This four-part podcast series focuses on Discordian co-founder, author, self-proclaimed possible assassin Kerry Thornley who served with Lee Harvey Oswald in the US Marines and wrote a novel about him a year before Oswald was claimed to have killed JFK.
The limited podcast series and play is written by former National Public Radio (NPR) commentator and Peabody award winner Andrei Codrescu and features interviews with our very own Lone Gunman, Adam Gorightly.
I’m happy, and also somewhat saddened, to announce the release of 3 new books for which I played a role, either large or small, in the same manner that the authors of these three titles—Kerry Thornley, James Shelby Downard and Antero Alli—themselves had their own roles, both large or small, in the annals of Discordia.
Of course, you all should know well the name Kerry Thornley, without whom this site would have never been imagined. Thornley, as well, was an influence, either large or small—depending on who you talk to—on another religion (or irreligion or spoof religion, as the case may), that being the Church of SubGenius, and it’s the church’s publishing arm—namely The SubGenius Foundation—which brings us the latest installment in the Thornley literary canon in a book called Jailbird: The Dreadlock Recollections that has been compiled by Trevor Blake aka Rev. Onan Canobite and contains what Trevor/Onan describes as “the first publication of the complete text, under the author’s preferred title, with related unpublished essays, annotations and index…” The book also includes an intro by Rev. Ivan Stang, who recounts—among other things—how Kerry photographed himself fucking a chair. 5 (Discordian) stars.
Sad, yes, and at the same time this book is an inspiring, no-nonsense look at how we can make magic in our own individual lives, with the realization that we are all finite beings in an infinite universe of possibilities.
Here is the back cover blurb I provided for Last Words:
“There’s no escaping it; each of us in our time will confront loss in its many forms: loss of love, health, innocence, loss of life; such losses form a tapestry, each thread woven from the next ‘high’ or ‘low’ or ‘in between,’ all part of this mystery we’re passing through. And among the many losses we suffer, life can also be a joyous dance, a game we play, a palette from which to paint—if we choose to frame it that way. Antero Alli’s Last Words represent another loss, one where wisdom can be gained: that by acknowledging our losses head on, in some way we can become larger, deeper, fuller; there’s a silent grace that comes with such knowledge. And as we walk through the next door to whatever may await, with it comes the understanding that there’s little time left to look back at what is or was or what might have been It was all part of the journey that got us here, and what’s immediately in front of us is where we should be right now.” – Adam Gorightly
At long last, for your reading pleasure, we present Kerry Thornley’s poem Illuminati Lady, which Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea described in Illuminatus! as “an endless epic poem which you really ought to read.” Of course, the Illuminated Bobs gave no indication about how one would go about doing so, but now you’ll finally have the golden (apple) opportunity, as my crack staff here at Historia Discordia headquarters finally got around to scanning the darn thing.
As far as I know, the only place Illuminati Lady had previously appeared was in a late-60s zine called St. John’s Bread published by Paul Encimer (Discordian name, Dr. Confusion), who I corresponded with many years ago while researching The Prankster and the Conspiracy. While putting this piece together, I did a google search which unfortunately informed me that Paul passed away in January of last year. Encimer led a full and fascinating life, which you can read about here.
In the obit/bio, written by Kym Kemp, it states that Encimer’s “publication Saint John’s Bread reflected all his interests with a combination of entertaining stories and opinion and comic absurdity, he contributed to a friends long running In Light Times and worked with his peers The 7 Mighty Anvils as Dr. Confusion, creating together to distribute regular editions of the Saint John’s Bread Wednesday Messenger and Paranoid Flash Illuminator. These works explored imagined and esoteric spirituality, and current politics, they experimented with early psychedelia, poetry, fiction and surrealistic discordia with multi-hued paper printed cheaply on aging mimeograph machines. A creative impulse that would become the zine movement embraced by young sub-cultures everywhere. He was one of the early ordained ministers of the Universal Life Church in full agreement with it’s free wheeling take on spiritual practice, and always recalled the motto he saw etched at it’s founders enclave during an early gathering: ‘There is no hope, without dope.’ Paul slipped easily into what became known as a Hippy lifestyle, but politically he considered himself one of Abby Hoffman’s Yippies—Just under the wire at the fabled 30 year old cut-off….”
