“My fingers have always been in many pies.”
Welcome, Brue Telievers, to yet another edition of The Resonator!
Yesterday I happened to read a copy of Kerry Thornley’s memoir The Dreadlock Recollections–and, like any number of sudden impulses to peer down this or that new rabbit hole, I was simultaneously fascinated and filled with regret over my ill-advised curiosity.
You can read The Dreadlock Recollections in at least 3 formats–the 2007 OVO edition (which I will be referring to, and which the editor Trevor Blake says is in public domain); the Lulu.com version, currently available for purchase (which looks like some wag just threw up on the site because it was public domain); and to be read online on Sondra London’s website (there might be some differences between this version and the OVO one).
And just cut to the chase here about this memoir, which Discordianism co-founder Thornley claims is about his life in the early 1960s in New Orleans–basically, he admits to not only wanting JFK dead, but being a part of the conspiracy to kill the president.
But then again, multiple levels of cover are standard for intelligence agents, and Brother-in-law warned me that the simplest solution was not always the correct one.
–the last sentence of “The Dreadlock Recollections”
The caveat here is, as editor Blake notes in the memoir’s preface, “I doubt nearly every claim Kerry makes in this book.” This is because by that point Thornley was generally believed to be a paranoid schizophrenic. The thinking goes: even if this is the man “admitting” to a possible role in the assassination of the century, he was crazy so he was probably making it up.
As a refresher: in addition to co-writing the Principia Discordia with Greg Hill, Thornley has the distinction of being friends with Lee Harvey Oswald in the military and even writing a book on the subject, The Idle Warriors, before Oswald was fingered in the JFK assassination (!). Furthermore, after his time in the Marines, Thornley found himself hanging out in the same New Orleans environs as Oswald.
FURTHERMORE: Thornley knew several key figures Jim Garrison investigated in connection with the assassination.
**FURTHERMORE**…Garrison himself ended up investigating and interviewing Thornley, whom he thought was also involved with the assassination.
Eventually, Thornley was more or less “cleared”…but in in the mid-70’s (u know…the Mid Seventies) he claimed to have “recovered memories” about 2 individuals he hung out with in the early Sixties–the three (“theoretically”) discussing a possible JFK assassination.
But it–as you will see in the memoir–was deeper than that.
Because what we end up getting in the memoir is like if you crossed the movie Apt Pupil with Castaneda’s “Don Juan” dialogues.
So Thornley claims to have been de facto “mentored” by a nasty bald-headed racist Nazi sonofabitch named “Gary Kirstein” (last name meaning pretty much = “holy cup/grail”). This shadowy extremely unpleasant individual (who sometimes is identified as Watergate figure E. Howard Hunt in disguise) was also known to Thornley as “Brother-In-Law” (which doesn’t seem like some weird MKUltra shit at all).
What follows is a bunch of **really unpleasant** alleged dialogues between the two men, involving everything from pro-Nazi stances to theoretical acts of violence–including, as mentioned, the assassination of (the then very much alive) JFK:
From time to time he would remind me he still planned to kill the President. Once he said: “I’m going to talk to everyone in the country who wants Kennedy dead about the idea of assassinating him. Then I’m going to do it. Then I’m going to pay a visit to each and every one of them. I’m not going to say anything. I’m just going to look at them and smile, so they’ll get the idea. After that, I’ll feel free to call on them for favors.”
Now: Thornley freely admits that not only did he hate JFK at that time (because the president’s policies didn’t mesh with his Ayn Rand/Objectivist beliefs), but that he “celebrated” when he finally found out that he had been killed.
However, he excuses a lot of his “agreements” with Brother-In-Law’s scary fascist philosophies by alternating between saying he was probably drugged/hypnotized MKUltra-style by him, and that he was just “humoring” the man.
A mixture of horror and intellectual fascination left me in a state resembling paralysis.
–Kerry Thornley on “Brother-In-Law”
But again: there is the possibility that Thornley (who died in 1998 of cardiac arrest) was simply “crazy”–dreaming up these unreliable “recovered memories” out of guilt or paranoia or any # of irrational reasons.
Related to this is another possibility that I considered more and more as I read the memoir…and that is a Fight Club/Mr. Robot scenario in which Thornley was Brother-In-Law. “Kirstein” would be blamed for all of the most fascist, anti-social thoughts and impulses Thornley possessed…including possibly actively framing (or at least offering as a patsy-sacrifice) his old military buddy Lee Harvey Oswald.
One thing Brother-in-law often mentioned the concept of the scapegoat. He told me that it was originally termed “escape goat” and that it was derived from a tribal ritual mentioned in Leviticus. “The custom was to take two goats and to kill one of them and to sprinkle the altar with its blood, and then to take the other goat and bestow upon it the sins of the tribe,” he said. “Then they let the escape goat go, to wander in the wilderness.”
Unless…the young Thornley, too, was a scape/escape goat…him and Oswald twin “goats” in this incredibly fucked up story that would change history forever.
At this point, I cannot help but go back to the inconvenient fact that Thornley co-created the highly-influential Discordian “joke religion” allegedly at the same time he was discussing fascism and assassinations with “Gary Kirstein.”
