“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up letterheads for the Bavarian Illuminati, they carried the notice: ‘Safeguard this letter; it may be an important historical document.’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’…”
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.
The above photo of Robert Anton Wilson, on the fabled Grassy Knoll, popped up on the Twitter a while back courtesy of Mustafa_al_Laylah, taken during a visit to Dallas circa 1998. In said photo, RAW is situated behind the picket fence separating the Grassy Knoll from the adjacent rail-yard bordering Dealey Plaza.
According to one assassination conspiracy theory (examined in the BBC series The Men Who Killed Kennedy), it was from this vantage point that the so-called Badge Man presumably fired the baleful bullet(s) that catapulted President Kennedy’s cranium into the great beyond, a theory based in part on photographic enhancement of the picket fence area at the time the fatal projectile(s) met their mark. Of course, the enhancement and enlargement of an old grainy photo (in this case the Mary Moorman photo) is like peering into a Rorschach Blot, and the longer you do so, the more figures your imagination brings to life, and thus fills in the blanks depending on what you expect to see, or desire to see, a la ‘Who Is The Master That Makes The Grassy Knoll Green?’.
During this tumultuous period, Garrison was viewed as a new darling of the “Radical Left,” presenting himself as a maverick prosecutor taking on corrupt authority in the form of the CIA and the military industrial complex, whom Garrison suggested (at one time or another) were part of the sinister plot that engineered Kennedy’s awful offing.
Due to this view of Garrison as some new hero of the Left, Thornley now found himself in a somewhat peculiar position, as he had long been involved with the burgeoning counterculture, having written for any number of underground magazines and newsletters, but now it appeared he was the odd man out. As RAW recalled in my book The Prankster and the Conspiracy:
“In ’67 or ’68, most of the underground press was publishing a lot of stuff pro-Jim Garrison, and this included Kerry’s role in the assassination. And I had lots of contacts in the underground press, so I starting sending out articles defending Kerry, which nobody would print, because the underground press was behind Garrison and the official corporate media was totally anti-Garrison—I was trying to send the message to the wrong place…”
Among those (in Thornley’s opinion) that had jumped aboard the Garrison bandwagon, was L.A. Free Press publisher/editor Art Kunkin, who, among other pro-Garrison articles, ran the following:
In response, Thornley sent the following letter to Art Kunkin, presenting his side of the story and requesting equal time:
In their efforts to provide counter-programming, Thornley, RAW, and their fellow Discordians launched what became known as Operation Mindfuck, a concerted effort to bombard Garrison and his enthusiasts with a steady diet of zany disinformation under the banner of the Bavarian Illuminati. To further illuminate (or confuse) Art Kunkin, RAW sent the letter below, under the auspices of the Order of the Peacock Angel, signed by his Discordian alter ego, Mordecai Malignatus.
In order to further expand their network of potential Illuminati collaborators, RAW sent the following missive to a select group of underground movers and shakers.
How the Discordian Society became synonymous with the Bavarian Illuminati can be attributed, to a certain extent, to a John Birch Society member named Allan Chapman, who also doubled as a JFK assassination researcher and “Grassy Knoll Irregular,” as they were dubbed; a legion of amateur sleuths who shared their investigative “fruits” with Jim Garrison, which then Garrison regurgitated to greater glory. RAW name-dropped Chapman in his infamous letter & answer in the April 1969 PLAYBOY Advisor.
As Thornley recalled:
“Wilson and I founded the Anarchist Bavarian Illuminati to give Jim Garrison a hard time, one of whose supporters believed that the Illuminati owned all the major TV networks, the Conspiring Bavarian Seers (CBS), the Ancient Bavarian Conspiracy (ABC) and the Nefarious Bavarian Conspirators (NBC).” (The Dreadlock Recollections, Kerry Thornley)
Chapman subscribed to the theory that the Illuminati (who he claimed controlled the Big Three TV networks) masterminded the assassination, and that one of the alleged assassins hid inside a storm drain in the picket fence area of the Grassy Knoll and then popped out of a manhole cover like some diabolical jack-in-the-box and peppered poor JFK with a barrage of bullets before returning to his underground lair there.
It should then come as no surprise that The Grassy Knoll played a part in the Illuminatus! Trilogy, embodied in the character of the Dealey Lama, a robed and bearded holy mad man who lived in the sewers below Dealey Plaza. In retrospect, the Dealey Lama sounds a lot like Kerry Thornley by the mid-1970s, when Kerry lived the life of a homeless holy man of sorts, sporting long hair and a biblical beard, and at one time or another actually lived in a storm drain for a spell.
