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:
The handful of veiled (or perhaps not-so-veiled) drug references in the Principia Discordia include the ritual of Blessed St. Gulik the Stoned (pages 00027 and 00040), an allusion to a Discordian pot smoking ritual. (St. Gulik is a cockroach.)
Page 00068 of Principia Discordia featured “Plant Your Seeds,” a covert campaign to plant marijuana seeds throughout the cities of America to turn on the squares. “Lick Here” on page 00023 encourages the reader to stick their tongue on the dot for a special dose of you know what!
Principia Discordia (4th edition) evolved out of what were known as Groovy Kits, manila envelopes packed full of groovy goodies that were circulated by Greg Hill to a snail mail network of popes and momes during the Discordian Society’s halcyon days. Although Discordians have never been big on rules, it was encouraged that—upon receipt of said Groovy Kit—the recipient partook in the Ritual of St. Gulik to suitably prepare their heads before diving into the Groovy Kit goods and creating something likewise groovy to add to the package and then pass it along to the next Discordian on the list. (Rules is rules.) And so, in time, these Groovy Kits grew like some weird fungi, spreading their spores via the U.S. Postal System through the collective brains of those who elected to play the game; an art project made up of a communal Discordian stew of collages, counterculture memes, conspiracy theories, word games, irreverent humor, all of which contributed to the evolution of Principia Discordia which, in turn, provided inspiration for Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea’s Illuminatus!
Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) provided some of the earliest reports of Discordian psychedelic experimentation in Cosmic Trigger I: Final Secret of the Illuminati. In 1963, RAW lived in “an old slave-cabin in the woods outside Yellow Springs, Ohio. With my wife, Arlen, and our four small children, I had rented the cabin from Antioch College for $30 per month and had an acre of cleared land to grow food on, 30 acres of woods to seek Mystery in…” It was there, with the aid of peyote, that RAW was able to tap into those ancient nature spirits, this at a time when you could still legally purchase peyote buttons via mail order.
“By mid-1963 [RAW] had logged 40 trips to inner space” and “frequently had the hallucination of telepathic communication with plants, both when flying on the wings of peyote and when [I] was straight… The strangest entity I contacted in those twenty-odd months of psychedelic explorations appeared one day after the end of a peyote trip, when I was weeding in the garden and a movement in the adjoining cornfield caught my eye. I looked over that way and saw a man with warty green skin and pointy ears, dancing.” RAW “watched for nearly a minute, entranced, and then Greenskin faded away ‘just a hallucination…’ But I could not forget him. Unlike the rapid metaprogramming during a peyote trip, in which you are never sure what is real and what is just the metaprogrammer playing games, this experience had all the qualities of waking reality, and differed only in intensity. The entity in the cornfield had been more beautiful, more charismatic, more divine than anything I could consciously imagine when using my literary talents to try to portray a deity. As the mystics of all traditions say so aggravatingly, ‘Those who have seen, know.’ Well, I had seen, but I didn’t know. I was more annoyed than enlightened. But that was not to be my last encounter with that particular critter. Five years later, in 1968, [RAW] read Carlos Castaneda’s The Teachings of Don Juan, dealing with traditional Mexican shamanism and its use of the sacred cactus. Castaneda, an anthropologist, saw the same green man several times, and Don Juan Matus, the shaman, said his name was Mescalito. He was the spirit of the peyote plant…”00001
RAW’s enthusiasm for psychedelics led to his 1964 article for Paul Krassner’s The Realist, “Timothy Leary and his Psychological H-Bomb” the result of an interview he conducted with Timothy Leary in 1964 at the Millbrook Ashram. As RAW noted:
“Later [Leary] asked me if I had majored in psychology, and was surprised to find most of my college years had been in the physical sciences. My knowledge of psychology comes entirely from omnivorous reading and several friendships with people in the field, but it may partially explain why Timothy Leary and I had a different sort of relationship than Tim usually has with writers and journalists.”00002
RAW became an ardent Leary advocate, and in the years to follow the two would forge a close personal and professional bond, co-authoring a number of articles together, as well as developing “The Eight Circuit Model of Consciousness” concept.
RAW continued his psychedelic explorations into the 1970s, incorporating consciousness expansion techniques, wicca, magick, tantra, yoga and in particular a Crowleyean ritual known as the “Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel.” On July 23rd, 1973—coming down off an acaid trip—RAW was performing this Crowleyean ritual when he came into contact with what he perceived to be entities from the Sirius star system. RAW later discovered that July 23 is the very day when Sirius rises behind the sun, the fabled “Dog Days” as they are called. During this same period, RAW was in correspondence with Leary. As RAW recalled:
“In January 1974, Dr. Leary published Terra II, in which he reported his experiments during July-August 1973, attempting to achieve telepathic communication with higher Intelligences elsewhere in the galaxy. Dr. Leary “received” 19 transmissions—the so-called Starseed Transmissions—which he cheerfully admits may be hallucinations. He presents evidence and arguments that they may also be not-hallucinations.
“As soon as I read Terra II, it was obvious to me that I had somehow, during my yoga [magick] sessions, tuned in on Dr. Leary’s brain-waves. My July 23 communication from Sirius was either part of the Transmissions from the higher minds of the galaxy or was part of Dr. Leary’s hallucination, telepathically shared with me. Dr. Leary, however, did not mention Sirius…”00003
Greg Hill chronicled his psychedelic experiments in a number of journal entries, including a three page account from April 1965 entitled “An Experience with Mescaline.” (Download here.)
Body becomes helpless with laughter
As whirly-gig bugs return,
Chills are back too
And the room is
Save one single point
Of life and warmth:
Far below on the floor.
