, as both remained cheerful and optimistic up until the very end of their lives.
One positive development we can point to is the growing use of medical marijuana to treat cancer and other ailments, such as the post-polio syndrome RAW suffered from most of his adult life, and particularly in his final years when it became increasingly difficult for him to walk on this own, without the aid of others. However, his medical condition in no way slowed down his anti-authoritarian antics. During the 2003 California recall election, RAW tossed his name into the hat, running for Governor on the Guns and Dope Party Ticket, whose platform advocated replacing one third of Congress with ostriches.
Another example was his participation at a pro-medical marijuana rally in Santa Cruz, California on September 17, 2002. At this event, RAW was among a group of medical marijuana patients who, in defiance of a federal court order, picked up their medicinal herb from care providers at a rally that received national media attention.
Many presume that the life of a famous author means never again having to toil again at a nine-to-five job as untold riches pour into your coffers from a never-ending stream of royalty checks cheerfully sent by beneficent publishers. Unfortunately, this was not the case for RAW, at least not the part about untold riches. During those heady years of the mid-seventies, RAW was always a responsible provider for his family, which could be a difficult task at times for a father of four who wants to blaze his own literary path. Starseed Signals was dashed off during those precarious years when poverty persistently nipped at his heels, and RAW had to humble himself for public assistance to make ends meet. But somehow he made it all work while at the same time envisioning a far more noble and interesting future for us all, or at least for those among us willing to venture beyond our own self-imposed human orbits, and reach boldly for the stars.
The above photo of Robert Anton Wilson, on the fabled Grassy Knoll, popped up on the Twitter a while back courtesy of Mustafa_al_Laylah, taken during a visit to Dallas circa 1998. In said photo, RAW is situated behind the picket fence separating the Grassy Knoll from the adjacent rail-yard bordering Dealey Plaza.
According to one assassination conspiracy theory (examined in the BBC series The Men Who Killed Kennedy), it was from this vantage point that the so-called Badge Man presumably fired the baleful bullet(s) that catapulted President Kennedy’s cranium into the great beyond, a theory based in part on photographic enhancement of the picket fence area at the time the fatal projectile(s) met their mark. Of course, the enhancement and enlargement of an old grainy photo (in this case the Mary Moorman photo) is like peering into a Rorschach Blot, and the longer you do so, the more figures your imagination brings to life, and thus fills in the blanks depending on what you expect to see, or desire to see, a la ‘Who Is The Master That Makes The Grassy Knoll Green?’.
During this tumultuous period, Garrison was viewed as a new darling of the “Radical Left,” presenting himself as a maverick prosecutor taking on corrupt authority in the form of the CIA and the military industrial complex, whom Garrison suggested (at one time or another) were part of the sinister plot that engineered Kennedy’s awful offing.
Due to this view of Garrison as some new hero of the Left, Thornley now found himself in a somewhat peculiar position, as he had long been involved with the burgeoning counterculture, having written for any number of underground magazines and newsletters, but now it appeared he was the odd man out. As RAW recalled in my book The Prankster and the Conspiracy:
“In ’67 or ’68, most of the underground press was publishing a lot of stuff pro-Jim Garrison, and this included Kerry’s role in the assassination. And I had lots of contacts in the underground press, so I starting sending out articles defending Kerry, which nobody would print, because the underground press was behind Garrison and the official corporate media was totally anti-Garrison—I was trying to send the message to the wrong place…”
Among those (in Thornley’s opinion) that had jumped aboard the Garrison bandwagon, was L.A. Free Press publisher/editor Art Kunkin, who, among other pro-Garrison articles, ran the following:
In response, Thornley sent the following letter to Art Kunkin, presenting his side of the story and requesting equal time:
In their efforts to provide counter-programming, Thornley, RAW, and their fellow Discordians launched what became known as Operation Mindfuck, a concerted effort to bombard Garrison and his enthusiasts with a steady diet of zany disinformation under the banner of the Bavarian Illuminati. To further illuminate (or confuse) Art Kunkin, RAW sent the letter below, under the auspices of the Order of the Peacock Angel, signed by his Discordian alter ego, Mordecai Malignatus.
In order to further expand their network of potential Illuminati collaborators, RAW sent the following missive to a select group of underground movers and shakers.