In this vein, I thought I’d share further examples of Discordian parties starting with a shindig thrown by Tim Wheeler (aka Harold Lord Randomfactor) at his farm in Shelbyville, Indiana, billed as the “Grand National Founding Convention of Young Americans For Real Freedom.” The intent of this gathering was to draft “The Shelbyville Statement,” which would be the guiding document of the Young Americans for Real Freedom (YARF). Of course, all of this was merely an elaborate joke-parody riffing on a real organization called the Young Americans for Freedom that was prominent in conservative political circles during this period.
Moving on to other Discordian parties, here’s a note from Greg Hill (aka Mal 2) to Louise Lacey (aka Lady L., F.A.B. – Fucking Anarchist Bitch) composed on genuine Illuminati stationary created by the aforementioned Harold Randomfactor.
“…celebrated at our apartment house with weird and eldritch festivities. Arlen and I, representing the Discordian Society, together with Stephen upstairs (Reformed Druids of North America), Claire and Carol in another apartment (witches, connected with the New Reformed Order of the Golden Dawn), and the Great Wild Beast Furtherment Society (which is really Stephen and me and another neighbor named Charles), opened all our rooms to a Crowleymas Party and invited nearly 100 local wizards and mystics…”
In attendance were such illuminaries as ufological visionary Jacques Vallee, along with a flock of other furry freaks from a hodge-podge of mystical and religious (dis)orders, including Grady McMurtry, then head of the Ordo Templi Orientis in the USA.
Apparently, such Discordian frivolities carried on well into the early 1980s as demonstrated in a letter below to Greg Hill from Camden Benares (aka The Count of Fives aka Felix Pendragon) announcing a duel sponsored event orchestrated in cahoots with renowned pornographer, and sometime Discordian, Ron Matthies under the banner of “Fort Chaotic.” In said letter, Camden mentions a Discordian novel he was working on at the time called Another Howling Eighties Conspiracy that unfortunately never saw the light of day, although we know he finished at least five chapters, Hail Eris.
As revealed in my Thornley bio The Prankster and the Conspiracy, Camden and his wife June often attended parties dressed as a priest and nun. After one such party, Camden and June—still bedecked in their holy garbed—visited a Denny’s in West Los Angeles where they spent considerable time making out in their booth. As would be expected, people began freaking out upon witnessing this ungodly spectacle, as in between sacrilegious smooches Camden gave blessings and benedictions to the stunned Denny’s patrons.
Eris comes to us in many guises (“my father’s house has many mansions”), sometimes even in the form of St. Valentine’s Day cards, such as the one we see here sent to the founding father of the Discordianism, none other than Malaclypse the Younger aka Greg Hill in February 1977, apparently alerting him to a Discordian soiree of sorts. It’s not clear who the sender of said Erisian Valentine was, although the card says “Gnostic” on it, so I guess it’s possible it was sent from Thomas the Gnostic aka Tom McNamara.
Among the more obscure Early Discordians was Tom McNamara aka Thomas the Gnostic, who was not only of the Erisian persuasion, but also a member of the Bavarian Illuminati, and a participant in Operation Mindfuck as demonstrated in the letter below published in The Rag, a counterculture mag based out of Austin, Texas, during the 1960s and early-70s.
During the Discordian Society halcyon days, McNamara distributed an Erisian newsletter, the alliterative Papish Pastoral Letter to the Provincials of the Provinces of Patareal Paratheo Providence, a sample of which is presented below.
Included in the Discordian Archives are scattered correspondence between Greg Hill and McNamara. In a letter dated March 22, 1971, Hill related recent Discordian developments, including a Chicago meet-up with Bob Shea, Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) and Tim and Mary Wheeler (aka Harold Randomfactor and Hope Springs). Of this Chicago meet-up, Hill wrote:
“Most sorry missed you at the Chicago Meet, but I supposed goddess knows what she is doing. I genuinely hope that the day will come when we can rap some face to face. This correspondence business, it only goes in some directions and it is hard to anchor sometimes. I’ll buy the beer should the opportunity arise….