In the video below, Thornley discusses Illuminati Lady.
I just recently learned that my dear friend and fellow Discordian Louise Lacey passed away.
Here’s her obit from the San Francisco Chronicle, which described Louise as a
“…writer, feminist and advocate for restoration of California native plants… Her writing career encompassed her best known book, Lunaception, which explored traditional ways of natural family planning, Woman’s Choice, a newsletter by and for women on topics of interest to women in all stages of life, and Growing Native, which educated readers and researchers on native plants from the rich diverse climatological regions of California. Several trips to Southern Mexico and Guatemala led to an enduring interest in the Mayan people. A tech writer by day, Louise often spent weekends hiking the hills w
ith friends from the West Coast Dowsers, searching for her Power Places…”
Besides all of the above, Louise accomplished even more…
I first met Louise in the early 2000s when I was researching my Kerry Thornley biography, and we became fast friends. At first, Louise was a bit guarded about Kerry, and as we were winding up our first meeting, she said something to the effect: “I hope you treat him right.” Ultimately, I think I told Kerry’s story honestly, which of course meant documenting some of his more trying times when he was teetering on the edge of madness, including a story Louise shared with me about a time when Kerry was visiting her in the mid-to-late 70s, and Louise could hear him during the middle of the night screaming out for the voices in his head to leave him alone. It was during this stay that Kerry almost set Louise’s house on fire when he left something burning on the stove.
I spent about three hours with Louise that first day, pouring through her voluminous files in search of articles and Discordian related correspondence, not to mention some photos she’d been telling me about of Kerry in her front yard in Berkeley from the mid-80s holding a harmonica. Although we discovered several cool Kerry photos from those bygone days, the ones with the harmonica seemed nowhere to be found, as if Eris herself had plucked them from our spacetime continuum and deposited them Goddess knows where.
At one point in our visit, Louise recounted the time she’d done some research work on the history of drums for Mickey Hart of the Grateful Dead for his book Drumming at the Edge of Magic. During the course of conducting her research at the UC Berkeley Anthropology Library, Louise told me how she’d employed a method of dowsing to assist her in locating pertinent passages related to the history of the first drum. This method of literary dowsing was applied to save herself endless hours of thumbing through multiple shelves dedicated to drum history. Anyway, Louise demonstrated what she had done at the Anthropology Library way back when, by running her hands over her own bookshelf, then stopping at a place on the bookshelf where her intuition instructed her to.
We never did find the Kerry-with-the-harmonica-photo that afternoon, but Louise promised she would continue to seek it out. As Goddess would have it, Louise emailed me soon after with the following astounding revelation: “You know where I found the two photos of Kerry? At that place on the bookshelf where my hand ended up when I was telling the story about how I found the piece of information for Hart by dowsing!”
About 4 years ago I helped Louise move from her place in Berkeley to an assisted living facility. Her memory was starting to deteriorate at this point, but she still had enough on the ball to realize it was time to make this move, basically signing an agreement to hand over whatever savings and social security she had to lock in a deal at this senior facility that would provide a nice place to live and three square meals a day; somewhere she’d be able to live in comfort for the remainder of her days without constantly worrying about how she’d pay the bills from month to month.
