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Kerry Thornley and Kerista

In the mid 1960s, Kerry Thornley joined The Gentle Way, “a sexually swinging psychedelic tribe” engaged in communal mate swapping, dope smoking, and LSD-tripping. Kerry worked for a while as The Gentle Way’s public relations envoy, publishing the Gentle Folk Bullsheet to promote the group’s extracurricular activities.

The Gentle Folk Bullsheet. Courtesy of The Discordian Archives.

The Gentle Way was established by John Presmont (aka Brother Jud) who first came to the attention of the authorities in 1964 when he and seventeen of his free swinging followers were arrested in a communal compound in New York City where “a phonograph was playing soft music and marijuana cigarettes were strewn about… While the detectives were questioning the 17, Mrs. Barbara Sharif Bey, 22 years old, of 279 East Third Street, arrived with a pound of marijuana. The police went to her apartment, where they found her husband, John, placing two additional pounds of marijuana in bags… John Presmont, 45, a bearded occupant of the apartment, told the police the group believed in collective love and was trying to raise funds to buy an island in the Bahamas where it could set up a legal colony of marijuana users.”

Tired of being hassled by the NYC fuzz, Brother Jud and his mob of furry freaks moved to the sunny climes of Southern California where they became renowned for their “beautiful weekend orgies,” as Kerry fondly remembered. The group eventually changed its name from The Gentle Way to The Kerista.

Brother Jud (seated in the middle) with members of Kerista.

Kerry authored a number of “case histories” based on his Kerista experiences for Monogram Publications, a Southern California erotica publisher. In 1966, the group’s newspaper changed its name from Kerista to Kerista Swinger, presumably to generate greater appeal from a new generation of hip sexual experimenters. The Kerista Swinger unabashedly pronounced itself the “Hippest Paper in the USA.” Kerry—calling himself “Young Omar”—wrote several articles for Kerista Swinger, including this snippet:

“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.”

Front page of the January 1966 edition Kerista Swinger.

Complete PDF download of the issue here.

In Drawing Down The Moon (Amazon), Margot Adler observed that Kerry’s writings on Kerista signaled the beginnings of the Neo-Pagan movement in contemporary culture, which since the mid-60s has expressed itself in myriad forms, such as free love communes, Wicca practitioners, the back-to-nature movement, psychedelic experimenters and various other groups dedicated to spiritual growth and sexual freedom. In Drawing Down the Moon, Adler cited Kerry as the first person to actually use the word Pagan to describe past and present nature religions.

Read RAW’s take on the Keristas here.

1986 Kerista essay by Kerry Thornley.

More on those krazy Keristas here.

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You’ve Lost That Lovin’ Feelin’: Roger Lovin and the Dark Side of Discordia (Part 00002)

Cover of the first issue of Balls: The Ungarbled Word. Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.
In 1968, Roger Lovin began publishing the first French Quarter underground newspaper. Initially titled Balls: The Ungarbled Word it later became known simply as The Ungarbled Word.

The first issue was a rather crude, Xeroxed affair and although it came across as amateur in appearance, Balls featured top notch content including an excerpt from one of the first Discordian writings by Bob McElroy (aka Mungojerry Grindlebone) titled “The Gadfly’s Glossary.”

Cover of the third issue of Balls: The Ungarbled Word.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.
Full PDF here.

The third issue of Balls:The Ungarbled Word featured an excerpt from Greg Hill’s “Draftee’s Dictionary.” The full version, like Mungo’s “Gadfly’s Glossary”, is part of the Discordian Archives. Links to both are provided here and here.

Ungarbled Word occasionally ran Discordian recruitment advertisements, such as the following:

Sometime in 1958 or ’59 Lord Omar Khyyam Ravenhurst, K.C. was seized by a Mystic Fit. When he revived, he stammered, “How blind we have been. All of this confusion could not just have HAPPENED! SOMEBODY had to PUT all this discord here!” Whereupon Malaclypse the Younger, K.C. had a vision of Eris in which she gave him instructions quite incompatable with those received by Lord Omar, and the DISCORDIAN SOCIETY was born.

SINCE THEN, membership has more than tripled, and the Society has been brought to dynamic Discordian perfection by Fang, the Unwashed, W.K.C., etc., and Mungojerry Grindlebone, C.T.E., etc.

THE DS is the hottest item to hit the holy market since Islam. If you have the wit, come join the gathering sages – If you have but half the wit, join somebody else’s flock and get fleeced.

Why the Discordian Society?