“The Chicago Meet, incidentally, was no big thing excepting a retouch in the flesh. Met RF [Randomfactor] & Hope for the first time and was not surprised in any way. Wilson kept engaging in political arguments with them and it bummered kind of, it gets difficult to remember that substantial differences are in accord with the Erisian concept—it gets difficult indeed in personal issues. O Were We All Saints. That bit in diatribe about me slipping into the curse of greyface—that was from the soul my friend. Wilson and Tim had a touch of greyface then (at Chi) too. Doubt if Tim feels much a part of us much anymore.
“Mostly we just sat around and rapped on petty incidentals. It was a pleasant time, which is want I wanted actually. Wilson & I played around with literature some—that kind of thing. Very therapeutic. Got stoned and giggled a lot…”
While RAW occasionally described himself as a Libertarian, he was definitely on the anti-war/pacifist end of the spectrum, most notably taking to the Chi-town streets with all the hairy freaks during the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Wheeler—conversely—was a William F. Buckley conservative and, as noted in this exclusive Historia Discordia interview, worked as a humor editor for Buckley’s National Review. One issue that might have led to a “political argument” between Wheeler and Wilson would have been the Vietnam War. While there was plenty to be critical about Buckley’s worldview, one important contribution he made to the conservative movement was calling out John Birch Society (JBS) propaganda and its influence on the GOP. To this end, Wheeler produced a satirical piece on the JBS, which took the form of a hoax/gag issue of the National Review, kind of a play on Illuminati conspiracies ala the Trilateral Commission, Bilderbergers, etc. Check it out here.
Wheeler’s irreverent nature is what enamored him to his fellow Discordians, who for the most part were politically aligned with anarcho-libertarianism, which included a fondness for pot, another interest they shared with Wheeler, who was a notorious dope-smoking Republican.
While RAW and Wheeler disagreed on certain political issues, they both concurred that it was a fine and righteous thing to poke fun at Illuminati conspiracies of the John Birch Society variety, and then co-opt said JBS-Illuminati mythology for their own nefarious ends, Hail Eris!
Next we find an exchange between Thomas the Gnostic and Reverend Dean Cleveland of the St. Procopius Rectory, wherein Thomas was evidently yanking the good rector’s chain.
Next in the chronology was a letter dated February 1972 from McNamara to Hill (aka Iggy):
“You know the phantasies you’ve had that the FBI might be after us? Well, you’ll be happy to know that they are at least after me. This is not just paranoia. It seems that recently I wuz incarcerated in the state mental prison here, no shit! How I got there is a long stupid story. How I got out is even simpler. I hired a lawyer to rescue me from the mad doctors. But in the course of all this madness I learned one thing. The F.B.I. is really keeping tabs on me. They made indiscreet ‘inquiries’ to both my lawyer and the keepers. I ain’t going to let this stop me from whatever it is that I am doing that is subversive’. I just wish I could figure out what it is that I am doing. Oh well. As for the mental prison: ‘God save us from those who would save us from ourselves.’
Also in the letter, McNamara mentions an Illuminati-mythology-then-in-the-making ala Morris Kaminsky’s The Hoaxers, which expounded upon a claim that the real brains behind that dreaded secret society was some dude named Sidney Weinberg.
The ideal celebration for this holiday is listening to bootleg recordings of the first Discordian rock band, Jay See and the Disciples of Eris. The rarity of these recordings causes most Discordians to celebrate in some other manner befitting the occasion.
Perhaps the most notorious Discordian Jake ever perpetrated—or at least the one that received the most national media attention—was cooked up by a Discordian cabal called “Sam’s Cafe,” a three person art collective consisting of the husband and wife team of Mark and Terri Keyser, and their conspiratorial cohort, David Shire. Sam’s Cafe operated out of a former greasy spoon of the same name located on University Avenue near the UC Berkeley campus.
