One of the odder spiritual movements in America today, the Discordian movement came into being in the late 1950s when founders Gregory Hill and Kerry Thornley evolved a religion centered on Eris, the ancient Greek goddess of chaos, discord, and confusion. According to the Principia Discordia, the sacred scripture of the movement, the tenets of Discordianism were originally revealed to Hill and Thornley by a phantom chimpanzee late one night in a Los Angeles-area bowling alley.

Discordianism remained the private joke of a small circle of friends until the 1970s, when two publishing events launched it into the larger world. The 1970 publication of the first widely available edition of the Principia Discordia, by the San Francisco publishing house Rip Off Press, began this process. Then the first volume of Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! trilogy, a sprawling satire on conspiracy theories, came out in 1975 and spread Discordian ideas throughout popular culture, where they came to the attention of several avant-garde secret societies, including the Illuminates of Thanateros and Thee Temple ov Psychick Youth. See Illuminates of Thanateros (IOT); Temple ov Psychick Youth, Thee (TOPY).

Discordianism occupies the conceptual space between an alternative religion and an elaborate prank, and attempts to force it to make sense in conventional terms result mostly in additional amusement for Discordians. The doctrines of the faith forbid Discordians from eating hot dog buns on Thursdays, and so every Discordian is required at some point to go out on a Thursday and eat a hot dog, bun and all. Discordian organizations (which might better be termed disorganizations) such as the Paratheoanametamystik-hood of Eris Esoteric (POEE) and the Legion of Dynamic Discord add an additional layer of confusion to the mix; members join more or less by deciding to do so, and carry on whatever activities they feel like – as might be predicted for a movement worshipping a goddess of chaos.

For an extended practical joke masquerading as a religion (or a religion masquerading as an extended practical joke), Discordianism has had a surprisingly widespread impact. Several secret societies beyond the ones already mentioned, and the Chaos Magic movement, a major element of the occult community in the 1980s and 1990s, drew extensively on Discordian ideas.


The Element Encyclopedia of Secret Societies : the ultimate a-z of ancient mysteries, lost civilizations and forgotten wisdom written by John Michael Greer – © John Michael Greer 2006