How the Discordian Society became synonymous with the Bavarian Illuminati can be attributed, to a certain extent, to a John Birch Society member named Allan Chapman, who also doubled as a JFK assassination researcher and “Grassy Knoll Irregular,” as they were dubbed; a legion of amateur sleuths who shared their investigative “fruits” with Jim Garrison, which then Garrison regurgitated to greater glory. RAW name-dropped Chapman in his infamous letter & answer in the April 1969 PLAYBOY Advisor.
As Thornley recalled:
“Wilson and I founded the Anarchist Bavarian Illuminati to give Jim Garrison a hard time, one of whose supporters believed that the Illuminati owned all the major TV networks, the Conspiring Bavarian Seers (CBS), the Ancient Bavarian Conspiracy (ABC) and the Nefarious Bavarian Conspirators (NBC).” (The Dreadlock Recollections, Kerry Thornley)
Chapman subscribed to the theory that the Illuminati (who he claimed controlled the Big Three TV networks) masterminded the assassination, and that one of the alleged assassins hid inside a storm drain in the picket fence area of the Grassy Knoll and then popped out of a manhole cover like some diabolical jack-in-the-box and peppered poor JFK with a barrage of bullets before returning to his underground lair there.
It should then come as no surprise that The Grassy Knoll played a part in the Illuminatus! Trilogy, embodied in the character of the Dealey Lama, a robed and bearded holy mad man who lived in the sewers below Dealey Plaza. In retrospect, the Dealey Lama sounds a lot like Kerry Thornley by the mid-1970s, when Kerry lived the life of a homeless holy man of sorts, sporting long hair and a biblical beard, and at one time or another actually lived in a storm drain for a spell.
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.
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 seen documented in Part Two of the Illuminati Files, that “institution” would be the Discordian Society promoting a parody religion known as Discordianism.
Recently I stumbled upon this artifact in the Discordian Archives, a clipping from the May 1976 edition of National Weed entitled: “Author Sues Acidheads For Saying Leary Wrote His Book!”
In essence, this article appears to have been a PR prank Robert Anton Wilson pulled as a pretext to promote Illuminatus! while at the same time taking a pot-shot (pun intended) at members of the Neo-American Church, who—on occasion—RAW was known to tussle with.
This article also mentions a Timothy Leary interview RAW was working on that had yet to be published at the time due to what he referred to as “perfectionist” editors at PLAYBOY. This “Lost Leary Interview” —which has yet to see the literary light of day—was among content included in the RVP-never-to-be-version of Starseed Signals, although I’ve been informed that our friends at Hilaritas Press may include it in their forthcoming iteration of the book.
As for the “acidheads” mentioned in the article, RAW was referring to members of the Neo-American Church, founded by former Leary acolyte Arthur Kleps. It should be noted that if RAW was sincerely interested in suing the Neo-American Church, then said lawsuit would have included his friend, and Discordian Society founder, Greg Hill, who was an affiliate member of that august acidhead outfit as documented in this membership card below. Oh, what a tangled web we acidheads weave!
Kleps was fond of penning polemics to counterculture publications, one of which appeared in the November 14, 1975 edition of The Berkeley Barb with Kleps going on about how the “energy crisis” was a hoax that “fits in with the apocalyptic ideas so popular among the moron supernaturalists and occultists of the Robert Anton Wilson type…”
In response, RAW fired back with the following letter published in the November 21, 1975 edition of The Berkeley Barb:
According to a recent post on RAWillumination, Hilaritas Press at long last, is poised to publish RAW’s Starseed Signals: Link Between Worlds, a book project I worked on for what seemed like dog years (Sirius-ly) when I was involved with the initial publisher who signed onto the project, RVP Press. However, at some point in this cosmic caper, RVP had a falling out with the RAW Trust, and the book deal fell through—as book deals sometimes do—in the wacky world of publishing.
Among the contributions I made to the RVP-never-to-be-version was the following foreword I share with you now (which alas fell by the wayside in the fallout from the aforementioned RVP/RAW Trust kerfuffle) providing my perspective of what you can look forward to when Starseed Signals hits the streets, maybe as soon as July according to my sources on the Dog Star.