Starting around 1970, Sam’s Cafe orchestrated several Discordian flavored capers, a sort of cross between performance art meets culture jamming. In 1971, the group reached the pinnacle of prankdom with an op dubbed “Sam’s Collection Agency” that entailed mailing “false collection notices to twenty thousand people, demanding that they each send $76.40 to the return address (which was the San Francisco Chronicle’s TV station). The notice listed the phone numbers of news papers, TV stations, and the Bank of America, which were flooded with more than ten thousand angry calls. The artists made front page news in both local newspapers. Two days later, when Sam’s Café revealed themselves at a press conference—at which they handed out press kits that included vials of human excrement—they were arrested and indicted…” 00001
According to a March 20, 1971 article in the Cincinnati Enquirer entitled “Hippies Admit 20,000 Fake Bills In Attempt To Create Mass Chaos,” Sam’s Cafe was charged with mailing a “vile and filthy substance” in “small plastic jars of what appeared to be excretion. These were sent to news media Wednesday along with the announcement of the hoax…”
Ultimately, Discordian justice prevailed and Sam’s Cafe was acquitted of all charges following a two-day trial, an acquittal based largely on the testimony of the expert witness in the case, San Francisco Chronicle art critic Thomas Albright, who stated “that the act was in fact conceptual art.” 00002
“In the end, the judge shook his head and proclaimed, ‘Well, if the expert says it’s art, it’s art, but don’t do it again.’ Sam’s Cafe believed that by using print media, the postal service, and other ordinary means of communication, artists outside the system could reach a broad public audience. At the same time, they showed how easy it was to sabotage the U.S. Postal Service…” 00003
According to this note found in the Discordian Archives, Sam’s Cafe put out feelers to Greg Hill to see if he was interested in testifying, although it’s unknown how extensively Hill became involved in the case.
00001 Lewallen, Constance M., and Moss, Karen. 2011. State of Mind: New California Art, Circa 1970. University of California Press.
Trigger Warning: The following article is at least two degrees removed from Discordianism… but it is confusing as hell, so there’s that.
For those who’ve dipped their toes into conspiratorial lore, Fred Crisman turns up all over the place; first with the Maury Island UFO incident, and then later his alleged role in the JFK assassination, rumored to have been one of the three mystery tramps picked up in Dealey Plaza after the dirty deed went down. You can take a deeper dive into Crisman and the Maury UFO incident at this previous link, part of our startling six-part Raymond Broshears’ series.
As it turns out, Maury Island wasn’t Fred Crisman’s first and only UFO rodeo. Recent sleuthing by intrepid researchers Jeff Suwak and Kirk Nelson (with a little assistance from yours truly) have uncovered Crisman’s possible ties to a UFO channeling group identified as “Service Awareness” that were mentioned in Crisman’s testimony before the Orleans Parish grand jury during the Jim Garrison investigation.
As noted in part two of our Rev. Broshears extravaganza, Garrison suspected (or believed, or pretended to believe) that an assortment of fringe religious groups—or “odd sects” as he called them—had been used as fronts for a sprawling JFK assassination conspiracy; political assassins running around in clerical garb with instruments of death concealed within the flowing folds of their robes!
As stated in the passage above, when a Garrison staffer quizzed him about “Service Awareness,” Crisman claimed he had no involvement with the group. However, “Service Awareness” was a transcription error; it should have read: “Servants of Awareness.” So who the heck were they?
“On Thanksgiving day, 1962 a voice expressing itself as Cosmic Awareness began speaking through a university lecturer and ex-army officer who had been in the Bataan Death March.” 00001
The “university lecturer and ex-army officer” was a fellow named Frank Duby, thereafter referred to as the “Interpreter.” According to Cosmic Awareness newsletter: “…[Duby] began studies in depth psychology at [a] Seattle church through funding given by the CIA…” 00002 and it was this “depth psychology” research that led to the formation of a Servants of Awareness forerunner, the Organization of Awareness.
“After several severe heart attacks, the interpreter, Ralph [Duby], finally transitioned in January 1967… After the passing of their interpreter the Organization of Awareness experienced much upheaval. Financial stress and disagreements over what information should be released led to a splintering of the organization and its eventual collapse.
“Organization of Awareness ended shortly thereafter and Servants of Awareness was founded, with David Worcester as its Interpreter. This incarnation continued for 3 years…David hosted an ‘August Affair’ and at this function the future founders of CAC [Cosmic Awareness Communications] were approached by Paul Shockley, a man who would change their lives. Paul was doing Awareness readings but had no idea how to make them available for the good of all people, so they put their heads together and began to go down a path that would become a powerful force for good in so many lives…”
In 1970, as noted above, Paul Shockley became the lead channeler—or “Interpreter”—for CAC. Around this time, the channelings took on a distinctly darker and more conspiratorial tone, as documented in this channeled message dated December 9, 1976.
When I came across these supposed CIA connections to the Servants of Awareness, I immediately flashed on Fred Crisman, who was never bashful about fostering the legend that he was some sort of super spook involved with UFOs and all manner of paranormal intrigue. So I could totally see Crisman pushing the idea he was a CIA mastermind to impress Servants of Awareness members or gain some standing in the group.
