Discordianism has been described as both an elaborate joke disguised as a religion, and a religion disguised as an elaborate joke. It has also been described as a religion disguised as a joke disguised as a religion. Others view it as a simple rejection of reductionism and dualism, even falsifiability — not in concept different from postmodernism or certain trends in the philosophy of mathematics. It has also been described as "Zen for roundeyes," and converges with some of the more absurdist interpretations of the Rinzai tradition.
Discordianism is said to have been founded in 1959 (or maybe it was 1958) by Greg Hill (also called Malaclypse the Younger, or Mal-2) and Kerry Thornley (also called Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst). The foundational document of Discordianism is Hill's Principia Discordia.
Unlike most religions, which revere the principles of harmony and order in the Universe, Discordianism purports to recognize that disharmony and chaos are equally valid aspects of reality. Discordianism consists almost entirely of playful nonsense, but some feel it has a more serious underlying meaning.
HERE FOLLOWS SOME PSYCHO-METAPHYSICS.If you are not hot for philosophy, best just to skip it. The Aneristic Principle is that of APPARENT ORDER; the Eristic Principle is that of APPARENT DISORDER. Both order and disorder are man made concepts and are artificial divisions of PURE CHAOS, which is a level deeper than is the level of distinction making. With our concept making apparatus called "mind" we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality which our cultures give us. The ideas-about-reality are mistakenly labeled "reality" and unenlightened people are forever perplexed by the fact that other people, especially other cultures, see "reality" differently. It is only the ideas-about-reality which differ. Real (capital-T True) reality is a level deeper than is the level of concept. We look at the world through windows on which have been drawn grids (concepts). Different philosophies use different grids. A culture is a group of people with rather similar grids. Through a window we view chaos, and relate it to the points on our grid, and thereby understand it. The ORDER is in the GRID. That is the Aneristic Principle. Western philosophy is traditionally concerned with contrasting one grid with another grid, and amending grids in hopes of finding a perfect one that will account for all reality and will, hence, (say unenlightened westerners) be True. This is illusory; it is what we Erisians call the ANERISTIC ILLUSION. Some grids can be more useful than others, some more beautiful than others, some more pleasant than others, etc., but none can be more True than any other. DISORDER is simply unrelated information viewed through some particular grid. But, like "relation", no-relation is a concept. Male, like female, is an idea about sex. To say that male-ness is "absence of female-ness", or vice versa, is a matter of definition and metaphysically arbitrary. The artificial concept of no-relation is the ERISTIC PRINCIPLE. The belief that "order is true" and disorder is false or somehow wrong, is the Aneristic Illusion. To say the same of disorder, is the ERISTIC ILLUSION. The point is that (little-t) truth is a matter of definition relative to the grid one is using at the moment, and that (capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids entirely. Pick a grid, and through it some chaos appears ordered and some appears disordered. Pick another grid, and the same chaos will appear differently ordered and disordered. Reality is the original Rorschach. Verily! So much for all that.
GREATER POOP: Is Eris true?MALACLYPSE THE YOUNGER: Everything is true.
GP: Even false things?
M2: Even false things are true.
GP: How can that be?
M2: I don't know man, I didn't do it.
The word Chao 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 couplet in the Principia Discordia:
To diverse godsDo mortals bow;
Holy Cow, and
The Sacred Chao is a symbol used by Discordians to illustrate the interrelatedness of order and disorder. It resembles a yin yang symbol with a pentagon on one side representing order, and a golden apple on the other side representing disorder. The pentagon relates to the Law of Fives, and the golden apple is from a story about Eris.
The Law of Fives
The Law of Fives is summarized on page 00016 of the Principia Discordia:
The Law of Fives states simply that: ALL THINGS HAPPEN IN FIVES, OR ARE DIVISIBLE BY OR ARE MULTIPLES OF FIVE, OR ARE SOMEHOW DIRECTLY OR INDIRECTLY RELATED TO FIVE.THE LAW OF FIVES IS NEVER WRONG. In the Erisian Archives is an old memo from Omar to Mal-2: "I find the Law of Fives to be more and more manifest the harder I look."
It is worth noting that the Law of Fives includes 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 provides deep insight into how (Discordians believe) the human mind works. Omar's note that he finds more examples of the Law of Fives at work the harder he looks is key to understanding this.
Appendix Beth of Robert Anton Wilson's 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 Apocrypha Discordia
A collection of works on Discordia, written by various Discordian saints, sinners, popes, priests, madmen, miscreants, degenerates, straight-arrows, etc... Compiled from various non-copyrighted (or Kopylefted) sources by His Wholiness the Reverend DrJon Swabey and published sometime in the 21st century (the date on the document says 2001, but we're not going to fall for that one).
Although some Discordian cabals consider the work to be canonical (some even going as far as considering it the only canonical Discordian work), there are also many who discount the validity of the document. Others amongst the Discordian movement discount the idea of there being any canonical literature other than Dr. Ramos Montecino's 1667 work Howe to Mayke a Cannon. Most people would probably agree, however, that there are far better things to do with one's time than to shoot works of literature out of any firearm whatsoever.
