And if that wasn’t enough, and of course it never is, I also penned an afterword for the RVP-never-to-be, which is a little dated in some regards, as it was composed in 2015 prior to a number of states in our great union legalizing marijuana, among them California where I currently reside and frequently indulge in Indica gummies.
God bless the Golden State. And away we go…
Reaching Boldly for the Stars
“They live happiest who have forgiven most.”
—Robert Anton Wilson
The intellectual synergy Leary and RAW generated during the Starseed Signals period was one of those high watermarks Hunter S. Thompson described in Fear and Loathing In Las Vegas; a wave that tragically crashed to shore with the brutal death of RAW’s 15-year-old daughter, Patricia (Luna in Cosmic Trigger), on October 3rd, 1976, an incident that made headlines in San Francisco-Bay Area newspapers.
This tragedy must have been a true test to RAW’s convictions, seen in light of the views expressed in Starseed Signals about the U.S. penal system, and how he felt that a large portion of the prison population was unjustly incarcerated. The natural reaction to the brutal murder of one’s child naturally elicits, in most of Starseed Signals, a sense of rage and vengeance, however robotic those emotions may be. However, RAW wisely learned along the way that cages exist not only in the physical realm, but in our minds as well, and that the only way to truly free ourselves from these self-imposed prisons, is to let them go. (Easier said than done.) One way of doing this is through the practice of forgiveness, a sentiment RAW shared repeatedly throughout his final years. In retrospect, I now understand why RAW placed such importance on the practice of forgiveness; he realized that the more we can do to unchain those ghosts of the past that haunt us, the freer we can be to live and love.
A proponent of space exploration, life extension and cryogenics, RAW made the bold leap—in the aftermath of his daughter Patricia’s death—to have her brain cryonically preserved. As he informed the San Francisco Examiner: “We thought that if we could make a contribution to science something good could come out of this tragedy… We feel it is a long shot, but it’s our way of expressing our belief in life and our rejection of the casual acceptance of murder and death in our society.” It should be noted that this was the first time in history that an attempt had been made to preserve a human brain.
As much as RAW and Leary tried to push things forward, evolutionary-wise, the more things stay the same. Marijuana—the dreaded killer weed—is still illegal in most states of this great nation, and we are still arguing about the rights of women to decide the fate of their own bodies, while thousands of our young battle ever-changing enemies in undeclared wars without end. Sometimes it seems like two steps forward, three steps back on the evolutionary treadmill. Or to mix metaphors even more, our species is akin to Sisyphus, pushing that rock slowly and painstakingly up the mountain, but never quite making it to the crest, to come rolling back down again like Hunter Thompson’s famous wave that crashed to shore and symbolized the end of a generation’s aspirations. But RAW and Leary were having none of Dr. Thompson’s fatalism, as both remained cheerful and optimistic up until the very end of their lives.
One positive development we can point to is the growing use of medical marijuana to treat cancer and other ailments, such as the post-polio syndrome RAW suffered from most of his adult life, and particularly in his final years when it became increasingly difficult for him to walk on this own, without the aid of others. However, his medical condition in no way slowed down his anti-authoritarian antics. During the 2003 California recall election, RAW tossed his name into the hat, running for Governor on the Guns and Dope Party Ticket, whose platform advocated replacing one third of Congress with ostriches.
Another example was his participation at a pro-medical marijuana rally in Santa Cruz, California on September 17, 2002. At this event, RAW was among a group of medical marijuana patients who, in defiance of a federal court order, picked up their medicinal herb from care providers at a rally that received national media attention.
Many presume that the life of a famous author means never again having to toil again at a nine-to-five job as untold riches pour into your coffers from a never-ending stream of royalty checks cheerfully sent by beneficent publishers. Unfortunately, this was not the case for RAW, at least not the part about untold riches. During those heady years of the mid-seventies, RAW was always a responsible provider for his family, which could be a difficult task at times for a father of four who wants to blaze his own literary path. Starseed Signals was dashed off during those precarious years when poverty persistently nipped at his heels, and RAW had to humble himself for public assistance to make ends meet. But somehow he made it all work while at the same time envisioning a far more noble and interesting future for us all, or at least for those among us willing to venture beyond our own self-imposed human orbits, and reach boldly for the stars.
Recently I stumbled upon this artifact in the Discordian Archives, a clipping from the May 1976 edition of National Weed entitled: “Author Sues Acidheads For Saying Leary Wrote His Book!”
In essence, this article appears to have been a PR prank Robert Anton Wilson pulled as a pretext to promote Illuminatus! while at the same time taking a pot-shot (pun intended) at members of the Neo-American Church, who—on occasion—RAW was known to tussle with.