As a Holy Guru
The Omniscient flame
Radiates its serenity
To all who
And body is once again granted
In the mid 1960s, Kerry Thornley joined Kerista, “a sexually swinging psychedelic tribe” into mate swapping, dope smoking and acid tripping. Renowned for their “beautiful weekend orgies,” Kerista was established in New York the late 1950s by John Presmont (aka Brother Jud). After running afoul of the law in NYC, Brother Jud and his crew moved to Southern California, where they joined forces with Kerry. During this period, Kerry’s income was a total of $50 a week, which he earned from writing “case histories,” most of them factual, for Monogram Publications—a southern California erotica publisher—based on his experiences with the Keristas.00004
In 1966, the group’s newspaper changed its name from Kerista to Kerista Swinger, presumably to generate greater appeal with a new generation of hip sexual experimenters. Kerry—calling himself “Young Omar”—wrote several articles for Kerista Swinger, including the group’s mission statement:
Kerista is a religion and the mood of Kerista is one of holiness. Do not, however, look for a profusion of rituals, dogmas, doctrines, and scriptures. Kerista is too sacred for that. It is more akin to the religions of the East and, also, the so-called pagan religions of the pre-Christian West. Its fount of being is the religious experience and that action or word or thought which is not infused with ecstasy is not Kerista. And Kerista, like those religions of olden times, is life-affirming.
By 1967—the so-called “Summer of Love”—Kerry’s politics had gone through a radical shift. His rallying cry was now “sex, drugs, and treason”—everything that flew in the face of a conservative agenda he’d previously embraced with his enthusiasm for Ayn Rand styled Libertarianism. As Kerry later wrote:
When the conservatives began complaining that radical students were interested in nothing but “sex, drugs, and treason” I realized that, instinctually, they had hit the nail on the head. Sex, drugs, and treason were the three things I stood for…. Regarding sex, I became firmly convinced that unless there were trends established in our culture in the direction of uncompromising sexual honesty, tolerance for minority sexual preferences, equal treatment of the sexes, rational openness concerning VD and birth control, and saner attitudes regarding sex and child-rearing, particularly with reference to masturbation—further meaningful social change would not be possible…
Regarding drugs, I gained a great deal of respect for psychedelic substances as powerful tools for restructuring portions of one’s personality which could not be reached by intellectual effort alone, for expanding one’s sense of identification and compassion, and for opening the narrow and dry Western ego to mystical possibilities. Zen and similar styles of meditation, along with the yoga disciplines, I came to see as methods for maintaining psychedelic levels of awareness, once the chemicals had demonstrated the nature of such modes of consciousness…
Regarding treason, I came gradually to a position of supporting nearly all factions on the radical left, except in their quarreling with each other and the dogmatic insistence of some of these groups on the insistence of political violence (or, in other cases, the immorality of violence under all circumstances). I came to this position without ever abandoning some of the more libertarian elements on the extreme right. Meanwhile, I continued to refine my own political philosophy of anarchism—not because I favored “violence and chaos” with which anarchism is nearly always falsely equated, but because of my opposition to violence and chaos, for which government military machines and bureaucratic structures are largely responsible in today’s world…00005
Kerry Thornley helped organize the Griffith Park Human Be-Ins, which were the perfect set and setting to display his irreverent brand of humor. At the first Be-In, Kerry cut a singular swath, equipped with a sign that read: “Stamp out quicksand. Ban LSD.” Fellow Discordian Louise Lacey (Lady L., F.A.B.) recalled the first Griffith Park Be-In thusly:
The weather was perfect. We were all stoned. A single engine plane came and circled, and I thought it was the media, keeping track of us, but then a man all in white dropped down with a parachute and the crowd roared with approval. Later I learned that an old friend of mine from Marin County was the pilot. He got that plane out fast, because it was illegal to parachute within the city limits.
The Be-In was fascinating because I had never seen such a large collection of freaks. I couldn’t keep from grinning. I was particularly interested because some hard assed sociologist had said that when you were on LSD you were extremely susceptible to being led. I was watching for people being led.
I saw a group of people organized into a crack-the-whip game. Twenty or twenty-five people formed and a man with a megaphone was giving them instructions. (Definitely planned.)
“Move up the hill, move down. Hang on tight. Join with more people.” I couldn’t tell if anyone was listening or just all having fun. The people at the end of the line were moving so fast they kept being thrown off, tumbling down the hill in the grass, laughing hysterically. Then some of the crack-the-whip people let go of the hands of the people around them and drifted off. The megaphone man yelled more loudly. “Hang on, don’t let go.” More people drifted away. He was screaming now. The group all dropped hands and disappeared in the crowds and the megaphone man was screaming at the top of his amplified voice, “Come back! We are playing a game here!” But the people were gone.
I didn’t worry any more about what that sociologist had said.
Many groups of people were gathered as “families of friends.” It was the first time I had seen this form of organization. So there were tents, and lean-to’s and lots of signs pounded into the dirt, describing one thing or another to identify who the friends were. (This is where Kerry’s sign fit in.) As I didn’t live in L.A., I didn’t recognize anyone other than Kerry’s friends, who didn’t stay around his sign, but it didn’t matter. I “knew” the strangers as friends, and we laughed and hugged and shared doobies, and listened to music and I moved on. Nobody got hurt, everyone had a good time (except, I imagine, the man with the megaphone). As the day progressed, I gravitated back to Kerry’s sign and others did, too, and we shared what we had experienced, eventually gathered our stuff and drove home to Kerry’s. A most successful day.00006
At the time, Kerry had moved into a house in the Watts section of Los Angeles that became a sort of psychedelic social center. One frequent visitor to this scene was Kerry’s friend, Bud Simco, who recalled:
“Kerry was charismatic and had the ability to attract diverse personalities, people who would normally not be associated with each other, except by the force of Kerry’s personality. For example, there were so-called hippie types tripping under the dining room table, holding burning candles in their hands, while right-wing types were holding forth in the kitchen. One such character I recall had never been to Watts before, and showed up wearing a bullet-proof vest and armed with a .45. He seemed reasonable enough, in conversation, but he was taking no chances [having never been around hippies before]. There were people from all walks of life… including a pilot for the Flying Tiger Airlines, a student from MIT, some swingers, a fashion model, some writers, some SDS student types, and various and sundry others whom I did not know. One of my guests at one particular gathering was a former motorcycle gang member who lost his foot in a motorcycle accident, and his beautiful American Indian wife, who was at the time a co-worker of mine. He had never seen such an assorted group of people in his life, for example, but with his tambourine, magic mushrooms and a Donovan LP loudly playing, asserted his presence along with all the diverse others in one righteous happening. The thing is, everyone was tolerant of the other, regardless of individual inclinations and/or politics. At such an event, many people would never even interact with other groups, in other rooms, although many did. That was the one universal factor re: being present at one of Kerry’s gatherings, either at his home in Watts, or perhaps at one of the original “Be-Ins” at Griffith Park…”00007
A frequent visitor to Kerry’s house in Watts was John Overton who after his first acid trip changed his name to Camden Benares, the idea of which was to bring the teachings of the East into the West: “Camden” for Camden, New Jersey, and “Benares” after Benares, India, the city where the Buddha delivered his first sermon. Benares went on to write the classic Zen Without Zen Masters and was a contributor to the Principia Discordia with “A Zen Story” on page 00005. Camden’s Discordian name was Felix Pendragon. Felix—according to Discordian legend—always carried a pen, and in said pen was a joint. So, when somebody asked Camden who Felix Pendragon was, he’d take out the pen, remove the joint, and “drag on” it.
