Religion For the Hell of It
For the Hell of It
Have you ever considered the possibility that God might be a crazy woman? Or that John Dillinger died for you? Do you think there might be a secret technique by which the Enlightened can literally get Something for Nothing? Could the Martians have the true religion while Earthians are lost in superstitious darkness? Can a cup of coffee be a sacrament, and if not, why not? Does the mathematics of six-dimensional space-time and philosophy of Multi-Ego Pantheistic Solipsism explain the universe?
If none of these metaphysical questions have crossed your mind before, this is because Ireland has, as everybody knows, the One True Religion; but over the sea in America, where they started out with at least a dozen True Religions before the Revolution and then wrote absolute religious freedom into their Constitution, they now have literally hundreds of True Religions, and have explored every possible or thinkable theological doctrine, including all of the alternatives mentioned above. With typical American exuberance, they will no doubt be exploring the impossible and unthinkable in the near future, since their politics already contain those elements.
Of course, even in America, absolute religious freedom is only relatively absolute. There have been a few "hard cases." In the 19th Century, the Church of Jesus Christ of the Latter-Day Saints, or Mormons, severely tested the absoluteness of the Constitution by practicing polygamy. The government decided that was Too Much Religious Freedom, and the army was called out to arrest the whole Mormon community, then centered in Salt Lake City. This was clearly unconstitutional and no doubt would have been reversed eventually by the U.S. Supreme Court, but Brigham Young, then leader of the Mormons had a convenient new revelation when he saw all those guns and bayonets: God or the angel Moroni (Mormons have access to both) told Young that polygamy was only necessary while the Latter-Day Saints were building their community and was no longer necessary now that the community was built. A head-on collision between Church and State was thus averted.
A similar "hard case" arose early in this century concerning the Native American Church, which is restricted to Red Indians, or as they prefer to be called, Native Americans. The NAC uses the psychedelic cactus, peyotl, in its rites; the government they were dope fiends and prosecuted. The Supreme Court upheld the right of the Native Americans to continue their traditional religion. (This has been modified by State courts, due to an influx into the NAC of persons whose Native American-ness was dubious. In most States, members of NAC congregations must prove they are at least 25 percent Native American to avoid prosecution.)
Another "hard case" or several "hard cases" have been provoked by the Jehovah's Witnesses, who refuse to serve in the armed forces, or to salute the flag, or to accept blood transfusions, or to allow blood transfusions to be given to their children. The Supreme Court upheld the JW's right to abstain from war, but originally ruled that they must salute the flag; the later matter was reversed by a later Supreme Court. The blood transfusion matter is still being fought through the State Courts, which have mostly upheld the right of hospitals, when a child's life is clearly in danger, to give transfusions even if the parents' religion is affronted and the Constitution is a bit bent.
So: American religious freedom is only relatively absolute, but close enough that almost any cult or sect has an equal chance to proselytize in what Supreme Court Justice Oliver Wendell Holmes once called the American "free market of ideas."
One modifying influence remained to check metaphysical anarchy: the Courts tended to regard as bogus any sect headed by a person who had not acquired an ordination from an older, established theological academy somewhere in his career. The first erosions of this conservative principle began when cheap Oriental labor was imported, followed by not-so-cheap Oriental restauranteurs and, eventually, Oriental religious leaders ranging from the cheap to the pricey. The great Oriental religions of Buddhism, Hinduism, and Taoism are neither centralized nor hierarchical: one becomes a religious "leader" by having disciples who regard one as a "leader." The American courts have gradually moved toward accepting this, at least when dealing with Orientals. The only legal actions against even the most controversial gurus have been the imprisonment of Rev. Sun Myung Moon for tax offenses and the recent arrest of Bhagwan Rajneesh for violation of immigration laws. Since both of these Holy Men are regarded as extremely obnoxious and nefarious by most Americans, this avoidance of theological confrontation indicates either that relatively absolute religious freedom still reigns, or else that -- as disciples of these Rev. gentlemen claim -- the American courts are getting sneaky about how they handle heretics.
Yippie! Free Ordinations for Everybody!