This article also mentions a Timothy Leary interview RAW was working on that had yet to be published at the time due to what he referred to as “perfectionist” editors at PLAYBOY. This “Lost Leary Interview” —which has yet to see the literary light of day—was among content included in the RVP-never-to-be-version of Starseed Signals, although I’ve been informed that our friends at Hilaritas Press may include it in their forthcoming iteration of the book.
As for the “acidheads” mentioned in the article, RAW was referring to members of the Neo-American Church, founded by former Leary acolyte Arthur Kleps. It should be noted that if RAW was sincerely interested in suing the Neo-American Church, then said lawsuit would have included his friend, and Discordian Society founder, Greg Hill, who was an affiliate member of that august acidhead outfit as documented in this membership card below. Oh, what a tangled web we acidheads weave!
Kleps was fond of penning polemics to counterculture publications, one of which appeared in the November 14, 1975 edition of The Berkeley Barb with Kleps going on about how the “energy crisis” was a hoax that “fits in with the apocalyptic ideas so popular among the moron supernaturalists and occultists of the Robert Anton Wilson type…”
In response, RAW fired back with the following letter published in the November 21, 1975 edition of The Berkeley Barb:
According to a recent post on RAWillumination, Hilaritas Press at long last, is poised to publish RAW’s Starseed Signals: Link Between Worlds, a book project I worked on for what seemed like dog years (Sirius-ly) when I was involved with the initial publisher who signed onto the project, RVP Press. However, at some point in this cosmic caper, RVP had a falling out with the RAW Trust, and the book deal fell through—as book deals sometimes do—in the wacky world of publishing.
Among the contributions I made to the RVP-never-to-be-version was the following foreword I share with you now (which alas fell by the wayside in the fallout from the aforementioned RVP/RAW Trust kerfuffle) providing my perspective of what you can look forward to when Starseed Signals hits the streets, maybe as soon as July according to my sources on the Dog Star.
So hop aboard this mighty spaceship, ye psychonauts, and away we go…
A Mission to the Stars
Welcome to the future past. This book is a literal time/space capsule, recounting a golden era of possibilities, of searching and experimentation. Starseed Signals chronicles a significant period in the life of Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) as a writer and thinker, charting his explorations into consciousness expansion, knowledge acceleration, life extension, space travel and many other themes that set the stage for his subsequent literary endeavors. In addition, Starseed Signals laid the foundation for RAW’s landmark work Cosmic Trigger: The Final Secret of the Illuminati, so don’t be surprised if some of the passages in this book seem familiar, to be later lifted and inserted into the Cosmic Trigger narrative.
Starseed Signals was dashed off over a two-week period in early 1975, a burst of energy supplied by the sudden turmoil and controversy surrounding his friendship and collaborations with the infamous Dr. Timothy Leary, who RAW perceived as one of the most brilliant, yet misunderstood minds of not only his generation, but of any.
During this period—as Leary sat caged in prison on trumped up drug charges—he and RAW conceptualized a book project entitled A Periodic Table of Energy, a scientific system of neuro-psychology based on eight evolutionary circuits, or steps, through which humanity progresses, with the latter circuit propelling WoMan to the stars, the ultimate evolution, our union with the infinite and quest for immortality.
To many, now and then, such flights of fancy seem naught but the brain-damaged blatherings of aging hippies who blew their minds one too many times. Or, perhaps, Dr. Leary was too far ahead of his time for his own good. As documented in Starseed Signals—from those long-ago years of 1961-62—Leary conducted an inmate rehabilitation project using LSD therapy which achieved positive results in reducing recidivism in the Massachusetts Department of Corrections.
Now in this far out year of 2015, LSD research has experienced a renaissance and is once again on the radar of scientists and clinical psychologists as a tool to treat alcoholism and other maladies, including severe cases of autism. That it has taken 50+ years for such “groundbreaking” research to come full circle and again be taken seriously by the scientific community speaks to Dr. Leary’s vision of the future, one in which tools such as LSD can be used to meta-program the human nervous system and ultimately evolve the species.
Just the same, Leary contributed to his own undoing by opening “the doors of perception” too abruptly for some, as the Establishment wasn’t ready for the type of freedom he was peddling: “Turn on, tune in and drop out.” And, frankly, a lot of young heads weren’t ready for it either, although the sensationalized “bummer trip” stories of the period seemed highly exaggerated; all those supposed blown minds who stared at the sun until their eyeballs melted from the sockets; or like Art Linkletter’s daughter jumping out of a tenth story window expecting she could fly. Such hysteria precipitated a Leary backlash as he was portrayed in the media as an acid gobbling mad scientist poised to corrupt an entire nation and generation, and so had to be brought down and made an example of.
Seen through a more rational lens—and in retrospect of nearly half a century gone by—Leary can now be viewed as a transcendent agent of change engaged in the process of accelerating our evolutionary cycle, who ran afoul of the Establishment, yet ultimately triumphed by living life on his own terms.