While this scene was happening at Kerry’s Watts house, Greg Hill was finishing up his military service. After his discharge in early ‘68, he relocated to San Francisco, and ramped up his Discordian activities while immersing himself in the burgeoning counterculture. Among these endeavors included the “Plant Seeds” chain letter he anonymously forwarded to underground papers and news outlets courtesy of “The Discordian Society.”
In addition to disseminating Groovy Kits to his circle of Discordian co-conspirators, Hill interacted with many of the psychedelic luminaries (and trouble makers) of the era, including Tim Leary, Art Kleps of the Neo American Church (author of the Boo Hoo Bible) and Jefferson Poland (aka ‘Jefferson Fuck Poland’) of the Psychedelic Venus Church, among others, often joining their respective psychedelic churches and receiving certain sacraments through the mail. One batch of illuminating correspondence that Hill received from Kleps included a curious index card:
Dr. Robert Newport was another long time friend of both Hill and Thornley as well as contributor to the Principia Discordia with “The Parable of the Bitter Tea” (page 00037) In Brenton Clutterbuck’s book Chasing Eris, Newport recalled his introduction to LSD:
“I was in this psychiatric residency in California in the late 1960s, and the world was in turmoil…. I had been struggling to keep up with all of it, then Greg [Hill] showed up with LSD, and that was goodnight… I had taken LSD months before I left for Okinawa [drafted into the military]… my head was just completely blown apart. And the hostility and violence of the military—I was not obeying too much. I became a revolutionary; I was doing all kinds of things that could have gotten me court-martialed. I didn’t because I tended to be smart enough to stay ahead of whomever… But eventually I was totally stupid and got myself kicked out, which was OK. I didn’t belong there anyway.” 00008
Greg Hill addressed Newport’s troubled military service in his Discordian newsletter The Greater Poop:
The Rev. Dr. Hypocrates, [Newport], has returned from his Okinawa Mission and is presently at Norton Cabal awaiting developments. Brother Hypoc, as you may or may not know, is a POEE psychiatrist who completed his residency in Berkeley a year ago and then promptly got his ass drafted into the United States Air Farce. Poop readers may recall a Xerox of Hypoc’s dog tag which started “Erisian” for religion (issue #6)…
Brother Hypoc [Newport], narrowly escaping legal prosecution, for some LSD antics, because of his professional status as an MD and his privileged status as an Officer, is presently trying to discharge the Pentagon from his life. Human beings in comparable situations but without Privilege Status, of course, are routinely crucified, caged, or psychosmashed by the pig machine, but they couldn’t send Hypoc to the Base Psychiatrist because Hypoc was the Base Psychiatrist, and he advocates that military psychology be in the service of mental health. Due to the awkwardness of the Military’s position, a discharge seems realistic—as soon as Big Uncle finally understands that Rev. Dr. Magoun has sworn the Hippocratic oath as a healer and finds it his moral obligation to RELEASE every person he can from the destructive and corruptive state of being in which the government confines US Citizens for the purpose of turning human beings into soldiers…
This loose-knit Discordian network in which Greg Hill found himself front-and-center was similar to the scene that revolved around Kerry Thornley’s pad in Watts; a colorful coterie of personalities moving from one end of the political spectrum to the other; a melting pot of freaks interested in alternative religions, sexual experimentation, psychedelics, political activism, the civil rights and the back-to-nature movements—with a dash of whimsy and irreverence added in—all of these cultural currents were part of this Discordian letter writing circle that Hill orchestrated.
While some of the Early Discordians have been associated with Libertarianism, it should be noted that their brand of Libertarianism had more to do with hippies and Yippies and freaks of all stripes than it did with current Libertarian strains. The Discordian Society’s involvement in these earlier Libertarian strains concerned their opposition to government overreach into our bedrooms and brains; whereas, nowadays, those who identify themselves as Libertarianism are, in many instances, focused on gutting environmental regulations, which runs counter to where many of the Early Discordians heads were at, such as Louise Lacey, who was more of the Anarcho-Libertarian persuasion: pro-environment and at the same time anti-privatization of land. Louise was one of the founders of the Earth People’s Park.
How can one man own another man?
How can one man own another’s time?
How can he own another’s energy?
How can he OWN a piece of the sky, or the sea, or the earth?
“And who shall command the skylark not to sing?”