Meanwhile, another step toward making the relatively absolute into the absolutely absolute began with Rev. Kirby Hensley, a waggish and roguish chap who got his own ordination from a legal but disreputable mail-order seminary. To give you an idea of Rev. Hensley's character, he tells all interviewers that he is illiterate and that he got his theological qualifications by having his daughter read the questions on the examination to him and then dictating his answers to be transcribed by her. Insisting on his own ignorance, not just of theology but of nearly everything else as well, Rev. Hensley claims that every man, woman, and child has the right to be an ordained clergy person. To this end, he has founded a disinterested charity so to speak, the Universal Life Church, which will ordain anybody, for no cost, and without examination. To make ends meet in this cruel world, Rev. Hensley has added a rider: you can also get a Doctor of Divinity degree from the Universal Life Church, but that costs over $20. The diploma is quite handsome and certainly worth $20; properly framed and hanging on the living room wall, it is certain to impress the neighbors, unless they have heard of the Universal Life Church already. [Go to the Universal Life Church Web Page.]
When it was revealed by the journalists that some jokers had acquired ordinations from the ULC for their dogs, their cats, and even such colorful pets as parrots or chimpanzees, Rev. Hensley was not a bit abashed. He commented in effect that all God's creatures are holy, and went on to ordain Madalyn Murray O'Hair, the most vehement and controversial atheist in the U.S.
How valuable is an ordination from the ULC? Well, marriages performed by ULC clergymen are recognized in all states, and many ULC "graduates" have gone on to create their own churches or sects; in most respects, under American law, a ULC minister is as legitimate as any other minister, or priest, or Rabbi, or guru. The one chancy area is that of tax-exemption. De jure, the courts have not yet ruled on the matter; de facto, the tax bureau tries to collect only when the circumstances are such that the ordination seems to them nothing else but a dodge to avoid taxes. This happened a few years ago when all the farmers in one part of New York State were ordained en masse; the tax officials regarded this as a blatant swindle -- and a bad example to boot -- and attacked the bank accounts of the individuals involved. ULC clergy's persons clearly engaged in promulgating some religion -- any religion -- are generally allowed the same tax exemption as less-eccentric church people.
Rev. Hensley tells every enquirer that he wants the government to try to tax him. He plans to file a countersuit for discrimination, and demand that the government either start taxing other churches also, or else leave him and his ordainees alone, including those New York farmers. He has been saying this for at least 15 years now, but the tax bureau leaves him strictly at peace.
But I think he will be remembered as the man who opened the floodgate and made relatively absolute religious freedom absolutely absolute. He showed the more imaginative and unruly elements how to get into the religion game for the sheer hell of it.
Ronald Reagan Meets Mahatma Gandhi
The Reformed Druids of North America (RDNA) began in 1957 at a small college, and was, at first, only a joke. The instigators were freethinking students, mostly Irish-American, who resented the rule requiring church attendance once a week. As a protest and as a send-up, they announced that they were Druids and that groves were their churches. The RDNA originally repaired to these wooded sanctuaries only to drink Irish Mist and exchange Gaelic lessons; soon, however, an official ritual was written, and then rewritten several times as various members advanced in the study of Gaelic language and history. Branches of the new Druidism, called "groves," soon appeared at other universities; leaders, called Archdruids, became proficient in Gaelic and acquired ordinations from good old Rev. Hensley, making them legal clergymen. Some archdruids have gone on to become serious Gaelic scholars, such as P.E. Isaac Bonewits, author of a widely read occult and anthropology text, Real Magic, and the first man to acquire a degree in shamanism from the University of California.
But because the RDNA had started as a prank, it still retains a certain fey quality. Irish Mist is still used abundantly in all ceremonies; the Archdruids have not only allowed, but encouraged heresy -- on the principle that the more people think about religious issues, the better; and only one dogma is promulgated by all, or nearly all, groves, namely, "Nature Is Good."