As it turns out, Mellen lifted these Crisman/Servants of Awareness allegations from an article published in the November 1975 issue of Crawdaddy magazine that was attributed to the Assassination Information Bureau (AIB), a clearinghouse for JFK assassination info founded in 1972 by Carl Oglesby, author of The Yankee and Cowboy War.
Based in Cambridge, Massachusetts, AIB played a pivotal role in petitioning congress to launch the House Select Committee on Assassinations (HSCA) in 1976. None of this, however, answers the question of where this provocative information concerning Crisman and the Servants of Awareness originated, but my guess is that it circles back to Garrison and a handful of “Dealey Plaza Irregulars” who were feeding Big Jim leads, which he then threw against the wall to see what would stick.
Aside from those two tantalizing tidbits (the snippet from Crisman’s grand jury testimony and the Crawdaddy article) I’ve thus far been unable to find any other evidence linking Crisman with the Servants of Awareness.
To recap, the first iteration of the Servants of Awareness was known as the “Organization of Awareness,” which was an outgrowth of a “church” in Seattle involved in “depth psychology.” The church, in this instance, was the Center of Integration, founded in 1953 by a fellow named Bob Carr, who carved out a niche for himself as a trance channeler along the lines of Edgar Cayce. In this regard, Carr conducted trance readings for individuals to help cure them of sicknesses, both physical and mental, and provided personal counseling, a sort of psychic life coach. Over time, Carr gained a somewhat sizable following which you can learn more about in God Men Con Men: Pursuit of Truth.
A key figure in the Center of Integration scene was the aforementioned Ralph Duby, who later became the first “Interpreter” of the Organization of Awareness (a forerunner to the Servants of Awareness). Another Center of Integration alumnus, David Worcester, took over the “Interpreter” role after Duby’s death in 1967, and at that time the group splintered into a number of factions, one of which was Servants of Awareness. (If you’ve been able to follow along thus far, I commend you, because it only becomes more confusing from here, Hail Eris!)
Back in 1958, the lead channeler at the Center of Integration, Bob Carr, discovered that—due to the church’s non-profit status—they could obtain free quantities of d-lysergic acid 25 for “research purposes” direct from Sandoz Laboratories in Switzerland. This resulted in the acquisition of 100 milligrams of the mighty molecule, which the group then used to great effect during channeling sessions. In the video below, Bob Carr, discusses this period.
LSD channeling sessions appeared to have reached a peak during the Servants of Awareness era (1967-1970), as things got pretty loosey-goosey with David Worcester filling the role as lead “Interpreter.” According to Revelations of Awareness, the Cosmic Awareness newsletter, 10th anniversary edition:
[Worcester] was a very interesting person. He was a good conductor of LSD sessions for many entities, guiding them through the Bardos and death experience ala the Tibetan Book of the Dead. He [would]…switch on the TV news with Walter Cronkite, pull up a stool, light up, and sit before the TV and talk back to Walter Cronkite. David swore the words were being heard by the newscaster as he read the controlled news from his script and that this routine was changing consciousness. As a magician, David took a lot of credit for certain events that occurred on the world scene. He implied, for example that an earthquake in India was the direct result of a fart he let in Olympia while watching the evening news.”
Now, back to Fred Crisman, and what if any interactions he actually had with the Servants of Awareness. Let’s first examine the drug angle. We do know that, according to a police reports, Crisman was arrested on March 19, 1957 for drunk driving and disorderly conduct, at which time it was discovered he was also under the influence of barbiturates. According to his arrest report, Crisman pulled a gun on the arresting officer. Not smart!
Due to this incident, Crisman was fired from his job as the Superintendent of Schools in Elgin, Oregon. 00003 A second arrest occurred in October 1968, when he was arrested for reckless driving and carrying a concealed weapon.
By 1963, Crisman was employed as a substitute teacher at Mount Rainer High School, a time period that would later become the focus of the House Select Committee on Assassinations, who examined Crisman’s alleged role as one of the three mystery tramps apparently up to no good in Dealey Plaza. The HSCA ultimately determined that Crisman had an iron clad alibi for that infamous day, November 22, 1963, when JFK was blown away.
In 1964, Crisman landed a full-time teaching gig at Cascade Union High School in Salem, Oregon, a position that lasted a mere two years before he was fired for “forming a secret student organization… Crisman formed the organization and conducted meetings on school premises without authority.” A subsequent school board ruling stated that the “organization is of such a nature that it should not be condoned or authorized to exist in this district.”