As I was helping Louise make this life-changing move, many of the books she’d held dear for so many years were now slipping through her grasp; she didn’t care about a lot of them at this point, because the memories of what they’d meant, or the emotions she’d previously attached to them, were quickly fading from view. I ended up with a few of those books she was no longer interested in, or had no room for at her new space. One of these was Historia Discordia, which Louise had delighted in when I first presented her with a copy several years ago, but by this point I don’t think she remembered what it was about, or that I’d given her the copy; same thing with the Mickey Hart drumming book that she’d contributed to, which bore this inscription:
Louise’s Chronicle obit obviously hit on some of the high notes of her life, but I’ll add a few that weren’t mentioned. In 1963, Louise moved to Chicago where she worked as editor/staff writer at Novel Books, which published celebrity scandal type books in addition to titles with an Ayn Randian-Objectivist spin. Objectivism, at least in part, eventually morphed into what we know as Libertarianism, and during this period Louise was an adherent of sorts of Objectivism, or one might say she was a budding Libertarian; but like Kerry Thornley, Louise’s political identity soon after evolved into more that of an Anarchist, although any particular pigeonhole would never truly encompass such expansive characters as a Lacey or Thornley. Through her work with Novel Books, Louise first met Kerry in 1964 and ended up editing his first published work, Oswald.
After her stint in the windy city, Louise returned to California, working on the staff of Ramparts Magazine from 1966-1967. It was at Ramparts that Louise befriended Eldridge Cleaver, who worked as a freelancer there. As reported in Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger I, Louise’s Discordian moniker was “Lady L., F.A.B.” The “Lady L.” part was something Kerry had given Louise that was lifted from the title of a Romain Gary novel; however, the “F.A.B.” appellation was something Eldridge Cleaver had come up with, short for “fucking anarchist bitch.” As the story went, one day Cleaver was standing outside the Ramparts office with another unnamed staff writer who—when he saw Louise walking toward them out on the street—remarked, “Here comes that fucking anarchist bitch.” Cleaver, who had a soft spot for Louise, begged to differ with the fucking anarchist bitch appellation, noting that he considered Louise good people, and that furthermore she had taught him how to eat and appreciate artichokes.
Another book I took home with me during Louise’s move was Cleaver’s Soul On Ice, and only later flipping through it did I notice this inscription:
Like Thornley, Louise was an active observer/participant of the 60s counterculture as demonstrated in this previously posted article “Mellow Yellow and the Summer of Love”.
Louise was a founding member of Earth People’s Park, and during this late0-60s period she joined a commune called The Mendocino Way. I don’t really know all of the details surrounding The Mendocino Way, but her involvement with the group was short-lived when she apparently called BS on the leader who she felt was going down the guru path through manipulation of fellow commune members, including herself. In other words, Louise was shown the door when she started asking too many challenging questions of the group’s leadership. She was never one to fall in line.
Around this time, Louise began working on a book about the counterculture called With No Respect for Authority, which you must admit is a rather brilliant title. During our many conversations, Louise occasionally mentioned this project (that ultimately never came to fruition) and I don’t know why it was never completed, but by the mid-70s she had moved in another direction, having her first book published, Lunaception (1975), her landmark work on a natural method of conception, using the phases of the moon as a guide.
However, as I would later learn, Lunaception wasn’t technically Louise’s first published work, and that while with Novel Books she had ghost-written a tabloid style tell-all called The Beautiful Pervert, concerning Errol Flynn’s under-aged lover. Although Louise pretty much always kept this book on the down-low and never listed it in any of her published biographies, she would nonetheless pull it out on occasion and show it to me punctuated by her famous and uproariously nose laugh.
As the 1960s rolled into the 1970s, Louise published a newsletter called Woman’s Choice. As she described the concept at the time:
“Woman’s Choice is the ultimate realization of a twenty-plus year-old dream whereby people would pay me to write to them. My curiosities are so omnivorous that I could never write a book about each subject that fascinates me. Woman’s Choice is an intimate monthly letter by subscription. Thus I have a vehicle with which to write about things as diverse as dependency, the rhythms of life, and traveling alone. My purpose is to give a mental, emotional, and spiritual goosing to the reader on a new subject each month. No dogmas, just intriguing ideas and a fresh perspective in a personal but non-sentimental style.”
