Discordianism is a modern religion centered on the idea that chaos is as important as order. It was founded circa 1958–1959 by Malaclypse the Younger with the publication of its principal text, the Principia Discordia. There is some division as to whether it should be regarded as a parody religion, and if so to what degree. It has been called "Zen for roundeyes", based on similarities with absurdist interpretations of the Rinzai school. Discordianism recognizes chaos, discord, and dissent as valid and desirable qualities, in contrast with most religions, which idealize harmony and order. Eris, the Greek mythological goddess of discord, has also become the matron deity of the religion Discordianism.
It is difficult to estimate the number of followers and correctly identify Discordian groups. There is an encouragement to form schisms and cabals. Additionally, few adherents hold Discordianism as their only or primary faith.
The foundational document of Discordianism is the Principia Discordia
, fourth edition, written by Malaclypse The Younger
, an alias of Greg Hill. This book contains many references to an earlier source, The Honest Book of Truth
(HBT). From the quotations, the HBT seems to be arranged like the Bible
, consisting of verses grouped into chapters grouped into books grouped into the HBT itself. The Principia
includes a large portion of (or possibly all of) a chapter of "The Book of Explanations" which recounts how the HBT was revealed to Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst
. It may be worth noting that the tale of the discovery of the HBT contains many similarities to the tale of the discovery of the Book of Mormon
, and that Thornley had been a Mormon
. It also includes part of the next chapter, telling how the HBT was taken by a garbage collector, who refused to return it.
Although most religions revere the principles of harmony and order in the Universe, Discordianism can be interpreted as a belief that disharmony and chaos are equally valid aspects of reality. The Principia Discordia often hints that Discordianism was founded as a dialectic antithesis to more popular religions based on order, although the rhetoric throughout the book describes chaos as a much more underlying impulse of the universe. This may have been done with the intention of merely "balancing out" the creative forces of order and disorder, but the focus is certainly on the more disorderly aspects of the world — at times the forces of order are even vilify.
The matron deity of Discordianism is the Greek goddess Eris, of discord, identified by the Romans as Discordia.
In April 2006, Principia Discordia, First Edition was recovered from the John F. Kennedy archives. This contains Malaclypse the Younger's long-sought-for The Myth of Ichabod, more commonly known as The Myth of Starbuck. According to the first edition, this originally appeared in Summa Universalia.
The very idea of a Discordian organization is something of a paradox. Nevertheless, some structure is indicated in Principia Discordia. The most general group, presumably including all Discordians (and potentially others), is The Discordian Society, whose definition is “The Discordian Society has no definition”. Within the society are sects of Discordianism, each under the direction of an “Episkopos” (overseer in Greek, source of English bishop and episcopal).
Discordians who do not form their own sects, whether they belong to someone else's sect or not, make up the Legion of Dynamic Discord, and may be referred to as Legionnaires. Would-be Discordians are told in the Principia Discordia:
The sect of Discordianism founded by Malaclypse the Younger
and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst
is known as the Paratheo-Anametamystikhood Of Eris Esoteric
(POEE), a Non-prophet Irreligious Disorganisation, and the Principia Discordia
tells us much about POEE in particular, as well as Discordianism in general.
For example, the Principia contains some details about the structure of POEE. In particular:
According to the Principia Discordia, POEE is “a tribe of philosophers, theologians, magicians, scientists, artists, clowns, and similar maniacs who are intrigued by Eris goddess of confusion and her doings.” Furthermore it states that “POEE subscribes to the Law Of Fives of Omar's sect” and “POEE also recognizes the Holy 23.”
Paratheo-Anametamystikhood can be taken to mean equivalent deity, reversing beyond-mystique. Loosely interpreted, it boils down to all deities are equivalent, there is no great mystery about that.
Episkoposes are the Overseers of sects of Discordianism, who have presumably created their own sect of Discordianism. They speak to Eris through the use of their pineal gland
. It is said in the Principia Discordia
that Eris says different things to each listener. She may even say radically different things to each Episkopos but, all of what she says is equally her word (even if it contradicts another iteration of her word).
Most Episkoposes have an assumed name and/or title of bizarre nature and self-proclaimed 'mystic import', such as Malaclypse the Younger, Polyfather of Virginity in Gold; Lord Omar Khayym Ravenhurst, Bull Goose of Limbo; Professor Mu-Chao; Kassil the Erratic; and Lord Foxfire the Perpetually Combustible. Some Discordians choose their entire title by themselves, some turn to random generators, others assimilate things from other people, and a few never really offer any explanation.
According to the Principia Discordia
, a pope
is “every single man, woman, and child on this Earth.”