THE PURPOSE of the DS is to provide false, comforting answers to the otherwise unanswerable questions that plague mankind; to give metaphysical reasons for the disorder around us; to promote the unworkable principles of discord – In short, to provide the world with a workshop for the insane, thus keeping us out of mischief as Presidents, Priests, Ministers, or other Dictators.

How to Join

Membership in the Legion of Dynamic Discord is open to anyone who asks for it.

A Few Saints

Some of the major saints are St. Bokonon – see CAT’S CRADLE by Vonnegut; St. Quixote – DON QUIXOTE by Cervantes; St. Oberosia – see PENGUIN ISLAND by France; Sr. Yossarian – see CATCH-22 by Heller; and Jt. Pkflrmids – see YOUR EYE DOCTOR by tomorrow.

For more information contact:
The Discordian Society
P.O. Box 501 – Rayville, La.

Discordian advertisement from the August issue of The Ungarbled Word.

After his Army discharge in 1968, Greg Hill returned to California and immersed himself in the burgeoning counterculture, penning a regular column called Happenings Westcoast published by Lovin in the August edition of The Ungarbled Word.

Draft of Greg Hill’s Happenings Westcoast, August 1968.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.
August 28, 1968 letter from Roger Lovin praising Greg Hill and Hailing Eris.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

Happenings Westcoast became a regular feature in The Ungarbled Word and the title was soon changed to Etcetera Pacifica.

September 12, 1968 issue of The Ungarbled Word featuring Greg Hill's Etcetera Pacifica.

Hill produced the column for just a few months until December ’68 when he called it quits on account of his mounting frustration with anti-establishment militants.

Draft version of Hill’s final Etcetera Pacifica column dated December 5, 1968.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.
Greg Hill's final Etcetera Pacifica column as it appeared in The Ungarbled Word.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

In the next installment of this series, we’ll examine how Roger Lovin got caught up in the Jim Garrison investigation madness.

Mucho thanks to Tim Cridland (aka Zamora the Torture King) for his assistance to this and future installments of our Roger Lovin series.

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Boy Howdy! Hail Eris! Discordianism Meets CREEM Magazine

1970 CREEM Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 18.
"Hail Eris. All Hail Discordia."
Back in my wayward youth—in my mid-teens in the mid-70s—when I was knee-deep into heavy metal bands like Blue Oyster, Black Sab, Deep Purp, Led Zep, et al., the go-to publications for me were CREEM and Circus magazines but not so much Rolling Stone which by this time had become increasingly slick and mainstream, oriented more towards California cool acts like Fleetwood Mac, The Eagles, etc.

Where Circus was pretty cheesy and sensational, CREEM stood out as a mag with a certain gonzo journalistic ethos (“Boy Howdy!”) serving as stomping grounds for perhaps my favorite all time rock critic, none other than Lester Bangs whose reviews I didn’t always agree with, yet his writing was always top-notch-in-your-face-tell-it-like-it-is brilliance of the gonzo variety—like a Hunter Thompson, so to speak, of rock criticism.

1970 CREEM Magazine, Vol. 2, No. 18.
CREEM also featured book reviews, and as I recall it was through the mag that I first became acquainted with the works of Harlan Ellison, another deep influence on my writing.

However—until just a few days ago—I was unaware of CREEM’s association with the Discordian Society, which was revealed to me by facebook friend George Sipple, who recently picked up a copy of the December 1970 issue of CREEM mainly for a Lester Bangs article and discovered “Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!” on the inside cover page.

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When Hell Froze Over In L5P

Over at our Early Discordians facebook group, a friend of Kerry Thornley’s named Lori Dyann shared this photo literally ripped from the pages of Creative Loafing sometime in the mid-90s that features Mr. Thornley decked out all apocalyptic-like in Little Five Points, Atlanta.

Kerry Thornley (L) appears in a mid 1990s Creative Loafing.
Courtesy of Lori Dyann.

Our previous post LFP Memories relates to the Creative Loafing article and Chris Wilhoite’s first memorable encounter with Lord Omar while immanentizing the eschaton. As Chris recalled in The Prankster and the Conspiracy:

“I was living in a VW campervan behind a restaurant in L5P. I had just had breakfast and was standing at the corner across from the park, when Kerry comes walking from the far end of the square, wearing a white cloak with a hood and carrying a sign reading ‘World Will End SOON. Get your tickets NOW!’

As he passed down the street, snowflakes (unseasonal for Oct 31 in Atlanta) began to fall right behind Kerry, and as he passed across my field of vision, the snow came in like a curtain drawn by Kerry. My friend Wolf, standing directly behind me said: ‘Yep, hell just froze over!’”

Apocalyptically enough, the Creative Loafing photo looks strikingly similar to the cover image of the very first Discordian zine Apocalypse: A Trade Journal for Doom Prophets cooked-up way back in 1960.