Here’s a download of Issue #2 of Woman’s Choice, which features a fascinating recounting of Louise’s experience with past life regression, and her subsequent journey to Central America in an attempt to confirm what she experienced during her trance state.
To fund Woman’s Choice, Louise decided to sell her house in the Berkeley Hills, which she’d later regret during the last decade or so of her life when the cost of Bay Area housing really put a crunch on her expenses, as over time she was forced to move from one place to another, with the condition or arrangement continually getting worse. Not that Louise ever lived in poverty, but times were certainly getting rough over the last decade and she had to pinch her pennies and get creative to make ends meet.
Among Louise’s many accomplishments was a government study she was involved in that resulted in a report she authored called Drug Use in San Jose, Project DARE (1978.) She found a certain irony in this project, as her lover during this same period became addicted to methamphetamine, effectively ending their relationship.
As noted in her Chronicle> obit, Louise sometime worked as a “tech writer,” which wasn’t quite accurate; Louise often freelanced as a technical writer for different outfits, but she was never really a “techie,” so to speak, and like a lot of people her age Louise often struggled keeping up with computers and technology. Louise never engaged in social media, but she was tech savvy enough to be concerned about the potential threat that social media posed to our personal privacy and so she avoided it like the plague. However, with the help of a webmaster, at one point Louise launched a site where she sold information about a cure for hemorrhoids she’d discovered. And so she was always working one angle or another to keep a positive cash flow rolling in.
As the Chronicle obit noted, Louise was a “Power Place Dowser.” Much like “water witches,” there’s a large community of folks who dowse for so-called “power places.” I have a number of Louise’s writings and recordings on this subject, materials I’ll share at a future date.
Slim showed up a short while after I went to work for the Foster Awning Co. He occupied the same desk I did on the shift before mine, and about the second day he was there, Slim left some notes with Japanese writing on the desk so that I would be sure and notice them. I turned to him and said: “Hey – were you ever in Japan.” That is how Slim and I met. He didn’t act at all surprised. 1
Thornley received his Marine Corps discharge in October of 1961, his last assignment at the U.S. air base in Atsugi, Japan. Kerry later suspected that Slim’s notes referencing Japan were more than mere coincidence, and that Slim had been working covertly as his handler. Elsewhere in Thornley/Oswald, Kerry writes:
Slim was a down and out lumpen prole, a seaman who was in drydock with a case of TB. Greg [Hill] says he was also a cat burglar who could climb up walls like a human fly. Basically, I think he functioned as an errand boy for Gary.
I believe that Gary K*rst*n (or whatever his real name was) probably served in Naval Intelligence during WWII and continued to perform free-lance “dirty work” and small-time “surveillance” assignments for them after he got out. People ask me why Naval Intelligence would have a Nazi working for them—for the same reason the CIA has Nazis working for them in the Third World.2
The “Gary K*rst*n” that Thornley referenced was Gary Kirstein, aka Brother-in-Law, a neo Nazi type character who claimed intelligence community and underworld connections. Kerry, over time, grew to believe that Kirstein was, in reality, notorious Watergate burglar and CIA spy-master, E. Howard Hunt. Hunt was later rumored—by the likes of A.J. Weberman—to be one of the three mystery tramps picked up by Dallas Police in Dealey Plaza following the assassination. In fact, it was an article by Weberman in The Yipster Times that first clued in Thornley to the possibility that Kirstein was E. Howard Hunt in disguise.
Thornley was hanging out with Brooks and Kirstein one evening in the fall of 1962 and at that time engaged in what Kerry considered to be a theoretical discussion about how to kill a President, and in specific, JFK. Kerry’s contributions to the conversation included the use of a poison dart that would “blow his stomach apart,” as well as another scenario involving a remote control plane carrying a bomb.