Included in the Principia Discordia is an official Pope card that may be reproduced and distributed freely to anyone and everyone. Papacy, however, is not granted through possession of this card; it merely informs people that they are “a genuine and authorized Pope” of Discordia.
While the powers of a Pope are not enumerated in the Principia, we are given some idea from a note under the card which states, “A POPE is someone who is not under the authority of the authorities.”
Some Discordians have also taken it upon themselves to further elaborate upon the powers of a Pope. On the back of some Pope cards, the following message can be found:
The third right (requiring permission from the deceased in cases of burying or marriage, but not baptism) may be a reference to The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints practice of baptism for the dead, or it may just be a witty conflation of marriage and death.
This understanding of the notion of Pope has far reaching consequences in Discordianism. For example, the introduction to Principia Discordia says, “Only a Pope may canonize a Saint. … So you can ordain yourself — and anyone or anything else — a Saint.” The last enumerated right of a Pope may be an allusion to the necessary-and-proper clause.
A female version, with the word Mome substituted for Pope, has also been promulgated.
There are as many interpretations of Discordianism as there are Discordians, and several definitions of Discordianism on the Internet
center around the words "Ancient Greeks", "Chaos Worship" and "Anarchism". This is an extremely debatable assertion of what would define Discordian philosophy as a whole; indeed, it is a notion directly confronted by the concept of the Eristic Illusion, as mentioned in the following passage, a summary of part of the Discordian philosophy which appears in the Principia Discordia
And this from the Principia Discordia's very beginning, a Discordian koan:
The word Chao
(pronounced similarly to "cow
") was coined
as the singular of chaos
. In the Discordian religion the chao is a symbol of the 'pataphysical
nature of reality; singular instances of chaos being at the center of 'pataphysical theory. The word is a pun
that enables the following quatrain
in the Principia Discordia
The Sacred Chao is a symbol used by Discordians to illustrate the interrelatedness of order and disorder. It resembles a Taijitu (Yin-Yang) symbol, but according to the Principia Discordia:
The choice of the pentagon as a symbol of the Aneristic Principle is partly related to The Pentagon in Washington, D.C., partly a nod to the Law of Fives, partially for the Golden Ratio references associated with the pentagon/apple allegory, and wholly for the five-sided pentagon from the "Starbuck's Pebbles" story in the Discordia. The Golden Apple of Discordia is the one from the story of The Original Snub (below).
Law of Fives
The Law of Fives is summarized in the Principia Discordia
The Law of Fives as quoted uses the word "Five" five times.
Like most of Discordianism, the Law of Fives appears on the surface to be either some sort of weird joke, or bizarre supernaturalism; but under this, it may help clarify the Discordian view of how the human mind works; Lord Omar is quoted later on the same page as having written, "I find the Law of Fives to be more and more manifest the harder I look."
Appendix Beth of Robert Shea's and Robert Anton Wilson's The Illuminatus! Trilogy considers some of the numerology of Discordianism, and the question of what would happen to the Law of Fives if everyone had six fingers on each hand. The authors suggest that the real Law of Fives may be that everything can be related to the number five if you try hard enough. Sometimes the steps required may be highly convoluted.
Another way of looking at the Law of Fives is as a symbol for the observation of reality changing that which is being observed in the observer's mind. Just as how when one looks for fives in reality, one finds them, so will one find conspiracies, ways to determine when the apocalypse will come, and so on and so forth when one decides to look for them. It cannot be wrong, because it proves itself reflexively when looked at through this lens.
The Original Snub is the Discordian name for the events preceding the Judgment of Paris
, although more focus is put on the actions of Eris. Zeus believes that Eris is a troublemaker, so he does not invite her to Peleus
's wedding. This is “The Doctrine of the Original Snub”.
Having been snubbed, Eris creates a golden apple with the word kallisti (Ancient Greek: καλλίστῃ, to the prettiest one) inscribed in it. This, the Apple of Discord, is a notable symbol in Discordianism for its inclusion in the Holy Chao. The apple is traditionally described as being made of gold, but the Principia Discordia notes a debate over whether the “gold” described was “metallic gold or Acapulco.” The story also relates that the first thing Eris did after throwing the Apple of Discord into the wedding was to joyously partake of a hot dog which is meant to explain the Discordian prohibition against consuming hot dog buns.
When the female wedding guests disagree about who the apple is meant for, Zeus decides to leave the decision to Paris of Troy. Aphrodite bribes Paris, leading to the Trojan War, which “is said to be The First War among men.”
Some recent interpretations of the Original Snub place Eris as being not at all mischievous with her delivery of the apple, but instead suggest that Eris was simply bringing the apple as a wedding present for Thetis. This interpretation would see Eris as innocent and her causing of chaos as a by-product of the other wedding guests' reaction upon seeing her at the wedding.
