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William Burroughs: High Priest of Hipsterism

“William Burroughs: High Priest of Hipsterism”
By Ronald Weston
(a RAW pseudonym)

from Ralph Ginzburg’s fact:
 Nov-Dec 1965
Volume 2, Issue 6

Burroughs has been called everything from a genius to a timid Marquis de Sade, but one thing is undisputed: No other writer has led a life that is more fascinating and horrifying

William Burroughs may not be the greatest fountainhead of literary inspiration since James Joyce, as some people think he is. And it is quite possible that he is also not the most out­rageously untalented writer since Ayn Rand, as some other people think he is. But there is no doubt about one thing: No other American writer, living or dead, has led a life more fasci­nating, grotesque, and blackly bitter. No other American writer, for that matter, has been thrown out of the Army after being diagnosed as a paranoid-schizophrenic, has become a drug addict and remained one for 15 years, has shot and killed his wife, and has eventually become one of the leaders of a cult attempting to change the very consciousness of the world.

At 51, Burroughs has written only a few books-a part-factual, part-fictional autobio­graphical fragment called Junkie, produced under the pen-name of William Lee; novels like The Ticket That Exploded, Nova Express, and The Soft Machine; and-the book that made him infamous-the harrowing and horrifying story of life seen through the diseased mind of a drug addict, Naked Lunch. Not since James Joyce’sUlysses, it can safely be said, has any book flabbergasted the critics the way Naked Lunch has.

Mary McCarthy has praised Burroughs’ “peculiarly American” humor, complained that Naked Lunch is sometimes “disgusting,” “tiresome,” and “perplexing,” and concluded by re­ferring to his “remarkable talent.” Norman Mailer has said, “Naked Lunch is a book of beauty, great difficulty, and maniacally exquisite insight. I think that William Burroughs is the only American novelist living today who may conceivably be possessed by genius.” The New Yorker has written, “Mr. Burroughs got away with too much. . . in Naked Lunch. There was bitter satire, apparently grounded in genuine rage. There were many rough words and many beautifully turned sentences. And there was no form at all.” Time has dubbed Burroughs’ nov­els “potluck: the cauldron, having flipped its lid, spills nightmare fantasies, sick jokes, narcotic dreams, and polemics against pushers. . . .” Rich­ard Kluger, editor of Book Week, has written: “. . . Burroughs’ effects are stunning. He is a writer of rare power. . . his talent is more than notorious. It may well turn out to be important.” Jack Kerouac says, “Burroughs is the greatest satirical writer since Jonathan Swift.” George P. Elliott, in the New York Times Book Review, says, “It is a toss-up whether Nova Express is even more boring than Naked Lunch. . . . Bur­roughs’ writing fails literally and intellectually.” Poet Robert Lowell has said of Naked Lunch, “It’s a completely powerful and serious book, as good as anything in prose or poetry written by a ‘beat’ writer, and one of the most alive books written by any American for years.” Critic Alfred Chester says that Burroughs, along with Vladimir Nabokov, is experimenting with form itself, which makes them “the novelists one presently has to reckon with.” Norman Pod­horetz, editor of Commentary, a bargain-base­ment imitation of Encounter, deigns to let us know that he does not “admire” Naked Lunch. The English critic Philip Toynbee says that both Naked Lunch and Nova Express are “bor­ing rubbish_ insufficiently redeemed by passages of brilliant invention.” Richard Sullivan of Notre DameUniversity, speaking of Nova Ex­press, has said it is a “poor, bad, destructive, corruptive, idiotic book. Nobody should read it. . . . A sad book, a sorry book, a practically unreadable book for both author and publisher: Nova Express, by William S. Burroughs, who might flunk freshman English either on grounds of punctuation or loose and slow thinking.” Critic Richard C. Kostelanetz writes, “Naked Lunch is one of the more truly original and ex­citing pieces of prose to emerge from the fifties.” Critic John Wain has said of Naked Lunch, “From the literary point of view, it is the merest trash, not worth a second glance.” Poet John Ciardi has said Naked Lunch “is. . . a master­piece of its own genre,” and that Burroughs is “a writer of great power and artistic integrity engaged in a profoundly meaningful search for true values.”