First and last issue of Apocalypse: A Trade Journal for Doom Prophets published 1960, Whittier, CA.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

The reason co-author Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley published only one issue of Apocalypse was because no one else, besides them, found it the least bit humorous. As Kerry later noted: “Things we thought were funny, nobody else did.”

Here is the PDF of Apocalypse: A Trade Journal for Doom Prophets for your possible reading enjoyment.

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A Discordian Directory

1980s Zine: A Discordian Directory No. 00024
Reason Magazine’s Jesse Walker, author of The United States of Paranoia: A Conspiracy Theory—which delves a bit into Discordian History and the Bavarian Illuminati—just gave me a heads up about A Discordian Directory #24, a zine published circa late 1980s that he recently posted at Scribd.

The title at the top of page 1 looks distinctly like lettering/artwork produced by our old friend Roldo Odlor who, as noted in previous posts, collaborated with both Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill and was involved with producing artwork for other like-minded Discordian zines during the zenith of the Zine Revolution.

A Discordian Directory was produced by an outfit dubbing itself B.I.T.C.H (The Bavarian Illuminati Tennessee Chapter Headquarters) consisting of a six page listing of an eclectic hodge-podge of Discordian-SubGenius-Anarchist and conspiratorial tracts, among them an obscure book called The Lost Treasure of Eris we had discussed first here and then here, in addition to such alternative publishing mainstays as Mike Hoy’s publishing company Loompanics that helped revive interest in Discordianism with the re-publication of Principia Discordia in 1977.

Page 2 includes an ad for Kerry Thornley’s Spare Change as well as some outfit peddling Robert Anton Wilson tapes along with scattered images of the Golden Apple, Mr. Spock, and Bob Dobbs with only one eye on his forehead.

Page 3 features another Thornley publication, Decadent Worker, and an ad for Mark Philip Steele’s Illuminatus! comix series.

Other offerings include Arthur Hlavaty’s The Dillinger Relic, Bob Black’s notorious anarchist manifesto The Abolition of Work, Donna Kossy’s Kooks, and Elayne Wechsler’s Inside Joke, a zine which featured the work of many renowned Discordians such as Thornley, Hill and Roldo. Also listed is Mike Gunderloy’s Factsheet Five which was the go-to publication during this period to find out what was happening on the bleeding edge of the Zine Movement.

The Illuminati biker club card was also a nice touch, from an actual honest-to-Goddess cabal situated in these United States.

Again, you can get the whole fine mess on Jesse Walker’s Scribd share.

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Greg Hill Gets Letters! (Part 00009)

Roldo in the early-80s sporting a Sacred Chao button.
In the early-80s, Kerry Thornley began corresponding with Canadian artist Roldo Odlor, which led to a number of collaborative projects between the two, including illustrations for Kerry’s irregular broadsheet, Spare Change.

Kerry put Roldo in touch with Greg Hill, which began a correspondence between the two with the prospect of collaborating on Discordian related projects.

These letters consisted of a number of rough sketches by Roldo, along with collaboration ideas, including small talk and various projects Roldo was working on during this period.

May 1983 issue of Kerry Thornley's Spare Change.

1980s Letter: Roldo to Greg Hill, House of the Rising Son of Eris.

In the above letter, Greg Hill cut out a section from the lower-left corner, which appears to have been an illustration I’ve dubbed the “Keep On Truckin’ Sacred Chao.” Afterwards, Hill utilized this Keep On Truckin’ Sacred Chao (KOTSC) as a paste-up for correspondence and collages. For example, Hill used the KOTSC in the letter below to Thornley where he sang the praises of Roldo: “I’m getting a real rapport with this guy. He is drawing pictures that I never knew how to draw. And he sees somethings like I see. This is exciting. I like Roldo…”

May 31, 1983 letter from Greg Hill to Kerry Thornley about Roldo.

In the letter below, Roldo provided some rough sketches of Greg Hill’s various Discordian personas: Professor Ignotius, Rev. Dr. Occupant and Mad Malik.

Sketches by Roldo of Greg Hill's Discordian personas.
Roldo’s rough sketches of Malaclypse the Elder.

Perhaps Roldo’s most famous Discordian related work is The Great Seal which features a slew of Discordian-Illuminati references and images.

Roldo’s Great Seal of Eris.

This artwork was later incorporated in the cover design of Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society.

How awesome is that? This awesome:

Roldo with a copy of Historia Discordia.
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Discordianism Meets Ufology (Part 00001)

Discordians have enjoyed a long and perplexing connection with UFOs, dating back to around the time when the Revelation of Eris first lit up Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley’s pineal glands in the late 1950s.