Curse of Greyface
The Curse of Greyface is one of the most important parts of Discordianism. It features prominently on several pages of the Principia Discordia
. According to the Principia
, Greyface was a man who lived in the year 1166 BC and taught that life is serious and play is sin. The curse is a psychological and spiritual imbalance that results from these beliefs.
Greyface encouraged his followers to "Look at all the order around you" (Principia Discordia
page 00042) and somehow convinced mankind to agree with his ideas about Serious Order. The Principia
notes that it is something of a mystery why Greyface gained so many followers when anyone could have looked at all of the disorder
in the world.
For more details, see also the section "THE CURSE OF GREYFACE AND THE INTRODUCTION OF NEGATIVISM" in the fifth edition of Principia Discordia.
Order/disorder and constructive/destructive
By accepting that life is a serious, orderly matter, the followers of Greyface end up viewing things as either orderly or disorderly. In this system, order is preferred to disorder at all costs. This preference results in both constructive order and destructive order.
The alternative is to view things as either constructive or destructive. In this system, construction is preferred to destruction. Selecting construction results in both constructive order and constructive disorder.
Counteracting the curse
In addition to the generic advice of culturing your natural love of chaos and playing with Her, the Principia Discordia provides "The Turkey Curse Revealed by the Apostle Dr. Van Van Mojo" to counteract The Curse of Greyface.
The Turkey Curse is designed to counteract destructive order. It derives its name from the fact that the incantation resembles the sounds of a turkey.
Law of Eristic Escalation
The Principia Discordia
contains the Law of Eristic Escalation.
This law states that Imposition of Order
= Escalation of Chaos
. It elaborates on this point by saying that the more order imposed the longer it takes for the chaos to arise and the greater the chaos that arises.
This can be read as an argument against zero tolerance
and hard security
, or just a statement about the world. It can also be seen as a parallel to the second law of thermodynamics
which states that entropy
(the number of states a given system can occupy) never decreases over time. It is also reminiscent of _law_of_reciprocal_actions
, where every action has an equal and opposite reaction.
The Pentabarf is the doctrine of Discordianism. It is as follows:
- There is no Goddess but Goddess and She is Your Goddess. There is no Erisian Movement but The Erisian Movement and it is The Erisian Movement. And every Golden Apple Corps is the beloved home of a Golden Worm.
- A Discordian Shall Always use the Official Discordian Document Numbering System.
- A Discordian is required to, the first Friday after his illumination, Go Off Alone & Partake Joyously of a Hot Dog; this Devotive Ceremony to Remonstrate against the popular Paganisms of the Day: of Roman Catholic Christendom (no meat on Friday), of Judaism (no meat of Pork), of Hindic Peoples (no meat of Beef), of Buddhists (no meat of animal), and of Discordians (no Hot Dog Buns).
- A Discordian shall Partake of No Hot Dog Buns, for Such was the Solace of Our Goddess when She was Confronted with The Original Snub.
- A Discordian is Prohibited from Believing What he reads.
The Pentabarf is the most fundamental of all Discordian catma. ("Catma" is a general term for Discordian teachings, sayings, quotations, explanations, jokes and illustrations, as distinguished from Discordian "dogma", which consists of certain specific passages from The Honest Book of Truth, cited in Principia.)
The 5th law mirrors both the nature of Taoist sayings ("the Tao that can be spoken of is not the true Tao) and Zen koans ("If you meet the Buddha on your path, kill him). It is also similar to the end of Wittgenstein's Tractatus where he essentially states that if his thesis is meaningful then it is worthless.
Five tons of Flax
In the Principia Discordia, "Five tons
" is given as the answer to the question, "Is there an essential meaning behind POEE?" (This is a reference to a Zen
story about "Three pounds of flax
.") Some discordians claim that the entire conversation between Greater Poop and Mal-2 (including "the three pounds of flax" story) is actually a collection of humorous koans. However, this may in fact be opinions of lower-level Discordian members, or a means of covering up truths of an internal Discordian conspiracy.
Discordians have since taken "Five tons of flax" as a slogan or as a universal answer to philosophical questions. In the Illuminatus Trilogy by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, which draws heavily upon Discordianism, "Flaxscript" is depicted as a genuine form of scrip, serving to avoid the use of government-issued currency.
"Consult your pineal gland
" is a common saying in Discordianism. Although it has never been proven, the pineal gland is believed by some, such as Rick Strassman
, to produce trace amounts of DMT (dimethyltryptamine
), a psychedelic
chemical which is believed to play a role in dreaming
and other mystical states. It should also be noted that the pineal gland was also used in Descartes
's explanation of Cartesian Dualism
as the "seat of the soul" and the connection between the material and immaterial world. In some cases it is referred to as "the atrophied third eye". It has also been suggested that the third eye
) physically resides at this location between the two hemispheres of the brain.
