When Downard Met Discordia

James Shelby Downard in the early-90s.
Photo by Adam Parfrey.

I owe a lot to Robert Anton Wilson and specifically the influence Cosmic Trigger Volume 1: Final Secret of the Illuminati (1978) had in piquing my interest in subjects like ufology, magick, Forteana, Discordianism, and the dreaded Bavarian Illuminati. I’m not sure which of these interests (or sometime obsessions) came to me solely through Cosmic Trigger, but after discovering the book it certainly dovetailed with a lot of high weirdness I was into—or things I would soon be into—and made me more aware, for instance, how synchronicity plays such an integral role in our lives—or more precisely in the lives of those who tune into it. (Whatever it is.)

Of course, it’s not like I wasn’t into a lot of this stuff before discovering Cosmic Trigger, but it did make me feel I wasn’t alone in Crossing the Abyss, which many of us experience in our lives at one point or another. And so RAW ala Cosmic Trigger put a lot of things in perspective for me, or turned up my focus to arrive at a broader understanding about my own experiences, psychedelic and UFO-wise.

I believe it was through Cosmic Trigger that I became aware of James Shelby Downard (maybe), although Downard might have first popped up on my radar via Adam Parfrey’s seminal anthology Apocalypse Culture (1987), which I probably read around the same time I first sunk my teeth into Cosmic Trigger in the late 1980s, and which did a similar number to my head.

During the period RAW was experiencing all of his Sirius synchronicities, a Fortean researcher named William Grimstad sent him an audio cassette series entitled Sirius Rising, a recording with James Shelby Downing that “…set forth the most absurd, the most incredible, the most ridiculous Illuminati theory of them all…[that] the Illuminati were preparing Earth, in an occult manner, for extraterrestrial contact…. The only trouble is that, after the weird data we have already surveyed [in Cosmic Trigger], the Grimstad-Downard theory may not sound totally unbelievable to us….”

At the time, Downard was an obscure and little known figure outside the small circle of Fortean/Conspiracy researchers who gravitated around him that included Bill Grimstad, Michael Anthony Hoffman II and Charles Saunders.

Due in some measure to Downard’s influence, Grimstad (under the non-de-plume of Jim Brandon) authored the Fortean classics Weird America (1978) and The Rebirth of Pan (1983). In the “Dallas, Texas” section of Weird America, Brandon presented the theory that JFK was a “ceremonial king-who-must-die” killed by modern age alchemists following an ancient druidic tradition, a hypothesis arrived at by a “certain body of opinion, undoubtedly the farthest out brain wave of assassinology yet.” No direct mention was made, at this time, as to the theory’s originator: James Shelby Downard.

Covers of Jim Brandon's (William Grimstad) books: Weird America and The Rebirth of Pan.

It was through “King Kill 33°: Masonic Symbolism in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy” (featured in Apocalypse Culture) that Downard first came to the attention of conspiratologists and over time rose to the status of a mythic figure who traveled across the country in his famous airstream trailer investigating Fortean mysteries and battling Freemasonic adversaries at every turn, his trusty Colt 45 always at his side.

Due to my own interests in Downardiana, I penned the 2008 mini bio James Shelby Downard’s Mystical War in which I listed a bibliography of his known works:

  • “King Kill 33°: Masonic Symbolism in the Assassination of John F. Kennedy”, co-written with Michael A. Hoffman II, Apocalypse Culture, edited by Adam Parfrey, Amok Press, 1987.
  • “The Call to Chaos: From Adam to Atom by Way of the Jornada del Muerto”, Apocalypse Culture: Expanded and Revised, edited by Adam Parfrey, Feral House, 1990.
  • “Sorcery, Sex, Assassination and the Science of Symbolism”, Secret and Suppressed: Banned Ideas and Hidden History, edited by Jim Keith, Feral House, 1993.
  • “Skullduggery”, Independent History and Research, 1998.
  • The Carnivals of Life and Death: My Profane Youth, 1913-1935, edited by Elana Freeland, Feral House, 2006.

As for unpublished works, Michael Hoffman informed me several years ago that Downard’s “…niece, Robbie Smith, had in her possession at his death, Mr. Downard’s locked suitcase files which neither Mr. Grimstad, this writer or Charles Saunders had ever seen. She told me about some of the contents. I was desperate to buy them but could not meet her price. She admitted to destroying some of his materials after his death! I found her difficult. God willing, she has preserved something and someone will be able to purchase these from her one day. If it’s all lost, it’s a tragedy.”