During the early seventies—as Leary had become ingrained as a household name that would live in infamy—RAW began trying alternative religions on for size, including wicca and magick, and in particular a Crowleyean ritual known as the “Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel,” which he invoked on the momentous date of July 23rd, 1973. In the ritual’s aftermath, RAW encountered what he perceived as an ascended master who instructed him on the significance of the star system Sirius. RAW later discovered that July 23rd is the very day when Sirius rises behind the sun, the fabled Dog days.
During the same period RAW was experiencing “telepathic communications from Sirius”—a number of other writers and psychedelic researchers were entertaining otherworldly encounters, such as science fiction author Philip K. Dick (PKD) who experienced similar communications with certain entities from Sirius as recounted in his semi-autobiographical novel VALIS. Concurrently, British novelist Doris Lessing had began a series of Sci-Fi novels, a departure from her previous books. In the third novel of this series, The Sirian Experiments, Lessing relates a tale with stunning similarities to those of RAW and PKD. It was only later that Wilson, Dick and Lessing discovered they were having these experiences simultaneously, albeit unbeknownst to each other. Meanwhile—during the aforementioned Dog Days of July-August 1973—RAW’s good friend Dr. Leary, then serving time at Folsom, formed a four-person telepathy team, the intent of which was “… to achieve telepathic communication with Higher Intelligence elsewhere in the galaxy.” At the same time Leary received his “Starseed Transmissions,” another psychedelic pioneer, Dr. John Lilly, was having his own series of interstellar communications with a network of entities known as ECCO, “Earth Coincidence Control Office.” It should be further noted that 1973 was a peak year of UFO sightings, so something indeed was in the air.
As these apparent extraterrestrial communications were invading our earth-space, suddenly all contact with Leary broke off as he was held incommunicado amid rumors he’d become a fink for the Feds, ratting out his old counterculture cronies to cut a deal to get himself out of the joint. The hysteria and paranoia of this period is well documented in Starseed Signals, providing the background—the set and setting—for the climate of the times.
At the time of the writing of Starseed Signals, the sixties looked a thousand light years away in the rear-view mirror as the lost idealism of that decade bled over into the early seventies. A hung-over generation awoke one morning to discover President Nixon’s “War on Drugs” in full force, its crosshairs trained on the country’s youth, poor and minorities; draconian drug laws designed, it seemed, to create a prison state of mind, with Dr. Timothy Leary—who Nixon proclaimed “the most dangerous man in America”—serving as the poster boy for all things immoral and indecent.
Early on in Starseed Signals, RAW warns about this Second Coming of the Holy Inquisition, Nixon’s “War on Drugs,” and how it led to Leary’s political persecution. RAW’s pronouncements—which, to the more sober minded in 1975 probably came across as a bit on the paranoid side and seemingly steeped in rhetoric—are now but a cautionary tale come true, as seen in the aftermath of 9/11 with the advent of the Patriot Act, and the countless other resurrections of the “War on Drugs” that are rolled out every decade or so to remind us of the consequences of having too much fun, or being allowed to operate our own brains in the manner we see fit.
Eventually the dust would settle in early 1976 when California Governor Jerry “Moonbeam” Brown released Leary from his prison sentence. This, naturally, turned another page in the many lives of Dr. Leary—and RAW, as well. Afterwards, Starseed Signals was jettisoned into deep space as the impetus to publish the book lost steam and relevance amid these happenings. Nonetheless, the historical significance of Starseed Signals as an autobiographical period piece is well worth the price of admission, starting with RAW’s peyote peregrinations of the early sixties all the way to envisioned space explorations in cahoots with Leary, in addition to several other tributaries and trajectories explored along the way.
Join us now on our mission to the stars. Turn on, tune in, turn the page…
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
These letters aren’t dated—nor have I retained carbons of the originals from my end, so I don’t remember specific dates—but as I recall along with my letters I included an article I’d written for Paranoia Magazine that theorized that the Beat Movement and their subsequent Hippie/Yippie offspring—including the Manson Family—may have been part of a grand conspiracy that employed psychedelics as mind control agents (ala MK-ULTRA), all part of a plan designed to influence and undermine the 60s counterculture.
In response, Kerry shot back:
I harbor no conspiracy theories about The Beats, but did hear the rumor, several times, that Nixon and Nelson Rockefeller were behind them. Why, I don’t know. Dean Moriarty (Neal Cassady) was a lot like Nelson, evidently—an energetic psychopath.
I’m sorry to say I wasn’t impressed with your articles. You seem to have no conception of the effects of LSD, and your picture of Manson is fucked.
Why the CIA introduced acid, I have no idea. But I suspect they hadn’t the faintest notion of what to expect. I knew many people, including my ex-wife and one nuclear physicist, who gave up good defense industry jobs because acid turned them against war. And it certainly doesn’t turn the brain to mush, etc., etc.—quite the opposite!
