Kerry Wendell Thornley
(April 17, 1938 - November 28, 1998) is perhaps best-known as the co-founder (along with childhood friend Greg Hill
) of Discordianism
. In this context he is usually known as Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst
, a name he derived from Omar Khayyám
. He and Hill authored the religion's seminal text Principia Discordia, Or, How I Found Goddess, And What I Did To Her When I Found Her.
Under the pen name Ho Chi Zen, Thornley also published a broadsheet newsletter called Zenarchy in the late 1960s. "Zenarchy" is described in the introduction of the collected volume as "the social order which springs from meditation," and "A noncombative, nonparticipatory, no-politics approach to anarchy intended to get the serious student thinking."
Raised Mormon, in adulthood Kerry shifted his ideological focus frequently, in rivalry with any serious countercultural figure of the 1960s. Atheism, anarchism, objectivism, neo-paganism, Buddhism, and the memetic inheritor of Discordianism, The Church of the Subgenius, were all subject to close conceptual scrutiny throughout his life.
Having already been a US Marine Corps
reservist for about two years, Thornley had been summoned to active duty in 1958 at age 20, soon after completing his freshman year at the University of Southern California
According to Principia Discordia
, it was around this time that he and Greg Hill—alias Malaclypse the Younger
or Mal-2—shared their first Eristic
vision in a bowling
alley in their hometown of Whittier, California
In the spring of 1959, Thornley served for a short time in the same radar operator unit as Lee Harvey Oswald at MCAS El Toro in Santa Ana, California Both men had shared a common interest in society, culture, literature and politics, and whenever duty placed them together, had discussed such topics as George Orwell's famous novel Nineteen Eighty-Four and the philosophy of Marxism, particularly Oswald's interest in the latter.
While aboard a troopship returning to the United States from duty in Japan (some time after the two men parted ways as a result of routine reassignment), Thornley read of Oswald's autumn 1959 defection to the Soviet Union in the US military newspaper Stars and Stripes.
Released from Marine Corps' active duty in September of 1960, Thornley relocated with Greg Hill to New Orleans
in early 1961. Here he began to write about his experiences as a peacetime Marine both stateside and in Asia, in a book which used Lee Harvey Oswald as the template for its main character, Johnny Shellburn. The aspiring novelist
viewed Oswald as the metaphorical
embodiment of an intelligent peacetime GI: deeply dissatisfied with the monolithic, totalitarian structure of military life which stood in distressingly sharp contrast to the professed American ideals of individual liberty
and free enterprise
In February 1962 , Thornley completed The Idle Warriors, which has the historical distinction of being the only book written about Lee Harvey Oswald before Kennedy's assassination in 1963. Due to the serendipitous nature of Thornley's choice of literary subject matter, he was called to testify before the Warren Commission in Washington DC on May 18, 1964. The Commission subpoenaed a copy of the book and stored it in the National Archives. In 1965, Thornley published another book titled Oswald, generally defending the "Oswald-as-lone-assassin" conclusion of the Warren Commission, which met with dismal sales. In his later years, Thornley became convinced that Oswald had in truth been a CIA asset whose purpose was to ferret out suspected Communist sympathizers serving in the Corps.
In January of 1968, New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison, certain there had been a New Orleans-based conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy, subpoenaed Thornley to appear before a grand jury once again, questioning him about his relationship with Oswald and his knowledge of other figures Garrison believed to be connected to the assassination. Garrison charged Thornley with perjury after Thornley denied that he had been in contact with Oswald in any manner since 1959. The perjury charge was eventually dropped by Garrison's successor Harry Connick, Sr.