The above news article begs the question: Was Crisman recruiting students at Cascade Union into a secret psychedelic saucer cult otherwise known as The Servants of Awareness? Seems like a stretch, perhaps, but Crisman was evidently up to something shady. But wasn’t he always?
Another possibility is that Crisman was recruiting students into some sort of shadowy conservative-minded cabal, as he was active as a right-wing operative during this period, as documented in his mighty tome Murder of a City, written under the non-de-plume of Jon Gold, a pseudonym Crisman also employed for the talk radio show he hosted on station KAYE in Puyallup, just a stone’s throw from Tacoma.
Murder of a City is a good place to sniff for clues about what Crisman was up to during the Servants of Awareness period (1967-1970). I recently acquired a copy of this oh, so rare book, which I soon discovered was self-published by Crisman and his buddy Harold Dahl of Maury Island saucer fame (or infamy). Or at least that appears to have been the case according to a note I discovered in said book.
Murder of a City is a prism to gain insight into Crisman’s strange universe, covering the timeframe he *might* have interacted with the Servants of Awareness, who were located in Olympia, 30 miles from Tacoma. The basic story presented in Murder of a City is that Crisman returned to his hometown of Tacoma in ‘66 or ‘67ish and was horrified at what had become of his formerly fair city that’d been overtaken by the dreaded “City Manager” system that—according to Crisman—was a racket for local politicians to line their pockets under the guise of “urban renewal.”
Murder of a City comes across as an extended bitch session in grievance politics, reading like spin and projection (i.e. Crisman blaming others for himself being a shady sort of character); an alternative history Crisman most likely concocted to muddy the waters about several seemingly sketchy schemes he’d been involved in with Thomas Beckham.
The spin I’m referring can be detected early on in Murder of a City when Crisman suggests that the fellow who ran the local Tacoma branch of the Better Business Bureau (BBB), was in cahoots with the very same corrupt city officials who—according to Crisman—had made his life a living hell by pushing a “Far Left” agenda that was quickly turning his beloved Tacoma into a Socialist shithole. Crisman, however, fails to mention that the Tacoma BBB had uncovered a slew of fraudulent businesses he had started with his young oddball associate, Tom Beckman. In Murder of a City, Crisman also badmouths a Tacoma News-Times reporter named Edd Jeffers who in the November 1, 1968 edition wrote that:
“In late 1968, Crisman and Thomas Edward Beckham incorporated seven businesses in Olympia according to the police department there.
Among the companies were the Northwest Relief Society, Associated Discount Services, TAB Productions, Inc., Professional Research Bureau and the National Institute of Criminology.”
Murder of a City includes a chapter called “The Big Frame” that may provide a clue as to these claims that Crisman (possibly in cahoots the Servants of Awareness) had been involved in some sort of drug ring.
This “Big Frame” chapter deals with a supposed plot by Crisman’s perceived adversaries: City Manager of Tacoma, David Rowlands, and his cadre of commie confederates that included reporters for the Tacoma News-Times, local law enforcement, and almost all of city government (not to mention the Tacoma Better Business Bureau!) in a scam to set up Crisman and his right wing allies, chief among them a fellow named Marshall Riconosciuto.
Riconosciuto ran a PR firm and had his hand in a number of fly-by-night businesses, one of which entailed the acquisition of a pharmaceutical company (or at least that was Crisman’s account of the story). After acquiring this company—which he renamed Drug Sales West—Riconosciuto mothballed some of the lab equipment that came along with the deal at a warehouse in Tacoma that was subsequently broken into and the lab equipment stolen. This lab equipment—once again according to Crisman—later turned up at a major drug bust, an incident recounted in Murder of a City in which Crisman quotes an article from the Tacoma News-Times concerning a police raid of the “largest amount of LSD that had ever been found on the West Coast.” Unfortunately, Crisman failed to give a date for the drug raid, which makes confirming his claim/article problematic (I haven’t had any luck as of yet), but whatever the case, his position was that this drug raid was part of the “Big Frame,” and that the lab equipment in question had supposedly been used to cook-up this record-breaking haul of LSD.
