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Lessons in Discordianism

By WizenedSage (Galen Rose) ~

Eris (Ancient Greek: Ἔρις, "Strife")
is the Greek goddess of chaos, strife and discord,
her name being translated into Latin as Discordia
A recent posting on this site mentioned the parody religion called Discordianism. In tracking down the link provided, I found a whole barrelful of laughs. But I also began to discover something more serious.

Reading about Discordianism quickly brought to mind Poe’s Law. For those who haven’t heard of Poe’s Law, this is a snippet of what Wikipedia has to say about it:

“Without a blatant display of humor, it is impossible to create a parody of extremism or fundamentalism that someone won't mistake for the real thing.”

That is, a parody of something extreme is impossible to differentiate from the thing itself.

But, religion (or most of them) is extremism by its very nature, since, to be taken seriously, it requires one to assume a supernatural realm for which there is no physical evidence, and that is clearly an extremist position. If I am correct in this, then there should be many parallels between a parody religion, which is extreme by intention, and a traditional religion like Christianity, which is extreme by its supernatural nature.

The following is a brief definition of Discordianism taken from Wikipedia.
“Discordianism is a religion and subsequent philosophy based on the veneration or worship of Eris (also known as Discordia), the Greco-Roman goddess of chaos, or archetypes or ideals associated with her.”

(Who knew that our own Discordia at ExChristian.net was named after a goddess? I suppose we should have suspected this, given her eloquence and rapier wit.)
Discordianism “. . . was founded circa 1958–1959 after the 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 and Taoist philosophy in its appreciation of the paradox and the absurd; Discordianism is centered on the idea that both the apparent order and disorder of the universe are merely illusory.

The Pentabarf is the doctrine of Discordianism which contains the five most fundamental of all Discordian teachings. Rule number 5 is of particular interest:
“A Discordian is Prohibited from Believing What he reads.”

Notice the parallels of this statement with the absurdist facets of Zen ("If you meet the Buddha on your path, kill him."), and the Taoist religion ("the Tao that can be named is not the true Tao."). You see, if one is prohibited from believing what he reads, then he is also prohibited from believing that he shouldn’t believe what he reads, and the statement thereby recurses back on itself.

Now here’s where we begin to see the more serious parallels of Discordianism with Christianity. Notice that the fifth law - prohibiting one from believing what he reads – is also tacitly observed in Christianity where, despite Jesus’ claim that his followers will be able to do greater miracles than himself, no Christian actually believes this. Similarly, despite Jesus’ clear claim, in simple, direct language, that true believers’ prayers will always be granted, no Christian expects all his prayers to be granted.

It is also noteworthy that while the Bible commands death for homosexuals, adulterers, blasphemers, etc., and no Christian actually believes such edicts are moral, Christians nevertheless claim god and the Bible as sources of moral absolutes. Thus, like a paradox or koan, if a Biblical statement is obvious nonsense, rather than accept it as evidence of the author’s ignorance, or a simple falsehood, the good Christian refuses to believe what he reads and simply ignores it. If cornered, most Christians will “explain” this by claiming we should not expect to understand the infinitely superior mind of god. Thus, if a Biblical statement is obviously false, absurd, or immoral, then it cannot mean what it says and the Christian is effectively prohibited from believing what he has read.

God is proclaimed as ultimately and inviolably “good,” despite his having created evil, and his commission of numerous atrocities such as the genocide of many tribes and the Great Flood which destroyed nearly all humans.Another interesting teaching of Discordianism is the “Law of Fives,” as summarized in the Principia Discordia: The Law of Fives states that: “All things happen in fives, or are divisible by or are multiples of five, or are somehow directly or indirectly appropriate to 5.” Lord Omar is quoted later on the same page as having written, "I find the Law of Fives to be more and more manifest the harder I look." The key to understanding this principle is “the harder I look” phrase.

As one commentary on Discordianism stated,
“… the real Law of Fives is realizing that everything can be related to the number five, if you try hard enough.”

Sometimes, of course, the steps required may be highly convoluted.

With regard to Christianity, Lord Omar’s pronouncement on the Law of Fives might be re-stated as,
"I find the ultimate goodness of god to be more and more manifest the harder I look."

This dogma is routinely verified by Christian clergy and apologists, although the “reasoning” is, of necessity, highly convoluted. For example, in Christian dogma, god is proclaimed as ultimately and inviolably “good,” despite his having created evil, and his commission of numerous atrocities such as the genocide of many tribes and the Great Flood which destroyed nearly all humans.

Another way of looking at the Law of Fives is as a symbol for the observation of reality changing (in the observer's mind) that which is being observed. At its most basic level, the Law of Fives states that perception is intent-sensitive; that is, the perceiver's intentions influence the perception.

Thus, the Christian who INTENDS to see Christ as a great philosopher achieves his purpose despite the obvious stupidity of much of what Jesus said, such as make no provision for tomorrow, cut off your balls if you can handle it, the world will end soon, etc.

Also, Christians regularly claim to feel a deep, personal connection with their god and/or Jesus. This too, is a case of the perceiver's intentions influencing the perception. If one expects long enough and hard enough to feel the presence of god, it becomes virtually certain that he will do so. Paradoxically, while Christians insist on the one hand that god is everywhere and infuses reality thoroughly, on the other hand they are equally certain that god only manifests his being to those who genuinely search for him. In a Christian, Zen-like, Discordianist-like claim then, while god is everywhere, he is still very hard to find; in fact, despite the fact that he is everywhere, you have to intend to find him. (Which brings to mind the Zen-like observation of the Discordia of ExChristian.net, that it seems god can do anything . . . except prove he exists.)

Okay, perhaps I have not exactly proven my hypothesis that serious religions are extreme in their basic nature, and are therefor essentially indistinguishable from parody religions. Nevertheless, I am confident that I have made a compelling case for further study.

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