So hop aboard this mighty spaceship, ye psychonauts, and away we go…
A Mission to the Stars
Welcome to the future past. This book is a literal time/space capsule, recounting a golden era of possibilities, of searching and experimentation. Starseed Signals chronicles a significant period in the life of Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) as a writer and thinker, charting his explorations into consciousness expansion, knowledge acceleration, life extension, space travel and many other themes that set the stage for his subsequent literary endeavors. In addition, Starseed Signals laid the foundation for RAW’s landmark work Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, so don’t be surprised if some of the passages in this book seem familiar, to be later lifted and inserted into the Cosmic Trigger narrative.
Starseed Signals was dashed off over a two-week period in early 1975, a burst of energy supplied by the sudden turmoil and controversy surrounding his friendship and collaborations with the infamous Dr. Timothy Leary, who RAW perceived as one of the most brilliant, yet misunderstood minds of not only his generation, but of any.
During this period—as Leary sat caged in prison on trumped up drug charges—he and RAW conceptualized a book project entitled A Periodic Table of Energy, a scientific system of neuro-psychology based on eight evolutionary circuits, or steps, through which humanity progresses, with the latter circuit propelling WoMan to the stars, the ultimate evolution, our union with the infinite and quest for immortality.
To many, now and then, such flights of fancy seem naught but the brain-damaged blatherings of aging hippies who blew their minds one too many times. Or, perhaps, Dr. Leary was too far ahead of his time for his own good. As documented in Starseed Signals—from those long-ago years of 1961-62—Leary conducted an inmate rehabilitation project using LSD therapy which achieved positive results in reducing recidivism in the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.
Now in this far out year of 2015, LSD research has experienced a renaissance and is once again on the radar of scientists and clinical psychologists as a tool to treat alcoholism and other maladies, including severe cases of autism. That it has taken 50+ years for such “groundbreaking” research to come full circle and again be taken seriously by the scientific community speaks to Dr. Leary’s vision of the future, one in which tools such as LSD can be used to meta-program the human nervous system and ultimately evolve the species.
Just the same, Leary contributed to his own undoing by opening “the doors of perception” too abruptly for some, as the Establishment wasn’t ready for the type of freedom he was peddling: “Turn on, tune in and drop out.” And, frankly, a lot of young heads weren’t ready for it either, although the sensationalized “bummer trip” stories of the period seemed highly exaggerated; all those supposed blown minds who stared at the sun until their eyeballs melted from the sockets; or like Art Linkletter’s daughter jumping out of a tenth story window expecting she could fly. Such hysteria precipitated a Leary backlash as he was portrayed in the media as an acid gobbling mad scientist poised to corrupt an entire nation and generation, and so had to be brought down and made an example of.
Seen through a more rational lens—and in retrospect of nearly half a century gone by—Leary can now be viewed as a transcendent agent of change engaged in the process of accelerating our evolutionary cycle, who ran afoul of the Establishment, yet ultimately triumphed by living life on his own terms.
During the early seventies—as Leary had become ingrained as a household name that would live in infamy—RAW began trying alternative religions on for size, including wicca and magick, and in particular a Crowleyean ritual known as the “Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel,” which he invoked on the momentous date of July 23rd, 1973. In the ritual’s aftermath, RAW encountered what he perceived as an ascended master who instructed him on the significance of the star system Sirius. RAW later discovered that July 23rd is the very day when Sirius rises behind the sun, the fabled Dog days.
During the same period RAW was experiencing “telepathic communications from Sirius”—a number of other writers and psychedelic researchers were entertaining otherworldly encounters, such as science fiction author Philip K. Dick (PKD) who experienced similar communications with certain entities from Sirius as recounted in his semi-autobiographical novel VALIS. Concurrently, British novelist Doris Lessing had began a series of Sci-Fi novels, a departure from her previous books. In the third novel of this series, The Sirian Experiments, Lessing relates a tale with stunning similarities to those of RAW and PKD. It was only later that Wilson, Dick and Lessing discovered they were having these experiences simultaneously, albeit unbeknownst to each other. Meanwhile—during the aforementioned Dog Days of July-August 1973—RAW’s good friend Dr. Leary, then serving time at Folsom, formed a four-person telepathy team, the intent of which was “… to achieve telepathic communication with Higher Intelligence elsewhere in the galaxy.” At the same time Leary received his “Starseed Transmissions,” another psychedelic pioneer, Dr. John Lilly, was having his own series of interstellar communications with a network of entities known as ECCO, “Earth Coincidence Control Office.” It should be further noted that 1973 was a peak year of UFO sightings, so something indeed was in the air.