But, per the memoir, it gets even deeper than that:
Slim Brooks was our fourth convert to the Discordian Society and, as might be anticipated, Brother-in-law was the fifth person to join that facetious cult devoted to the Greek goddess of confusion, Eris —known to the Romans as Discordia.
So…let me back up and try to understand all this (because maybe I’m just fucked up in the head and not conprehending this accurately)…
Kerry Thornley–who was an old army buddy of Lee Harvey Oswald–co-founded Discordianism, one of the most influential counter-cultural movements (no matter how “tongue-in-cheek”) of all time…
Robert Anton Wilson is then influenced so much by Discordianism that he co-writes the Illuminatus! trilogy and basically incorporates certain “Discordianisms” into his philosophy…
Then Thornley–per “recovered memories”–claims to have been talking to an outright Neo-Nazi at the same time he was allegedly creating this “joke religion”…and not only that, but actively hated, and (by his own admission) wanted to see dead, JFK.
THEN Thornley accused **Wilson** of being an “agent of the Conspiracy”… despite not only admitting that he himself wanted JFK dead, but that he had a really good reason to frame Oswald (basically, that if Oswald became infamous as the assassin, it would “help” Thornley’s literary career (!).
(There is also the matter of “Gary Kirstein’s” girlfriend Ola, whom Thornley says allegedly killed herself after the JFK thing went down. Assuming “Brother-In-Law” was real. And if not???)
Needless to say, I was jubilant at the news of Kennedy’s death – something I made no attempt to conceal from anyone, much to the annoyance of most of the Bourbon House regulars. Besides that, I was extremely proud of Oswald for getting himself accused – although I suspected he was innocent, since in the service he had displayed a talent for getting blamed of things. As for me, I felt betrayed by most of my French Quarter friends, who were obviously grief-stricken. Hadn’t they laughed in the past at my anti-Kennedy jokes? Where was their integrity?
And so here’s what you end up having…
Thornley (again, per his own words) had right-wing leanings (as well as having sympathy for the John Birch Society and helping “Kirstein” write book to literally be called “Hitler Was Good”). He would then seem to represent the distinctly right-wing fascist-leaning “flavor” of Conspiracy Culture that definitely wanted JFK dead and is still very much around to this very day.
By contrast, Wilson was accused by a number of conspiracy theorists of being part of a “Rockefeller Conspiracy” — a.k.a. “Liberal” conspiracy. (The modern-day equivalent would be George Soros)
At the same time, I know some liberals who think Wilson himself was a closet right-winger…
All of which, when I consider it, gives added “weight” to Wilson’s seeming realization throughout Cosmic Trigger I that while Discordianism/Illuminatus lore was initially started as a “joke”…it did seem to “set off” some weird shit.
It is now nearly 13 years since the ill-fated day when I first began investigating the terrible legends surrounding the enigmatic Bavarian Illuminati…
And while I do not think it was Wilson’s intention to set off this weird shit…I find Thornley to have had his “fingers” in a bunch of questionable pies…
…because now it has to be considered...was “part” of Discordianism a type of “psy-op?”
None of this was the direction I expected to go into when I first researched this topic. And I am certainly not condemning all of Discordian thought for what Thornley might have done and/or believed (because we still have Greg Hill’s contribution to consider).
But when I contemplate bizarre stuff like Tracy Twyman’s death…and just the weird weird “overlap” between contemporary Conspiracy Culture and “legit” politics…
It really makes my feet itch.
And then I have to ask: is it “worth” continuing to publicly write on these topics?
Because outside the occassional intellectual “thrill” of it…
Most people, I’ve found, really don’t want the “truth.” Instead, they want information that tends to “back up” their Reality Tunnels.
So if you identify as “left wing,” you want stuff proving that your “side” is right…and right wingers want to back up their own theories.
And the person who delivers data that is “ambiguous?” Well: that person is generally considered to be an Asshole™.
And that’s all human nature.
And so if you’re a Robert Anton Wilson type–neither exclusively left- or right-wing–you’re gonna piss off a lot of people.
That’s just human nature.
Is it really worth it? Because I’ve publicly been on this ideological tightrope for over a decade now, and it just hasn’t seemed worth it.
And then I myself look for “heroes,” out of that same “human nature” I’ve been blasting…and then more often than not, as I do research, I get disappointed. And a lot of times…not even a little disappointed.
And now things are more polarized than ever before…each “side” publicly demanding “loyalty.” And on top of that…as we’ve seen in the Thornley case…we might not even fully understand who behind-the-scenes is promoting our “side” of choice.
As Wilson once noted, “it’s a useful yoga to at least once a day ask yourself, ‘am I a Useful Idiot?’ Sometimes, you never know.”
“I’ll tell you what I fear as a writer,” I responded. “It is the people like Smerdyakov in The Brothers Karamazov, the people who miss the point of what you write, by taking it too literally or not literally enough, use it to justify actions you aren’t actually recommending. Ivan Karamazov wrote an essay arguing that since there is no God there can be no crime, and Smerdyakov, his bastard brother, read it and murdered their father. Then later on he confessed to Ivan and said, ‘But Brother, it was your idea!’ Knowing that there will always be people like that, somewhere, reading what I have written, terrifies me.”
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