—Earth People’s Park brochure (2/70)
A couple other Early Discordians, Tim Wheeler (Harold Randomfactor) and his wife Mary Wheeler (Hope Springs) were about as conservative (politically) as you could get, although with an abiding enthusiasm for the Ritual of St. Gulik. To this end, Wheeler cultivated a marijuana crop on his farm in Indiana to help supplement his income as a humor writer for the National Review. As Mary Wheeler reminisced:
“When we moved to Indiana, we had 25 acres of land, and three acres surrounding the house; that is, not under cultivation. Yes, we grew a lot of pot—it kept us afloat through those years. It was an income for us, though it simply horrifies me now to think how reckless we were. I don’t know about the others [Discordians], but we smoked just for the feel good. No thoughtful insights, no magical apparitions. We smoked with a couple of our conservative friends, but I don’t know about the others. My guess is that everybody smoked, but most people didn’t gab about it…”00009
In the early-70s, Bob Newport relocated to the Russian River area, north of San Francisco. At the time, land was dirt cheap there and he was able to acquire a couple of properties, one of which was a five-hundred seat movie theatre—located in a converted military Quonset hut—named The Rio Theatre.
Newport enlisted Greg Hill and his wife Jeanetta to co-manage the theatre, and over time Cinema Rio became a community effort, a theatre by and for the local freaks, who had fled city life to live among the redwoods along the river in a back-to-nature setting. Cinema Rio was unique in the sense that it was a community effort, a theater by and for the local freaks. In this spirit, artists helped decorate the building, which included a marquee with a free-flowing Mayan theme painted by Wilfred dePaola. Once a month, all the locals who worked at the theatre would gather for a party/meeting and select the films for the following month, usually titles that reflected the counterculture, like Easy Rider or Woodstock.
During this period, Newport operated a psychiatry practice at a property he acquired in nearby Guerneville with a sign at the entrance that read: “Trespassers Welcome.” The property consisted of an acre and a half, with several cabins scattered throughout the redwoods. Newport was also heavily involved with the psych department at nearby Sonoma State; his “office” was located in a tree house on the property, in the center of a circle of redwoods, in addition to a fifteen-foot hot tub where Newport conducted group therapy sessions.
Newport became dissatisfied with the local public school system and decided to home school his children:
“I put together a small school on my property,” Newport recalled, “because I didn’t want to send my kids to the public school, which was horrendous; it was a redneck school and the teachers hated hippies and tortured kids—I mean they were just terrible to the kids who were going there—so I started a school for my kids and hired a governess out of San Francisco… a licensed, credentialed teacher who was also dropping out, and she came up, and that lasted about three days before word got out, and suddenly I had 20 kids in school, and that then started a home schooling movement and we had eight different schools. In all the satellite communities we had close to 300 kids from K to 12, all with teachers who were dropping out, but credentialed… we started a school board and my wife and I administered all of the schools on a budget of 50,000 bucks, which was like charging parents who could afford it 20 bucks a month to put their kids in school, and parents who couldn’t afford it put their kids in school for nothing because we were not in anything to make money…”00010
RAW—who had relocated just north of Guerneville, in Rio Nido—was a frequent visitor to the Russian River scene, and his son, Graham received psychological counseling from Newport, which in turn led to interactions with Tim Leary. As Newport recalled:
“[Leary] and I had an interchange one day. He wanted to talk to me about Bob [Wilson’s] son, shortly when he was breaking and coming apart. So I talked to him about it, and [Leary] had, as far as I could see as a psychologist, as little empathy, real empathy, and as little understanding of schizophrenia as anybody I’d ever met. And it just pissed me off. I was really hoping I was going to get something… So he and I never interfaced really well after that. And Bob sort of rescued Leary, over the objections of a lot of the hip community who felt that Leary had really sold out a lot of people to enumerate his own problems with the law. And there were a lot of people who were pissed off at Bob, too, for doing that. I would do anything to get anybody out of prison, but I don’t think I’d sell out my friends to get myself out of prison and he basically did that. So I basically didn’t have much regard for him after that. I like the stuff he wrote but I didn’t think much of him as a human being.”00011
Not long after opening The Rio Theatre, an old redwood dance hall across the street from the theatre came up for sale, which Newport and Hill purchased and started a community center there that included a restaurant called Stone Soup, in addition to a food co-op, a health clinic (ran by a doctor who had dropped out), as well as an office for the community newspaper.
“A few rock musicians would come through… and all summer long we had these concerts which we organized, and as part of the concert we fed people. A lot of kids would drop through with nothing and were on the road and hungry and on weekends they could sleep on the beach and count on getting fed…”00012
Meanwhile, Camden Benares had his own scene going on a few miles south of Monte Rio at Camp Meeker, which consisted of a cluster of summer cabins that had been overrun by hippies. Kerry Thornley joined Camden there in a lifestyle dedicated to hedonism and assorted forms of Discordian debauchery. At the time, Camden was married to his second wife, Melissa, and mate swapping was a common theme at Camp Meeker, as both Camden and Kerry had been into swinging going back to his days with Kerista in the mid-60s. Kerry and Melissa were an item for awhile; Kerry referred to her as “his ambassador to the world.” Another member of the party was a six-foot-two tall lady named Jerry.
During this period, Benares was writing erotica for The San Francisco Ball. Kerry was also a frequent contributor to The Ball, chronicling his opinions in a column called “Erotic Minority Liberation,” a 13-part series where he defended nearly every taboo under the sun, including exhibitionists, voyeurs, fetishists, transvestites, nymphomaniacs, obscene phone callers, animal lovers, and sadomasochists.
Benares was also working on a book project, Zen Without Zen Masters, which was subsequently published in 1977 and, like Illuminatus!, dedicated to the dynamic duo of Thornley and Hill.
Cinema Rio and the Monte Rio Community Center eventually folded in the spring of 1973, largely because Newport and Hill were 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 his wife, 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… It was hard for me, too. I mean I had a little income because I had a practice going. But the theatre 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…”00013
Psychedelic experimentation continued coursing through the Discordian bloodstream well into the 1970s. In a December 1974 letter, Newport reported to Greg Hill that “There’s a new psychedelic out – Legal, too, still – Ketamine HCL. Dosage 100mg. By I.M. injection – Cosmic consciousness in 4 min. Lasts 1 hour – 2 additional hours to come back down – Brand names Ketaject & Ketalar – Ask a long-haired doctor for a prescription.”