As these apparent extraterrestrial communications were invading our earth-space, suddenly all contact with Leary broke off as he was held incommunicado amid rumors he’d become a fink for the Feds, ratting out his old counterculture cronies to cut a deal to get himself out of the joint. The hysteria and paranoia of this period is well documented in Starseed Signals, providing the background—the set and setting—for the climate of the times.
At the time of the writing of Starseed Signals, the sixties looked a thousand light years away in the rear-view mirror as the lost idealism of that decade bled over into the early seventies. A hung-over generation awoke one morning to discover President Nixon’s “War on Drugs” in full force, its crosshairs trained on the country’s youth, poor and minorities; draconian drug laws designed, it seemed, to create a prison state of mind, with Dr. Timothy Leary—who Nixon proclaimed “the most dangerous man in America”—serving as the poster boy for all things immoral and indecent.
Early on in Starseed Signals, RAW warns about this Second Coming of the Holy Inquisition, Nixon’s “War on Drugs,” and how it led to Leary’s political persecution. RAW’s pronouncements—which, to the more sober minded in 1975 probably came across as a bit on the paranoid side and seemingly steeped in rhetoric—are now but a cautionary tale come true, as seen in the aftermath of 9/11 with the advent of the Patriot Act, and the countless other resurrections of the “War on Drugs” that are rolled out every decade or so to remind us of the consequences of having too much fun, or being allowed to operate our own brains in the manner we see fit.
Eventually the dust would settle in early 1976 when California Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown released Leary from his prison sentence. This, naturally, turned another page in the many lives of Dr. Leary—and RAW, as well. Afterwards, Starseed Signals was jettisoned into deep space as the impetus to publish the book lost steam and relevance amid these happenings. Nonetheless, the historical significance of Starseed Signals as an autobiographical period piece is well worth the price of admission, starting with RAW’s peyote peregrinations of the early sixties all the way to envisioned space explorations in cahoots with Leary, in addition to several other tributaries and trajectories explored along the way.
Join us now on our mission to the stars. Turn on, tune in, turn the page…
In this vein, I thought I’d share further examples of Discordian parties starting with a shindig thrown by Tim Wheeler (aka Harold Lord Randomfactor) at his farm in Shelbyville, Indiana, billed as the “Grand National Founding Convention of Young Americans For Real Freedom.” The intent of this gathering was to draft “The Shelbyville Statement,” which would be the guiding document of the Young Americans for Real Freedom (YARF). Of course, all of this was merely an elaborate joke-parody riffing on a real organization called the Young Americans for Freedom that was prominent in conservative political circles during this period.
Moving on to other Discordian parties, here’s a note from Greg Hill (aka Mal 2) to Louise Lacey (aka Lady L., F.A.B. – Fucking Anarchist Bitch) composed on genuine Illuminati stationary created by the aforementioned Harold Randomfactor.
“…celebrated at our apartment house with weird and eldritch festivities. Arlen and I, representing the Discordian Society, together with Stephen upstairs (Reformed Druids of North America), Claire and Carol in another apartment (witches, connected with the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn), and the Great Wild Beast Furtherment Society (which is really Stephen and me and another neighbor named Charles), opened all our rooms to a Crowleymas Party and invited nearly 100 local wizards and mystics…”
In attendance were such illuminaries as ufological visionary Jacques Vallee, along with a flock of other furry freaks from a hodge-podge of mystical and religious (dis)orders, including Grady McMurtry, then head of the Ordo Templi Orientis in the USA.
Apparently, such Discordian frivolities carried on well into the early 1980s as demonstrated in a letter below to Greg Hill from Camden Benares (aka The Count of Fives aka Felix Pendragon) announcing a duel sponsored event orchestrated in cahoots with renowned pornographer, and sometime Discordian, Ron Matthies under the banner of “Fort Chaotic.” In said letter, Camden mentions a Discordian novel he was working on at the time called Another Howling Eighties Conspiracy that unfortunately never saw the light of day, although we know he finished at least five chapters, Hail Eris.
