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BOOK REVIEW: "Historia Discordia" by Adam Gorightly

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BOOK REVIEW: Historia Discordia – The Origins of the Discordian Society by Adam Gorightly (RVP Press) 2014

Having read a number of books by Adam Gorightly including The Shadow Over Santa Susana, James Shelby Downard’s Mystical War and Happy Trails to High Weirdness, you know you are always going to learn something fascinating and new.

And dear Adam did not let me down this time, either, with his new collection, Historia Discordia, a hefty volume of everything Discordian. Hail Eris! She, the Greek goddess of chaos and discord!

Compiling documents, letters, and a history of the society as started by founders Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley (be sure to check out his book on Thornley called The Prankster and the Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture), as well as the Discordian writings of the late Robert Anton Wilson, whose writings on Discordia grace the book’s fascinating introduction.

Writes RAW: “It will be understood by the Cabalistic reader that Discordianism is a system of transcendental Atheism, agnostic Gnosticism, skeptical Monotheism, and unified Dualism. In short, the Erisian revelation is not a complicated put-on disguised as a new religion, but a new religion disguised as a complicated put-on.” (boldface mine)


And it was Gorightly’s research on Thornley that led to a Dr. Robert Newport and his Discordian Society archives.

Thornley (again, read The Prankster and The Conspiracy for more on that guy) had been in the Marines – with Lee Harvey Oswald (?!?!) – and his apocalyptic views and creative ways led to Apocalypse: A Trade Journal for Doom Prophets, which predated Principia Discordia by several years. The offbeat humor and absurbist approach would eventually lead – during the heady Sixties – to the Discordian Society – an organization – Hail Eris! – that would incorporate Churchill’s “V for Victory” finger symbol that the antiwar/hippie movement would embrace because of the Law of Fives – a “V” is also a 5 - which connects with the Pentagon and the Apple of Discord, naturally.

Here we find the first reproduction of the first edition of Principia Discordia in all its glory. The drawings, symbols, order patches, letters and, of course the details of Operation Mindfuck and the pranksters in the “Bavarian Illuminati,” who in 1969, sent a letter to the Republican National Committee pointing out that their elephant logo featured three inverted (five-points descending) pentagrams (and do to this day) which actually “conjurs evil spirits.” (Hail Eris!).

This was around the time DA Garrison was keen on Thornley and the JFK assassination conspiracy, even suggesting Thornley and the organization was a CIA front group, something that Thornley did not discourage. Such was the nature of society’s place in a world gone insane.

Notes Gorightly: “As synchronicity would have it, the Principia Discordia (Or How the West Was Lost), was reproduced after hours on a copying machine in the office of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison, who two years later would indict Thornley as part of a conspiratorial cabal that allegedly orchestrated JFK’s assassination.”

Who knew?

Later we learn of the Discordian Holy Books featuring 1965 letters from Thornley explaining “How I Found Goddess” and “The Kataclysm.” Oh, did I mention that Thornley and Hill purportedly “discovered” Discordianism while at a bowling alley in Whittier, California? There’s even a connection to local boy Richard Nixon!

Gorightly’s diligent research and passion about Discordianism really shines through in this important collection on Historia Discordia and The Discordian Society. I had a blast digging into all things Discordian and Adam Gorightly was just the guy to don the conductor’s cap on this smoke-belching loco-motive!

Hail Eris! 

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Andrew W. Griffin

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Andrew W. Griffin received his Bachelor of Science in Journalism from...

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