The first heresy to branch off from the RDNA was the Chasidic Druids of North America, or CDNA, founded by the above-mentioned P.E. Isaac Bonewits. Chasidic druidism combines Jewish (Chasidic) mystical practices with Druid nature-worship, cheerfully borrows whatever it likes from any other religion in the world (something American Unitarians also do, by the way) and uses the toast "Next year in Stonehenge" in place of the traditional Jewish toast, "Next year in Jerusalem,"
The RNADNA -- Reformed Non-Aristotelian Druids of North America, but the initials were also calculated to indicate RNA and DNA, the two organic molecules that make life possible -- combines Druidism with the non-Aristotelian logic of the Polish-American mathematician and philosopher, Count Alfred Korzybski. Members obey certain linguistic taboos -- which Korzybski called "matters of semantic hygiene" -- and will not use the word is for instance because that implies certitude and Korzybski believed post-Einstein people should speak relativistically. Thus, the Druid dogma, "Nature is good" has been rephrased as "Nature seems good." RNADNA people also will never say something like "Beethoven is better than Mozart" but only "Beethoven seems better than Mozart, to me, at this stage of my musical education." They also avoid all, because that implies omniscience; this preserves them from racism, sexism, and dogmatism, since the worst they can say about any group of humans or animals would be "Some members of that group seem offensive, to me, at this stage of my education." Aside from these rules, RNADNA groves go out in the woods like RDNA groves, drink Irish Mist, and commune with what other Druids call "Nature" and the RNADNA calls "the nonverbal level."
A third heresy, Druid Witchcraft, has amalgamated with the wiccan or witchcraft revival, started in the 1930s by an eccentric Englishman living on the Isle of Man and named Gerald Gardner. A good deal of humbug and something of a genuine visionary, Gardner claimed Wicca was the oldest religion in Europe, had been driven underground by Christian persecution, and had been taught to him by surviving members of a circle that has survived since the Old Stone Age -- every bit of which is doubted by every serious scholar who has studied the evidence. Gardner also claimed to be an anthropologist, but was at most a clever and imaginative amateur in that field. In essence, Gardner's home-made witchcraft worships a female rather than a male divinity, prefers (like the Druids) to hold rituals in woodsy places rather than churches, and has, since Gardner's death, come increasingly under the influence of Feminism. It has covens rather than groves, and each coven pretty much establishes its own dogma -- some lean toward reincarnation, Atlantis, and that sort of thing, while some don't -- but all tend toward a millennialist belief that male gods and male domination are responsible for war, pollution, intolerance, and most of our social problems; peace and Utopia will dawn when the world returns to goddess-worship and achieves sexual equality.
Oddly, the belief that the world is on the edge of a revival of goddess-worship has been expressed by some eminent scholars, including historian Arnold Toynbee, psychologist Carl Jung, poet Robert Graves, and anthropologist Joseph Campbell. Witches know this and are fond of quoting these authorities when being interviewed on TV.
If Wicca has merged somewhat with Druidism on one flank, it has also been infiltrated by science-fiction on the other flank, due to partial amalgamation with the Church of All Worlds, or CAW. Founded in 1974, CAW has the unique distinction of being the first religion in history explicitly based on a science-fiction novel -- Robert A. Heinlein's Stranger In A Strange Land. A bestseller in the 1960s and still in print today, "Stranger" tells the story of Michael Valentine Smith, lone infant of the crash of a NASA rocket to Mars. [Go to the Church of All Worlds Web Page]
Raised by Martians, Smith is eventually found by another NASA space crew, returns to Earth and finds Earth-people miserable, unhappy, warlike, and vicious; he sets out to reform us by preaching the religion of the Martians -- which turns out to be a rationalistic and pantheistic version of Zen Buddhism. One fan of this novel, Timothy Zell -- then a psychiatric social worker in St. Louis -- was so fascinated that he got an ordination from Rev. Hensley and founded CAW which now has chapters, called nests, in every major U.S. city. Members say that a religion based on a science-fiction novel is no more absurd than one based on the legends of the ancient Hebrews or one based on the revelations of an angel named Moroni.
The basic teaching of CAW, taken directly from Heinlein's novel, is "Thou Art God." After interfacing with Wicca and Feminism, CAW now says "Thou Art God" only to male members and "Thou Art Goddess" to female members. Ceremonies, called water-sharings, are quite lovely, and also come from Heinlein's scientific fantasy. For the rest, the theology is rationalistic, individualistic, and politically somewhere between extreme libertarian and nonviolent anarchist. You will get the flavor if I say CAW political pronouncements often sound like an explosive and unstable mixture of Ronald Reagan and Mahatma Gandhi.
Founder Tim Zell, still active in both CAW and Wicca, has gone on to create, by some manner of surgery or genetic hocus-pocus, a one-horned goat, which he calls a unicorn, and which is now an exhibit at a circus. Zell himself departed for the South Pacific last March in search of a mermaid. I have met the man, and I am quite sure he will bring back something to amaze and amuse us.
