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CHASING ERIS: On The Trail of Kerry Thornley (and his kitties)

Brenton Clutterbuck poses with the original Paste-Up Discordia (PUD) cover page. Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

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


Kerry Thornley in Little Five Points, Atlanta.
Photo courtesy of Tim Cridland.

Adam Gorightly gives me details for Tantra Bensko in the early part of my trip; a woman who had lived for a time with Kerry Thornley. I make contact, and we agree to meet at her house in California.

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?”

A Kerry Kitty.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

“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.

The Dark Kerry Kitty.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

“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.

Another Kerry Kitty.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

“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.”

Window Kerry Kitty.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

“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.

Collapsible Horizon
by Tantra Bensko.

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.

brenton clutterbuck brunswick shrine discordian timeline discordianism greg hill robert newport video

Tales of the Brunswick Shrine (Part 00002)

As a follow-up to a previous post on The Brunswick Shrine, here’s a pretty fun video from Historia Discordia staff member Brenton Clutterbuck.

After my apparent 2009 Brunswick Shrine discovery, (as noted in Brenton’s video) I came upon a handwritten note from Greg Hill which seems to identify the address of another Brunswick Shrine. And, of course, that’s what Bob Newport always insisted; there was more than one Brunswick Shrine and that it was actually several bowling alleys the boys would visit back in the day.

Note on the location of the Brunswick Shrine.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

When I goggle-mapped the above address, it appears the Santa Fe Lanes bowling alley—if there indeed ever was one there—is long gone, and in its place is a CVS Pharmacy—which tells us that the Brunswick Shrine can be whatever you want it to be. Hail Eris!

Call it a Brunswick Shrine State of Mind.

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The Early Discordians: Dr. Robert Newport

Dr. Robert Newport celebrating the day.
I’ve often expressed my respect and admiration for Dr. Robert Newport (even though he sometimes calls me Bruce) who has been a huge part of the Discordian Archives project, and without whom it never would have happened.

Known in the annals of Discordianity as Rev. Hypocrates Magoun (Protector of the Pineal), Newport was high school pals with Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley back in the days of Bowling Alleys, Eris, and a Revelation with a Baboon. Newport contributed to the 4th edition of the Principia Discordia with “The Parable of the Bitter Tea,” which of course has a deeper meaning than you can read on the surface—although I’m not quite sure what that is—so I’ll leave it to Brenton Clutterbuck to reveal this deeper mystery in his forthcoming book, Chasing Eris.

After Greg Hill’s passing, the Discordian Archives ended up in Newport’s keeping, and he had planned to put these materials on a website but never quite found the time as he had become more interested in landscape painting. And so perhaps he got the best of both worlds, as (maybe) became what he was envisioning, and in the meantime, Newport was able to follow his painting passion and not have to dicker around with HTML and all that nonsense. More on current happenings of Dr. Robert in a bit…

Here’s some more on Dr. Robert Newport and Greg Hill, lifted (mostly) from my previous book The Prankster and Conspiracy:

— S N I P —

In the early-70s, Newport and Hill—along with Greg’s wife Jeanetta—started a movie theater in the town of Monte Rio, along the Russian River area in Northern California.

Cinema Rio Theater: Then.
Courtesy of Dr. Robert Newport.

Cinema Rio Theater: Now.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

Housed in an old converted military Quonset hut, Cinema Rio had five hundred seats, as well as a vast population of rats until a twenty-two pound Siamese cat named Eldritch became a Cinema Rio regular. “And,” as Newport recalled, “that was the last of the rats, the night Eldritch walked into the theater. We brought him in, put him down in the lobby, his ears went up, and he was gone like a flash—and from that night on there were no rats!”

Cinema Rio Christmas Card, Front.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.
Cinema Rio Christmas Card, Back.
Featuring Eldritch the Cat.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

Cinema Rio was unique in the sense that it was a community effort, a theater by and for the local residents. In this spirit, local artists were enlisted to help decorate the digs, which included a beautiful colored marquee outside, displaying a cartoonish Mayan motif. The inside of the theater was originally a dull pink, so—to give it some pizzazz—columns and figures, swirling and twirling about, were painted on the walls, giving the place the funky feel of an old-time theater reborn with a psychedelic sensibility.

Greg and Bob ran Cinema Rio on a shoestring, with Greg putting the programming together, in addition to designing the posters and advertisement blurbs. As part of their community outreach, once-a-month programming meetings were held where the locals could contribute suggestions for films. Thus a concerted effort was made to involve the community, which meant employing it, as well. In fact, Greg and Bob ended up employing way too many locals to ever turn a profit.