After Thornley finished with his mock assassination plots, Kirstein added, “And next we’ll get Martin Luther King.” Of course, this was all big fun to Kerry, planning a murder that he never seriously intended going through with. At the time, Thornley considered these conversations nothing more than a morbid intellectual exercise; later they would come back to haunt him.
Thornley speculated that this conversation with Slim and Kirstein might have been surreptitiously recorded, a tape that could later be used to set him up as a fall guy. Kerry later grew to suspect that the true identity of Slim was that of Jerry Milton Brooks, who Journalist J. Harry Jones, Jr. described as “a thirty-eight-year-old enigma who emerged from the fringe of the East St. Louis underworld to spy on Communists for the Minutemen, then spy on Minutemen for the FBI and the U.S. Treasury Department.”3
According to an FBI memo dated Oct 30, 1973, Jerry Brooks:
…had been found guilty in an extortion case in November, 1957, in the Eastern District of Illinois, and had been placed on probation.
Springfield Division [of the FBI] advised that BROOKS was considered a “nut” who related fantastic stories which led people in the USA’s office to consider him mentally unbalanced…on 4/1/66 and 4/4/66 BROOKS contacted SA [Special Agent] George A. Arnett of the Kansas City Division and made outlandish claims, such as, Earl Warren and Vice President Humphrey were both Communists, and also that Bobby Kennedy killed Marilyn Monroe.
SA Arnett stated that BROOKS, whom he had known for several years, appeared extremely nervous and emotionally upset, and even described himself as a “nut” and a “kook”…
I met Slim several times, didn’t really feel I knew him. All the things Kerry writes about Slim don’t tally with anything I was privy to in him. All I ever saw was the laconic, sort of “country” affect he cultivated. . . I THINK I may have heard about Brother-in-Law back then, but it’s possible I only heard about him later, in letters from Kerry. You know, though, it’s also a fact that the mention of Brother-in-Law gives me a dark feeling, the kind it’s hard to imagine I got by without ever setting eyes on him.4
But not only was Slim a man of intrigue and seemingly shady talents, he was also one of the original members of the New Orleans branch of the Discordian Society, known by his pope name of “The Keeper of the Submarine Keys.”
Slim’s singular contribution to Discordian lore (or at least his only contribution that I’m aware of) is exhibited in the form of the “Facetious Harbor” map below.
1 Thornley/Oswald manuscript, Page 10.
2 Thornley/Oswald manuscript, Page 11.
3 Jones, J. Harry, Jr., The Minutemen, Doubleday 1968, New York. (p. 10)
“When Robert Anton Wilson printed up letterheads for the Bavarian Illuminati, they carried the notice: ‘Safeguard this letter; it may be an important historical document.’ That was very much how I felt about my first little notebook, penned in 1975. I had just begun to figure out how I was involved in the JFK assassination—in a way related only indirectly to my service in the Marines with Oswald—and I felt I was recording important facts for posterity. These ranged from license numbers of cars that seemed to be following me to suspicious characters, besides me, who hung out in Plaza Drug Store in Atlanta, to nearly lost memories of conversations in the three years leading up to November 22, 1963.” —Notes of a Neon Gringo, Kerry Thornley, Pretzal Press, 1987
The first iteration of Kerry’s writings related to his so-called “involvement” in the JFK assassination started, as noted, in 1975, and it was Greg Hill who ultimately brought some order to this chaotic process (order out of chaos) by compiling Kerry’s various letters, memos, journal entries and affidavits into the collection titled Thornley/Oswald.
In the letter, Thornley mentions his love interest at the time, Judith Abrams, later identified in Robert Anton Wilson’s Cosmic Trigger I as one of the Early Discordians. Also mentioned was one of the more colorful characters to emerge from the 1960s counterculture, A.J. Weberman, a notorious yippie activist and dumpster diving Dylan-documentarian, otherwise known as the foremost “Dylanologist” of his generation—at least in his own estimation.
