The strange and humorously subversive movement known as Discordianism has been categorized as a religion, a philosophy, and a counter-culture all at the same time. Many people believe that it is more accurate to label Discordianism as a parody religion, since many of its writings and tenets seem to mock or ridicule the beliefs and principles of established religions.
Discordianism started in 1965 after the publication of its primary book entitled Principia Discordia, a collection of esoteric writings penned by two pseudonymous authors known as Malaclypse the Younger (real name: Gregory Hill) and Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst (real name: Kerry Wendell Thornley). Both Hill and Thornley are considered to be the founders of Discordianism.
Discordianism has been likened to several different Eastern religions such as Zen and Taoist philosophy, perhaps due to the ethereal or mystical nature of its writings, but with the major difference being the obvious elements of humor and sarcasm. One of the foundational principles of Discordianism is the notion that order and chaos are mere illusions, and that any differences between the two are simply based on human perception. Discordians believe that both order and disorder cannot be proven as objectively true, nor can one be more accurate or valid than the other.
The inherent humor found in the Principia Discordia, as well as scores of subsequent writings from other adherents of Discordianism, underscores the popular belief that the main function of Discordianism is to poke fun at "serious" religions by challenging such ideas as objective truth, morality, and notions of sacredness or holiness. Discordians consider the first rule of the religion to be the idea that there really are no rules. Concepts such as disagreement, chaos and randomness are celebrated in Discordianism, as a means to prevent the establishment of any kind of dogma or absolutism. This objective was echoed by the famous Discordian author and playwright Robert Anton Wilson when he stated, "When dogma enters the brain, all intellectual activity ceases."
The central deity in Discordianism is Eris, the Greco-Roman goddess of disorder or chaos. The Principia Discordia acknowledges Eris in the lengthy subtitle: "How I Found Goddess and What I Did to Her When I Found Her, Wherein is Explained Absolutely Everything Worth Knowing About Absolutely Anything, the Magnum Opiate of Malaclypse the Younger." According to Discordian mythology and loosely based on ancient Greek mythology, Eris was rejected by Zeus from attending the wedding of Peleus and Thetis (an event referred to by Discordians as "The Original Snub"), and as a result Eris created a golden apple (known as the Apple of Discord) that she subsequently tossed into the proceedings. The Apple of Discord now appears in a famous Discordian symbol known as the "Sacred Chao", which is a Chinese Yin-Yang symbol containing the Apple of Discord on one side and a pentagon on the other.
The basic tenets of Discordianism have been loosely standardized into the following overarching concepts:
* Chaos is the primary driver of reality, but human beings tend to falsely perceive both Order and Disorder through a "reality grid" that shapes their assumptions. If a person can discard their reality grid, they can take an important step towards Illumination.
* Instead of prioritizing Order over Disorder, Discordians focus on prioritizing a positive mindset over a negative mindset.
* Order and Disorder can be perceived as either positive or negative.
* Hot dog buns are strictly forbidden, but the consumption of hot dogs is highly encouraged. One of the first acts a new Discordian is encouraged to engage in is to "joyously partake of a hot dog" on the first Friday that you become an Illuminated Discordian. This ceremony is performed in order to serve as a rebuttal to the requirements of many of the world’s most prominent religions: Roman Catholic Christendom (meat is forbidden on Fridays), Judaism and Islam (pig meat is forbidden), Buddhism (meat is forbidden altogether), and Hinduism (cow meat is forbidden).
* Make it a practice to not believe anything that you read.
* All significant phenomena in the world tends to happen in fives, or bears some correlation to the number 5. Many observers note that this is a satirical "jab" at pareidolia, which is often emphasized in other religions.
The hierarchy of leadership within the Discordian organization is highly subjective, and members are encouraged to give themselves titles of prominence regardless of their actual leadership responsibilities. Elaborate titles that mimic those found in the Catholic Church or the Freemasons are often used in Discordianism; examples include "Pope Max Flax Beeblewax" and "Archreverend Nutsack of the Disilluminated Fluorescent Tubes." Several Discordian websites offer interested members the ability to declare themselves a Pope by providing them with a downloadable Pope "license" that grants them immediate pontification rights and privileges.
Although both of the original founders of Discordianism have passed away, the Discordian movement is still alive and well. Popular books and plays based on Discordian themes are being published and produced to this day, and its cult popularity on the Internet shows no signs of slowing. Discordianism has also produced several spinoff movements, such as Pastafarianism, Unicornism, and the Church of the SubGenius. Some view Discordianism as irreverent and offensive, while others see it as nothing more than an experiment in edgy humor and satire. However it may be perceived, Discordianism has garnered thousands of followers, and has made an indelible mark on the religious and philosophical landscape.