It is hard to describe Discordianism as a religion because Discordians do not have any specific beliefs or dogma that would set them apart from the practitioners of other religions. Many of the practicing Discordians believe that humanity suffers from the "curse of Greyface" (i.e, takes itself too seriously) and thus needs to be saved from this grave outlook on life. Thus the Discordians seek to reverse the "curse of Greyface" by teaching the people "to laugh at themselves and their problems/lives." This, the Discordians believe, would solve most of the problems of the world.
While Discordianism is separate from modern neopaganism, a number of neopagans have incorporated elements of Discordianism into their beliefs. In addition, Neopagan author Margot Adler discussed Discordianism in her book, Drawing Down the Moon, while religious authority J. Gordon Melton lists Discordianism among various Neopagan groups in his Encyclopedia Of American Religions. (Melton claims to have excommunicated all other Discordians, based on the fact that he is a Discordian Pope. Being Popes themselves, they then de-excommunicated themselves and/or each other.)
- ''See Also: Discordian works
- Discordianism began with the book Principia Discordia, however, the first edition of that book claims some of it is derived from Summa Universalia. While the existence of that work is debated, the Principia has inspired many other writers and artists.
- While not a religious work, The Illuminatus! Trilogy, speculative fiction novels by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, popularized Discordianism with various quotes and references.
- In 1977 Camden Benares published Zen Without Zen Masters, a collection of short essays and anecdotes inspired by Zen and Discordianism.
- More recently, Discordian writers have self-published on thousands of websites. Some of this new material has been put into collections. Primary among these are:
- Other Discordian texts and scriptures include the Curious George stories of Fr. Archimedes Aloysius Anarchy, Book 5 (The Zenarchist's Cookbook), The Book of the Apocalypso, The Book of Eris, The Book of Inconveniences, The Honest Book of Truth (portions of which are used in Principia Discordia), Jonesboria Discordia, Metaclysmia Discordia, Novus Ordo Discordia, Principia Harmonia, The Wise Book of Baloney, and Summa Discordia. There is even A Discordian Coloring Book.
- The game Illuminati and its CCG adaptation Illuminati: New World Order feature Discordianism as one of the primary secret societies running the world, as does the GURPS supplement GURPS: Illuminati. (All three are published by Steve Jackson Games.)
- On May 5 2005 (5/5/5), roleplaying game author John Wick published Discordia!: A Little Game about a Lot of Chaos under his Wicked Dead Brewing Company banner. Wick credits the game's inspiration to the Principia Discordia and The Illuminatus! Trilogy. The game features the players as "Discordian Double Agents" infiltrating various conspiracy groups such as the Bavarian Illuminati, the Hashashin, and others.
- Acclaimed techno music pioneers The KLF were heavily inspired by both Discordianism and The Illuminatus! Trilogy, and made many references to Discordianism throughout their music.
- Almost every Linux distribution contains the program "ddate", which displays the Discordian date.
- Additionally, Eris and her Apple of Discord are featured in the Cartoon Network series, The Grim Adventures of Billy and Mandy.
- The computer game Grand Theft Auto: San Andreas features a clothing brand called Eris, and several mentions of the number 23.
- Castle Discordia is a place concocted by Stephen King and mentioned in the last volumes of his Dark Tower series. The castle contains many doors through which the characters in the book can "teleport" to other worlds and times.
- The computer game Discworld Noir features a character named Malaclypse, who worships Errata, the Discworld goddess of misunderstandings. His role in the game is to provide absurd conspiracy theories which occasionally prove correct.
- The Number 23, a film centered around the 23 Enigma.
- In the book The Long Run by Daniel Keys Moran there is an organization called the Erisian Claw.
- The roleplaying game Mage: The Ascension, part of the first incarnation of the gothic-horror "World of Darkness" setting by White Wolf Inc., uses concepts from Discordianism, Postmodernism, Buddhism, anti-Enlightenment Romanticism, and other philosophical and mythological sources for its world background. Terms such as "Illuminati," "New World Order" and "Greyfaces" turn up in the depiction of the fictional "Technocracy," a shadowy organization usually cast in the role of antagonists and bent on eradicating supernatural dangers to Mankind, hunting down so-called "reality deviants," and defining and controlling Earth's "static reality" in the minds of the un-enlightened Mundanes ("the sleepers").
- The Star Trek: Deep Space Nine episode "The Wire" contains a number of references to Discordianism.
- At the end of Assassin's Creed, an image in blood is revealed on the floor showing an apple above a pyramid, a reference to Discordianism and the Illuminati.