I struck up a conversation with a gas station attendant
after he commented on the design displayed on my
T-shirt. After I tried to explain the significance
of the design, the attendant responded by saying,
"I'm a Discordian."
Of course, the only reply I could
make as I headed out the door was, "All Hail
of the undeniably great things about the United
States of America is its constitutional guarantee
of the freedom of religion. Throughout our history,
citizens have exercised this right not only by practicing
the religion of their choice but, in many cases,
by creating a brand new one.
Of all the various religions to
be born on these shores, though, none is as original,
unorganized, hilarious and downright weird as the
But what should one expect from
a religion based on the worship and appreciation
most of the world's other great religions, Discordianism
begins with a holy text—in this case, Principia
Discordia. It was transcribed by Malcalypse
the Younger with help from Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst.
The first edition of Principia
Discordia hit the streets in the mid-1960s,
and it quickly became an underground classic, with
rumors of its existence being more prevalent than
actual copies. The book was thought to be the anonymous
work of everyone from Timothy Leary to Alan Watts
to Richard Nixon.
One of the legends surrounding
the text is that the first few copies of it were
produced on a copier in district attorney Jim Garrison's
office (yes—the Jim Garrison of JFK fame).
Ten years after its creation, the book got a further
boost of interest when it was featured prominently
in Wilson and Shea's classic, The Illuminatus
Principia Discordia is the revelation of
the doctrine of Chaos and the worship of the Goddess
Eris (as she was known to the Greeks) or Discordia
(as the Romans knew her).
According to ancient Greek mythology,
Zeus hosted a wedding banquet for Peleus and Thetis
but did not invite Eris because of her reputation
as a troublemaker. As payback for this action, known
to Discordians as the Original Snub, Eris created
an apple of pure gold upon which was inscribed KALLISTI
("to the prettiest one") and tossed it
into the crowd. The ensuing fight over the apple
ultimately led to the Trojan War—the first
war of mankind, according to some legends.
How's that for causing trouble?
forward a few thousand years.
Malcalypse (known in another reality
as Gregory Hill) and Omar (known in the same dimension
as Kerry Thornley) are quietly sipping coffee in
an all-night bowling alley. Suddenly, the lights
go out. When they blink back on, everyone except
our two heroes are frozen in mid-action.
Moments later, a talking ape bursts
through the door, waving a scroll. The ape proceeds
to pose a series of philosophical questions. He
then unrolls his scroll, revealing a symbol that
consists of a yin-yang with an apple on one side
and a pentagon on the other.
The ape then explodes, and both
Mal and Omar are rendered unconscious.
they wake up, everything has returned to normal.
Over the next few days, they attempt to research
the meanings behind the cryptic symbol on the ape's
parchment. On the fifth night following the Revelation,
Omar and Malcalypse share the same dream.
A goddess appears and declares,
"I am chaos. I am the substance from which
your artists and scientists build rhythms. I am
the spirit with which your children and clowns laugh
in happy anarchy. I am alive, and I tell you that
you are free."
Later visions would reveal that
the strange symbol they now possessed was called
the Sacred Chao and that, for further information,
they would need to consult their pineal glands.
scoffers discount this tale, claiming that Mal and
Omar are clearly insane. Nevertheless, Malcalypse
set out to spread the word of Eris. Further studies
revealed to him such truths as the Law of Fives,
which holds that everything (including the 23 Mystery)
can be related back to the number 5.
The Law of Fives is demonstrated
in Discordianism by the great truths of the Pentabarf—or
the Five Commandments, as it is commonly called.
There's also the Five Apostles of Eris, the five
degrees or ranks within Discordianism, and the five-fingered
hand of Eris.
Of course, the worshipper of Eris
is in no way obligated to follow any of the tenets
of Discordianism as laid out in the Book. As it
says right there on page 00032 (Discordian numbering
system), "There are no rules anywhere. The
the years, Discordianism has remained a popular
choice for those who believe that religion should
be an ever-changing, and most of all, fun experience.
Sure, it's just a joke. Who could
believe that the ultimate force in the Universe
is a "crazy bitch, mad as hell" and intent
on spreading chaos? All you have to do is look around
and see how perfectly ordered and smoothly-running
everything is in this world.
There's nothing to worry about.
Everything's going to be just fine.