Discordianism is a modern religion based around the Goddess of chaos, Eris. Its holy book is known as the Principia Discordia, and has been published in several different editions, with the earliest dating back to 1955. Speculation has often raged on whether or not the religion itself was meant to be taken seriously, even among its originators. It has been described as "Somewhere between parody, social commentary, and religion..."., has been mentioned in several modern publications, and many profess to be adherents if not to the religion itself, then to the coherent underlying philosophy of good-natured anarchy. The religion varies from traditional practices of non-pagan religions in many ways, but is still monotheistic. It is in some ways an open parody of many elements from pre-existing religions. Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley authored the original Principia Discordia under the respective pseudonyms "Malaclypse the Younger", and "Omar Khayyam Ravenhearst".
Despite Omar and Malaclypse founding the religion, Discordianism is in no way hierarchial. For instance, the book itself reveals that Discordian "cabals" may be formed utterly independently of the Polyfather (Malaclypse), and contains enigmatic instructions on the rites required to do so. Indeed, one principle of Discordian worship is that every man, woman, and child on this earth is a genuine and authorized Pope of the house of the Apostles of Eris. While the responsibilities and bestowed powers of this position are not revealed, the individualistic nature of Discordian philosophy implies that it renders all Discordians equal in their standing within the religion. This declaration is further reinforced by cards stating: "The bearer of this card is a genuine and authorized Pope..." with a disclaimer noting that everyone is a genuine and authorized pope of the house of apostles of Eris. These were included on a page of the Principia Discordia itself. These were to be distributed freely.
The holy book of Discordianism, the Principia Discordia, is covered under "Kopyleft". This is to say that rather than "all rights reserved", the interior cover reads: "all rights reversed". In some editions, this is appended by "reprint what you like", to make things clear. As such, many editions of the Principia, by many different editors, have been printed. Full text of the Steve Jackson Games edition is currently available online. New material has been added over time, but the book is still held to be the bible of Discordianism, though it might lack much in the eyes of one attempting to become a worshipper of Eris with no prior experience.
The Principia Discordia contains short blurbs and frequent references to the five Apostles of Eris. These are Hung Mung, Van Van Mojo, Malaclypse the Elder, Sri Syadasti, and Gulik the Stoned. They are from various cultures, and all have backstories which might be considered humorous. Nonetheless, they are revered figures. Discordianism also gives a certain degree to Pythagoras, who is regarded as an "Exploded Aneristic". He is referred to as "Archangle Pythagoras", and treat him, in some ways, like a saint.
Discordianism's bible contains many "parables" written in a pseudo-Zen style. An example of such a story comes when an individual who is instructing disciples asks of a cow: "And what is the purpose of you, you dumb thing?". The cow replies, in typical fashion, "moo". A footnote reveals that Mu is the Chinese ideogram for "no thing". However, the tale makes it clear that no one was enlightened, because no one knew Chinese. Most stories and passages in general from the Principia Discordia are comedic in nature. Nonetheless, though much seems to be explicit parody of popular views of religion itself, Discordianism has a legitimate message of salvation via nonsense and liberation of restrictive views on reality.
Another common aspect of Discordianism is the seemingly universal answer: "Consult your pineal gland". This is thought to be a reference to the idea held by such individuals as Rick Strassman and René Descartes that the pineal gland is responsible for certain mystic experiences, and vivid dreams. The Principia Discordia professes that one can consult their pineal gland in order to speak to the Goddess Eris. Discordians do not pray too often, as their bible says, "It's too dangerous.". They fear getting a dangerous amount more than they asked for, such as praying for food and dying beneath an avalanche of fish.
Discordianism and "nonsense as salvation"
Discordianism remonstrates against taking oneself too seriously. One example occurs when Malaclypse the Younger is depicted in the text as conversing with the Goddess Eris, who is speaking to him through his radio. He tells her of the world's woes, of "brothers killing brothers", of his concerns. She inquires and listens kindly. When he has explained the situation, Eris replies with "Well what is wrong with that, if it is what they wish to do?". Malaclypse then informs Eris that nobody wants it and everyone hates it. Her solution is "Well, then stop.". This gives way to the idea of nonsense as salvation, frequently touted within the religion.
The text does not place many exacting prohibitions, and those requirements it does present to potential Discordians are in almost all cases either optional, or contradictory to one another. Worship of Eris and an understanding of the harmony which must exist between chaos and order in order for society to develop, are stressed as the common qualities among members of Discordian cabals. The text of the Principia, and the tenets of the religion itself, endeavor to convey serious messages through humor, and shares some elements with Absurdism.
Discordians and the original snub
Eris herself was a goddess in the Greek pantheon. The Principia Discordia details how Eris was not invited to a feté on Mount Olympus, due to her reputation as a troublemaker. So having discovered this and concocted a plan for revenge, she crafted an apple out of gold and wrote "To the prettiest one" upon it in Greek. Rolling it into the party, she caused much squabbling, and, inadvertently, the Trojan War. In Discordianism, this is known as "The Original Snub", and it is said that while the fighting was going on, Eris herself went off to partake of "No Hot Dog Buns". This is the reason why Discordians are forbidden from partaking of hot dog buns. It is said that they eat "No Hot Dog Buns" for such was the solace of Goddess when she was confronted with the original snub.