As revealed in my Thornley bio The Prankster and the Conspiracy, Camden and his wife June often attended parties dressed as a priest and nun. After one such party, Camden and June—still bedecked in their holy garbed—visited a Denny’s in West Los Angeles where they spent considerable time making out in their booth. As would be expected, people began freaking out upon witnessing this ungodly spectacle, as in between sacrilegious smooches Camden gave blessings and benedictions to the stunned Denny’s patrons.
I recently stumbled upon this oddity in the Discordian Archives, an obscure publication called The National Informer dated March 30, 1969. And no, this wasn’t a Discordian gag as far as I can tell, but an actual magazine or newsletter (published by an apparent crackpot named Hazel Mullins) featuring the conspiratorial meme that JFK was still alive. That’s right, he never died!
The JFK-never-died school of assassinationology is among my all time favs, right up there with the-secret-service-driver-shot-JFK-with-a-poison-dart-filled-with-deadly-shell-fish-toxin. There have been variations on this JFK never died theme throughout years, such as the rumor that he was still alive though withering away in a secret room at the Mayo Clinic. Let’s look at a couple more variations of this theory now, because apparently I have nothing better to do with my time…
George C. Thomson’s The Quest for Truth
My first whiff of this JFK-never-actually-died doo-dah came courtesy of a Southern California swimming pool engineer named George C. Thomson. The gist of Thomson’s theory was that Kennedy narrowly escaped with his life from Dealey Plaza and inserted in his place (in the Presidential limousine) was J.D. Tippit, the Dallas Police officer who had been allegedly shot and killed by Lee Harvey Oswald in the aftermath of the assassination (in front of Oswald’s apartment in the Oak Cliff section of Dallas). Some suggest that Tippit strongly resembled JFK; photos of the two men do reveal some similarities, although Tippit wasn’t a “dead ringer” by any stretch of the imagination.
As noted, part of Thomson’s theory included this body swap switcheroo of Tippit for JFK—and get this: the assassin, according to Thomson, was none other than soon to be President Lyndon Baines Johnson who used “a drum-fed, fully automatic weapon, two of them…” Approximately 22 bullets were fired (although 23 would have been ideal) and in the crossfire five (Hail Eris!) people were killed, all of which is documented in Thomson’s “Dallas Murder Map,” a fold-out included as part of his magnum opus, The Quest for Truth.
Thomson never really explained why JFK’s assassination was faked, and specifically what became of our supposedly dead President. However, Thomson alleged that JFK had been seen (wearing a mask) at the famous Truman Capote “black and white ball” that occurred in November of 1966.
The Bane In Kennedy’s Existence
Even farther out on a conspiratorial limb was a fellow named Bernard Bane, who authored such obscure JFK assassination classics as The Bane in Kennedy’s Existence (1967) and Is President John F, Kennedy Alive… And Well? (1973).
By and large, The Bane in Kennedy’s Existence is a ponderously inscrutable read, but the basic gist is that in October 1963, Bane was taken into custody and committed to a mental health facility where MK-Ultra like “spychiatrists”—or those he refers to as the “Social Engineers”—injected him with massive doses of LSD, all part of an insidious plot to drive Bane bananas.
Why Mr. Bane was treated in such an unseemly manner is never made entirely clear, although part of the reason, apparently, was due to a book he authored in 1962 entitled The Grand Model of the Mind that presented a psychological theory that appears to have made even less sense than his JFK assassination theory, which is saying quite a lot. I’ll let Bane tell the story in his own words:
“So, I got out [of the psych ward] October 15. And according to expectations, something was going to happen on my birthday. My birthday’s on November 21st. President Kennedy was supposed to be assassinated as a birthday present to me. So, on November 22, he was assassinated. So that’s how I got involved. I figured, there’s something going on here. There was a definite connection. So then, when I read an article in the Boston Globe that said, ‘HOAX IN DALLAS’ — somebody did something that had nothing to do with the Kennedy assassination—but to me, it meant something: “HOAX IN DALLAS” —it means the assassination’s a hoax. And I always felt there was something bizarre about the whole thing. So I concluded, OK. He never got killed. And I realize after concluding that, a lot of people around me knew that all along… but they didn’t admit it. So slowly I leaked out my belief that he wasn’t even killed…” (Donny Kossy’s 1991 interview with Bernard Bane, Kooks Magazine)
Among the more obscure Early Discordians was Tom McNamara aka Thomas the Gnostic, who was not only of the Erisian persuasion, but also a member of the Bavarian Illuminati, and a participant in Operation Mindfuck as demonstrated in the letter below published in The Rag, a counterculture mag based out of Austin, Texas, during the 1960s and early-70s.