Cinema Rio flyer designed by Greg Hil: Front.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.
Cinema Rio flyer designed by Greg Hil: Back.
The back side provides an example
of community participation in the business.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

Eventually, Greg and Bob decided to expand their vision. As it so happened, right next to Cinema Rio was a huge old abandoned redwood dance hall, which one day came up for sale, so Greg and Bob decided they would start a community center there. After acquiring the building, they put in a restaurant, a health clinic, ran a community newspaper, and had weekend gatherings where they fed the homeless, including concerts on the beach.

While all of this was going on, Newport was somehow able to operate a psychiatry practice out of his house in nearby Guerneville, often getting paid for his services in baskets of garden vegetables or apples. Bob’s “office” was in a tree house on his property, located in the center of a circle of redwoods. The entire property consisted of an acre-and-a-half, with several cabins scattered throughout the redwoods. It was a diverse operation, including a school in his garage, which twenty-or-so kids attended. Dr. Bob was also heavily involved with the Psych Department at nearby Sonoma State, as on his property various group sessions were ran, such as encounter groups and primal therapy groups.

Cinema Rio and the Monte Rio Community Center eventually folded in the spring of 1973 due mainly to the fact that Newport and Hill got over extended financially. But there were other factors, as well, which caused the scene to run its course, namely the dissolution of Greg’s marriage to Jeanetta. As Newport recalled:

It would have been a miracle if the marriage had survived. Life at the River was incredibly difficult. I mean it was wild, it was high and it was fun, it was creative… and there was no money. Which meant that just trying to scrimp by with a living was hard to do, and it was hard for everybody. It was hard for me, too. I mean I had a little income because I had a little practice going. But the theater made no money—that cost us money. All these other activities we had going—none of them made money… So things were incredibly stressful. And when the marriage broke up, Greg became very depressed. And basically about that time, my mentor who lived next door to me, who had been a very interesting old man, who had dropped out as a President of Union Bank, and had come to the River, and had a very interesting Libertarian philosophy… ah, anyhow, he died, Jeanetta left, and pretty much everything collapsed. And Greg became incredibly depressed. And he went off to New York… and got a job with a bank doing clerical work, which is about as bleak an outcome as you can imagine. So he drank and that became his way of dealing with things.

— E ND   O’   S N I P —

Rather than end this post on a bummer note, let’s get back to Bob Newport and where his path has taken him over the years, with a brief bio lifted from his website.

Art, and the study of painting, as a vehicle for probing into the relationship between the natural world and the human psyche, is Dr. Robert Newport’s second career following thirty-one years as a psychiatrist. Thirty-one years, during which he developed and refined his powers of observation while delving deeply into the nature of consciousness, exploring its relationship to body, mind and spirit. And when not engrossed in his practice, he was exploring and observing the natural world both as a backpacker and sailor.

Doctor Robert comes from a family of sailors and explorers who arrived with the first settlers in this country in 1607. He was born in the Midwest mid-century, and has never been in the middle of anything since, with the exception of the profound beauty and drama of the landscape. A maverick in everything he has ever done, (he was said to have invented the term “holistic psychiatry”), he came to painting naturally, if not exactly willingly. Drama was his first love; he turned down an offer for the professional theater to go to medical school. With one successful children’s play to his credit, his reading of his muse’s call was to write for the stage; drawing his material from the human dramas he attended as a psychiatrist.

As fate would have it, it fell to him to care for his ailing mother, a successful artist herself for 40 years. In an effort to find a way to have a meaningful relationship with her, he began to paint under her tutelage and later at the Otis College of Art and Design. He found not only that he loved painting, but that it gave him both the vehicle for communicating his experiences of encountering spirit in the natural world as well as the opportunity to continue to use his powers of observation in the further development of his craft. So as a painter and world traveler, he followed in his family footsteps, his sister and niece also being fine artists of some repute. Following his retirement from medicine, he obtained an Otis certificate in fine arts and has continued his studies with private teachers.

Painting by Newport: Could this be the Five-Fingered Hand of Eris???
Courtesy of Dr. Robert Newport.

On another note, I just discovered Newport recently released From Haiti to Guinee’ on the Immamou — A Tale of Redemption. Get yourself a copy of enlightenment.

Lastly, we share with you Newport’s take on our latest book, Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society:

Whether or not reading Historia Discordia will “blow your mind” or simply show you what a bunch of already blown minds can come up with, is besides the point. The point is that it is fun!