Thornley claimed that, during his initial two-year sojourn in New Orleans, he'd had numerous meetings with two mysterious middle-aged men named "Gary Kirstein" and "Slim Brooks". According to his account, they had detailed discussions on numerous subjects ranging from the mundane to the exotic, and bordering sometimes on bizarre. Among these was the subject of how one might assassinate President Kennedy, whose beliefs and policies the aspiring novelist deeply disliked at the time. Later, the former Marine came to believe that "Gary Kirstein" had in reality been senior CIA officer and future Watergate burglar E. Howard Hunt, and "Slim Brooks" to have been Jerry Milton Brooks, a member of the 1960s right-wing activist group, "The Minutemen". Thornley also claimed that "Kirstein" and Brooks had accurately predicted Richard M. Nixon's accession to the presidency six years before it happened, as well as anticipating the rise of the 1960s counterculture and the subsequent emergence of Charles Manson and what became his cult following. This led Thornley to believe that the US government had somehow been involved, directly or indirectly, in creating and/or supporting these events, personages and phenomena.
In the wake of this period, Thornley came to believe (among many other things) that he had been a subject of the CIA's notorious LSD-soaked MK-ULTRA mind-control research program. While skeptics may dismiss as flimsy conspiracy theory some of his later notions—such as having been a product of occult-based Nazi Vril selective breeding programs—his claims regarding participation in such highly-classified US government mind-control programs and foreknowledge of the John F. Kennedy assassination are somewhat more plausible, as they are consistent with the time period, his residences, and the nature and locations of his military service.
Later life and death
For the next 30 years, Thornley traveled and lived all over the United States
and was involved in a variety of activities, ranging from editing underground newspapers to attending graduate school
. Spending most of the remainder of his life in the Little Five Points
neighborhood of Atlanta
, During this time he maintained a free series of fliers titled "Out of Order." This single page, double sided Xeroxed periodical was distributed in the Little Five Points area.
Thornley became increasingly paranoid and distrustful in the wake of his experiences during the 1960s, both by his own accounts and those of personal acquaintances. For a time Thornley wrote a regular column in the zine Factsheet Five
, until editor Mike Gunderloy
stopped publishing the magazine. Struggling with illness in his final days, Kerry Thornley died of cardiac arrest
in Atlanta on November 28, 1998, a Saturday, at the age of 60. The following morning, 23
people attended a Buddhist memorial service in his honor. His body had been cremated and the ashes scattered over the Pacific Ocean
. Shortly before his death, Thornley reportedly said he'd felt "like a tired child home from a very wild circus," a reference to a passage by Greg Hill
from Principia Discordia:
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.|30px
List of pen names and titles
List of pen names and self-awarded titles provided by Kerry himself on the role of Pope of the Discordian Society in an affidavit to the California School Employees Association
(CSEA), on a legal case concerning a member of the society that refused to join the CSEA alleging that the Discordian religion forbade him from doing so:
- co-founder of the Discordian Society and the Legion of Dynamic Discord thereof and co-author of Principia Discordia
- Grand Ballyhoo of Egypt of the Orthodox Discordian Society
- Kerry Wendell Thornley, JFK Assassin
- Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst, President of the Fair-Play-for-Switzerland Committee
- Reverend Doctor Jesse Sump, Ancient Abbreviated Calif. of California and Sinister Minister of the First Evangelical and Unrepentant Church of No Faith
- Ho Chi Zen (the Fifth Dealy Lama)
- Purple Sage, Pope
- "I further declare that there is no truth whatsoever to the charge that Kerry Wendell Thornley is a ficiticious (sic) identity created by the Warren Commission for its own mysterious purposes (Vol. XI, pp. 80+, Commission Exhibits and Testimony)"