Thanks to the work of Rev. DrJon, many Discordian writings have been brought together in one place where without him, they may have been lost to the grainy particles of temporality -- leaving us free to peruse or ignore the work at our leisure and for overzealous lunatics to print copies of it so that they may have something to feed the bonfires that warm their cold, empty hearts.
The Original Snub
- It seems that Zeus was preparing a wedding banquet for Peleus and Thetis and did not want to invite Eris because of Her reputation as a trouble maker.*
- This made Eris angry, and so She fashioned an apple of pure gold** and inscribed upon it KALLISTI ("To The Prettiest One") and on the day of the fete She rolled it into the banquet hall and then left to be alone and joyously partake of a hot dog.
- Now, three of the invited goddesses,*** Athena, Hera, and Aphrodite, each immediately claimed it to belong to herself because of the inscription. And they started fighting, and they started throwing punch all over the place and everything.
- Finally Zeus calmed things down and declared that an arbitrator must be selected, which was a reasonable suggestion, and all agreed. He sent them to a shepherd of Troy, whose name was Paris because his mother had had a lot of gaul and had married a Frenchman; but each of the sneaky goddesses tried to outwit the others by going early and offering a bribe to Paris.
- Athena offered him Heroic War Victories, Hera offered him Great Wealth, and Aphrodite offered him the Most Beautiful Woman on Earth. Being a healthy young Trojan lad, Paris promptly accepted Aphrodite's bribe and she got the apple and he got screwed.
- As she had promised, she maneuvered earthly happenings so that Paris could have Helen (The Helen) then living with her husband Menelaus, King of Sparta. Anyway, everyone knows that the Trojan War followed when Sparta demanded their Queen back and that the Trojan War is said to be The First War among men.
- And so we suffer because of the Original Snub. And so a Discordian is to partake of No Hot Dog Buns.
- Do you believe that?
- * This is called THE DOCTRINE OF THE ORIGINAL SNUB
The Golden Apple of Discord is thus one of the major symbols associated with Discordianism
The Curse of Greyface
The Curse of Greyface is one of the most important parts of Discordianism. It features prominently on pages 00042 and 00063 of the Principia Discordia. Counteracting the curse features prominently on pages 00063 and 00074. 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.
"Greyface and his followers took the game of playing at life more seriously than they took life itself and were known even to destroy other living beings whose ways of life differed from their own." (Principia Discordia page 00042)
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
"[M]ankind has [...] been suffering from a psychological and spiritual imbalance. Imbalance causes frustration, and frustration causes fear. And fear makes for a bad trip. Man has been on a bad trip for a long time now." (Principia Discordia page 00042)
"The human race will begin solving it's [sic] problems on the day that it ceases taking itself so seriously." (Principia Discordia page 00074)
In addition to the generic advice of culturing your natural love of chaos and playing with Her, the Principia Discordia provides (on page 00064) "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.
Remember that magic is powerful. It may not be advisable to attempt The Turkey Curse without further research.
Law of Eristic Escalation
The Principia Discordia contains the Law of Eristic Escalation. This law states that Imposition of Order = Escalation of Chaos. This can be read as an argument against zero tolerance and hard security, or just a statement about the world. This is, in physics, the second law of thermodynamics.
The Pentabarf (given on page 00004 of the Principia) is the set of 5 holy laws 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 during his early Illumination to Go Off Alone & Partake Joyously of a Hot Dog on a Friday; this Devotive Ceremony to Remonstrate against the popular Paganisms of the Day: of 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 (which is what Discordians have instead of "dogma"). As the third commandment demands a violation of the fourth commandment, and the fifth commandment seems to subvert the concept of written law, it is not clear whether the Pentabarf is considered binding. Furthermore, the "Official Discordian Document Numbering System" from the second holy law is not mentioned anywhere else in the Principia, although it may have something to do with the fact that all page numbers in the book add zeroes to give them five digits. If this is true, it would be useful in protecting against extremely longwinded authors.
Reading the Pentabarf in reverse order may help to better link its concepts together. The prohibition of belief in readings is a stern warning that beliefs should be inspired, not dictated; that one shouldn't adhere to dogma. The fourth creates dogma, and is it reminded in the third that dogma should be rejected. The second orders the following of what would be dogma if it existed at all. It reinforces the futility of following dogma by showing that words cannot set an official belief system to be shared by all; each will interpret differently, in accordance to the principles of chaos. As for the first, a circular definition, it warns of the dangers of such definitions, nearly universal in belief systems. Thinking about the first reveals the futility of circular definitions.
- http://www.23ae.com/files/apocrypha2.pdf (1.1M PDF) — download the Apocrypha Discordia
- http://www.principiadiscordia.com — Contains the Principia Discordia in HTML. Also has Discordian message boards and some amusing PDFs.