The American Coffee Ceremony
In 1967, after being fired from Harvard University for having weird ideas (but before being imprisoned), Dr. Timothy Leary, America's most controversial psychologist, published a pamphlet called Start Your Own Religion, urging that every home should be a shrine, every man a priest, every woman a priestess. America, at that time, was ready for such an idea. Rev. Hensley provided the ordinations, and Metatheology and Home Brew Metaphysics flourished.
The Neo-American Church, founded by psychologist Arthur Kleps -- a friend and former associate of Leary -- was modeled after the Native American Church, except that it was open to all races, not just Red Indians and replaced peyotl with LSD in its sacraments. The Neo-American Church did not last long; the courts ruled, in effect, that drug-taking in a religious circle was legal for Indians because it was traditional, but not for white people, because the religion was "just an excuse" to take the drug. Founder Kleps (who calls himself the Primate and other priests the Boo-Hoos) complained that this was overt racism, but that argument did not convince judges. The Neo-American Church is now either nonexistent or deep underground, but the Neo-American Catechism, written by Kleps himself, is still in print and is a very funny book, combining elements of Buddhism, solipsism, and hilarious Voltairean polemic against the "Christians, Jews, and atheists" who refuse to admit LSD is a sacrament.
The sect of Rastafari, founded in the West Indies, has branches in many American cities, but is limited to Blacks. It uses cannabis as a sacrament, worships the late Emperor Haile Selassie as God, and claims the Pope is "Godfather of the Mafia, Imperial Wizard of the Ku Klux Klan, and general all-around Anti-Christ." Members are frequently convicted of cannabis possession or smuggling, but the Rastafari church itself is not illegal, despite its eccentricity.
The Javacrucians, a group which looks suspiciously like a parody of the Rosicrucians, has selected the less-controversial caffeine as its sacrament. It also has the simplest theology in history, teaching that one thing only is necessary for salvation, the American Coffee Ceremony -- a variation on the Japanese Tea Ceremony. This is performed at dawn, and you must face east, toward the rising sun, as you raise the cup to your lips. When you take the first sip, you must cry out with intense fervor, "GOD, I needed that!" If this is performed religiously every morning, Javacrucians say, you will face all life's challenges with a clear mind and a tranquil spirit.
SFMB -- the Society of Fred Mertz, Boddhisattva -- was founded by the Finnish-American poet, Antero Alli, and holds that all wisdom is contained in the seemingly inane remarks of Fred Mertz, a minor character of the "I Love Lucy" TV show. By watching "Lucy" reruns continually and meditating on the apparently banal things Fred says -- e.g., "I don't know what's going on around here" or "I don't understand women at all" -- this sect claims you will find the same Enlightenment as in contemplating Zen Buddhist koans such as "What is the sound of one hand clapping?" And just as in Zen, where students are often required to meditate on monosyllables such as "Mu" (no), the SFMB sect would have you meditate on such Mertziana as "Huh?" or "Awww!" until you sense what Joyce would call the epiphany in even the most trivial.
The Church of Satan, with headquarters in San Francisco (of course) and branches in many U.S. cities and a few dozen chapters in Europe, was founded by a circus roustabout named Anton Szandor Lavey. It has a Satanic Bible, written by Lavey (and dedicated to W.C. Fields and P.T. Barnum), claims to invoke Lucifer, Beelzebub, Ashtoreth, and a million or so demons, and delights in scaring the blue hell out of pious Christians. Despite its diabolism, this Church has had no legal hassles -- except briefly, when neighbors complained that Lavey's pet lion was roaring at night and keeping them awake -- and members limit themselves to blasphemy, cursing their enemies, and ritual expressions of forbidden negative feelings (much like many another California encounter-group, in fact). None of them have ever been arrested for serious crimes. I even suspect they themselves started the rumor that they are financed by the Proctor & Gamble soap empire; they are quite unscrupulous Send Up artists.
The Campus Crusade for Cthulhu generally appears on the scene at any university where the Campus Crusade for Christ is well entrenched, and is mostly devoted to annoying the latter. The Cthulhu-ists worship a monster who originally appeared in the pulp horror fiction of H.P. Lovecraft. For a long time, I thought this particular sect would never advance beyond parody and satire, but lately the Church of Satan has incorporated Cthulhu into its pantheon along with all the other demons.
