What It Is

Discordianism is the worship of Eris, or Discordia, the Greek goddess of chaos and discord.

It is a joke disguised as a religion.

It is also a religion disguised as a joke.

How It Happened

This is how Discordianism came to be: In ancient myth, the Greek gods gathered for a celebration, but did not invite Eris, the goddess of chaos and discord, because she was a known troublemaker. Eris was angry, and she made an apple of pure gold, inscribed upon it "KALLISTI" ("To the Prettiest One"), and rolled it into the garden where the gods were having their party. Hera, Athena, and Aphrodite immediately laid claim to the apple, and the other gods, wisely, refused to settle the claim by choosing one goddess over the others.

The goddesses chose Paris of Troy to settle their dispute. Hera offered him power, Athena offered him wisdom, Aphrodite offered him the most beautiful woman in the world. Paris chose love, Aphrodite kidnapped Helen for him, and the Trojan War lasted for a decade. All for the lack of a party invitation.

Thus was born Discordianism.

Wait. That was a lie.

This is how Discordianism came to be: In ancient Atlantis, a discontented philosopher named Greyface began preaching that order must hold dominion over all. He claimed that order was obviously superior to chaos because order was clearly the natural way. Order was everywhere: crops grew at certain times of the year, the sun rose and set on a specific schedule, birds migrated while flying in a "V" pattern. But Greyface's opponents knew that the world was a lot less orderly than he claimed, and when Greyface used his new power to establish an authoritarian dictatorship, they began working against him behind the scenes, telling the people that the world was truly a chaotic, discordant place, and that was a good thing. Order had its place, but without chaos, there was no art, no play, no fun, no true happiness or freedom. While the Greyfaces may seem to control the world today, they are opposed on all sides by the disciples of chaos.

Thus was born Discordianism.

Wait. That was a lie.

This is how Discordianism came to be: In 1959, at a Brunswick bowling alley in Whittier, California, two young proto-hippies called Omar Ravenhurst and Malaclypse the Younger were debating the problems of the world. They proclaimed to each other that if someone would do something to rein in all the chaos, life on earth would be better. They immediately had a vision in which time froze around them and a chimpanzee in a suit and tie entered the bowling alley, challenged their opinions on chaos and order, and showed them a drawing resembling a yin-yang symbol -- later identified as the Sacred Chao. Later, after communing with Eris herself, Ravenhurst and Malaclypse decided to create a religion dedicated to her.

Thus was born Discordianism.

Wait. That was a lie.

This is how Discordianism came to be: In the early- to mid-1960s, two dudes named Greg Hill and Kerry Thornley decided to create a funny religion, picking and choosing bits from several different faiths, sects, and denominations to come up with something that sounded like a complete put-on, except for the pieces that sounded completely serious. They wrote a Bible for it, called it the Principia Discordia, and distributed it for free. It got picked up by Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson, who incorporated it into the Illuminatus! trilogy. And it got picked over by the guys who created the Church of the SubGenius. It's still with us today.

Thus was born Discordianism.

Wait. That was a lie.

This is how Discordianism came to be: FIVE TONS OF FLAX.

This is the Truth.

What It Means

For the most part, it means nothing. Discordians don't tend to get that philosophical. They like pranks and silly things and quoting Monty Python and running scams through Operation Mindfuck, which encourages blowing the minds of the populace and causing embarrassment and consternation for petty tyrants and control freaks.

And the Principia tends to back this up. The Pentabarf instructs that Discordians are both proscribed from and required to eat hot dog buns on Fridays. Discordian evangelists are instructed to warn potential converts that they may be "reincarnated as a precious Mao Button and distributed to the poor in the Region of Thud." And the fabled Turkey Curse is simultaneously anarchistic, hilarious (both to watch and participate in), and, for control freaks faced with a dozen or more Turkey Cursers, both humiliating and terrifying.

But for all the goofiness, there is some serious stuff in the Principia. Much of it is expressed in the form of jokes or hippiesque terms that are easy to dismiss, but there is, nevertheless, wisdom to be gained. Several pages are devoted to a discussion of how our brains work to force chaos into some kind of recognizable order -- five pebbles on the beach may look like a pentagon to some, a star to others, or some stuff to throw into the ocean to yet others. The idea that order dominates the universe is quickly shown to be a fallacy.

And in a section that many young Discordians apparently skipped, the Principia advises that
"to choose the creative over the destructive is an all-creative trip composed of both order and disorder. To accomplish this, one need only accept creative disorder along with, and equal to, creative order, and also be willing to reject destructive order as an undesirable equal to destructive disorder."
Lots of people seem to think all there is to Discordianism is anarchism, offensiveness, and FNORD. Those people need to read the Principia much more deeply. If all you're doing is anarchism, offensiveness, and FNORD, you're not serving Eris the way she wants to be served. She's all in favor of anarchism, offensiveness, and FNORD, but you can't live on that kind of spiritual diet any more than you could live on a diet of gumdrops and bubble gum.

There's plenty of other kernels of wisdom in the Principia, but I ain't gonna tell you where they are. Enlightenment is never handed out on a silver platter. You've got to go digging in the garbage for it, just like everything else in life.

What Important Bits Have Been Left Out

Emperor Norton, the Law of Fives, the pineal gland, Popes, cabbages, "true and false and meaningless in some sense", Sink, planting your seeds, and of course, "HAIL ERIS! ALL HAIL DISCORDIA!"

Research: the Principia Discordia and many consultations with my pineal gland