On November 23, 1976—which just so happens to be a holy Discordian Holiday, both due to the mystical manifestation of the number 23 and because it’s Harpo Marx’s birthday—an Englishman named Kenneth Campbell premiered a ten-hour stage production of Wilson and Shea’s Illuminatus! novel at the Science-Fiction Theatre in Liverpool. In true Discordian fashion, the production consisted of five plays of five acts (according with the Discordian Law of Fives) with each act 23 minutes in duration. As RAW wrote in Cosmic Trigger:
Campbell’s adaptation was totally faithful to this nihilistic spirit and contained long unexpurgated speeches from the novel explaining at sometimes tedious length just why everything the government does is always done wrong. The audiences didn’t mind this pedantic lecturing because it was well integrated into a kaleidoscope of humor, suspense, and plenty of sex (more simulated blow jobs than any drama in history, I believe.)00014
RAW and his co-author Robert Shea traveled to London to attend the production of Illuminatus! According to some accounts, RAW came bearing LSD tabs which he passed out to the cast members before the play commenced. As he recalled:
“The cast dared me to do a walk-on role during the National Theatre run. I agreed and became an extra in the Black Mass, where I was upstaged by the goat, who kept sneezing. Nonetheless, there I was, bare-ass naked, chanting ‘Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the law’… and I will never stop wondering how much of that was programmed by [Aleister] Crowley before I was even born.”00015
The following year, a Discordian reunion took place that included RAW and his wife Arlen, Bob Newport and his wife Rita, Louise Lacey and Greg Hill who traveled to Seattle to attend the U.S. performance of the Illuminatus! stage play.
‘Twas a chilly night in Seattle, so someone (who shall remain nameless) produced enough MDMA for one and all (ingested between the second and third acts) which in due time took the chill from the bones of the assembled Discordians—and cranked up the glow surrounding their collective auras—as they sat enraptured, entranced by the spectacle. Louise Lacey recalls the Illuminatus! stage production as a “sublime experience.” As usual, laughter was a common theme. On the plane to Seattle, the group laughed all the way there, and in Seattle they laughed all through the stage play, laughed the rest of the night, and laughed all the way back home….00016
Thanks to Charles Faris for inviting me take the helm for this week’s Cosmic Trigger reading. I ended up writing a lot more than I’d initially intended… but sometimes that happens! (I blame it on the Dog Days.)
We pick up with The horrors begin (page 150 of the Hilaritas edition) through to Ishtar’s Walk: a guided tour of Hell, a section that covers RAW’s lean years after he quit his cushy Playboy job and tossed caution in the wind to devote himself to full time freelancing. This was a difficult period when he went on public assistance (the dreaded “W” word: “Welfare”) to keep his family fed and a roof over their heads in a rundown Berkeley apartment complex with neighbors on either side who appeared to be going off their heads—like so many others who emerged from the madness that’d gripped the country at the end of the 60s—from the highs of the Woodstock Nation to the lows of Altamont, Kent State and the riots of Chicago, which RAW witnessed first-hand. RAW was smack dab in the middle of the cultural sea change taking place—that all of the sudden seemed to have lost traction, like Hunter Thompson’s wave that “finally broke and rolled back.”
Before we knew it, the 70s were upon us and something had changed. So many of the heroes of the movement had either burned out or sold out or spun out. By 1973, 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 swing, 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 RAW’s good friend Tim Leary—who Nixon proclaimed “the most dangerous man in America”—serving as the poster boy for all things immoral and indecent.
Amid Watergate revelations of government snooping gone wild, paranoia ran high in a fragmented counterculture, as out of this era emerged a generation of damaged goods—like some of RAW’s loony Berzerkeley neighbors—or his friend Kerry Thornley, who had a job done on his head not only by the “brown acid,” but due to the trials and tribulations of the Garrison Inquisition. Operation Mindfuck had come full circle, it appeared, biting its creator, Kerry Thornley, square on the ass.
Against this backdrop, occasional self doubt crept into RAW’s reality tunnel. Since the whole world seemed to be going mad, maybe he was, as well… filled with doubts that he’d made the worst decision of his life quitting Playboy all the while the prospect hanging over his head that he’d never become a successful writer, let alone afford to pay his bills. Also the uncertainty of Illuminatus! was still dangling in the wind, yet unpublished.
In the midst of unsure times, RAW continued his path of self discovery, practicing Sufi heart-chakra exercises to free his mind of troubles and open himself up to the wonders of the universe—which all sounds pretty new agey in retrospect, but it was a sign of the times. It was the Aquarian New Age and RAW was at the forefront, not only diving headfirst into those trendy currents, but also examining them with a critical eye. Much the same way Aleister Crowley had done decades before, by examining consciousness (magick) using the scientific method, and at the same time approaching these practices in an unbiased/unconditioned manner, the ultimate goal to metaprogram one’s self and open higher circuits.
“We place no reliance on virgin or pidgeon.
Our method is science, our aim is religion.”
It was a transition period when the counterculture crossed its own abyss—from the social activism, sexual liberation and drug induced revelations of the 60s—into a state of creeping dread brought on by Watergate, Cointelpro and the War on Drugs. Out of this madness emerged the New Age Movement, which many of the old guard radical left considered a cop out, people staring at their navels when they should be overthrowing The Man.
This period witnessed a renewed interest in the JFK assassination, as well as the other political assassinations of the late 60s, as conspiracy buffs began noticing a pattern from one assassination to another, this coupled with a deepening mistrust of government, and a growing Police State, all contributed to The Paranoid Period.
Then Kerry Thornley, high priest of Eris, re-entered my life, dragging the Kennedy Assassination horrors with him. (p.151)
At this point in the narrative, RAW brings up Thornley’s feud with Jim Garrison, which I’d be remiss if I didn’t attempt to explain. But don’t tell me I didn’t tell you it gets way convoluted.
Thornley—as weird history instructs—served with Oswald in the Marines for a short period and due to this association went on to author a couple books about his Marine Corps chum titled Oswald and Idle Warriors. Garrison conjectured that these books were written as a means to portray Oswald as a commie influenced lone nutter with an itchy trigger finger in order to set him up as a patsy in the assassination… all part of a convoluted conspiracy caper that Thornley (maybe) was party to. But I’m getting ahead of myself…
As to the nature of Garrison and Thornley’s beef, this date backs to Kerry’s association with JFK researcher David Lifton, author of the classic Kennedy assassination tome, Best Evidence.