As Greg Hill recalled: “Thru our mutual general interest in wondering just what was going on out there in that gigantic world, and our many common specific interests in Humanism, anti-religionism, an enjoyment for Omar Khayyam, a curiosity for the bizarre like black magic and hypnotism, plus our common warped sense of humor, (Kerry and I) formed a close friendship.”

Some of Greg and Kerry’s first outings together included attending meetings of a flying saucer club (or saucer cult, depending on your perspective) called Understanding Inc. located in El Monte, California not far from where our dynamic Discordian duo grew up in the conservative Orange County enclave of Whittier.

The leader of Understanding was famed UFO Contactee Daniel Fry, who in the late 1940s worked as an explosives technician at the White Sands Proving Ground in Alamogordo, New Mexico. According to legend, it was there on July 4th, 1950 that Fry witnessed what he referred to as an “oblate spheroid” come to a silent landing. Intrigued by the strange craft, Fry passed his hand over the exterior to test its temperature, and a telepathic voice cried out: “Better not touch the hull, pal, it’s still hot!”

After exchanging more telepathic pleasantries with an extraterrestrial named A-lan (pronounced “a-lawn”)—who remotely piloted the “oblate spheroid” from a “mother ship” located some 900 miles above Earth—Fry was whisked away for a quick show-me trip to New York and back in an astounding 30 minutes. In the weeks to follow, Fry was treated to additional trips as A-lan supplied him with a stunning array of knowledge on such subjects as advanced physics and the hidden history of Earth. Fry later recounted these extraterrestrial interactions in The White Sands Incident (1954).

After having all this Universal Wisdom dropped on him, Fry decided to expand his knowledge base even more by receiving a “Doctorate of Cosmism” from Saint Andrew College, a mail order outfit located in London, England that was keen on dispensing doctorates for the right price. Fry later remarked that he was “recognized by many as the best informed scientist in the world on the subject of space and space travel.”

In 1955—armed with all his new found cosmic knowledge—Fry founded Understanding Inc. which would expand to a nationwide network of “study groups” that at its height boasted 1,500 members in several cities in the U.S. According to Saucer Smear editor Jim Moseley, most of these “study groups” were headed by middle-aged ladies with whom Fry—during his many lecture tours across the country—could always find “understanding” and “a warm bed each night.”

From 1956 through 1979, Fry published a monthly newsletter, Understanding, and was prominent on the flying saucer lecture circuit.

The January 1956 cover of Daniel Fry's Understanding newsletter.

In 1972, Fry hooked up with fellow UFO Contactee Gabriel “Gabe” Green to serve as his running mate during Green’s 1972 Presidential run on the Universal Flying Saucer Party ticket, a campaign that was ultimately unsuccessful—at least in this space time continuum. Green—it just so happens—made his home in Whittier, the same youthful stomping grounds of Hill and Thornley, and home to the fabled Brunswick Shrine where they first received The Revelation of Eris.

1972 Gabriel Green Presidential UFO Flyer.

In 1974, Understanding Inc. was gifted a fifty-five (there’s that Law of Fives, again!) acre property in Tonopah, Arizona by one of Fry’s many aging female admirers, a Mrs. Enid Smith. A couple years later, Fry moved to the Tonopah property and established it as his base of operations. Not long after, an arson fire destroyed the Understanding Inc. library among other buildings at the site. This event—in combination with the dwindling funds in Understanding Inc.’s coffers—signaled the beginning of the end for Fry’s Ufological empire.

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1994 HOAX! Magazine interview with Ken Campbell

The following is an interview of Ken Campbell for HOAX! Magazine dated October 1994 conducted by John C. S. Quel, reprinted with permission.

Grab the PDF here.

The October 1994 cover of HOAX! Magazine.
Download the PDF here.
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New Discordian Zine: Discordia Britannica

Hot off the presses is Discordia Britannica, the product of a couple Liverpudian Discordians named Lucas and Jason who informed me that, “We like the home-made look of it—it reminds us of things we used to pick up all the time but never see anymore.”

Featured in this first edition is an interview with RAW conducted by Lewis Shiner that originally appeared in issue #5 of Trajectories (not to be confused with RAW’s magazine by the same name), a Sci-Fi zine published by Richard Shannon in Austin, Texas in the late-80s, as well as a Q&A with Anton Newcombe of Brian Jonestown Massacre—not to mention an article by yours truly entitled “The Dead Comedian Conspiracy.”

For more info email or check ‘em out on facebook.