And now, back to our regular programming… whatever that is.

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OFFICIAL BUSINESS: Reviews, News, and Interviews


With the recent release of Historia Discordia, the first book of several from the Erisian materials preserved in the Discordian Archives, multi-instances of unauthorized Discordian activity have been observed. Each and every fnord has been inappropriately cataloged for future chaos repercussions. Hail Eris!

The following is a semi-listicle of Authorized Discordian Society Activity for your re-education and amusement:

Announcing New HD Staff Members:

Go Forth, and Promote!

For semi-daily shameless promotion of Historia Discordia, a dreaded (but fun and foul!) Facebook page has been manifested by Goddess:

Like it, then once “Liked,” be sure to also “Get Notifications” to keep the fnords-a-fnording in your Fnordbook feed!


We announced an Eris of the Month Club.
Join, Submit, or Eat a Bunless Hot Dog. It’s your fnordean choice.

Michele Witchipoo holding her
copy of Historia Discordia.
Courtesy of Michele Witchipoo.

Interviews on Gorightly’s Historia Discordia and Clutterbuck’s Chasing Eris: interview:
Adam Gorightly — neither gonzo nor crockpot

Cult of Nick interview with Adam Gorightly:
A chat with Adam Gorightly writer of Historia Discordia

Binall of America Historia Discordia Interview:
Esoterica’s crackpot historian and longtime friend of BoA:Audio, Adam Gorightly returns to the program to discuss his new book Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society. Adam shares the amazing tale of how the book all came together and then provides listeners with a tremendously detailed history of how the Discordian Society started and subsequently evolved. He takes us through Operation Mindfuck as well as explains the Principia Discordia and how it changed over the years.

Opperman Report:
Adam Gorightly: Historia Discordia & The Shadow Over Santa Susana: Black Magic, Mind Control And The Manson Family Mythos

Phantom Power:
Interview with author, Adam Gorightly conducted July 16th, 2014.

Expanding Mind Interview On Historia Discordia:
Anarchism, synchronicity, and the joke religion spawned by the vision of a Goddess in a bowling alley: a talk with “crackpot historian” Adam Gorightly about his new book Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society.

Brenton Clutterbuck manifesting
Ewige Blumenkraft!
Glen Best of Cairns FM 98.1 interviews Clutterbuck:
Interview with Brenton Clutterbuck about his Chasing Eris project

Wikinews interviews Brenton Clutterbuck
Wikinews contributor Patrick Gillett interviewed Brenton Clutterbuck about his project on Discordianism.

And then, we come to a fnord Review

John Higgs Review of Historia Discordia:
Adam Gorightly’s new book is hardcore. The most battle-hardened historian would blanch at writing a history of Discordian Society.”

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Chasing Eris: Emperor Norton, Discordian Saint

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


Emperor Norton materials found in the Discordian Archives.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

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.

Adam Gorightly on pilgrimage
to Emperor Norton's gravesite.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.
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.

art book brenton clutterbuck daisy eris campbell discordianism illuminati illuminatus! kenneth campbell kerry thornley play principia discordia robert anton wilson robert shea video writings

Chasing Eris: The RAW Deal on Illuminatus! ’76/’77

Chasing Eris by
Brenton Clutterbuck
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.

Here’s a hint of what went down in London.
Brenton Clutterbuck

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.

Robert Anton Wilson first discovered Discordianism through his mail correspondence with Kerry Thornley in 1967. In a 1992 interview with Reverend Wyrdsli, Thornley discussed Wilson’s interest in Discordia:

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.

* * *

Brenton Clutterbuck and
Ken Campbell's daughter,
Daisy Eris Campbell. Check out
her production of
RAW's Cosmic Trigger.
Courtesy of Brenton Cluttberuck.
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.

Brenton Clutterbuck and the Illuminatus! play manuscript. Courtesy of Brenton Clutterbuck.
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.

Brenton Clutterbuck on the Illuminatus! play. Clutterbuck: 'I mix-up facts and say LSD where I should say MDMA. I mix two stories from Gorightly and Higgs together.' Hail Eris!

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.

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Chasing Eris: An Interlude on Copyleft

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


Ⓚ ALL RIGHTS REVERSED: Page 00075 of the Sacred PUD. Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.
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).


* * *

Greg Hill as Mad Malik,
Copywrong Rip Off Write On!,
July 1970, Page 00001.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.
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.

The Greater Poop #30, July/August 1970 elaborated, not just on how the Principia was copylefted, but made the point on expressing some of Greg’s ideology behind the choice.

