A brief introduction to Discordianism

What is discordianism? It’s a joke described as a religion; or possibly a religion disguised a joke. It was first revealed in the Principia Discordia, written by ‘Malaclypse the Younger’ and ‘Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst’, the first edition of which was published in a tiny print run in 1963 .

The Principia Discordia is a spoof of religion texts. Inside are divine revelations, joke parables, bureaucratic forms, and outright contradictions. Members are explicitly encouraged to form schisms and cabals, and everyone is a pope (including you). Saints of the religion include Emperor Norton, the only ever Emperor of the United States. Reading it cover-to-cover can be a little wearing – not all of it works, and some has dated – but it has inspired many people over the years.

There is a coherent mythology too, based upon the Greek Goddess Eris, who suffered ‘the original snub’. When Peleus and Thetis got married, Eris was not invited due to her reputation for causing trouble. Which she did anyway, throwing a golden apple into the crowd. It was engraved ‘Kallisti’, ‘to the prettiest’, and ignited a row between Hera, Athena and Aphrodite which ultimately led to the Trojan war.

The first edition of the Principia Discordia was printed on Jim Garrison’s photocopier. Garrison was a lead investigator into the Kennedy assassination, later played by Kevin Costner in Oliver Stone’s JFK. There is another Kennedy link because Kerry Thornley, one of the book’s authors, wrote a novel about Lee Harvey Oswald before the Kennedy assassination. This manuscript was subpoenaed by the Warren Commission, investigating Kennedy’s death.

The Principia has all the things a religion needs, such as a symbol, in this case the Sacred Chao:

There are some great pieces of writing, such as a passage Thornley referred to as he was dying:

And so it is that we, as men, do not exist until we do; and then it is that we play with our world of existent things, and order and disorder them, and so it shall be that Non-existence shall take us back from Existence, and that nameless Spirituality shall return to Void, like a tired child home from a very wild circus.

My personal favourite bit is the discordian game of sink (click on the image at the bottom of the post to open it in a new browser window)

The book has had a strange ongoing life. It inspired the Illuminatus! trilogy, which was then made into a play by Ken Campbell, and provided the background mythology for the KLF. These tangled strands have re-emerged recently with a strange movement growing in the UK.

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