During the Discordian Society halcyon days, McNamara distributed an Erisian newsletter, the alliterative Papish Pastoral Letter to the Provincials of the Provinces of Patareal Paratheo Providence, a sample of which is presented below.
Included in the Discordian Archives are scattered correspondence between Greg Hill and McNamara. In a letter dated March 22, 1971, Hill related recent Discordian developments, including a Chicago meet-up with Bob Shea, Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) and Tim and Mary Wheeler (aka Harold Randomfactor and Hope Springs). Of this Chicago meet-up, Hill wrote:
“Most sorry missed you at the Chicago Meet, but I supposed goddess knows what she is doing. I genuinely hope that the day will come when we can rap some face to face. This correspondence business, it only goes in some directions and it is hard to anchor sometimes. I’ll buy the beer should the opportunity arise….
“The Chicago Meet, incidentally, was no big thing excepting a retouch in the flesh. Met RF [Randomfactor] & Hope for the first time and was not surprised in any way. Wilson kept engaging in political arguments with them and it bummered kind of, it gets difficult to remember that substantial differences are in accord with the Erisian concept—it gets difficult indeed in personal issues. O Were We All Saints. That bit in diatribe about me slipping into the curse of greyface—that was from the soul my friend. Wilson and Tim had a touch of greyface then (at Chi) too. Doubt if Tim feels much a part of us much anymore.
“Mostly we just sat around and rapped on petty incidentals. It was a pleasant time, which is want I wanted actually. Wilson & I played around with literature some—that kind of thing. Very therapeutic. Got stoned and giggled a lot…”
While RAW occasionally described himself as a Libertarian, he was definitely on the anti-war/pacifist end of the spectrum, most notably taking to the Chi-town streets with all the hairy freaks during the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Wheeler—conversely—was a William F. Buckley conservative and, as noted in this exclusive Historia Discordia interview, worked as a humor editor for Buckley’s National Review. One issue that might have led to a “political argument” between Wheeler and Wilson would have been the Vietnam War. While there was plenty to be critical about Buckley’s worldview, one important contribution he made to the conservative movement was calling out John Birch Society (JBS) propaganda and its influence on the GOP. To this end, Wheeler produced a satirical piece on the JBS, which took the form of a hoax/gag issue of the National Review, kind of a play on Illuminati conspiracies ala the Trilateral Commission, Bilderbergers, etc. Check it out here.
Wheeler’s irreverent nature is what enamored him to his fellow Discordians, who for the most part were politically aligned with anarcho-libertarianism, which included a fondness for pot, another interest they shared with Wheeler, who was a notorious dope-smoking Republican.
While RAW and Wheeler disagreed on certain political issues, they both concurred that it was a fine and righteous thing to poke fun at Illuminati conspiracies of the John Birch Society variety, and then co-opt said JBS-Illuminati mythology for their own nefarious ends, Hail Eris!
Next we find an exchange between Thomas the Gnostic and Reverend Dean Cleveland of the St. Procopius Rectory, wherein Thomas was evidently yanking the good rector’s chain.
Next in the chronology was a letter dated February 1972 from McNamara to Hill (aka Iggy):
“You know the phantasies you’ve had that the FBI might be after us? Well, you’ll be happy to know that they are at least after me. This is not just paranoia. It seems that recently I wuz incarcerated in the state mental prison here, no shit! How I got there is a long stupid story. How I got out is even simpler. I hired a lawyer to rescue me from the mad doctors. But in the course of all this madness I learned one thing. The F.B.I. is really keeping tabs on me. They made indiscreet ‘inquiries’ to both my lawyer and the keepers. I ain’t going to let this stop me from whatever it is that I am doing that is subversive’. I just wish I could figure out what it is that I am doing. Oh well. As for the mental prison: ‘God save us from those who would save us from ourselves.’
Also in the letter, McNamara mentions an Illuminati-mythology-then-in-the-making ala Morris Kaminsky’s The Hoaxers, which expounded upon a claim that the real brains behind that dreaded secret society was some dude named Sidney Weinberg.