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Discordianism is a religion and subsequent philosophy based on the veneration or worship of the Roman Discordia, equivalent of Eris, the Greek goddess of chaos, or archetypes or ideals associated with her. It was founded after the 1965 publication of its (first) holy book, the Principia Discordia, written by two individuals working under the pseudonyms Malaclypse the Younger and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst.
The religion has been likened to Zen, based on similarities with absurdist interpretations of the Rinzai school, as well as Taoist philosophy. Discordianism is centered on the idea that both order and disorder are illusions imposed on the universe by the human nervous system, and that neither of these illusions of apparent order and disorder is any more accurate or objectively true than the other.
There is some division as to whether it should be regarded as a parody religion, and if so to what degree. Discordians use subversive humor to spread their philosophy and to prevent their beliefs from becoming dogmatic. It is difficult to estimate the number of Discordians because they are not required to hold Discordianism as their only belief system, and because there is an encouragement to form schisms and cabals.
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 (or possibly all) of a chapter of "The Book of Explanations" which recounts how the HBT was revealed to Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst. The tale of the discovery of the HBT contains many similarities to the tale of the discovery of the Book of Mormon, and Ravenhurst 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.
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 on the more disorderly aspects of the world — at times the forces of order are even vilified. There are other religions that revere the principles of harmony and order in the Universe, but few that show a respect for the disorder which we all face.
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 or bishop in Koine Greek, the same word used in the New Testament for Christian Bishops.)
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:
If you want in on the Discordian Society
then declare yourself what you wishThe Goddess Prevails.
do what you like
and tell us about it
if you prefer
There are no rules anywhere.—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Page 00032
The sect of Discordianism founded by Malaclypse the Younger and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst is known as the Paratheo-Anametamystikhood Of Eris Esoteric (POEE). the Principia contains some details about the structure of POEE. In particular:
POEE has 5 DEGREES:
There is the neophyte, or LEGIONNAIRE DISCIPLE.POEE LEGIONNAIRE DISCIPLES are authorized to initiate others as Discordian Society Legionnaires. PRIESTS appoint their own DEACONS. The POLYFATHER ordains Priests. I don't know about the POPES.
The LEGIONNAIRE DEACON, who is catching on.
An Ordained POEE PRIEST/PRIESTESS or a CHAPLAIN.
The HIGH PRIEST, the Polyfather.
And POEE POPE.—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Page 00022
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).
|This section contains too many or too-lengthy quotations for an encyclopedic entry. (June 2014)|
The tenets of the faith, as described in the Principia Discordia address several key philosophical concepts as follows.
"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 "the brain" 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."—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Page 00049
"All affirmations are 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.—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Page 00039"
"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."—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Page 00050
The statements above are consistent with anthropological relativism, a strategy for furthering objectivity by setting aside cultural preconceptions. This is to be distinguished from philosophical relativism, a viewpoint which denies the existence of any objective truth outside of a particular frame of reference. Here the "Principia" defines noumenal reality as not humanly knowable. This is an assertion about the epistemology of truth: human knowledge is based upon "grids" and absolute "(capital-T) Truth" is not accessible through such human inventions as "concept" or "belief". The statement "(capital-T) Truth, metaphysical reality, is irrelevant to grids" also contains an assertion about the ontology of truth. Although absolute truth is not epistemologically accessible, it does exist, independent of our ability (or, in this case, inability) to perceive it or to describe it.
The Principia Discordia holds three core principles: the Aneristic Principle (order), Eristic Principle (disorder) and the notion that both are mere illusions. The following excerpt summarizes these principles quite well:
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 "the brain" 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.
—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Pages 00049–00050
"The Sacred Chao symbolizes "absolutely everything anyone need ever know about absolutely anything" as well as "everything not worth knowing", depicted by the empty space surrounding the Hodge-Podge."—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Page 00049
This glyph is a variation on the Chinese Taijitu symbol. The original symbol represents the dual concepts of yin and yang; the Discordian variant has been altered to symbolize the Aneristic Principle and Eristic Principle (see above, Epistemology).
The Law of Fives is summarized in 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 appropriate to 5. The Law of Fives is never wrong.—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Page 00016
A stylized description of confirmation bias.
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 and Thetis'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 Sacred 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.” Because of the original snub "a Discordian is to partake of No Hot Dog Buns". (Buns being snub backwards.)
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.
According to the Principia, Greyface existed and had followers who he encouraged to "Look at all the order around you" (Principia Discordia page 00042), and he 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.—Malaclypse the Younger, Principia Discordia, Page 00042
In addition to the generic advice of cultivating 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.
The Pentabarf as follows:
The 5th law mirrors both the nature of Taoist sayings ("the Tao that can be named is not the true Tao") and Zen kōans ("If you meet the Buddha on your path, kill him"). It is also similar to the Epimenides paradox ("All Cretans are liars"), and several other paradoxes. Similarly, the third and fourth laws are designed to belie each other.
"Consult your pineal gland" is a common saying in Discordianism. This might be a reference to the ideas of past philosophers, such as René Descartes, who dedicated much time to the study of the pineal gland, called it the "principal seat of the soul". He believed it to be the point of connection between the intellect and the body.
Although it has never been proven, the pineal gland is theorized 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.
The Discordian or Erisian calendar is an alternative calendar used by some Discordians. It is specified on page 00034 of the Principia Discordia. The Discordian year 1 YOLD is 1166 BC. Elsewhere in the Principia Discordia, it is mentioned that the Curse of Greyface occurred in 1166 BC, so this is presumably the start date of the calendar. As a reference, 2014 AD is 3180 YOLD (Year of Our Lady of Discord). The abbreviation "YOLD" isn't used in the Principia, and the phrase "Year of Our Lady of Discord" is only mentioned once.