In his initial discussions with Lifton in 1965, Thornley mentioned how Oswald spoke Russian in the ranks at El Toro with a Marine whose name he thought might have been John Renee Heindel. This revelation (that Oswald conversed in the Russian tongue with Heindel) came as a surprise to Lifton, because he was quite familiar with Thornley’s Warren Commission testimony and the fact that Kerry hadn’t actually identified Heindel as the Russian speaking Marine in question. In fact, Thornley’s only mention in the Warren Report concerning this topic is a passage where he’s trying to recollect the name of the Russian speaking Marine, and he can’t. In later conversations, Kerry admitted that he’d only recalled Heindel’s name (after delivering his testimony) when he and Warren Commission attorney, Albert Jenner, were having lunch together and Jenner provided Thornley with the name “Heindel.” How Jenner came to this conclusion (that Heindel was the guy who spoke Russian) is unclear, but it stuck in Thornley’s mind only later to be repeated to Lifton. And I haven’t even started getting convoluted yet! Hang on…
Another curiosity concerning Heindel (according to a Warren Commission affidavit) is that his nickname in the Marines was “Hidell,” which was certainly a head scratcher, given that fact that Oswald used the “Alec Hidell” alias when he ordered the Manlicher-Carcano rifle allegedly used to kill Kennedy.
In mid 1967, Lifton discovered that our man Heindel was then living in New Orleans, which just happened to be the base of operations for Jim Garrison’s investigation and, in mid September, Lifton contacted Garrison to pass along this info about Heindel.
Not long after, Garrison called Heindel in for questioning, who denied the whole bit about speaking to Oswald in Russian. This led Garrison to somehow arrive at the conclusion that Heindel was lying. In addition, Garrison and his crew uncovered “evidence” that Heindel was seen with Oswald at several New Orleans bars during the summer of 1963. (Whether this “evidence” against Heindel was of any substance is another matter entirely.)
Long story short, Garrison wanted Thornley to travel to New Orleans to “confront” and “identify” Heindel as, you guessed it, the guy who spoke to Oswald in Russian. In the interim, Garrison requested (through Lifton) that Thornley write up a statement summarizing his memories of Oswald and Heindel. To this end, Lifton got together with Thornley (they were both living in Los Angeles at the time) and Lifton prepared an affidavit that Thornley signed and then Lifton afterwards mailed to Garrison in September 1967. Mainly, it was Lifton who behind all of this, and it’s doubtful that Thornley would have pursued the matter had not Lifton insisted.
Garrison’s ultimate plan was to call Heindel before a grand jury, and ask him if he’d ever heard Oswald speak Russian. Previously, Heindel had gone on record stating that he had not, thus it was Garrison’s assumption that Heindel would once again testify to the same tune. Then—following Heindel’s testimony—Thornley would be called into testify that he, in fact, had heard Oswald and Heindel speaking Russian—or at least that’s the convoluted scenario Garrison envisioned. As a result—according to Garrison’s madcap plan—Heindel would then be indicted for perjury. Ultimately, Garrison envisioned a far grander scenario than simply implicating Heindel as a low level player in JFK’s assassination: his eventual goal was to persuade Heindel to provide detrimental testimony against some of the other suspects in the case, like Clay Shaw.
Lifton’s willingness to cooperate with Garrison on the matter soon soured after he examined the charges against Heindel and came to the conclusion that it was a whole bunch of nothing. When Lifton informed Thornley of these developments, Kerry attempted to distance himself from Garrison’s investigation by sending this letter to the New Orleans District Attorney’s office dated October 24, 1967:
Dear Mr. Garrison,
As a personal favor to Mr. Lifton I spent a whole day with him preparing that damned affidavit. It says everything I know about the subject. I regret that I bothered.
When I said I would speak to you ON MY TERMS, as you had apparently offered to do through Mr. Lifton, I meant it. And since you chose, when I called you the first time, not to deal on those terms, to hell with it.
I have no interest to speak of in this matter and from now on intend to keep out of it, as actions on my part can only in my view stimulate the state to violate the rights of others who for all I know may be innocent. “It is far better to reward the guilty than to punish the innocent,” said Robert Ingersoll, and every time you subpoena an innocent individual you punish him to the extent that you have violated his precious and unalienable right to liberty.
But what you do is your business, sir, and you are welcome to it.
In late November 1967, Lifton met Garrison in Los Angeles, and at this time, “[Garrison] now had a brand new hypothesis. Kerry had been rapidly shifted from star-witness-to-be-list, to that of CIA agent/bad guy, who had met with and presumably conspired with Lee Oswald in the fall of 1963. The ostensive vehicle for this shift of position from star witness to culpable defendant was nothing more than a theory of the assassination postulating Kerry’s involvement invented and promulgated by Warren Report critic Harold Weisberg, and some testimony from a local New Orleans character named Barbara Reid…” —Excerpt from May 1968 letter from David Lifton to Mark Lane chronicling the Thornley/Heindel/Garrison matter. Courtesy the Discordian Archives. Read the PDF here.
Over the next three years, Thornley was repeatedly hassled by Garrison and drug through the mud. Due to all this, “[He] had begun to enter a different belief-system. He was puzzled over many aspects of the case Garrison had tried to manufacture against him, and kept brooding over the details. Basically, the case rested upon what ordinary people call coincidences. Jungians and parapsychologists call them synchronicities. Garrison called them ‘propinquities’ and said they proved the existence of “a conspiracy so vast as to stagger the imagination!” (p.151)
Garrison believed (or theorized or concocted) that Kerry Thornley was part of a JFK assassination cabal based out New Orleans, a notion that Thornley initially dismissed, but later—starting around 1973 or so—he began to suspect that Garrison might have been on the right track, at least in terms of an assassination cabal that both Oswald and Thornley were somehow associated with, or more correctly, manipulated by, and used as unwitting dupes—all of these machinations dating back to their time together in the Marines.