Manson never held any mysterious power over anyone. That was a myth created by the girl’s attorneys to get them off with a lighter sentence. Read Manson In His Own Words by Eddowes [sic]…One of the most fascinating books I’ve ever read—a very no-bullshit account of what happened.
I suspect there may be some truth to the Oswald/FBI informant theory. I went to the FBI (five or six) times myself in the years after the assassination—exactly why, I don’t know (but suspect mind control may have been involved.) Right after Hoover’s death… I wrote some letters to Clarence Kelley, upon becoming convinced a bunch of local radicals were actually Nazis in drag. It is, however, incomprehensible to me that I would do anything so stupid, except once when I thought FBI agents were setting me up and wanted to cover my ass.
Robert Anton Wilson—whom you mention in connection with Leary (whom I hear was a munitions corporate espionage agent) was my mentor from 1967 until about 1971. I hear he was connected with a Nazi secret society known as MAAGI6 , because it infiltrated MAG-11 (Marine Air Group Eleven) to which both Oswald and I belonged at different times. But the same sources of information held him in great respect as someone who in spite of his affiliation was very independent and a sincere anarchist, etc. Wilson introduced me to the individual anarchists–Proudhon, Warren, Tucker, Spooner, Bersodi, Labadie, etc.
In the above letter, Kerry mentioned sending a letter to FBI director Clarence Kelley about his belief that he was being monitored by some secret society of sorts with connections to US intelligence which indeed was a sort of wild thing to do—sending a rambling letter like that to the Director of the FBI—but hey, we’re talking about Kerry here.
This missive to Kelley is in a batch of Thornley-FOIA documents I’ve collected over the years that I’ll post here at HD sometime in the near future. Kerry also states his belief (or suspicion) that Robert Anton Wilson was an intelligence agency spook or asset, aligned to some Nazi secret society. Make of that what you will!
In response to Kerry’s letter, I evidently brought up the Process Church of the Final Judgment, which—in turn—launched Kerry off on one of his classic conspiratorial screeds in this follow-up letter:
Page 1 of Kerry’s reply letter recounts a brush he had with the Process Church in New Orleans in 1967 when he’d returned there to appear before Jim Garrison’s Grand Jury looking into the JFK assassination. Weirdly enough, the person who took Kerry by the Process Church headquarters was none other than Slim Brooks, the same shadowy character who he suspected had lured him unwittingly into a JFK assassination conspiracy.
On Page 2, Kerry connects Robert Anton Wilson with The Process, referring to an incident that occurred in 1975 at a place called the Celestial Mansion where Kerry believed that Wilson and a group of clandestine intelligence agents/secret society adepts met with him as part of some sort of debriefing regarding the JFK assassination.
The spring 1977 issue of Conspiracy Digest featured an interview with Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) in which he discussed the full spectrum of where his head was at during the period.
Fresh off the publication of Illuminatus!, the interview included RAW’s musings on conspiracy theories, space migration, life extension, the Eight Circuit Model and Aleister Crowley.
In response, Mae Brussell—the Matron Saint of Conspiracy Theorists—fired off the following letter challenging RAW’s contention that Tim Leary’s stint in prison was anything but difficult, and in actuality (or at least in Mae’s reality tunnel) Leary had been coddled by the Feds (and fed steak!) and that his time in lock-up was actually a cake-walk.
Mae further employed the cake metaphor to explain how the likes of Leary, RAW and John Lilly were in cahoots with the CIA to corrupt the youth of America!
White sugar is a drug in cake icing used to induce us to consume white flour. Sugar is, literally, a reward for eating the cake. Lilly, [Bucky] Fuller, Wilson, and Leary are the white sugar frosting that sweeps people into happy time, scooping them up into a dream world so they will avoid the reality of a good diet of sound action. Leary, Wilson and their likes are used by the CIA Intelligence Community to sugar sweet the yellow brick road to Oz, while the means to enslave mankind are being manufactured under our noses…
In response to Mae’s missive, RAW came clean about his role in this diabolical brainwashing plot, confessing that he’d been a “high Official of the Central Intelligence Agency since July 23, 1973” and, further agreeing with Mae’s theory on the “white sugar” allegations, agreed that:
Dr. Leary didn’t merely have a high time at that great pleasure resort, Folsom Prison, as Mae has discovered; he had a great time in all the 29 prisons he visited during the last six years, although actually most of the time he was living (with a private harem) in the Taj Mahal, only appearing at the prisons often enough to keep alive the myth that he was a political prisoner…
One might conclude that Mae’s theory re: RAW and Leary as dastardly members of this “white sugar mafia” was, in essence, a metaphor to suggest that they’d been used by intelligence agency handlers to soft peddle psychedelics and space migration and all the other heady stuff they were entertaining at the time.