Weberman’s initial claim to fame (or infamy, as the case may be) started on a lark one night when he was passing by Dylan’s Harlem townhouse and the thought struck him that he might be able to find some interesting material by sifting through Mr. Zimmerman’s garbage. Thus began Weberman’s adventures in Garbology. According to My Life in Garbology:
“Garbology, as we know it today, is the study of human personality and contemporary civilization through analysis of garbage, or ‘garbanalysis.’ The basic premise is ‘You Are What You Throw Away.’ Garbage is a macrocosmic reflection, a mirror on life. The unassailable reality is that every living being makes waste. Excretion is both natural and universal, a process in which all lifeforms participate; the more sophisticated the organism, the more sophisticated the waste it produces…”
Part of Weberman’s dumpster diving proclivities brought him into proximity to the Watergate Break-In caper, and by the early 1970s he had shifted his focus from collecting Dylan’s garbage to, among other things, investigating the JFK assassination and its possible connection a couple of the Watergate burglars, namely E. Howard Hunt and Frank Sturgis.
Greg Hill was living in NYC during this period, and during a visit from Thornley the duo came across a Yipster Times article authored by Weberman that included a photo of E. Howard Hunt comparing him to one of the three mystery tramps picked up Dealey Plaza in the aftermath of the assassination. Kerry recognized Hunt as possibly the same person he’d met in New Orleans in the early 1960s, who went by the name of Gary Kirstein, and who Kerry suspected had been involved in Kennedy’s assassination. Weberman’s evidence that Hunt was one of the mystery tramps was later expanded upon in Coup D’état in America: The CIA and the Assassination of John F. Kennedy co-written with Michael Canfield.
Previous correspondence between Hill and Thornley (discovered in the Discordian Archives—though I can’t lay my hands on it at the moment!) included a back and forth about getting in touch with Weberman, presumably in the prospect of learning more about what he knew about Hunt’s alleged role in the assassination. Ultimately the connection between the two was made, and Weberman sent Kerry the following letter:
Kerry ultimately closed the loop on his interest in talking to Weberman as stated in the below letter to Greg Hill where he commented on how he was “really burned out on the assassination… fuck Weberman… I’m so tired of my own paranoia, let alone other peoples’…”
According to the FBI’s book critic, W.A. Branigan, reviewing Kerry Thornley‘s book Oswald:
“This book by Thornley is not a good piece of literature. The language in the book at times is raw and there does not seem to be any continuity of contents. It sells for seventy-five cents a copy, in paperback form and appears to be an effort by Thornley and the publisher to make a quick financial killing. It is highly doubtful if it will achieve this purpose.”
This is Part Two of The Illuminati Files by Brenton Clutterbuck. If you missed Part One, here you will find A Conspiracy is Born.
Suddenly, nothing happened!
Or at least not much. While the Illuminati had copped the blame for trying to challenge the power of church and state in Germany (a fair cop), instigating the French Revolution, and interfering with the founding years of the United States (both substantially less likely), for most of the late 1800s, concern about the Illuminati died down, only to return mutated and with a vengeance in the 1900s. Conspiracy author Nesta Webster brings them back in 1919, characterising them as a Jewish conspiracy dating back to the days of Jesus. She produced several works across her lifetime about the Illuminati. In 1965, the rightwing monthly The Cross and the Flag published by Gerald L. K. Smith featured an article that named the Illuminati as the second most important enemy in the world (pipped to the post by those dastardly world bankers!) Around the same time, a man named Robert Welch was beginning his own crusade against the Illuminati, via the organisation he founded — the highly influential rightwing organisation, the John Birch Society, which characterised the Illuminati as the precursor to Communism.
We find ourselves in the United States of the 1950s and 1960s, in a society being rocked by social change and in an environment where conspiracy theory (some of which would ultimately be proved correct!) was running wild. Campaigns of propaganda helped to overload the bullshit detectors of many, and very quickly, large numbers of people developed the firm suspicion that somewhere, someone was doing something, and whatever it was, it wasn’t good.
