Nikki Wyrd writes a beautiful intro to a superb collection of historical, poetic, magical and fantastical offerings. The contents are carefully framed between the opening item, the first published account of mescaline intoxication, by Havelock Ellis in 1898 and a mescaline trip record by Discordianism founder Gregory Hill.
Next up is John Constable on '23 and Me'. John is a man whose work proves that one man's vision can change the world for thousands of people, resulting in an extraordinary injection of wisdom about death, celebration and magic into counterculture. He tells a story which takes in his early connections with the Discordian world via Ken Campbell, his life-changing acid-soaked night with the spirit of the Goose, and some very sound advice on living magically.
Ben Graham's 'Is This For Real?' is a great survey of the Discordian scene and the creation of Festival 23. It also checks a bit of cultural philosophy: thank you Ben for the concept of Metamodernism. I had been wondering for a while about when the corpse of PoMo was going to be dragged out and given a decent burial.
Adam Gorightly's 'Sex, Drugs and Discordia' is another precise fit for this issue - a history of the psychedelic involvements of early Discordianism and how those stories played out over subsequent decades.
The article that had the biggest effect on me is Catherine Kneale's 'Don't Be A Hero', an exploration of alternative narratives to the Hero's Journey. This isn't the first time I've heard people criticize that archetypal structure, but it's the first time I've been able to make useful sense of the argument. Kneale points out that our identification of the transformational power of some experience may only happen a long time after we originally assigned some kind of significance to it. In other words, we cannot expect our lives to conform to narratives that always demand closure. This approach makes space in your life for what some would call Chaos (and others Grace?). It suggests a relationship with experience in which you accept that you cannot force every single significant event into a straitjacket of heroic meaning. The significance is there - you know something important has happened, but you can't relate it to a conscious idea of yourself and where you are going. None of the narratives you already know and are practiced in will help in assigning meaning to it. Some of the experiences I have had on psychedelics are of this kind - I know something exceptional has happened, but afterwards I cannot parse the experience into any form that does not strip it of its primal irreducible significance. In fact, I cannot even recognize it among other kinds of experience until I encounter it again, which may be years later, and then there is an undeniable ring of familiarity.
My brief history of how Chaos Magic, Discordianism and psychedelics are all mixed up together is followed by Adrian Reynolds's 'We Flirted With Muses'. This is a highly personal take on some wonderfully leftfield, non-corporate-style applications of NLP and how they linked the author up to Eris. I also enjoyed being reminded of that London show in 1996-7, where Richard Bandler was accompanied by Robert Anton Wilson, who got to sit in Marilyn Monroe's chair.
The penultimate piece, 'Hold On 2.0' starts off with a pun on the Sam and Dave lyrics of the title, then erupts into a narrative which eluded me completely until I realised that it must be an allegorical blow-by-blow account of the JAMs Welcome to the Dark Ages Liverpool event of Summer 2017.
No.23 is a fabulously freaky issue of this fine journal, from the beautiful Pete Loveday cover, with its affectionate caricatures of counterculture stereotypes to the rich variety of ideas so thoughtfully assembled inside. A feast for the mind, buy it now!