Thornley—as RAW notes—became obsessed with this whole notion that he’d been manipulated and perhaps even mind controlled and his paranoia grew to the extent where he began suspect that even his friends may have been in on the conspiracy, including those involved in the Discordian Society, like RAW and Bob Shea.
Then, early in 1975, Thornley remembered an odd conversation in 1963 with a New Orleans man whom we will call Mr. M. The subject was — are you ready? — how to assassinate a President and get away with it. (p. 152).
RAW’s reference to a “Mr. M” is somewhat puzzling, as in most of Thornley’s writings he refers to the mystery man in question (who conversed with him about assassinating a President) as a pro-Nazi spook named Gary Kirstein (aka Brother-in-Law) who Kerry—at one time or another—suspected was actually Watergate burglar and CIA big-shot E. Howard Hunt (in disguise.) However—for a short period of time—Kerry suspected that Kirstein/Hunt may have actually been someone named Tom Miethe, another supposed neo-Nazi intelligence community type, so maybe that’s how RAW latched on to “Mr. M.” Or perhaps RAW wanted to avoid libel charges, so just used “Mr. M” instead of Kirstein to play it safe.
Then Thornley read about the case of Robert Byron Watson. (p. 153)
In mid 1975, Thornley came across a series of articles in Atlanta newspapers concerning the case of Robert Byron Watson, a young man who claimed he’d been framed on drug charges due to information he had regarding the MLK assassination—details of which sounded strikingly similar to Kerry’s own experience with certain shadowy characters (Gary Kirstein and Slim Brooks) in New Orleans in the early-60s. Kerry contacted Watson’s lawyers and sent them this memo outlining his knowledge of The Conspiracy:
I must point out that two weeks after Thornley first made his charges against Mr. M. (to the Atlanta police) he was robbed, pistol-whipped and had his I.D. taken. (p. 154).
As a sidebar, I recently discovered that The Discordian Archives (which were passed on to yours truly in 2009) were in RAW’s safekeeping during the period Greg Hill moved to New York City in 1974. Evidently Hill couldn’t afford or didn’t want the hassle of transporting them to New York and decided to leave them with RAW (then living in Berkeley) who became the Discordian Archives curator, so to speak. So the chain of chaotic custody over the years has been this: Greg Hill > RAW > Greg Hill > Bob Newport > Me.
RAW evidently made good use of the archives, utilizing it as source material (it would appear) for portions of Cosmic Trigger. For instance, the inclusion of the thumbprint letter.
RAW attempted to bring some attention to Thornley’s plight by authoring an article called “Assassination Scene Heats Up,” which he sent to Kerry for comment. Download PDF here. Courtesy of The Discordian Archives.
As you can see, Thornley scrawled comments on each page, which became increasingly hostile as the pages turned, because he felt RAW was misinterpreting or not understanding him. However, the main reason RAW penned the piece in the first place was to help Kerry bring some attention to his claims. As far as I know, the article was never published.
Thornley began writing to me regularly about his solution to the assassinations, and insisted more and more often that his life was in danger. I tried to calm him down a bit by reminding him of the difference between theory and proof. It soon became evident, from his subsequent letters, that he was now half-convinced that I was part of the assassination conspiracy team. (p.156)
After sending out his JFK assassination related memos to Watson’s attorneys and other law enforcement officials, Kerry attended an Atlanta house party where he was given some “funny-tasting” marijuana. At this party he talked to a group of individuals about the JFK assassination, one of whom he suspected was RAW.
A few days later, Kerry met again with one of the party goers, who passed him a pipeload of weed that—after puffed upon—blistered the inside of his mouth, making him suspect someone was attempting to poison him. Kerry delivered an affidavit to the Atlanta police describing this incident, dated July 25th, 1975, along with the pot pipe and its contents:
“I have spoken to several people about the group of very nice people I met at a party at the Celestial Mansion on Flat Shoals Road last Saturday night.
“One person I met there who may or may not have been part of this group (which knew more about the JFK assassination re Gary Kirstein, it seemed, by what they said and the questions they asked me, than I do) was a guy who said his name was Jack Wolverton…
“While we sat in the kitchen rapping, I filled up the enclosed pipe with a few leftover roaches and passed it to Jack. There was a long interval when my attention was directed elsewhere and Jack had the pipe.
“When he passed it back to me, I took a drag and IMMEDIATELY felt a large blister form inside my right check. Puzzled, I passed the pipe back to Jack, running my tongue over the blister. I did not observe carefully whether Jack actually smoked the pipe or merely made a pretense of doing so. When the pipe was returned to me, Eve, who had been out, came in the door. I took another puff only to have yet another blister, pop up right next to the other one at the exact time the smoke made contact with the membrane inside my cheek.
“Thinking it might be some sort of allergic reaction, I commented on it, and passed the pipe to Eve. She took a drag and experienced no unusual reactions.
“I then went into the bathroom and examined the blisters in the mirror. They were dark red blood blisters and each was about the size of a deformed collar button.
“I have had only one other experience with blisters forming instantly from any cause other than direct burns by fire, and that was in Atomic, Biological, and Chemical Warfare School (‘Defense’ I think they call it, not ‘Warfare’) in the Marines. That time our instructor demonstrated the effects of mustard gas to us by placing an infinitesimal amount on each of our fingertips—the result: instant blistering.
“I returned to the kitchen and commented that the blisters had formed when I had taken a drag on the pipe. Jack said: ‘Oh, I don’t think there is any relation.’ Something about the certainty of his unsolicited opinion, something about the tone of voice and timing—too hasty an interjection—has caused me to become very suspicious.