Greg Hill as Mad Malik,
Copywrong Rip Off Write On!,
July 1970, Page 00002.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

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.

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Discordian Works [Citation Needed].

The Discordian bathroom library
of Professor Cramulus.

I’m going to get up on my soapbox to try and address one of the most serious and pressing issues of our modern age.

The Wikipedia page on Discordian Works is a joke.

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 progress immediately to The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson in considerably more detail than is offered. is posting a shit-tonne of info on this book as it goes thorough the reading club. It should go in. Other works of RAW that deal with Discordianism such as Cosmic Trigger which have contributed significantly to many aspects of modern Discordia (relationship to Aleister Crowley, etc) should be mentioned too.

Zen Without Zen Masters by Camden Benares. Also The Crying Clown Saga by Benares and John F Carr. Benares was a contributor to the Principia Discordia.

Kerry Thornley’s work Zenarchy needs to be in and discussed as well.

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.”

Then we need to see Adam Gorightly’s The Prankster and the Conspiracy, the best existing guide to the early days of Discordia. (His other projects maybe could be listed as coming soon, but each of the four promises to offer a lot to the academic understanding of Discordianism and should be included when released.)

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.

We should have a section at the bottom with academic works that explore Discordianism. Drawing Down the Moon by Margot Adler and Authentic Fakes by David Chidester come to mind. Also Carol Cussak’s Invented Religions: Imagination Fiction and Faith.

Additionally KLF: Music, Magic and the Band That Burned a Million Pounds is a valuable examination of the KLF and their Discordian links and lives in this section most comfortably.

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?

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Chasing Eris: The Krewe of 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

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.

Article Edited: 28/01/2017.

book brenton clutterbuck discordianism eff gaming hacking illuminati

Chasing Eris: The Case of Steve Jackson Games, or how Discordianism helped the U.S. Secret Service inspire the birth of the Electronic Frontier Foundation

Loyd Blankenship, troublemaker.
Courtesy of Wikipedia.

The following is a draft excerpt from my forthcoming book Chasing Eris. The book documents my worldwide adventure to experience modern Discordian culture, meet its personalities, and discover elusive Erisian mysteries.
Brenton Clutterbuck

Discordia has long been immersed deeply in copyright liberation and geek culture. What you may not know though is the surprising role it played in the birth of the Electronic Frontier Foundation, whose history begins in Austin, Texas.

Robert Anton Wilson, who I’m sure you will recall as one of the Early Discordians, released his popular The Illuminatus! Trilogy in 1975. In 1981, Steve Jackson, who published the “black cover” Principia Discordia, held discussions with freelance artist Dave Martin about adapting Illuminatus! into a game. Instead of taking on the book, due to the complexity (and, one might speculate, perhaps payment for creative rights), his company, Steve Jackson Games, began to make a game built instead on the concept of the Illuminati generally, throwing in a couple of explicit Discordian references. To play with their interest in conspiracies and Discordianism, Steve Jackson Games had on their BBS the tongue-in-cheek announcement:

Greetings, Mortal! You have entered the secret computer system of the Illuminati, the on-line home of the world’s oldest and largest secret conspiracy. 5124474449300/1200/2400BAUD fronted by Steve Jackson Games, Incorporated. Fnord.

In 1990, Steve Jackson Games was also working on another project, GURPS (Generic Universal RolePlaying System), a system allowing players to develop role-playing scenarios of their choice. The company was developing materials for a GURPS Cyberpunk role-playing game, written predominantly by recent hire Loyd Blankenship.

In other circles, Blankenship was known as +++The Mentor+++, an experienced computer hacker. He’d moved to Austin in 1976, in grade five or six. Without knowing anyone, he began to get into computers, mostly just for the gaming. At his mother’s workplace he met a number of the system operators who maintained the PDP Mainframe, who showed him a text-based game called Star Trek, which he then convinced the operators to printout the BASIC code for him. It was through porting the game over to a CompuColor computer in the college library where he used to hang out that he first began to teach himself BASIC.

He began to break into computers when his guest password expired on the university computers he’d been using.

By 1988, Blankenship was fairly established as a hacker and attended Summercon, the longest running hacking convention in the U.S., where he spent time with The Leftist, Doom Prophet, Phantom Phreaker, Control C and Urvile/Necron 99 amongst others. Together, they became the second incarnation of a group known as the Legion of Doom.

Summercon was arranged by a hacking magazine called Phrack, established in 1985.