This news that the last remnants of Downard’s literary legacy might have knowingly or unknowingly been tossed into a dumpster was certainly a disappointing prospect, which is what would have happened to the Discordian Archives had not Dr. Bob Newport intervened and rescued them from Greyfaced oblivion.

In the intro to The Carnivals of Life and Death, Adam Parfrey noted that Downard died before he could write the second part of his biography and so the general consensus seemed to be that we’d probably never see any further Downardian writings—that is, until NOW

During the course of writing James Shelby Downard’s Mystical War, I corresponded not only with Michael Hoffman, but also Bill Grimstad, and stayed in touch with Bill over the last decade. At the end of 2015, Grimstad informed me that he’d come into possession of what appeared to be Part 2 of Downard’s biography(!) and inquired if I was interested in publishing the material. Hell, yes, I responded.

The caveat, though, was that the manuscript was in microfiche format (circa 1980s) and would need to be converted into tiffs. I agreed to split the costs for this process, and then afterwards began sorting through the material, which in itself proved a somewhat daunting task due to the fact that it consisted of a staggering 799 pages, a combination of biographical material as well as Downard hashing out his central themes and theories in a manner that only he could do.

Page 00001 of Downard’s unpublished magnum opus.

Phase two of the project entailed converting the manuscript to PDF and getting it into proper chronological order, but this as well was somewhat challenging and was making my head hurt a bit; it seemed the only way to review it and make sure I had all the pages in correct order was to print out the beast, maybe a few pages at a time. After printing out a dozen or so pages, I realized that about 2/3rds of my black ink cartridge had been sucked dry due to the black margins on the pages that were a by-product of the microfiche conversion. A visit to FedEx-Kinko’s and $150 later, I had a printed version in my hot little hands, which was a lot less expensive than sinking several hundred dollars into black ink cartridges. (Yes, I realize this is a first world problem!)

Downard's missing magnum opus courtesy of FedEx-Kinko's.

The plan from there was to OCR the beast and just edit as I go. Unfortunately, the first test OCR revealed that each page would take more time correcting the OCR errors than it would take to just retype the whole enchilada fresh—which is exactly what I’m doing now, a few pages here and a few pages there—in between other projects I’m currently working on.

If there are any volunteers out there who would like to assist me in the typing drudgery, say 50 pages at a pop, drop me a line and this will allow you a sneak peak at a portion of Downard’s missing magnum opus—not to mention a gratis copy after it’s published!

To be continued…

This entry was posted in book, discordianism, illuminati, james shelby downard, jfk, official business, robert anton wilson, writings. Bookmark the permalink.

12 Responses to When Downard Met Discordia

  1. Gary says:

    Hi

    Cannot wait to read this book! JSD was a very interesting man. Tell me this, is it possible to listen to the full Sirius Rising tape anywhere? I’ve only ever heard the 1 hour version but cannot find the rest. One guy has told me he has it but can’t release the rest due to someone’s wishes. If that’s the case, I respect that. But I’m dying to hear it.

    Looking forward to the book.

    Gary

  2. STEAMFIGHTER says:

    Is that the Hoffman JSD interview that he was selling awhile back your talking about? I think its from the Sirius Rising Tapes. I’m surprised Adam doesn’t have a copy of those tapes yet. Must be a well kept secret and what’s the point keeping it a secret you tell me. I thought putting out this info is the whole purpose. At least there is a second JSD book or books in the making we should be thankful for that at least.

    All the best to Adam Gorightly hope this book does better then the Feral House one. Cheers!

  3. Gorightly says:

    It’s my understanding that the Hoffman tape contains excerpts from the Sirius Rising tapes.

  4. Gary says:

    Hi STEAMFIGHTER

    No, I don’t think they’re the same thing. The CD I’ve listened to is one hour long, I think the interview you’re talking about is about 20 mins or so, though I haven’t seen that one. Apparently the Sirius Rising tapes are roughly 4 hours of stuff – I know one guy who says he has the full 4hr version but can’t release his copy as someone has asked him not to – that’s ok, I have to respect the man for keeping his word – but I too wonder why it must be kept secret, it “kinda” doesn’t seem to make sense. The one hour cd is very interesting and quite creepy to me, so I can only guess at the full versions’ contents. Mr Downard’s next book, I’ll be buying. Good luck with getting the book out Adam, genuinely can’t wait.