Crisman, quite naturally, blamed the “Big Frame” on his enemies in city government who were comprised of a contingent of left wingers aided in their efforts by a long-haired hopped-up hippie menace in tandem with the Tacoma chapter of the Black Panthers waging war against a proud faction of Crisman-led right wing zealots whose mission in life was to save Tacoma from the ravages of Socialism, interracial marriage and rampant drug use then sweeping the country!
Below is a photo ripped from the pages of Murder of a City depicting a notorious alleyway where apparently a high volume of drug dealing went on that Crisman (at least according to Crisman) was attempting to expose. What’s peculiar about the photo is that I could find no other mention about this perfidious pool-hall/alleyway mentioned elsewhere in Murder of a City.
Elsewhere in Murder of a City, Crisman claimed that a number of death-threats were made against him by Dave Rowland’s band of thugs, and that on one occasion he was shot at and ran off the road. What’s more, Crisman claimed that the radio station he broadcasted from under his Jon Gold persona had been wiretapped and, in retaliation, Crisman and his cohorts bugged the offices of the City Manager Rowlands as part of an all out war for the soul of the city! That gives you an idea of the tenor and tone of Murder of a City, which can best be described by this observer as a literary “hot mess.”
At the end of the day, I still don’t know what to make of this allegation that Crisman was involved in peddling dope with the Servants of Awareness, and all of these tenuous connections I’ve laid out here ultimately leave us with more questions to ponder than any actual answers.
The search continues…
00001The Sound, the official publication of Cosmic Awareness Communications. Date unknown.
During our recent Raymond Broshears spectacular we featured a post on Rev. Billy Hargis and the Christian Crusade, a commie bashing evangelical outfit pretty much dead set against anything those dirty rotten liberals wanted to teach in school, particularly sex education and other “radical” ideas pushed by the Reds, who had apparently infiltrated not only the halls of congress, but your local PTA.
In 1968, around the same time the Discordians launched Operation Mindfuck, Rev. Hargis and his Christian Crusade propaganda mill pooped out a pamphlet called “Is the School House the Proper Place to Teach Raw Sex?” authored by the honorable Gordon V. Drake. According to our good friends at Wikipedia:
The 40-page document, described by Time magazine as, “an angry little pamphlet,” was originally distributed as part of a direct-mail fundraising campaign for the Christian Crusade, so that the organization could lobby against sex education in schools. It became a source of unfounded anecdotes about the supposed horrors of sex education for groups such as Mothers Organized for Moral Stability.
School House targeted the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS), and in particular its director Dr. Mary Calderone. It described her as the “SIECUS Sexpot”, and said that the group sought to “toss[…] God aside” and “to teach American youth a new sexual morality independent of church and state.” Besides arguing that sex education undermined Christian morality and promoted promiscuity, the document said it is part of a “giant Communist conspiracy.” It said, “[If] the new morality is affirmed, our children will become easy targets for Marxism and other amoral, nihilistic philosophies—as well as V.D.!” The pamphlet also identified the National Education Association as an enemy.
The pamphlet was the most widely circulated attack on sex education in the 1960s. Drake estimated that it sold over 90,000 copies in the three months after it was published, while Hargis claimed one million overall. A more conservative estimate is 250,000 copies…
In response to “Is the School House the Proper Place to Teach Raw Sex?”, Greg Hill issued a Discordian dispatch entitled “Is The Schoolhouse the Proper Place to Teach Raw Math?”
Hill distributed the above dispatch to his network of Illuminati conspirators, who likewise propagated this polemic-parody under different names and Discordian disguises, one of which appeared in Playboy in October 1969 under the moniker of Arnold K. Ravenhurst of Chicago, Illinois, that was mostly likely planted by Robert Anton Wilson, then editing the Playboy Forum.
The above letter was pointed out to me by Martin Wagner who maintains a growing archive of RAW rarities at the Robert Anton Wilson Fans website. Not only did Martin point out the Ravenhurst letter, but also a follow-up response by James O’Malley of Brooklyn, New York, who was also most likely a Bob Wilson bot.
At the end of Greg Hill’s “Raw Math” dispatch he mentioned “the broken cross peace symbol,” a controversy that seems to have gathered a head of steam during this period, as documented in a New York Times article which you can view here—assuming you’re not thwarted by the dreaded pay wall effect.
In regards to the “broken cross peace symbol,” apparently Greg Hill (using the Mad Malik persona) considered it his patriotic duty to warn the GOP of a similar menace relating to the secret symbolism of “3 inverted pentagrams on your elephant’s riot helmet… specifically used to conjure evil spirits…”