We jump to 1989: As well as writing the GURPS manual, Blankenship was running a Bulletin Board System called The Phoenix Project which helped to distribute Phrack, as well as participating in the Steve Jackson Games completely unrelated Bulletin Board, Illuminati.

Computers were a big thing; a new forefront for industry and crime. The government was busy with Operation Sundevil, an operation to crack down on hackers. The U.S. Secret Service also had another target in mind for an operation, technically unrelated, but still after those wascally hackers: Phrack magazine.

In 1989, the 24th edition of Phrack published the contents of a text file giving information on the E911 system. E911 is an enhanced service for handling emergency calls. These calls take place ordinarily on the public phone lines, but are managed so as to take priority over all other calls. According to a Secret Service affidavit, the file had been stolen from Atlanta telecommunications giant BellSouth by Robet J. Riggs, and was edited into a hacker tutorial by one of the Phrack founders, Craig Neidorf (Knight Lightning).

March 1, 1990: Steve Jackson Games is unexpectedly raided by members of the United States Secret Service, accompanied by Austin police and at least one civilian expert from “the phone company.” The Steve Jackson Games webpage says agents cut locks, tore open boxes, and forced open footlockers. They confiscated four computers containing GURPS Cyberpunk files, two printers, and other hardware and files.

Steve Jackson Games was told they would get their computers back “tomorrow.” In later statements, a judge said that the Secret Service could have duplicated the material they needed in between a couple of hours and eight days. Rather than the next day as promised, or eight days, the majority of confiscated material wasn’t returned for a whole four months. The majority of the GURPS Cyberpunk manual had to be reconstructed from snippets, planning and memory. Steve Jackson Games was impacted by the raid, and had to lay off nearly half their staff. Later, Judge Sam Sparks would seek to dispute the assertion that Steve Jackson Games had been nearly bankrupted by the raid.

Why did Secret Service agents target Steve Jackson Games?

The key was Loyd Blankenship. Agent Timothy Golden had based the raid of Steve Jackson Games on the fact that Loyd Blankenship was working there, ran a bulletin board system popular with hackers from his home, and also ran a completely separate BBS at Steve Jackson Games.

In response to the Steve Jackson Games case and other similar cases, John Gilmour, John Perry Barlow, and Mitch Kapor founded the Electronic Frontier Foundation in 1990. They would later, in 1993, support Steve Jackson Games in a legal battle seeking damages from the Secret Service.

When Steve Jackson Games sued the Secret Service, the judge’s comments concluded, amongst other things, that Foley had seen the “Greetings, Mortal!” message on a printout of the Illuminati BBS, and concluded, without further investigation, that this was evidence that the Illuminati BBS was a hacking space. Judge Sam Sparks added in his comments that it would have taken only hours to determine that Steve Jackson Games was a legitimate publisher, who would have been willing to cooperate with Foley’s investigation. The judge was critical of Foley, who despite being an attorney, was led to violate the Privacy Protection Act, simply by not being aware of it. Fellow Agent Golden was also unaware of this act, and when informed in the process of the seizure, that Steve Jackson Games was a gaming publishing company, did not place importance on the fact, or realize this meant his actions were illegal.

Judge Sam Sparks was scathing of the Secret Service, whose warrant, he said, did not even meet the standards set by the Secret Service itself. He criticized Foley for not creating copies of the computer content to be made available to the company, and for the impact of the case on Steve Jackson’s personal reputation.

He asked a direct question of Foley: had he considered that his actions could harm Steve Jackson economically?

Foley replied with “No, sir.”

“You actually did, you just had no idea anybody would actually go out and hire a lawyer and sue you,” replied Sparks.

Steve Jackson Games was awarded over $50,000 for damages sustained by the raid and the retention of property belonging to the company.

Riggs was sentenced to 21 months in prison for his part in stealing the E911 code.

Craig Neidorf, aka Knight Lightning, was charged, though these charges were dismissed after only 4 days with no conviction, incurring $100,000 in legal costs. This dismissal was in part due to the revelation that the stolen document which was estimated by BellSouth at a value of over $70,000, was in fact available from BellSouth unedited at a cost of $13.

Loyd Blankenship, for his part, was never charged.


[Edit 02/19/14: Jackson didn’t state himself that the choice to adapt the concept of the Illuminati mythos rather than adapting the Wilson and Shea book Illuminatus! was related to royalty costs. I’ve adapted the article to reflect this. —Clutterbuck]

Further reading: Steve Jackson Games v. Secret Service Case Archive.