The Campus Crusade for Christ has bumper stickers which members flaunt on their automobiles declaring "I Found It." The Cthulhu-ists have their own bumper stickers saying "It Found Me" -- and the Church of All Worlds has one saying "Thou Art It."
You Too Can Be A Pope
More serious, or at least more desperate, is the Discordian Society and/or Paratheo-Anametamystikhood of Eris Esoteric (POEE), an anarchistic sect divided deliberately into two opposed groups, each claiming to be (I quote) "the first True Religion." Like the witches, the Discordians worship a female divinity, but say She is crazy. Her name, in fact, is Eris, and the ancient Greeks knew her as the Goddess of Chaos; Discordians claim she is also the Goddess of Confusion, Discord, and Bureaucracy. The Discordian orthodoxy, headed by "Ho Chih Zen" (real name, Kerry Thornly), claims this was revealed by a miraculous talking chimpanzee, who appeared in a bowling alley in Yorba Linda, California, in 1957. The POEE sect flatly rejects this, says it is superstitious nonsense intended to attract the gullible, and proves the existence of Eris by Five Proofs, which are logical monstrosities and reduce actually to One Proof -- namely, "If Eris doesn't exist, who put all the Chaos in this universe, you damned atheist?"
The High priest of the Head temple (his orthography) of POEE is "Malaclypse the Younger, Omnibenevolent Polyfather of Virginity in Gold" (real name: Gregory Hill), who was, of course, ordained as a minister by the ever-helpful Rev. Hensley. It has its own Bible, by Malaclypse, called Principia Discordia, or How I Found Goddess and What I Did to Her After I Found Her, and has cabals -- not churches or groves of covens or even nests -- all over the U.S., in England, in Australia, in Canada and even one in Hong King. Leaders of the cabals, called Episkopi, all have odd names and titles, e.g., Camden Benares (author of Zen Without Zen Masters) heads the Los Angeles cabal of Eris Esoteric, Onrak the Backwards heads the Colorado Encrustation, and the Berkeley cabal is run by Lady L, Fucking Anarchist Bitch -- a title, she explains, given to her by Eldridge Cleaver during a political debate.
Discordians have set out to out-Hensley Hensley by making every man, woman and child on the planet a Pope. They are doing this by mass-distribution of Pope cards and have not, of course, neglected to send one of these to the Anti-Pope in France and to the chap in the Vatican who still thinks he's the only Pope. All employees of the Pentagon are, willy-nilly, Discordian saints whether they want to be or not, since Malaclypse has canonized them and incorporated them into a holy order called "Knights Of The Five-Sided Castle," under the patronage of St. Quixote. The Pentagon itself is a religious shrine, said to embody the perfect balance of Chaos and Bureaucracy. Everybody who opposes Discordianism as blasphemous or absurd is an honorary saint too, of the House of the Rising Hodge, while Discordians are saints of the House of the Rising Podge.
Discordianism shuns dogma but has one catma, the Syadastan Affirmation, which reads, "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." Discordians call this the Free Mantra -- unlike the Transcendental movement, they charge no fees -- and insist that if you repeat it 666 times you will achieve Spiritual Enlightenment, in some sense.
Many recent American writers have been influenced by Discordianism, as can be seen in Spinrad's Agent of Chaos, Tom Robbins' Another Roadside Attraction, and the notorious Illuminatus trilogy; the Discordian obsession with the number 23 also appears in quite a few Hollywood films these days. Discordian theology is discussed soberly in Drawing Down the Moon, a serious sociological study of neo-paganism in America, written by Margot Adler, granddaughter of the psychologist Alfred Adler.
WITCH -- the Women's International Terrorist Conspiracy from Hell -- borrows a great deal from Wicca and Discordianism. It is probably not a church, even by American standards, and chiefly engages in street theater, satirizing monotheism, male dominance, and the Establishment in general.
The Order of the Golden Calf had a brief career but now seems defunct. The members, who all lived in Berkeley, California, had a magnificent gold (or imitation gold) statue of a calf and carried it around to places where other sects were proselytizing on the streets. There they would do an Adoration of the Calf, distribute leaflets describing their idol as "the first victim of monotheistic bigotry," and urge everybody else to "lighten up your act a little."