    Gary

  5. STEAMFIGHTER says:

    Geez Louise 20 mins I know I paid an arm n a leg for that cd from Hoffman. Oh well he needs support I guess. Hopefully he comes out with a sequel to Secret Societies Psy Warfare soon too. Great book. So GARY you are not in possession of that CD you listened to or you can’t release it too? I assume it’s Grimstad that told your buddy not to release them. Well I hope Adam Gorightly gets a copy of those tapes soon he could write a small book on them sounds like a future project in the making eh keep on bugging Grimstad Adam squeaky wheel gets the grease. Anyways what grabbed my attn about those tapes was what Robert Anton Wilson mentioned about them how JDS talked about the so called illuminati was preparing earth in some occult manner for ET contact??? Nobody has explained what that is all about and as you mentioned this stuff is creepy and the JDS stuff is very CREEPY man that’s why it is good stuff and it’s GOLD anyways that’s my 2 cents.

  6. Gary says:

    Hi STEAMFIGHTER

    I bought the cd – still have it! But was told by the seller not to broadcast or make copies!!!!!! The seller says he has the full version, but that the ‘owner’ of the tapes has asked them not to be released – he never mentioned who the owner is though. This fries my head to this day, I’m very interested in hearing the rest. Yep, I think Mr Downard’s stuff is gold to be honest, and it is quite frightening to think these guys are so in control and organised. The cd mentions tunnel networks in Washington, baby black markets, Fidel Castro’s freaky, and I mean FREAKY connection to the bad guys, and so much stuff that the level of organised skull duggery these guys get up to is unreal. And to think Mr Downard worked this out himself is fascinating. I think that the ‘ET contact’ thing is this – apparently to mentally prepare the world to accept something we shouldn’t. Michael Hoffman goes into this in his book “Secret Societies Psy Warfare” (great book, have that too!) – I think each wave of younger people are more accepting of things in general that rightly scared the legs off previous generations because of this mass effort at shaping the mind. I def think that Mr Downard observed something geared toward changing minds that scared him, and look at todays world – Mr Hoffman’s opinion about “Childhoods End” is right on the button, I don’t think the world would blink if ‘something’ visited us. Adam Gorightly – can you write about those tapes!!!!! Can you persuade the owners to release it! Can you persuade them just to say why not release them, just for my nosey mind to have some rest!!!!

    Gary

  7. Gary says:

    Hi

    OK, just read ‘Mystical War’ today – bit embarrassed, you already tell who owns the tapes and how the owner hasn’t got round to releasing them. Sorry Adam!

    But it seems 14 years ago since the subject was last mentioned to the owner. Would you consider asking him again? Would he mind if I contacted him regarding the tapes? If not, I’d love his address to write him. Let me know if that’s possible Adam. Just out of curiosity, I’d love to know why the owner has ‘distanced’ himself from his recordings. Can you say?

    Thanks for writing the book Adam, looking forward to the new Downard piece.

    Gary

  8. STEAMFIGHTER says:

    GARY your right Hoffman is right on the money in regards to Childhoods End. That book is so creepy I read it. I try to get people to read it no one cares. Anyways He said something about the open rule of Satan. Is Satan or Satans going to be walking down the street and nobody will even blink or stop to throw rocks at him or them (LOL) Hoffman always referred to Childhoods end being allegorical. So are we to interpret it as metaphorical you know not literally like we are going to be visited by demonic entities sort a like the Oannes the repulsive ones that originally came from SIRIUS??!! Well apparently the Vatican has a telescope in Arizona correct me if I am wrong and its built on Indian sacred land and guess what the acronym of their telescope spells LUC.I.F.E.R I shit you not they have a telescope called Lucifer. I don’t know if you remember the Hoffman Downard interview he went into the subject how these occult groups love spelling out acronyms to mean some thing like COYOTE the prostitute hooker labor union that Downward talked about. COYOTE is suppose to symbolize the devil like the goat or something. Anyways why is the Vatican watching the night sky on behalf of the Cryptocracy with the Lucifer telescope is something headed our way and is it coming from SIRIUS??? Weird shit indeed ain’t it