In this vein, I remember hearing one of Mae’s tape recorded radio shows (from the early 1980s) where she claimed that Leary, RAW and other unnamed “spychiatrists” were part of a mind control squadron that went around brainwashing important people. For instance, Mae claimed that this Leary-RAW MK-ULTRA tag team showed up at Larry Flynt’s mansion (during the period that Flynt was attempting to expose the Kennedy assassination) and effectively messed with Flynt’s mind and influenced him to drop his one million dollar reward to expose the assassination. Afterwards, Flynt became increasingly erratic, like showing up for his trial dressed only in a diaper made out of an American flag, and a number of other publicity stunts that gave the impression he’d gone off his nut.
Given these peculiar insights, one wonders if Mae, at some point, hadn’t been exposed to the rantings of Kerry Thornley, as it was during this period (late-70s/early-80s) that Kerry’s schizophrenia kicked into high gear and he was making similar claims that both RAW and Leary were working as his handlers, covertly visiting him in Atlanta to do whatever it is that diabolical mind control handlers do. It makes perfect sense that Thornley may have contacted Mae in this regard, as during this period he was firing off letters left and right to whoever would listen to his JFK Assassination revelations, and his suspicions that he’d been MK-ULRTA’ed.
Case in point: A 1975 “affidavit” in which Kerry talked about a “team” of handlers he met in Atlanta, one of whom “bore an uncanny intellectual and psychological resemblance to an anarchist writer friend of mine [RAW] who lives in California…”
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 Gran 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…
A 1976 letter from Kerry (to Greg Hill) claimed that both Leary and RAW visited him that year, and he went on to write that, “I am literally surrounded by the intelligence community, but after the first three attempts to murder me things seem to have cooled down and most of the spies now appear to be on my side…”
During this period, RAW and Leary wrote on article (June 1976 issue of Oui) entitled “Brainwashing: How To Fold, Spindle and Mutilate the Human Mind in Five Easy Steps” which may have further fueled the fire in the minds of some that RAW and Leary were taking names and washing brains!
Over at our Early Discordians facebook group, Sirius Mazzu posted a rather illuminating link that seemed to be news to everyone in the group concerning a 1978 H. R. Giger Illuminatus! illustration, which incorporated Tim Leary, H.P. Lovecraft, and possibly Aleister Crowley as characters in addition to little alien dudes on stilts numbered 5, 17, and 23!
In our meeting we talk about what it was like to live with Kerry in Little Five Points, Atlanta. It seems important to mention that at the time they met, Kerry was, according to some, veering off into paranoia. I myself remain agnostic on some of his claims and skeptical of some others, especially his theory that his “real father” was a Nazi Admiral.
Tantra greets me at the entrance of her house, near a garden filled with gigantic cacti. She is smiley and excitable, and her passion for life is contagious.
She grew up in Indiana, in an area where very few people were around, few enough that one didn’t need to put clothes on to collect the mail on a hot day. She would go to Alabama, now and then, to see relatives. It was the kind of town where you couldn’t really admit to not being religious. She would attend Straight Creek Holiness Church, where people would yell and run around the congregation when the spirit seized them. When the spirit seized preachers, they would handle the snakes; a sign on the church quoted Mark 16:18, They shall take up serpents; and if they drink any deadly thing, it shall not hurt them. The spirit never seemed to seize them in her presence. When she was in Alabama, she missed the people she could engage with in California, and when she was away she missed the nature.
Tantra has a special relationship with nature. She spent years traveling the country in her van, sometimes driving out to a natural place, and finding a spot to sleep out in the open. It was during this period of travel that she began to develop her skills in Tantric yoga, healing, and her own construction of a form of effortless movement, called ‘Lucid Play.’
Tantra was in Little Five Points when she met someone who connected her with Kerry Thornley, who was to take a significant place in her life.
“I had been in Atlanta in Little Five Points and I met this guy who was the figurehead of Little Five Points. He would stand there and he would ring his bell and he would burn his sage and he would figure out who should meet whom. So he was telling me about Kerry Thornley and showing these broadsheets that he had put up and they were great political activism mixed with absurd, wild craziness. And so I wanted to meet him, and I thought, I want to come back to Atlanta to spend time with Kerry Thornley. And he was, I guess, 60 or something like that.
“And so then later I was going to Atlanta. I thought it was going to be just for a weekend but then my van broke down so I had to find a place to live. I was reading The Illuminatus! Trilogy. It was dedicated to Kerry. I stayed with that guy that I mentioned. His friend Wilson Leary, Timothy Leary’s cousin, came by, he and I started dating. So I’ve got all these things in the world of Kerry Thornley like…” she waves her arms and makes sounds to imitate the ineffable presence of Thornleyness that was entering her sphere.