Since Discordianism states that there is only one Goddess and she is to be the Goddess of Discordians, it may seem appropriate that, in the early pages of the Principia, there is a reproduction of a supposed "telegram to God" from Malaclypse the Younger, which confirms Discordians, or at least Malaclypse, must believe in "Jehova Yahweh", to whom it is addressed. The message includes the information that the recipient's position as deity is hereby terminated, that its check would be mailed, and to please not use him (Malaclypse) as a reference. The logical impossibility of belief both in one deity, and in another, each as sole God or Goddess, is not addressed within known and printed Discordian materials.
It is perhaps due to the falling out between Eris and the other gods and goddesses that Discordianism espouses her as a single deity. The Discordian edicts known as the "pentabarf" state that, "There is only one Goddess and she is your Goddess.". Methods for worshipping her are not detailed, other than consuming jelly donuts and orange juice, which, for her followers, would become as her body and her blood. Every Discordian, early in their apprenticeship, is required to go off and partake of a hot dog on a Friday. This is stated as being an act of rebuke against the "popular paganisms" of forbidding animal(Buddhists), pork(Judaism), cow(Hindi), meat on Fridays(Catholic Christendom), and hot dog buns. The latter is, in fact, a Discordian prohibition in and of itself. Eris further has a low opinion of the abilities of the ancient Greeks to accurately record history. She makes the pun: "They were victims, you know, of indigestion." This was a denial in response to a question about how she herself was credited with giving birth to such beings as "Strife" and "Lies".
Beliefs regarding the creation of the universe
Most perplexingly, despite Eris' admission regarding the apple story and the original snub on Mount Olympus, a completely separate story than that given by the Greeks for the creation of the universe and the disposition of the innate forces which shape the world is presented. Discordians believe that Void had two daughters, Eris and Aneris. At first there was nothing, into which the two were born. Eris had been born pregnant, while Aneris had been born sterile. Eris would rule over the world of existent things, while Aneris held dominion over that which was non-existent. Aneris was much larger than Eris, which the Discordians believe can be proven simply by comparing the sheer number of non-existent things to the number of existent things, and finding that far more of the former can be thought of.
After fifty-five years, the Principia noting that Goddesses have exceptionally long gestational periods, Eris gave birth. The result produced a great many existent things. She then imposed order (where all had previously been chaos), to amuse herself. Aneris, jealous of her sister's fertility, stole some of the things, taking them out of existence to reside with her in non-existence. So, Eris gave birth to new things, and no matter how many of her existent things Aneris would take, she would always create more.
Void, contemplating this, went into slumber for a long time. When he awoke, he gave birth to a being of neither non-existence or of existence, Spirituality, who had no name. He decreed that Spirituality would dwell in existence, with Eris, so that he might play there. Eris protested, saying that Aneris would simply take Spirituality back out of jealousness and make him nonexistent, and that she would therefore not get to spend any time with her brother. As such, Void decreed that Spirituality would not cease to exist when it left existence, but would return to dwell with void. To quote the Principia:
"And so it is that we 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." -Dogma III - History #2, Cogmogony
Discordian views on order and chaos
The religion of Discordianism is not a polarized system of opposition between order and chaos, where chaos is seen as superior. The Principia Discordia specifically states that what a Discordian should oppose is destructive order. Order which oppresses or deliberately attempts to eliminate chaos within a system is seen as undesirable. Most prominent among those who inflict undesirable order in the bible of Discordianism, is Greyface. He is responsible for the Curse of Greyface.
The Principia states that Greyface was alive 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. It is directly opposite to the Discodian idea of nonsense as salvation. The message which Greyface gave to those who followed him was to "Look at all this order". He managed in some fashion (the Principia Discordia suggests that people were more gullible back then) to convince mankind to believe in Serious Order. This is touted within the bible of Discordianism as the specific reason why disorder and chaos are often viewed in such a negative light, and people have a tendency to fixate upon destructive disorder, even in the face of all of the constructive disorder in the world.
Counteracting the Curse of Greyface, blamed by Discordians for much of the ill feeling and misfortune in the world, is described within the Principia Discordia. As well as mystic rites such as the "Turkey Curse", the book states that mankind will begin solving its problems when it ceases taking itself so seriously. One accusation laid against Greyface is that he and his Order have attempted to costume cabbages and pass them off as human beings. Discordians are warned to be wary of this.
The Principia Discordia leaves much unexplained. It does not give information about specific practices to be undertaken in the worship of Eris. It does give a description of Eris, and a Discordian explanation for how the universe came into being. Discordians believe that neither order nor disorder are inherently good or bad. Instead, their bible makes a stark distinction between creative and destructive order, and between creative and destructive disorder. Destructive order and disorder are each seen as undesirable, while creative order and disorder are seen as desirable. Malaclypse and Omar are at first ignorant of this fact, and vilify chaos and discord in a "pre-revelation" passage from the Principia Discordia. No mention of the afterlife or a "heaven" is made in the Principia. Though it is stated that when an existent thing goes into non-existence, Spirituality, which was nameless and formless, would go home to the great "Void", the being who gave birth to everything which is existent and which is nonexistent, "...like a tired child home from a very wild circus."
