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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.

3 replies on “Week 59 of Illuminatus! Group Reading: Semaj the Elder (Part 00002)”

Semaj the Elder was named Jim Middleton. I corresponded with him, and we were in the Golden APA and other apas together. I met him at the Chicon you mention, but I believe that was the only time, and I don’t remember him terribly well. A family member wrote to me in 2006 to tell me that he had died, and that may have been the first I knew his actual name.

Kerry Thornley did not contact me in Durham, but we corresponded for years. Sometimes he was brilliant, and sometimes he warned me that Bob Wilson had been replaced by a CIA double.

Mike Gunderloy and I were friends for years. He came out of the fannish fanzine and apa scene. We repeatedly excommunicated one another, and tried to figure out which of us was in more apas (usually him)>


Thanks for the Semaj the Elder update….the name Jim Middleton rings a bell, I think, although I’m not sure from where.

Included in the archives are an issue or two of your own zine “John Dillinger’s Relic” (I believe that’s name off the top of my head.)

I also have the original Bavarian Illuminati card you sent to Greg Hill, stapled to a note you wrote with comments. I was going to post that at some point, with your blessing.

Kerry also said that Gerald Ford was replaced by a double.

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