"Theologians cite Order in the Universe as proof of a Supreme Intellegence, but a glance is enough to see that the stars are not actually in neat little rows. (Oh, sure, there is the Big Dipper and the Little Dipper - but if they were really connect-the-dot drawings there would be numbers next to the stars.)"
~ Kerry Thornley
Every friend connects with a part of our selves that we hold dear. My connection with Kerry was through that part of us both that is carefree, that loves to laugh, that cares nothing for the accoutrements of worldly success, but rather values the life of the mind, and treasures those moments of absurdity that stimulate the awareness of mystery and wonder.
Kerry had an encounter with that part of me that cries and sings years before I ever heard of him. It was at a New Years Eve party at the end of 1976, when I sang with my band at a benefit in a crumbling old mansion, wringing his heart with my rendition of "If Loving You is Wrong, I Don't Wanna Be Right." It was on the street in Little Five Points in early 1991 when I actually met Kerry, and that was when our friendship began.
Since I knew Kerry personally, I'm often asked what he was really like. I'd like to respond to a couple of the issues most often raised.
Kerry Thornley has been accused of being crazy. One author went so far as to state that the fact he and I were friends was proof positive that he was a madman.
Even so, not all madmen are created equal. Most are just mumbling stumble-bums. Even at his most wildly delusional, Kerry was always interesting because he was uniquely brilliant. Many times he would speak of ideas and impressions that few others share. Of course, the same could be said of any prophet and most any poet.
Kerry was an autodidact who read voraciously and broadly, especially in history and philosophy. Certainly he was aware of belief systems, rituals, & symbolism of worldwide mysticism. He excelled in comparing and contrasting far-flung circumstances and philosophies.
He could be gloomy and irascible, or mellow and ebullient. When he was feeling well, he was funny and he was fun. His sense of humor was offbeat, even black, and at any given time, I could only recognize about half of the names and books and historical events and philosophical nouances he discussed, so when he hauled up to his punchlines, I would only catch about half of them. He complained to his death that nobody understood his sense of humor.
Over the years, things Kerry said that I didn't understand at first have come into focus as I have learned more from other sources. I tried to pay attention to his words even when I didn't understand them. It was a heady mix. Sometimes colorful words were strung together in one long non sequitur like Mardi Gras beads, glimmering with significance.
Another commonly impression of Kerry is that he was part of some shadowy occult system, a satanic witch, perhaps, a member of the OTO or the Process Church.
Such speculations are specious. Occult-friendly, occult-savvy, but forever the iconoclast, Kerry walked his own path. He belonged to no cabal or lodge. His own meditational or devotional practices were private, informal and did not involve his presence or participation in any group. Of course if a drum circle formed out on The Rock, he'd be there with bells on. But I don't interpret that as being a practitioner of occult rituals.
Upon his request, I interviewed him right before his demise, like an Exit Interview, with him knowing he was approaching death. I thought he'd want to talk about things that had happened in his life, people he had met, occasions of note. But he took control of the narrative, and it was an explanation of each of the separate phases of the intellectual development of his sociopolitical philosophies.
One physician diagnosed him as paranoid schizophrenic because he talked about assassins and conspiracies. He had me contact the doctor and vouch for the objective reality of his story, as the producer who had worked it up for his appearance on national TV. But the doc was unmoved and stuck to her diagnosis.
In my opinion, all the symptoms of his mental status could & should have been treated as proceeding from his ongoing kidney failure pursuant to putative poisoning.
Also, I believe there is a factor of not-fitting-in that comprises the diagnosis of being mentally ill. The mad genius doesn't fit in. Maybe we, as Normals, are equally at fault here, because WE fail to understand and adjust to HIM.
Tendencies to rave and to theorize and to express and to provoke are not invalidating of a personality, nor of their testimony as a witness.
One of Kerry's closest friends, Ote-Cy, agrees:
You knew Kerry better than I, but I do think your assessment is pretty accurate.
As for his being crazy, there are, naturally, five factors in play.
Magus Love speaks for the OTO:
So, when you mix all these factors in with his sense of humor, you get, well... Kerry. His humor was very obtuse. The closest I could compare it to would be Andy Kaufman. He took no thought or belief as real, so he could truly throw himself into what he said. Then he'd laugh at, and with, the recipient as they caught on to the significance of what he said.
Poisoning from liver damage is one I had not considered but it should be taken seriously.
He always lived in the fringes and in the nooks and crannies of "consensus" reality. What we don't understand is usually labelled crazy.
He really was persecuted and hounded over his lifetime, though not to the extent he came to believe.
His life was one of struggle on the physical level with poverty and later, health.
He was undoubtedly subject to fluctuations in his brain chemistry - whether genetic, dietary, or environmental, more likely these and more.
As for Kerry's occult involvement, you nailed it precisely: "He walked his own path." He was up for engaging in any activity that would offer new perspectives, but viewing all constructs as artificial, he would never delve deeply into any path but the one he created.
Ankh em Maat.
In all my years knowing Kerry, he was never an occultist of any sort. We met when he came to the OTO Lodge house for an interview for our magazine. He was quite paranoid about the whole thing and it was only by smoking him up good that we got a good interview. I got my copy of Principia Discordia signed on that day, and now it's over 23 years old.
Adrien Rain Burke knew Kerry long ago:
Kerry Thornley was a friend of mine - as far as it is possible to have a raving paranoid for a friend. But he was quite insane. Once I lent him my copy of EF Schumaker's Small is Beautiful and a few weeks later, asked him what he thought of it. He looked at the ground and shamefacedly told me he'd had to throw it out. His television had told him to. A friend, standing nearby, mumbled by all means one mustn't offend one's appliances.
He was an itinerant nut, and crazy as a bedbug, but he had style. He was also probably a potentially very dangerous guy, though he never seems to have realized that potential.
One of the many organizations he founded was the FCC - the Fucking Communist Conspiracy. It all began when someone on late night TV in Vegas accidentally broadcast a porn film. The idea was that any time anything like that happened, the FCC would call up some authority and take credit for it.
He was also the publisher of The Promise' Land Times, an anarchist newpaper written entirely in rhyme. He hired me to design the "flag" for this long-lost "wallpaper" he printed on red paper and pasted up all over town. He actually paid me, though I offered to do it for free, knowing he worked for less than minimum wage.
I met Kerry when we both had lousy underpaid overworked jobs on the last small town newspaper in L.A.'s last small town, Tujunga. In spite of his mental illness, Kerry had somehow kept a fine sense of humor. He was a great writer and a strange lone crusader clad usually in red, orange, and yellow. (camouflaged for a fire, perhaps?) He criss-crossed the country, pursued, he believed, by a vast conspiracy with powers and depths of treachery that bordered on the supernatural.
He vanished without notice and of course, left no footprints or strange marks on the air, much less a forwarding address. After not having seen him for years I was saddened to learn he had died, yet delighted at how he maintains a lively presence on the Web. And I am gratified to see that his weird theories have a life of their own - though I do wish they were better understood.
KERRY WENT SOUTH
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