- "I, Kerry Wendell Thornley, KSC, JFK Assassin, Bull Goose of Limbo, Recreational Director of the Wilhelm Reich Athletic Club, Assistant Philosopher, President of the Universal Successionist Association (USA), Chairperson of the Kronstadt Vengeance Committee, Poet Laureate of the Randolph Bourne Association for Revolutionary Violets, Minister in the Church of Universal Life, Trustee for the Center for Mythographic Arts, Correspondent for the Desperate Imperialist News Service (DIN), Vice President of the Generic Graffiti Council of the Americas, CEO of the Umbrella Corporation and of the Spare Change Investment Corporation, Treasurer of the Commercial Erisian Orthodox Tabernacle, Assistant Treasurer of the John-Dillinger-Died-For-You Society, Public Relations Director of Precision Psychedelics, Managing Editor of The Decadent Worker, Public Security Committee Chief of the Revolutionary Surrealist Vandal Party (RSVP), Advisor to the Niccolo Machiavelli University of Jesuit Ethics, Instructor of the Mullah Nasrudin Sufi Mime Troupe, Dean of Bodhisattvas of the 12 Famous Buddha Mind School, Mail Clerk of Junk Mail Associates, Chaplaim of the Erotic Terrorism Committee of the Fucking Communist Conspiracy (FCC, etc.), Deputy Counsel of the International Brotherhood of Doom Prophets, Local 666, Alleged Founder of the Zenarchist Affinity Group (ZAG) and the Zenarchist Insurgency Group (ZIG), Co-Founder of the Discordian Society, Grand Master of the Legion of Dynamic Discord, Saint 2nd Class in the Industrial Church of the SubGenius, CEO of the Brooklyn Bridge Holding Company, Executive Vice President of the Bank of Hell, Chief Engineer of the Southern Fascist Railway ("Our Trains Run On Time!"), Inspector for the Political Correctness Division of the Marta Batista Cola Company, and Satanist Quaker of 3388 Homera Place, Decatur, Georgia do hereby swear (or affirm) on this day of 13 October 1993 under penalty of perjury that to the best of my knowledge, all of the above and much of the below is true in some sense, false in some sense, meaningless in some sense, true and false in some sense, true and meaningless in some sense, false and meaningless in some sense, and true and false and meaningless in some sense, as the Discordian Church (or Synagogue) holds as a central tradition (borrowed from Buddhism and, thus, older than Christianity) tenet of its faith is true of all affirmations."
- Biles, Joe G.; In History's Shadow: Lee Harvey Oswald, Kerry Thornley & the Garrison Investigation, Writers Club Press, April 2002 (foreword by Robert Buras) ISBN 978-0595224555
- Gorightly, Adam; The Prankster and the Conspiracy: The Story of Kerry Thornley and How He Met Oswald and Inspired the Counterculture, Paraview Press, November 2003 (foreword by Robert Anton Wilson) ISBN 978-1931044660
- Malaclypse the Younger (Greg Hill); Principia Discordia, or, How I found Goddess and what I did to Her when I found Her, 5th Edition, September 1991, IllumiNet Press (Introduction by Kerry Thornley) ISBN 0-9626534-2-X
- Thornley, Kerry; Oswald, New Classics House, 1965
- Thornley, Kerry; Zenarchy, IllumiNet Press, June 1991 ISBN 0-9626534-1-1
- Thornley, Kerry; The Idle Warriors, IllumiNet Press, June 1991 ISBN 0-9626534-0-3
- Introduction by Kerry Thornley to the Fifth (IllumiNet Press) Edition of Principia Discordia
- Impropaganda: Zenarchy
- Impropaganda: First 30 issues of Kultcha broadsheet newsletter
- 113 scanned and full-text issues of The Decadent Worker broadsheet newsletter
- The Dreadlock Recollections. OVO Vol 20 # 17. Retrieved on 2008-03-25..
- 23 Offerings of Prime Erisiana, Discordian enchantments as described to Sondra London
- In Defense of Libertarian Communism, with comments by Samuel Edward Konkin III. Strategy of the New Libertarian Alliance #2, May Day 1982-3. Retrieved on 2008-03-25..
- Appendix 5 of Warren Commission Report available at NARA (www.archives.gov)
- Warren Commission Hearings, Testimony of Kerry W. Thornley
- Orleans Parish Grand Jury Transcript, Testimony of Kerry W. Thornley
- Impropaganda: 1991 NY Press article on Thornley - "Oswald's Other"
- The Vril, the CIA, and Nazi Secret Societies, correspondence of Kerry Thornley
- Official Obituary Announcement by Sondra London
- Confession to Conspiracy to Assassinate JFK, posthumous account of the events surrounding and leading up to Thornley's alleged involvement with the JFK assassination, as told to Sondra London
- Excerpts from Gorightly's book The Prankster and the Conspiracy and Foreword by Robert Anton Wilson
- Hi-res scan of Thornley's Pope certificate