Liberty and Discord


Discordianism became the heart of the most influential libertarian novel since Atlas Shrugged, though its libertarianism is not always recognized by more economistic libertarian movement types: Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy. –Brian Doherty (Radicals for Capitalism, pg.328)

There has been much written on Discordianism, so I am not going to rehash too much since I suppose you can google it yourself (you may want to join the Discordian Libertarians group on Facebook). Suffice it to say that many of the founding fathers of Discordianism, especially Kerry Thornley, Greg Hill, Camden Benares, and Robert Anton Wilson (RAW), were very smart hippie libertarians or anti-government anarchists of some sort. My personal favorite Discordian author, RAW, describes his affinity for liberty delightfully thus:

If libertarianism means anything, it should certainly mean progress, not stasis; change, not medieval dogma; a liberation of energies, not a new cage.

Of course, there is an opinion broad in the land that libertarianism does mean a mindless, heartless and mechanical system of medieval dogma. I don’t know how this impression came about, although it probably has something to do with Randroids and other robot Ideologists who occasionally infest libertarian groups. Frankly, I have always loathed being associated with such types and devoutly wish libertarianism could be sharply distinguished from Idolatry and fetishism of all sorts. If liberty does not mean that we can all be more free, not less free, then I need to find a better word than “liberty” to describe my aspirations …

I am not interested in Ideologies and don’t give a damn about labels at all, at all. I am interested only in what makes the world a little more reasonable, a little less violent and somewhat more free and tolerant than it has been in the past.

I am among those Discordians that believe that men do not hold power; it is actually power that holds men. Unlike consensual agreements that are bilateral in nature, rulers and rules are for those who cannot rule themselves. We get distracted by the trappings of “civilization” from the fact that fucking and killing are our functions on this Earth. There is much to distract us from this, but the Tantrikas tried to warn and show us how to ritualize and harmonize our fucking and killing with karma. Life subsists upon killing other life, even for those righteous vegans eating plant life—I am obviously not addressing autotrophs since they can’t comprehend English as far as I know. Hell, even the biggest, most Puritanical enemies of a good shagging are the result of that very act.

The question stands—how to fuck and kill with the least harm and with most positivity? We consciously know this problem, but we cannot consciously solve it. This is where I try to listen to my unconscious; I am a hypnotist. We all are really. Our private words and their effect upon our personal neurologies are the final cages. They form strong fractal recursions and strange loops seducing us away from our natural Zen “zone” or flow state. Our identities are our biggest trance, and Discordianism asks you to create your own philosophy—as Nietzsche’s Zarathustra advises, too.

RAW shared some ideas in common with libertarian luminaries, like Nobel Laureate in economics Friedrich A. Hayek and rebel psychiatrist Thomas Szasz. All of these men were strong enemies of both government largess and of scientism (that is, pseudo-science). Hayek argued persuasively against the scientism of the central planner, Szasz against the pseudo-science of psychiatry and the therapeutic state, and RAW fought against the scientism of dogmatism and pseudo-skeptics.

All of these men understood the role of language in scientism. Hayek was the cousin of Wittgenstein, so clearly, he was sensitive to the philosophical implications of language. Hayek’s The Confusion of Language in Political Thought argued that political thought is often limited by out-of-date terms used to explain our social institutions. Szasz’s writings expose how base rhetoricians subverted the science of somatic pathology discovered by classical liberal polymath Rudolph Virchow. RAW advocated a deeper understanding of General Semantics for the sake of both science and human understanding. All three men were agnostic with regard to religious claims, and Hayek and RAW both supported Basic Income. Szasz’s political views were highly influenced by Hayek.

Even among the founders of Discordianism, there was discord regarding their views about chaos. Thornley had a more Hayekian/“Invisible Hand” view that order emerged from chaos and that order was the prevailing form of chaos. Hill felt order was projected onto chaos and was a creation of the human mind. This is the genesis of the eristic and aneristic principles:

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 that 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 that 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.

Somewhere in between these two perspectives, we find Discordia, the Roman goddess, model what was appropriate to anarchism. The Greeks before them called her Eris. Hail Eris!

(This essay original appeared in my newest book, Strange Attractor: The Discordian Libertarian Writings of Jake Shannon)

About Author

Jake Shannon

Jake Shannon (1973 - ) was born in Colorado and has worked in a hodgepodge of professions including "Quant" (i.e., financial mathematician), serial entrepreneur, Discordian Pope, radio talk show host, Chairman of the Libertarian Party of Utah, Luchador (i.e., mexican wrestler), and Comedy Hypnotist before settling upon pursuing an unwitting vow of poverty as an independent writer, practical magician (Chaos Magick) and more importantly, as a stay-at-home dad (his greatest accomplishment by far). He currently lives in Salt Lake City, Utah (which still surprises him) with his lovely wife, three bright children and three loyal dogs.