Numbers and symbols
To this day, the golden apple of discord, along with the sacred chao and the Five-Fingered Hand of Eris, are symbols of Discordianism. The sacred chao is a symbol akin to a yin-yang, except that a pentagon (representing order) is on one side, and the golden apple (representing disorder) is on the other side. It represents harmony between the two forces, and how one without the other cannot exist in balance. The world, Discordians believe, would then become too crowded with existent things, or else would lapse utterly into nonexistence as too much was created by Eris. This is revealed in the Discordian creation story of Void and his daughters.
The Five-Fingered Hand of Eris is a symbol used by Discordians either to identify themselves, seal documents, and just as an organiational sign. It is represented by any two arrows converging to form a common point, and can be either simple or embellished to the taste of the one drawing the sign.
The idea of holy or sacred numbers is prevalent throughout Discordianism. The "law of fives", which states that all concepts can be linked to the number 5 in some way, whether directly or indirectly, is a common subject within the Principia Discordia. Each page had a five digit page number: the first three or four being zeros, then the actual page number following. The "pentabarf", a set of Discordian commandments, is also five in number. The Discordian calendar has five seasons, five holy days, Eris has five apostles, and so on. Discordianism is paradoxical, in that the abovementioned "pentabarf" forbids its adherents from believing anything they read. The Holy 23 (two plus three equals five) is also acknowledged, and said to have been originated by Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhearst's cabal.
Modern perspectives on Discordianism
The sheer absurdity of some aspects of Discordian belief has prompted criticism, alongside such organizations as the Church of the Subgenius. It has been dubbed "not a real religion". While it may indeed be true that the religion's original intention was purely as a parody, some adherents at least claim to truly identify it as their method of worship.
Other authors, such as J. Gordon Melton in his Encyclopedia of American Religions, have taken the humorous approach of the religion and written about it creatively. In the above mentioned work, Melton states that, since he is a Discordian pope, he has excommunicated all other Discordians. They, also being popes he surmises, would then have reversed this decision. In this fashion, a recurring game of nonsense, of which Discordians are so fond, would have been formed.
A perpetual Discordian calendar is included in each edition of the Principia Discordia, and it is certainly a fact that most Linux distributions contain a file called "ddate", which gives the current date on the Discordian calendar. Other influences of Discordianism on literature, film, and culture, can be seen in such works as Robert Anton Wilson and Robert Shea's Illuminatus! trilogy, the movie The Number 23, and also in the popular Illuminati card game by Steve Jackson Games, where the Discordian Society is one of the player factions.
Discordianism, as revealed by letters from Malaclypse to various members of Discordian cabals which are presented in the Principia Discordia, is alleged to be tied up with the Bavarian Illuminati (the Ancient Illuminated Seers of Bavaria, a group of shadowy conspirators), and much of the book is tied to this secrecy. An application to join the Bavarian Illuminati is included within the test. It contains a field in which one is to write their intelligence quotient. The minimum is one-hundred and fifty, an exceptionally high bar on the scale of IQ. Further documents, including a literally "unbreakable" cipher code (which also cannot be effectively decoded by anyone including the recipient, unless they know what the original message was, or it were to fit very specific criteria), organizational correspondences, and "hidden" messages, add to the image of a secret society associated with Discordianism.
- Rabinovitch, Shelly & Lewis, James. The Encyclopedia of Modern Witchcraft and Neo-Paganism". Pp 75-76. Citadel Press. 2002 ISBN 0806524065
- Melton, J. Gordon. Encyclopedia of American Religions (6th edition). Gale Group. 1998 ISBN 0810384175
- Adler, Margot. Drawing Down the Moon: Witches, Druids, Goddess-Worshippers, and Other Pagans in America. Penguin. 2006 ISBN 0143038192
- Jackson, Steve. Principia Discordia: Or How I Found Goddess, and What I Did To Her When I Found Her. pp 36 Steve Jackson Games. 1994 ISBN 1556343205
- Jackson, Steve. Principia Discordia: Or How I Found Goddess, and What I Did To Her When I Found Her. pp 17 Steve Jackson Games. 1994 ISBN 1556343205
- Jackson, Steve. Principia Discordia: Or How I Found Goddess, and What I Did To Her When I Found Her. pp 58 Steve Jackson Games. 1994 ISBN 1556343205
- Jackson, Steve. Principia Discordia: Or How I Found Goddess, and What I Did To Her When I Found Her. pp 7 Steve Jackson Games. 1994 ISBN 1556343205
- Jackson, Steve. Principia Discordia: Or How I Found Goddess, and What I Did To Her When I Found Her. pp 4 Steve Jackson Games. 1994 ISBN 1556343205
- "These organisations [Discordianism & The Church of the Subgenius] are just two of a whole raft of mock religions..." Phillips, M. (2004, Sept. 14). Wizards of ID cook up divine pile of spaghetti bolognese. The West Australian, p. Metro 18