NROOGD -- meaning New Reformed Orthodox Order of the Golden Dawn, but pronounced "nroogd," if you can manage that -- is the biggest pagan church in California, although it started as a joke and has been repudiated by one of its three founders, Dr. Aiden Kelly, who has a really real Doctor of Divinity degree from the Union Theological College. Nroogd combines rituals from Druidic Witchcraft and CAW, theology from Discordianism, and Heavy Symbolism from the poetry of Yeats (an early hero of Dr. Kelly's). It rolls cheerfully on without its former Bard, meets in state parks to adore the Goddess, recite mantras, dance, sing, and get smashed on Irish Mist, Jamison's, and various weird chemicals brought by the more unruly members. (Go to the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn Page)
Dr. Kelly has returned to Roman Catholicism and recently said, "Nroogd is a metaphor. Catholicism is another metaphor. I am basically a poet." If that isn't clear, try repeating it 666 times like the Discordian mantra.
The John Dillinger Died For You Society, run by a pseudonymous "Dr. Horace Naismith" (allegedly a Playboy editor by day and a maniac only by night), accepts as its savior John Dillinger, the gunman who robbed 23 banks and three police stations before he was shot dead by FBI agents in 1934. JDDFYS members place memorial wreaths and floral bouquets at the Biograph Theater, where Dillinger was gunned down, every year on the anniversary of his death, June 22. Their major spiritual teaching comes from Mr. Dillinger, whom they call St. John the Martyr, and consists of the words, "Lie down on the floor and keep calm," (St. John said this often to nervous and agitated bank officials before looting their tills). Every member ordained by Dr. Naismith gets a membership card making him or her an Assistant Treasurer, entitled to collect tithes from any new disciple naive enough to remain a disciple and not become an Assistant Treasurer, too, by writing to Dr. Naismith for a card.
Power! Sex! Success! Money!
I have saved the best -- or worst -- for last. The Church of the Sub-Genius in Dallas has borrowed a bit from all of the above, and from every other religion on the planet, uses high-powered advertising techniques in the style of the most aggressive Christian Evangelists, and promises in capitals to teach you the secret of POWER! and SEX! and SUCCESS! and MONEY! It will also put you in touch with SUPERHUMAN FORCES, save you from THE CONSPIRACY, and even show you how to achieve SLACK and literally get something for nothing. That is admittedly a tall order, but the founder, J.R. "Bob" Dobbs, is no ordinary mortal. In fact, it is far from clear whether anybody has actually ever seen "Bob" at all, at all, and Sub-Genius advertising darkly hints that before an ordinary human can survive a meeting with "Bob" it is necessary to go to Dobbstown, located somewhere in South America, and have special surgery to "open the third nostril." Even then, it is warned, you might come back from such a Close Encounter with inflamed eyes, headache, total or partial amnesia, and other stigmata of UFO contactees, and you will probably be harassed by agents of THE CONSPIRACY who will appear at your door pretending to be Jehovah's Witnesses and try to get inside to brainwash you. (Go to the Dobbs WEB Watcher page.)
J.R. "Bob" Dobbs (right) was allegedly an ordinary aluminum window-siding salesman until 1957 when he met L. Ron Hubbard -- founder of the more famous Church of Scientology -- and learned the Secret of Power. "Bob" is now fabulously rich, maybe even richer than Hubbard, and offers to teach you the Secret too, in various books and pamphlets ranging in price from $1 to $25. It is admitted frankly that these Metaphysical Works look "incomprehensible" or "nonsensical" to the unenlightened, but it is firmly promised that if you buy enough of them, keep them in loo, and consult them often, you will eventually get SLACK and understand the Secret and how to use it.
I think I have found the Secret of Power. It is in one of the cheaper Sub-Genius publications More Quotes and Gloats from "Bob" and it reads, "You know how dumb the average guy is? Well, by definition, half of them are even dumber than that." Then again, it might be in other gems of Dobbsiana such as "Don't just eat a hamburger -- eat the HELL out of it," or "Fuck them if they can't take a joke," or maybe even the Dark Saying, "GOD spelled backwards is DOG, but BOB spelled backwards is still BOB."