Into this paranoid stew of confusion and confoundment, came a new religious movement. It was called ‘Discordianism’, and perhaps unsurprisingly it was obsessed with chaos, disorder, and the impossibility of reaching out to grasp objective truth. Truly, this was a movement of its time.
With such fixations of the nature of truth, confusion, and the great unknown, it is no wonder that many Discordians were themselves entranced by ideas of conspiracy. The Principia Discordia, among other Discordian materials, satirised this re-emergence of Illuminati fever. Riffing on the Illuminati led to the ‘Illuminati letter’ appearing in the Principia Discordia. As with much of the PD, it is influenced by a mixture of sources.
Episkopos Mordecai, Keeper of the Notary Sojac, informs me that you are welcome to reveal that our oldest extant records show us to have been fully established in Atlantis, circa 18,000 B.C., under Kull, the galley slave who ascended to the Throne of Valusia. Revived by Pelias of Koth, circa 10,000 B.C. Possibly it was he who taught the inner-teachings to Conan of Cimmeria after Conan became King of Aquilonia. First brought to the western hemisphere by Conan and taught to Mayan priesthood (Conan is Quetzlcoatl). That was 4 Ahua, 8 Cumhu, Mayan date. Revived by Abdul Alhazred in his infamous Al Azif, circa 800 A.D. (Al Azif translated into Latin by Olaus Wormius, 1132 A.D., as The Necronomicon.) In 1090 A.D. was the founding of The Ismaelian Sect Hashishim) by Hassan i Sabbah, with secret teachings based on Alhazred, Pelias and Kull. Founding of the Illuminated Ones of Bavaria, by Adam Weishaupt, on May 1, 1776. He based it on the others. Weishaupt brought it to the United States during the period that he was impersonating George Washington; and it was he who was the Man in Black who gave the design for The Great Seal to Jefferson in the garden that night. The Illuminated tradition is now, of course, in the hands of The Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria (A.I.S.B.), headquartered here in the United States.
Our teachings are not, need I remind you, available for publication. No harm, though, in admitting that some of them can be found disguised in Joyce’s Finnegan’s Wake, Burroughs Nova Express, the King James translation of the Holy Bible (though not the Latin or Hebrew), and The Blue Book. Not to speak of Ben Franklin’s private papers (!), but we are still suppressing those.
The letter goes on for quite some time, but luckily for the human race, the Discordian articulation of the Illuminati quest turned out to be actually, pretty wholesome!
Look, if you people out there can keep from blowing yourselves up for only two more generations, then we will finally have it. After 20,000 years, Kull’s dream will be realized! We can hardly believe it. But the outcome is certain, given the time. Our grandchildren, Mal! If civilization makes it through this crises, our grandchildren will live in a world of authentic freedom and authentic harmony and authentic satisfaction. I hope I’m alive to see it, Mal, success is in our grasp. Twenty thousand years….!
Ah, I get spaced just thinking about it. Good luck on the Principia.
Also included in the preceding pages are an advertisement for the Bavarian Illuminati, and a telegraph, apparently from the illuminati to the Discordians, with a comically unbreakable cypher that could be used to permanently render incoherence to any sensitive messages (let’s just hope nobody —ever— needs to decode them!).
Discordian elder Robert Anton Wilson got on board the Illuminati train in a major way. He had been drafted into the Discordians in ’67, but they wouldn’t provide his first exposure to the Illuminati conspiracy. By the time the Discordians drafted him into their weirdness, he’d already been working at PLAYBOY‘s letters section for two years, alongside co-conspirator Robert Shea. PLAYBOY — being a magazine dedicated to all kinds of sexual and moral freedoms — attracted the attention of those who felt their freedoms were being infringed on in the most bizarre and unbelievable ways. This ‘nut mail’ from some of the more paranoid PLAYBOY patrons inspired Wilson and Shea to write a series in which all of the conspiratorial fantasies of their readers were 100% true. The resulting novel The Illuminatus! Trilogy returned to the more sinister power-hungry characterisation of the Illuminati.