“So I was trying to figure out where I was going to live and this guy just came up to me in Little Five Points and said, ‘If you’re looking for a place to live, you can live with me, I’ve got a porch.’ I checked out this house and they’ve got a big porch and so I moved in. It was a really wild artistic kind of place. I found out that Kerry Thornley lived there in this little mother-in-law right out the back. So I went there looking for Kerry Thornley, and moved in next to him without even knowing it.”
“Do you remember the first time you actually met him?” I ask.
“Uh-huh. Coming out of my room it was like, ‘There’s Kerry Thornley!’ Or, Omar Khyaam Ravenhurst.”
“What did you two talk about the first time you met?”
“Oh, I probably was just kind of squealing and telling him how glad I was, and him just doing this great laugh. I love his laugh. It was unlike anyone else’s. I wouldn’t even try to imitate it. He had thirteen cats or something like that, some huge number of cats so you’d always hear him calling them. He was just this really sweet little cat man, and son of a Nazi, such an odd combination, he claimed. In my life I always run into these MK-ULTRA kind of people, which was a little scary sometimes, that that happens, and that’s what he was, he said.
“I was also was a little bit uneasy about how much, living with him, was that going to involve me? How much was I being watched because of it? So it became like The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Black helicopters were going over all the time, and just becoming more and more like those books.”
Kerry said there were flying helicopters over his house,” I say. I was thinking of what a friend of Kerry, Louise Lacey, had told me of Kerry’s time in Florida when I said this, though I’d forgotten the details of what I’d heard. She had told me that Jim Garrison had sent helicopters over his house.
“They were, they were,” Bensko says. “They were doing it a lot. They would even follow me around. He seemed to know what he’s talking about. People always think that he was making up these stories in his head about the mind controllers and stuff, but I don’t know. He might have been.”
It was once while they lived in this close proximity that Tantra decided to perform a Discordian ritual, after a comment Kerry made.
“He said that the beauty of Discordianism was that he didn’t have to see any other Discordian-ists. And so there were no rituals. So to fly in the face of that then and give it a little chaotic shuffle, I told him, ‘we’ve got to do a ritual then.’ He thought that was a great idea.
“So I got a stick of butter and I molded it into the shape of Eris the Goddess and I put it on the floor. We said something over it you know, and his thirteen cats came and positioned themselves around the butter so there was no space in between them. They were all just jammed into where their tongues were right in there in the butter and they all started spinning around in a circle all at the same time, so you had this circling cat-thing around Eris, licking it until it was gone while Kerry and I were just laughing.”
“So that was the core moment that I remember about that ritual. His cats after that walked off but kind of continuing to circle and just ‘woah hey’ and wobble off to the edges.”
“Did you spend much time with Kerry after that?” I ask.
“Oh yeah, I spent a lot of time with him when I lived in Atlanta because I was there a couple of years, and so we were really good friends. I think I spent as much time with him over those years as everyone else did altogether. He didn’t really have a lot of people come by. And the other people in the house didn’t go to see him that much. But we were buddies. We hung out. I just deeply love Kerry.
“I don’t agree with some of his politics like, ‘Kill Kennedy.’ But yeah, I really liked Kerry a lot. I felt like his writing with Eris might have had something to do with his feeling like he did inadvertently kill Kennedy by suggesting someone like Oswald could be a patsy. But who knows; it’s one layer after another it’s so complex at the time.”
When I first talked to Bensko over the Internet she pointed out that she wasn’t a Discordian and wasn’t any kind of expert, but when I spoke to her in person, she said she was identifying sometimes with the title. I asked her to tell me what about the ideology meant to her.
“It’s postmodernist,” she says. “There’s many angles, and none of them are true.” She likes that Discordia is essentially difficult to take too seriously, and finds the attitude of believing without believing useful to her work. “There’s lots of Gods in Tantra Yoga too, and I see them as physics principles,” she tells me.
We chat for a long time; Tantra is someone who it is immensely easy to be around. She carries an effortless friendliness that invites you in and asks you to engage, without needing to say the words. She talks about many things, including her time in Little Five Points, her Yoga experience and her book, Collapsible Horizon.
I walk home. The air is warm and still. I arrive back to the marijuana-scented hostel doors, and make my way up the winding stairs to my room.
Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) explored the UFO mystery over the years and one of his earliest writings on the topic appeared in the May 1975 Berkeley Barb entitled “Awaiting The News from Galactic Central” about a story then circulating which predicted ETs would soon be broadcasting over worldwide TV.
Also included in the article are comments from a number of personalities, among them Malaclypse the Younger (Greg Hill): “There is no doubt at all that proof of galactic Higher Intelligences will appear on TV screens everywhere between September and November 1975,” he said flatly. “I stake my reputation on this.”
