4th edition introduction
You hold in your hands one the Great Books of our century fnord.
Some Great Books are recognized at once with a fusilade of critical
huzzahs and gonfolons, like Joyce's ULYSSES. Others appear almost furtively
and are only discovered 50 years later, like MOBY DICK or Mendel's great
essay on genetics. The PRINCIPIA DISCORDIA entered our space-time continuum
almost as unobtrusively as a cat-burglar creeping over a windowsill.
In 1968, virtually nobody had heard of this wonderful book. In
1970, hundreds of people coast to coast were talking about it and asking the
identity of the mysterious author, Malaclypse the Younger. Rumors swept
across the continent, from New York to Los Angeles, from Seattle to St.
Joe. Malaclypse was actually Alan Watts, one heard. No, said another
legend -- the PRINCIPIA was actually the work of the Sufi Order. A third,
very intriguing myth held that Malaclypse was a pen-name for Richard M.
Nixon, who had allegedly composed the PRINCIPIA during a few moments of
lucidity. I enjoyed each of these yarns and did my part to help spread
them. I was also careful never to contradict the occasional rumors that I
had actually written the whole thing myself during an acid trip.
The legendry, the mystery, the cult grew slowly. By the
mid-1970's, thousands of people, some as far off as Hong Kong and Australia,
were talking about the PRINCIPIA, and since the original was out of
print by then, xerox copies were beginning to circulate here and
When the ILLUMINATUS trilogy appeared in 1975, my co-author,
Bob Shea, and I both received hundreds of letters from people
intrigued by the quotes from the PRINCIPIA with which we had decorated
the heads of several chapters. Many, who had already heard of the
PRINCIPIA or seen copies, asked if Shea and I had written it, or if we
had copies available. Others wrote to ask if it were real, or just
something we had invented the way H.P. Lovecraft invented the
NECRONOMICON. We answered according to our moods, sometimes telling
the truth, sometimes spreading the most Godawful lies and myths we
could devise fnord.
Why not? We felt that this book was a true Classic (literatus
immortalis) and, since the alleged intelligentsia had not yet discovered it,
the best way to keep its legend alive was to encourage the mythology and the
controversy about it. Increasingly, people wrote to ask me if Timothy Leary
had written it, and I almost always told them he had, except on Fridays when
I am more whimsical, in which case I told them it had been transmitted by a
canine intelligence -- vast, cool, and unsympathic -- from the Dog Star,