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Week 59 of Illuminatus! Group Reading: Semaj the Elder (Part 00002)

On page 622 of Illuminatus!, Hagbard Celine’s Never Whistle While You’re Pissing reminded me of an early-80s letter in the Discordian Archives addressed to Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley courtesy of a Discordian named Semaj the Elder.

Letter to Greg Hill from Semaj the Elder, circa early-80s.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

I really don’t know much about Semaj the Elder (or whatever his real name was) other than he resided in Davenport, Indiana and published a Discordian zine during the early-80s called A.M.O.C.K. of which there were about a half dozen copies discovered in the Discordian Archives.

Scattered copies of Semaj the Elder’s A.M.O.C.K.
(The Ancient & Mystical Order of the Cabal of Kallisti)
also titled Master Monograph for All Discordians.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

For the hell of it I googled Semaj the Elder, which led me to a Google Books page for (of all things!) The Prankster and the Conspiracy and a passage from a letter I’d totally forgotten about that pertains to Semaj the Elder written by Kerry Thornley to Greg Hill in 1982, during a period when Kerry was leading a vagabond existence:

“I will be ambling out to Tampa in the latter half of June, visiting [Elayne Wechsler] in New Jersey, a delightful psych student in Boston named Sean Hugh—maybe Arthur Hlavarty in Durham on the way—Bob McDonald in Virginia—some Oklahoma Libertarian, possibly the SubGenii, certainly Semaj the Elder in Davenport, et al. No telling how long it will take me to reach California, but I’ll try to send you a postcard of advance warning…I’ll probably come back to Tampa at least another year. Paula says that’s okay if I work full time until Christmas, to which I’ve no objection. Next winter after that I’ll probably go to Miami and find work long enough to get my own home until spring. Unless, somewhere along the line, I should find a publisher for one of my books—in which case all plans will be up for rethinking….” The Prankster and the Conspiracy, pages 236 – 237.

Letter from Kerry Thornley to Greg Hill circa 1982.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

In Semaj’s letter to Hill and Thornley, he mentions recent conversations with Bob Shea about a pamphlet project called Never Whistle While Your Pissing Part II, and was writing Greg for permission to quote from Principia Discordia. The letter indicates that Shea and RAW were contemplating at one point actually writing part 1 of Never Whistle While Your Pissing (NWWYP) but never got around to it.

Later, Semaj encourages Thornley to write HBT (The Honest Book of Truth)—assuming that HBT was the same as NWWYP1—a book that was never actually completed except for excerpts that appear in Illuminatus! However, this wasn’t the case—Kerry authored a complete version of The Honest Book of Truth, which yours truly unearthed in the Discordian Archives and that appears in its entirety in Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society available while supplies last from your finer internet book retailers.

Semaj also invites Thornley to CHICON, informing Kerry that Elayne (Wechsler) will be attending, as well. Elayne Wechsler—it should be noted—published a memorable zine back in the early days of the zine movement called Inside Joke, which featured stories and articles written by none other than Kerry Thornley and Greg Hill, and artwork by such notables as Ace Backwards and Roldo, the fellow who created the original artwork that appears on the cover of Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society available while supplies last from your finer internet book retailers.

Roldo’s Seal of Eris that was adapted for the cover of Historia Discordia: The Origins of the Discordian Society available while supplies last from your finer internet book retailers.

What I find most intriguing about this letter is that Semaj mentions he’s working in cahoots on the NWWYP2 project with Mike Gunderloy, a legendary name in the annals of the Zine Revolution and publisher/editor of the famed Factsheet Five.

If it hadn’t been for Factsheet Five, I probably wouldn’t even be writing these words right now—nor would I have explored many of the arcane avenues that entered my frame of reference during those heady days of the late-80s and early-90s when I was writing for the many zines I discovered in the pages of Factsheet Five. In fact, it was in Factsheet Five that I was first introduced to Kerry Thornley who had a recurring column there called “Conspiracy Corner”.

Copy of Factsheet Five addressed to Kerry Thornley.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

In one way or another, Factsheet Five introduced me to many zines I wrote for and friends I made during this period with ‘zinesters like Greg Bishop, Robert Larson and Peter Stenshoel of The Excluded Middle; Kenn Thomas of Steamshovel Press; Tim Cridland’s Off The Deep End; Wes Nations of Crash Collusion; SMiles Lewis of ELF Infested Spaces; Al Hidell and Joan D’Arc of Paranoia; Johnny Walsh of INFOCULT; Tracy Twyman of Dagobert’s Revenge; Erik Bluhm and Mark Sundeen of The Great God Pan—and I’m probably forgetting a half dozen more so my apologies to any former zinesters out there I’ve failed to mention.

A cavalcade of zines.