Apparently this ET broadcast that RAW wrote about in the article never happened—at least not in this spacetime continuum—but something of a similar sort occurred a couple years after the fact (or fiction) on November 26th, 1977 during a regional newscast in the UK when an entity named Asteron interrupted the telecast with this startling message!
RAW’s first encounter with a UFO (or a reasonable facsimile thereof) occurred in rural New Jersey in the mid 1960s when in the presence of friends and family members, he witnessed a silvery something from afar.
Each of the witnesses took turns examining the object through a pair of binoculars, and some were of the opinion that what they witnessed resembled a classic flying saucer craft accompanied by humanoids in silvery costumes. When RAW looked through the binocs, he observed something similar to a geodesic dome, sans the silver clad spacemen. RAW went on to state in Cosmic Trigger Vol. 1: “That afternoon, my son, Graham, encountered an ‘extraterrestrial’ in the woods behind our house, at the foot of the hill. She was a female, with silvery skin, and she told Graham (he was five at the time) that he should become a physicist when he grew up… Years later, Graham did indeed study to become a physicist.”
Later in Cosmic Trigger, RAW writes:
“Prof. Jacques Vallee, who has analyzed all such Contact stories that have occurred since 1890 with a computer to find statistical patterns, informs us that this is drearily typical. The majority of child contactees, Vallee has discovered, report female extraterrestrials. (The majority of adults report males, in two standard types — small green men or giant blue men.) In fact, Dr. Vallee has found 44 parallels (similarities of image, word and detail) between the average experience of child Contactees …” (p. 39)
“Contactees generally report Her, according to Vallee, and the silvery globe was also around in some of Her miracles, under the guise of the B.V.M., at Lourdes and Fatima. In one of Her miracles at Fatima, She caused the sun to plunge directly toward Earth, in the shared experience or hallucination of over 100,000 witnesses…” (pp. 40-41)
“Naturally, I did not suspect for a long time that our Lady Eris, goddess of confusion, was just the Space Lady coming back to haunt me in a different guise.” (p. 59)
RAW’s second UFO-related experience (sort of) occurred on July 23rd 1973. Leading up to this event, he’d been programming himself with LSD while conducting a series of Crowleyean rituals known as the Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel. On top of all this, RAW was using Dr. John Lilly’s “Beliefs Unlimited” hypnosis-tape to access the astral plane… or a reasonable facsimile thereof.
It was at this time that RAW established apparent contact (maybe) with certain critters from the Sirius star system… or it might have been a Giant Pookah named Harvey, for all we know. Or a bunny named Bugs.
Crowley, it has been conjectured, met with his own host of alien looking chaps, among them Aiwass and also a curious character named Lam who looked somewhat like the alien grays that would later claim their fame in Whitley Strieber’s Communion and The X-Files. It was Aiwass who dictated (though psychic channeling) The Book of the Law, which formed the basis of Crowley’s “religion” Thelema. But Thelema, like Discordianism, should be more aptly termed an irreligion, “Where every man and woman is a Pope,” in the same respect that in Thelema, “Every man and woman is a star.”
In one account, RAW recalled his Sirius experience occurring in a hypnogogic dream state when the perceived entity (or Ascended Master or whatever it was) whispered in his inner ear something about the significance of the Sirius star system that RAW immediately scribbled down in his magickal diary: “Sirius is very important!”
Intrigued by this cryptic message, RAW afterwards visited the Berkeley Public Library to conduct more in depth research where he stumbled upon a passage in a book revealing that July 23rd is the very day when Sirius rises behind the Sun, known as the Dog Days. July 23rd is now considered a High Holy Day in Discordianism, known as Robert Anton Wilson Day or Maybe Day. Oddly enough, it is also National Hot Dog Day. (Buns optional.)
Around the same time as RAW’s Sirius synch, science fiction author Philip K. Dick had some sort of “mystical experience” involving three-eyed crab clawed beings from (you guessed it!) Sirius. This led to Dick’s trilogy of books based on the VALIS theme.
Concurrently, British author Doris Lessing also established some sort of contact with Sirius, which inspired her to pen a Sci-Fi novel entitled The Sirian Experiments. In this regard, neither RAW, Dick or Lessing were aware of one another’s experiences until well after their own respective experiences occurred. These are the type of synchronicities that frequently avail themselves to those who dabble in the occult, psychedelics and Forteana.
Somebutnotall of RAW’s Conversation with the Holy Guardian Angel rituals occurred on the astral plane (which could also be interpreted as the subconscious mind or collective unconscious) where he met up with a number of perceived entities, one of whom was his old friend Dr. Timothy Leary:
“I was continually interrupted during my voyages by impressions of Leary doing similar experiments in his cell at Folsom. I also had visions of him flying over the walls of the prison.”