  9. Gary says:

    STEAMFIGHTER
    Yeah, read about the telescope a while ago. Thought it a peculiar choice at least, not sure that name would have been tolerated in centuries past, but isn’t that the whole game – some sort of softening of the mind to tolerate/accept/give in to things that even on some instinctual level we feel are wrong.
    If things keep going the way they are, eventually people will be so broken, so mentally tired, will have given in so much in the sense that ‘things have to be this way’ that if anything actually arrived it would feel almost inevitable, it will feel like the moment of truth and everyone will accept it. This moment of truth is slowly being oozed into our minds. The fact that these guys seem to have put it out there, to mock and to cause those who maybe see it to feel hopeless, is very sadistic.
    Will it be a literal arrival? Mr Downard is supposed to have thought so (I haven’t heard the tapes though, friendly hint, friendly hint, Mr Grimstad), and I don’t think anyone has anywhere near as much experience as he. Just listened to an interview Adam Gorightly gave to two guys and one of the guys in the interview couldn’t get over how Downard hit everything, and Adam observed that Downard came first before a lot of guys went with his stuff. NEED THOSE TAPES!
    I think it’s either gonna be a literal physical event or some kind of mass technological brain hack/wash/illusion. It really looks like we’re being prepped for something. I don’t know the Sirius answer yet – all I have is what’s out there – the guys are into it for some reason, those tapes will have more info. I’m just glad Messrs Downard/Grimstad/Hoffman and Gorightly have done what they’ve done.

  10. Claire says:

    I would be happy to help with the typing effort. Drop me a line.

  11. STEAMFIGHTER says:

    Hey Gary did you enjoy these Dog Days of Summer? how’b that Lucifer Heat wave they had in Europe. Geez people don’t even blink anymore when all this weird stuff happens anymore. Hey read any of Kenneth Grants books? Hoffman mentions 2 that revealed secrets that were guard for 100s of yrs The Magical Revival and aleister crowley and the hidden god. I just finished The magical revival and there is an excerpt in the book on pg 220 he says something ominous like”……the next stage in the advancement of evolution upon this planet. It will be achieved by a willed congress with EXTRA-TERRESTRIAL entities of which in a sense Aiwas is the immediate messenger of humanity” end quote sounds like even though the OTO may be preparing for an evolutionary leap into a state of godhood those entities are probably preparing for dinner and we are the main course!! Here’s a quote from Circles of Time Kenneth Grant ….”Their main purpose is to devour, and since their structure is incompatible with our Universe’s physics, they can but eat by means of the life-forms native to our Universe.” WTF is he talking about ya lunch we are the main course. Hey gotta read some of his stuff man. It’s pretty far out

  12. Gary says:

    Hey Steamfighter

    To be honest in the last few months I’ve been lying low. Where I come from things are just genuinely crazy. Things that my grandmother would never have even allowed to go on for 10 seconds are now the norm – behaviour that wouldn’t have been tolerated is now the norm – a way of dressing that wouldn’t have been tolerated is now the norm – an anti-nationalist mindset that wasn’t even on the go 20 years ago is now the norm – a level of casual drug use that would have been a horrific event years ago is now the norm – basically what was called evil/insane/counterproductive years ago is now all the rage. Whoever these bad guys really are I’m beginning to think they’re a hell of a lot smarter that I thought 6 months ago. Maybe I’m only catching on to how crazy things are, how really crazy things are – but I think the mind of the present young people is absolutely in a complete mess. A complete horrific mess. We are already living in ‘Logan’s Run’ over here in Ireland – Ireland has completely gone crazy when compared to only 2 generations ago and I have come to the conclusion it is too late for this country. It’s finished and is quickly becoming a real shithole to live in – because of the insanity of the minds in it. They wouldn’t even BLINK now if something where to arrive, they wouldn’t even BLINK. They’re ready for it – to be honest the whole country is beginning to behave in a batshit crazy way. Please excuse my language but it’s the language of a guy who has only recently TRULY caught on to how bad things are. Any word on the new book by the way, still want to read it but I will do so in a melancholy way – I’m very sad for my loved ones who’s minds are gone, my fellow countrymen who are acting like nutters, complete nutters. Sorry Steam for this moody post but the whole thing makes me sad now – there are genuinely genius level guys out there who have quite simply used what amounts to magic – to get sane people to behave insanely and to get humanity to turn against itself. And one day some piece of trash is gonna show up to help us all, and the whole place is gonna fall for it. It’s a disaster, it’s the worst movie ever but in real life. So so sad.

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