The Epistles of Thomas the Gnostic

Among the more obscure Early Discordians was Tom McNamara aka Thomas the Gnostic, who was not only of the Erisian persuasion, but also a member of the Bavarian Illuminati, and a participant in Operation Mindfuck as demonstrated in the letter below published in The Rag, a counterculture mag based out of Austin, Texas, during the 1960s and early-70s.

Bavarian Illuminati letter courtesy of Thomas the Gnostic
sent to The Rag on the 26th of Discord 3136 (April 9, 1970).
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

During the Discordian Society halcyon days, McNamara distributed an Erisian newsletter, the alliterative Papish Pastoral Letter to the Provincials of the Provinces of Patareal Paratheo Providence, a sample of which is presented below.

Papish Pastoral Letter to the Provincials of the
Provinces of Patareal Paratheo Providence
, Page 00001.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

Papish Pastoral Letter to the Provincials of the
Provinces of Patareal Paratheo Providence
, Page 00002.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

Included in the Discordian Archives are scattered correspondence between Greg Hill and McNamara. In a letter dated March 22, 1971, Hill related recent Discordian developments, including a Chicago meet-up with Bob Shea, Robert Anton Wilson (RAW) and Tim and Mary Wheeler (aka Harold Randomfactor and Hope Springs). Of this Chicago meet-up, Hill wrote:

“Most sorry missed you at the Chicago Meet, but I supposed goddess knows what she is doing. I genuinely hope that the day will come when we can rap some face to face. This correspondence business, it only goes in some directions and it is hard to anchor sometimes. I’ll buy the beer should the opportunity arise….

“The Chicago Meet, incidentally, was no big thing excepting a retouch in the flesh. Met RF [Randomfactor] & Hope for the first time and was not surprised in any way. Wilson kept engaging in political arguments with them and it bummered kind of, it gets difficult to remember that substantial differences are in accord with the Erisian concept—it gets difficult indeed in personal issues. O Were We All Saints. That bit in diatribe about me slipping into the curse of greyface—that was from the soul my friend. Wilson and Tim had a touch of greyface then (at Chi) too. Doubt if Tim feels much a part of us much anymore.

“Mostly we just sat around and rapped on petty incidentals. It was a pleasant time, which is want I wanted actually. Wilson & I played around with literature some—that kind of thing. Very therapeutic. Got stoned and giggled a lot…”

While RAW occasionally described himself as a Libertarian, he was definitely on the anti-war/pacifist end of the spectrum, most notably taking to the Chi-town streets with all the hairy freaks during the 1968 Democratic National Convention protests. Wheeler—conversely—was a William F. Buckley conservative and, as noted in this exclusive Historia Discordia interview, worked as a humor editor for Buckley’s National Review. One issue that might have led to a “political argument” between Wheeler and Wilson would have been the Vietnam War. While there was plenty to be critical about Buckley’s worldview, one important contribution he made to the conservative movement was calling out John Birch Society (JBS) propaganda and its influence on the GOP. To this end, Wheeler produced a satirical piece on the JBS, which took the form of a hoax/gag issue of the National Review, kind of a play on Illuminati conspiracies ala the Trilateral Commission, Bilderbergers, etc. Check it out here.

Wheeler’s irreverent nature is what enamored him to his fellow Discordians, who for the most part were politically aligned with anarcho-libertarianism, which included a fondness for pot, another interest they shared with Wheeler, who was a notorious dope-smoking Republican.

While RAW and Wheeler disagreed on certain political issues, they both concurred that it was a fine and righteous thing to poke fun at Illuminati conspiracies of the John Birch Society variety, and then co-opt said JBS-Illuminati mythology for their own nefarious ends, Hail Eris!

Download the March 22, 1971 letter in its entirety here.

Tim Wheeler with Mr. Potato Head sometime in the late 1980s.

Next we find an exchange between Thomas the Gnostic and Reverend Dean Cleveland of the St. Procopius Rectory, wherein Thomas was evidently yanking the good rector’s chain.

Correspondence between Thomas the Gnostic and
the right Reverend Dean Cleveland from May 1971.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

Next in the chronology was a letter dated February 1972 from McNamara to Hill (aka Iggy):

“You know the phantasies you’ve had that the FBI might be after us? Well, you’ll be happy to know that they are at least after me. This is not just paranoia. It seems that recently I wuz incarcerated in the state mental prison here, no shit! How I got there is a long stupid story. How I got out is even simpler. I hired a lawyer to rescue me from the mad doctors. But in the course of all this madness I learned one thing. The F.B.I. is really keeping tabs on me. They made indiscreet ‘inquiries’ to both my lawyer and the keepers. I ain’t going to let this stop me from whatever it is that I am doing that is subversive’. I just wish I could figure out what it is that I am doing. Oh well. As for the mental prison: ‘God save us from those who would save us from ourselves.’

February 1972 letter from McNamara to Hill.
Courtesy of the Discordian Archives.

Also in the letter, McNamara mentions an Illuminati-mythology-then-in-the-making ala Morris Kaminsky’s The Hoaxers, which expounded upon a claim that the real brains behind that dreaded secret society was some dude named Sidney Weinberg.

Morris Kaminsky’s The Hoaxers published in 1970.

McNamara’s visit to the funny farm notwithstanding, by the mid 1970s he apparently had his life together enough to author this stellar review of the Illuminatus! trilogy for the Berkeley Barb.

Tom McNamara's review of Illuminatus!
from the Oct. 10-16, 1975 edition of the Berkeley Barb.

Hat tip to Prop Anon for the heads-up on this Berkeley Barb/Tom McNamara review of Illuminatus!

This entry was posted in art, book, discordian timeline, discordianism, greg hill, illuminati, illuminatus!, interview, letters, mary wheeler, photo, robert anton wilson, robert shea, tim wheeler, writings, zines. Bookmark the permalink.

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