“Earlier I had asked Jack if he knew who those other people were at the Celestial Mansion or understood what we had been discussing. He said ‘no,’ that he had been playing music at the time on his guitar, which was true. He had been playing John Prine songs, which occupy a special place in my heart in relation to the Celestial Mansion because of a very high experience I had there in 1972 upon first discovering John Prine’s music. The whole incident at the Celestial Mansion had been carefully orchestrated by people who knew a great deal about me, people I correspond with, and the JFK assassination, particularly my involvement. I was made to feel as comfortable as possible, and then I was pumped just enough to see if it was Gary Kirstein that I was naming. (Does Kenner, Louisiana, mean anything to you was one of the questions I got asked.)
“On the way from The Plaza to the apartment was when I asked Jack if he knew those other people. He said he did not. I then explained to him what had happened and my suspicions concerning Gary Kirstein.
“Enclosed is the pipe and its contents, along with the plastic bottle the roaches were in before Jack got there, and to which he had no access. It seems to me this material should be analyzed. It was fished out of the trash by me a few days after the incident. Several important witnesses, including Ruby and Shaw died of cancer, for one thing, and some chemicals (nicotine for example) can stimulate cancer…”
In a follow-up memo dated July 27th, 1975, Kerry further addressed the pipe smoking incident:
“Occasionally in the past people have misinterpreted comments I have made which were only suggestive or indicative, taking them for firm opinions. I’m not at all sure whatever gave me those blisters was something intended to give me cancer, specifically. It could have been that stuff (Philip) Agee mentions in a recent PLAYBOY interview which causes a ‘nasty respiratory ailment.’ Since the smoke caused blisters in my mouth—which must have been sore in that spot—I didn’t inhale much of it. I do seem to have minor throat and lung irritation at this time. Just don’t want to seem like more of a crackpot paranoid than I really am after nearly twelve years of bizarre experience relating to JFK’s death.
“Also the ‘Celestial Mansion’ is the old name for a commune which was in the house I still call by that name. It is not the formal name of a business establishment.
“Upon checking, I have discovered that I have a sample of Jack Wolverton’s handwriting, for he wrote out his address for me in my notebook last week.
“Finally, concerning Wolverton, please give him the benefit of every doubt. I would hate to dump on him if his only mistake was that of befriending a person who happened to be feeling somewhat paranoid last week.
“I’m still very puzzled about the Celestial Mansion incident of last Saturday night. I continue to feel on a subjective level that the people who talked to me had my best interests at heart. It was as if they were checking me out to make sure I was not involved in the assassination. It was really stupid of me not to ask them how they came to know so much. One person who spoke to me, briefly, during the half-hour or so before the ‘team’ moved in, identified himself as Lew Deadmore. I find an architect by that name listed in the phone book. One of the members of the ‘team’—the one who spoke to me most—bore an uncanny intellectual and psychological resemblance to an anarchist writer friend of mine who lives-in California whom I have only met face-to-face once (in 1968), but with whom I’ve corresponded extensively. I have written him a letter about the incident, wondering if that was him. If it wasn’t he’ll probably think I’ve lost my mind.
“I doubt if I have been any too coherent about the Celestial Mansion incident. It requires more detail than I am inclined to deal with, considering the other writing I should be doing about Gary Kirstein. I’ll be glad to answer any questions about it, however. Meanwhile, let me summarize it by saying that I was questioned very informally but extremely skillfully by what seem to be a ‘team’ of five or six people who faded in and out of the crowd at a party. I’m quite sure this really happened and can give hard, objective reasons for so believing it was not just my imagination.”
In the above memo, SOME FURTHER COMMENTS ON THE PIPE SMOKING INCIDENT, Kerry notes that one member of the “team” at the Celestial Mansion, “…bore an uncanny intellectual and psychological resemblance to an anarchist writer friend of mine who lives in California whom I have only met face-to-face once (in 1968), but with whom I’ve corresponded excessively.” This “anarchist writer friend” was supposedly RAW.
In RAW’s intro to The Prankster and the Conspiracy, he wrote:
I remember my last phone conversation with Kerry, during which he announced that just a week earlier I had come to Atlanta, argued with him about my alleged CIA connections, spiked his drink with LSD, and brainwashed him again. I told him that I had not left San Francisco in months, and that if he had a bad acid trip the previous week then somebody else gave him the acid, not me. I insisted on this as persuasively as I could.
Finally, Kerry relented—a bit. “Well, maybe you believe that”, he said. “But that means your bosses have been fucking with your head and implanting false memories in you too!”
How do you argue that you haven’t had your head altered? “Look,” I said, I’ll put my wife Arlen on. She’ll tell you I haven’t left here in months.”
“That won’t prove anything,” he said with the calm certitude of a Grand Master announcing checkmate. “They probably fixed her head too.”
I don’t remember the rest of the conversation. I felt lost in an Escher painting…
Inspired by last year’s production of Daisy Campbell’s Cosmic Trigger Play and Find the Others Festival, an intrepid group of Discordians across the pond are crowdsourcing a Disco free-for-all called Festival 23 slated for the weekend of July 23rd, 2016 that is described as “An interactive celebration of literature and the arts; of theatre, playshops and music inspired by the Discordian movement; a society of philosophers, theologians, magicians, scientists, artists, clowns and similar maniacs who are intrigued with Eris, Goddess of Confusion, and with her doings.”
One of the organizers of the Festival 23 event recently appeared on the Cult of Nick which you can hear here.
Word on the street is that Daisy Campbell and her band of merry misfits will also be involved with Festival 23, all of which will presumably keep the Golden Apple rolling in a positive direction all the way to Santa Cruz, California where Daisy and the troops intend to stage the Cosmic Trigger play in 2017—on July 23rd to be exact—the same date of the annual Robert Anton Wilson Day in Santa Cruz as well as the day when RAW originally pulled the cosmic trigger back in 1973, which is what all this fuss is about.
To coincide with all these Cosmic Trigger related happenings, the RAW estate has just announced the official launch of its publishing arm Hilartius Press and re-release of a whole slew of RAW titles. First out of the chutes will be—you guessed it!—Cosmic Trigger I: The Final Secret of the Illuminati with a brand spanking new intro by John Higgs author of the fabulous Discordian title KLF: Chaos Magic Music Money that if you haven’t read, you really should, and quickly.