None of this brings you to SLACK, you can buy the thicker, pricier Sub-Genius publication, where you will encounter a whole cosmology, philosophy, and eschatology, involving Jehovah 1, "Space-God," who escaped a looney-bin in another galaxy; Eris, goddess of Chaos, borrowed from the Discordians; Spider Man; The Incredible Hulk; and Bob's cosmic struggle with THE CONSPIRACY, which includes all the leaders of the rival churches and sects, along with the Rockefellers, the Bilderburgers, the Illuminati, Evil UFOs, Nazi Hell Creatures, and Communist Clones. You are also repeatedly warned that the world may end tomorrow, and it will take longer than you expect and be much more painful than anyone imagines, but even that doesn't matter if you get SLACK.
Getting SLACK -- like getting Enlightened in Oriental mysticism or getting IT from Erhard Seminar Training (est) -- cannot be described in words or understood by rational intellect; it must be experienced. It involves understanding that the universe is made up of two entirely opposed but complementary forces, like the Chinese Yin and Yang or the Discordian Hodge and Podge. The two forces are actually Something and Nothing which is why if you look around you always see Something on a background of Nothing. When you are in balance between Something and Nothing, you have SLACK, and can get Something for Nothing, and become as rich as "Bob," Rajneesh, L. Ron Hubbard, or the Pope.
Or as "Bob" sums it up elsewhere, "Hell, it's even more relative than Einstein realized."
In the profane world, while "Bob" remains aloof and invisible, the Church of the Sub-Genius operates out of Post Office Box 140306 in Dallas, where the mail is picked up by two local advertising executives -- who pass it on to "Bob," I guess.
Curiously, there is already a Stamp Our Bob (SOB) movement, distributing anti-Sub-Genius propaganda and warning that this "evil cult" is only a moneymaking scheme. You can order a packet of educational anti-Bob literature for $15 from SOB, Post Office Box 140306, Dallas -- which seems to be the address of the people representing "Bob." That's odd, isn't it?
The Church of the Sub-Genius alleges that it has 10,000,000 members, but I frankly doubt it. However, they do have many members in influential places, as was indicated recently when the new "Jackintosh" computer from Atari came on the market. Trying to run an ordinary program on Jackintosh, users were abruptly given a short, sharp shock when the machine instead printed out 100 pictures of J.R. "Bob" Dobbs himself. The Atari people are still trying to find out which employee slipped that bug into the software.
The New Religion As Complicated Joke
As an investigative journalist in the US, I met many members of all these cults or sects. I have found them to be above-average in intelligence and education, mostly young (average age is under 30, although some over-40s do crop up) and very erudite in anthropology, history of religion and, especially, science-fiction. Typically, they attend science-fiction conventions even more devoutly than the services or celebrations of their churches. Many of them are in the computer industry and others in entertainment, the arts, the Academia. They frequently belong to two or more of these sects simultaneously and may also be involved in some Oriental mystical system on the side. An overwhelming majority of them also belong to the Society for Creative Anachronism, which holds "fairs" in many parts of the U.S. at which members dress and act like persons from past centuries or from the future and everybody creates his or her own separate reality-tunnel. They are usually in favor of both ecology and technology -- "appropriate technology" is one of their buzzwords, followed by "synergy" and "holism." When asked how serious they are, they usually say something to the effect that humans need some religion and they are trying to create a relativistic religion for a scientific age.
Malaclypse the Younger states it this way: "We are not engaged in a complicated joke disguised as a religion. We are engaged in a religion disguised as a complicated joke."
When will all this impact on Ireland? Well, we already have the Krishna cult here, and the Rajneesh people, and Jehovah's Witnesses, and est, and even some local witches. However much it may distress the Rev. Dr. McNamara, I cannot believe that the Discordians, the Sub-Geniuses and even the Reformed Druids can be far behind. Novelist Robert Heinlein, who helped start all this with the Martian religion in Stranger in a Strange Land, has even provided a rationale to show that all of these metatheologies can be equally true, in a recent novel, The Number of The Beast. In this mathematical fantasy, Heinlein posits a 6-dimensional space-time continuum in which 6 to the power of 6 to the power of 6 parallel universes coexist. That is a mightily large number (try calculating it) and Heinlein therefore posits that most universes are empty to start with and have become full only as humans imagined things that previously did not exist. Thus, every idea, however absurd, is true in some universe, somewhere in space-time, and "reality" can only be described as Multi-Ego Pantheistic Solipsism; or in other words, every mind creates its own universe.
Refuting that will
keep the Jesuits busy for a few years.
Originally printed in Hot Press - Dublin, Ireland (1986), and can be also fpound in his book Coincidance, New Falcon Press.