In Cosmic Trigger, RAW notes that in October 1973 he received permission to begin corresponding with Leary at Folsom Prison and “started out with a letter about the general philosophical implications of tuning the nervous system to higher fidelity of signal-reception and very carefully did not mention my July 23 experience with Sirius. (I was fairly sure that my July-August impressions that Timothy was doing telepathic experiments had been accurate, but I had no idea yet that he was attempting interstellar telepathy.) Tim’s answer was full of characteristic humor.”:
“The prison administration is perfect. They act as a Van Allen belt protecting my privacy, screening out distractions… The people they refuse visiting privileges are exactly those people who come to exploit me or whose love for me is flawed. My gratitude toward the prison warden must not be misunderstood. They are too possessive and jealous — terrible states to be in. Their love and dependence on me are too restricting. They are terrorized that I might leave them… in the lurch, so to say.” (pp. 102-103)
To the above letter, RAW wrote back, “but remained mum about Sirius. Instead, just for the hell of it, I used my official Discordian Society letterhead. The stationery bears the imprint of the Joshua Norton Cabal… Timothy, however, seems to have thought Joshua Norton Cabal was the name of a living person. Actually, Joshua Norton—or Norton I, as he preferred—was a San Franciscan of the last century who elected himself Emperor of the United States and Protector of Mexico. Bay Area historians still argue as to whether Norton was a psychotic or a clever con-man; in any event, he was ‘humored’ by the citizenry of the time and, in effect, lived like an Emperor. As Greg Hill, co-founder of Discordianism, has written, ‘Everybody understands Mickey Mouse. Few understand Herman Hesse. Hardly anybody understands Einstein. And nobody understands Emperor Norton.’ (The Discordian Society, we repeat again, is not a complicated joke disguised as a new religion but really a new religion disguised as a complicated joke.)” (p. 103)
To the above, RAW “wrote back discussing the odd links between Leary’s work and that of Crowley and Gurdjieff, and mentioning the evidence that the latter two were both taught certain advanced techniques of consciousness-expansion by the Sufi lodges of the Near East. [RAW] also mentioned that Rasputin might have had the same sort of Sufi training during his wanderings. Leary’s reply blew [his] mind…” (p. 104).
When RAW got in touch with Michael Horowitz, he heard, for the first time, about the “Starseed Transmissions” although it wasn’t until 1977 that RAW got the full lowdown from Lynn Wayne Benner, Leary’s closest friend in Folsom, who informed RAW that the Starseed Transmissions started (you guess it) in August of 1977 during the peak of the very same Dog Days that did a number on his head.
During this same period (circa 1973-1974), Dr. John Lilly (whose “Beliefs Unlimited” tape RAW had used as part of his metaprogramming curriculum) was meanwhile going through his own series of interstellar communications with a network of alien entities known as ECCO, an acronym for “Earth Coincidence Control Office.” These communications were achieved through the use of the drug Ketamine.
Over the years, RAW stayed hep to the flying saucer trip by interacting with cutting edge Ufological thinkers such as the aforementioned Jacques Vallee, who became a heavy influence on RAW’s Ufological worldview:
“After October 1974 (due to a meeting with Dr. Jacques Vallee, an extraordinarily erudite astronomer, cyberneticist and UFOlogist), I began to develop new belief systems to explain my Sirius experience…
“Dr. Vallee has been concerned with UFOs since the early 1960s, when he was two of the beasties. Over the years Vallee has broadened his investigations to include ‘psychic’2 experiences that relate in one way or another to UFOs, such as my Sirius experiences. He believes that this whole area of other-worldly communications has been going on for centuries and will probably not turn out to be extraterrestrial. The extraterrestrial content of the experience these days, he says, is just an adaptation to 20th Century beliefs. The phenomenon took other and spookier forms, his data indicate, in other epochs.
“This made perfect sense to me, since I had originally gotten in touch with ‘the entity’ by means of Crowleyan occultism. The extraterrestrial explanation was not the real explanation, as I had thought; it was just the latest model for it in the Middle Ages, or dead relatives speaking through mediums had been a model in the 19th Century.
“Then, on Sunday, March 13, 1976, a dispatch from Reuters News Service appeared in newspapers around the world. I read it in the San Francisco Examiner-Chronicle and it was like opening a door in my own house and finding Ming the Merciless shooting it out with Flash Gordon.
“The dispatch concerned Robert K. Temple, a Fellow of the Royal Astronomical Society of England, a scientist of dignity and status, who was propounding a theory wild enough to come from the pages of von Daniken himself. Temple claimed that Earth had been visited by an advanced race from a planet in the system of the double star, Sirius, around 4500 B.C. Temple based this assertion on the fact that definite and specific knowledge of the Sirius can be found in the mythology of the Babylonians, the Egyptians, and some surviving African tribes—knowledge which modern astronomy has only rediscovered with the fantastically delicate instruments of the last two decades…”
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…