Festival 23 — Wonderism, Fake News and the Neo-Discordian Revival

artwork by Chad Essley

 

Chaos as a Ray of Hope in an increasingly dumb world

by Michael Pinchera

The increasingly ugly state of affairs — politically, socially, emotionally, economically, intellectually — may be driving a growing interest in Discordianism, according to Ben Graham, author and co-organizer of the neo-Discordian Festival 23.

“The world just seems crazy and more chaotic than ever, so a pseudo-religion that embraces chaos as a guiding principle, maybe that makes more sense now,” Graham says.

At the very least, Discordianism undoubtedly offers an appealing alternative to the mainstream paths previously constructed by long-dead, desperate deity-seekers.

So, between the publication of his books on Texas psychedelia (A Gathering of Promises and Scatological Alchemy), Graham joined a group of eight to organize Festival 23, a three-day-long, outdoor camping event.

“It’s a Discordian-themed event, very influenced by the writings of Robert Anton Wilson and the Illuminatus! Trilogy and his various books, and also, before that, Principia Discordia by Kerry Wendell Thornley, worshipping Eris, the goddess of chaos,” he says. “And beyond that, just expanding it to a general idea of counterculture. All the stuff that fed into it and also the idea of where is the counterculture now and how can we kind of unite the past with what’s going on now to go forward into the future.”

The origins of what Graham identifies as a neo-Discordian Revival, go back to Daisy Eris Campbell, daughter of Ken Campbell (he put on a theatrical adaptation of Wilson’s Illuminatus! Trilogy in 1976), and her decision to put on a 2014 theatrical adaptation of Cosmic Trigger, Wilson’s nonfiction follow-up to the Illuminatus! Trilogy.

“She did that in Liverpool at sort of a mini-Discordian indoor festival, where all these people in Britain who thought maybe they were the only Discordians in the country came together,” Graham says.

The new relationships created around Daisy’s play led directly to the birth of Festival 23, the inaugural edition (2016) of which was held in a field near Sheffield, England, for approximately 500 Discordians. The theme that year was Festival 23: Convergence of Disco—“putting the disco back in Discordia, emphasizing the playful side of it,” Graham says.

“We had bands, we had talks, we had chaos magic workshops, we had tantric sex workshops, we had comedy poetry, we had a spirit animal fashion show. I hosted a conspiracy slam, which is like a poetry slam but you come up with your best conspiracy theories and there was a tinfoil crown for the wackiest theory,” Graham says excitedly. “Alan Moore didn’t come down in person—he doesn’t like ever leaving Northampton these days—but we had an exclusive, really in-depth interview filmed in his home that we showed in the cinema tent.”

artwork by Chad Essley

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Deeper Into The Magick Grant Morrison Interview Part 2

“You wind back into your mother’s womb, she winds back into hers, like branches retreating into buds on a tree and it all goes back in billions of unbroken lines to the first mitochondrial cell dividing in the pre-Cambrian ocean 3 and a half billion years ago.

Interview by Robert Anton Wilson biographer Prop Anon, and Laura Kang, February 2017 in Brooklyn NY

You’ve told us that your take on magick is a little different than RAW’s. Can you explain how it is different? 

GM: Maybe I’m wrong. I think he saw magic  in the Crowleyan, ritual, alien contact sense — as some collision of psychology and quantum weirdness. For me, it’s much more literal and it’s all about emphasizing the transcendent, psychedelic aspects of the ordinary by following logic to its conclusion. Magick for me is all about maintaining a fluid and creative relationship with things as they are.

Simple things, like adding time, or the 4th dimension to the picture can eliminate a lot of apparent psychic phenomena, like clairvoyance, action at a distance, ESP, reincarnation etc. When you add time, you realize fairly quickly that all living things are intrinsically connected as one singular organism. You wind back into your mother’s womb, she winds back into hers, like branches retreating into buds on a tree and it all goes back in billions of unbroken lines to the first mitochondrial cell dividing in the pre-Cambrian ocean 3 and a half billion years ago. It’s no surprise that sometimes people get a sense of other parts of the structure they belong to, or experience “past lives” — those lives are all still happening, all simultaneously.

That same original, immortal cell is still at it, separating inside all of us. Maybe mitochondrial DNA might be what humans have been calling “soul” for centuries. The fact is, we actually do have an immortal indwelling presence living deep inside the perishable structure of our bodies. Maybe mitochondrial DNA has consciousness and when we narrow down on that waveband, we experience the feelings of timelessness and divinity people refer to as a religious experience… Read more “Deeper Into The Magick Grant Morrison Interview Part 2”