The work was already invested in exploring the most deranged and bizarre (though not, of course, impossible) theories about who controlled the world. Wilson and Shea further muddied these illuminated waters of truth by sneaking articles into publications under assumed identities years before, then quoting those sources in their fictional trilogy to develop a strange and unreliable synthesis of truth and fiction. The book was about conspiracy, was produced as the result of conspiracy, and was a satirical exploration of a phenomenon that was far from just a light-hearted joke.
Illuminatus! of course then became another significant popularizer of the modern Illuminati mythos into popular culture. It also popularised the new foundation myth alluded to in the Illuminati letter from the Principia — that the Illuminati originated from the Islamic Assassin cult led by Hassan-I-Sabbah — though they attributed this idea to the John Birch Society.
Illuminatus! as a work, seems to have had a wide influence, although its authors would surely have liked to see more of that influence translate into royalties! It’s been speculated that the work influenced Umberto Eco, whose work Foucault’s Pendulum shares a number of similarities with the Illuminatus! Trilogy. More recently Dan Brown’s Angels and Demons also portrayed the Illuminati within the substance of its plot.
Steve Jackson Games, whose forays into the fringe frequently step into Discordian territory, loosely adapted the Trilogy into a board game (if it had been a ‘tighter’ adaptation they would have had to pay!).
The KLF, music weirdos who burned a million pounds, were also influenced by Illuminatus! Both members were exposed to the Trilogy through Ken Campbell’s epic 10 hour theatre adaptation of Illuminatus!, and this influence can be seen explicitly through the first name they took; The JAMS, a reference to the Illuminatus! Trilogy.
From here, the flow of influence for both the Illuminatus! Trilogy and the Illuminati mythology get pretty hard to track. You can see the source of a trickle, but how do you point to the home of a wave? With the hippie movement as a powerful vector, the Illuminati entered the public consciousness, permeating vast swathes of public life and awareness.
When I was doing my interviews for Chasing Eris, I spoke with Ben Graham who gave one example of how awareness of the Illuminatus! Trilogy, and the associated conspiracy consciousness passed from hippies to members of the electronic scene.
Because of the ravers that had been having free festivals out in fields, [members of the electronic scene] ended up teaming up with guys who’d been having hippy rock festivals in fields forever. Those guys ended up getting into a lot of techno music, but they would have been guys who were reading the Illuminatus! books in the early 70s. It had the whole kind of esoteric hippy knowledge and stuff behind it… You had the club rave kids meeting the hippy travelers, one side being electronic techno music and ecstasy, and the other bringing this kind of like hippy philosophy and ethos and knowledge and it all kind of crossing over. And certainly I think a lot of the kind of Illuminati ideas. Suddenly it became cliché to be referencing the number 23 for one thing.
As for the Illuminati itself, well, today it is Well Known enough that the very term has become a euphemism for any vaguely shadowy institution. When some say ‘the Illuminati’ control the world, they perhaps don’t mean Weishaupt’s group, but instead ‘the Deep State’ ‘the Ruling Class’, ‘the Bourgeoisie’, or maybe ‘the Shadow Government.’ Maybe, in some sense, they are all absolutely right.
The Illuminati perhaps remains so powerful in the public consciousness today because it speaks to the need to fill in the gaps — the dark shadowy gaps — in our knowledge of the world. Every trove of top secret documents that spills out from a Wikileaks page or a pastebin, every release of unclassified documents, every whistle-blower and truth-teller betrays the existence of a murky world of conspiracy that lives beneath the surface of our otherwise normal and logically consistent existence. Voltaire once said that if God didn’t exist, it would be necessary to invent him. Perhaps the same is true of a Godlike conspiracy. Fortunately, Adam Weishaupt did us that favor many years ago, and things have only been getting stranger ever since.