Of all the comments made about Naked Lunch, probably the most perspicacious came from novelist Herbert Gold: “At its best, this book, which is not a novel but a booty brought back from a nightmare, takes a coldly implacable look at the dark side of our nature. . . . Wil­liam Burroughs has written the basic work for understanding that desperate symptom which is the beat style of life.” And certainly the silliest literary critique of Naked Lunch came from As­sistant City Attorney Roland Fairfield, who was prosecuting the book in Los Angeles. Here is an extract from the trial record:

Mr. Fairfield: . . . Your Honor, I would just like to point out to the Court that the following words are used in the book a total of 234 times on 235 pages; and I wllI spell them out rather than say them in the court

The Court: Go ahead “and say them. We hear them probably once a week.

Mr. Fairfield: Fuck, shit, ass, cunt, prick, ass­hole, cock-sucker. Two hundred thirty-four times on 235 pages!

*     *     *

The critics have had almost as much trouble trying to pigeon-hole Burroughs himself as they have had trying to pigeon-hole his books. He has been called the Martin Luther of Hipster­ism, the beatest of the beats, a nihilist, an adoles­cent Henry Miller, the high priest of the beats, an Action writer, the farthest-out of all far-out writers, and a timid Marquis de Sade. And while this article will not try to determine once and for all Burroughs’ worth as a writer, it will try to answer one question: Just who is William S. Burroughs?

Burroughs was born Feb. 4, 1914, in “a solid, three-story, brick house” in St. Louis. He was the grandson of the inventor of the Bur­roughs adding machine, and his own parents “were comfortable. My father owned and ran I a lumber business.” His earliest memories were “colored by a fear of nightmares. I was afraid to be alone, and afraid of the dark, and afraid to go to sleep because of dreams where a supernatural horror seemed always on the point of -taking shape. I was afraid some day the dream would still be there when I woke up. I recall hearing a maid talk about opium and how smok­ing opium brings sweet dreams, and I said: ‘I will smoke opium when I grow up.’ ”

He continues: “I was subject to hallucina­tions as a child. Once I woke up in the early morning light and saw little men playing in a block house I had made. I felt no fear, only a feeling of stillness and wonder. Another recur­rent hallucination or nightmare concerned ‘ani­mals in the wall,’ and started with the delirium of a strange, undiagnosed fever that 1 had at the age of four or five.”

Burroughs has also written, to Fact, “My parents were never mentally ill. My father died last year. Mother still living in Palm Beach, Florida. Relationship excellent.”

He attended a progressive school, and says, “I was timid with the other children and afraid of physical violence. One aggressive little Lesbian would pull my hair whenever she saw me. I would like to shove her face in right now, but she fell off a horse and broke her neck years ago.”

When he was about 7, his parents decided to move’ to the suburbs, “to get away from people.” Burroughs attended a private high school. “I was not conspicuously good or bad at sports, neither brilliant nor backward at studies. I had a definite blind spot for “anything mechanical. I never liked competitive games and avoided these whenever possible. I became, in fact, a chronic malingerer. I did like fishing, hunting, and hiking.” He also read Wilde, Ana­tole France, Baudelaire, and even Gide – and eventually “I formed a romantic attachment for another boy” and they spent time together bi­cycling, fishing, and exploring old quarries:

At this time, Burroughs continues, he read the autobiography of a burglar, called You Can’t Win. The burglar had spent a good part of his life in jail. “It sounded good to me,” says Burroughs, “compared with the dullness of a Midwest suburb where all contact with life was shut out.” He and his friend found an aban­doned factory, broke all the windows, and stole one chisel. They were caught, and their fathers had to pay for the damages. “After this my friend ‘packed me in’ because our relationship was en­dangering his standing with the group. I saw there was no compromise possible with the group, the others, and I found myself a ‘good deal alone.” However, he and the other boy “re­mained friends for 30 years.”

Burroughs retreated into reading and into solitary hiking and hunting. “I drifted into solo adventures,” he has written. “My criminal acts were gestures, unprofitable and for the most part unpunished. I would break into houses and walk around without taking anything. . . . Sometimes I would drive around in the country with a 22 rifle, shooting chickens. I made the roads unsafe with reckless driving until an accident, from which I emerged miraculously and portentously unscratched, scared me into normal caution.”

Burroughs went on to attend Harvard. “I majored in English literature for lack of interest in any other subject. I hated the University and I hated the town it was in. Everything about the place was dead. The University was a fake English setup taken over by the graduates of fake English public schools. I was lonely. I knew no one and strangers were regarded with distaste by the closed corporation of the desirables.” He was a mediocre student.

“By accident I met some rich homosexuals, of the international queer set. . . . But these people were jerks for the most part, and, after an initial period of fascination, I cooled off to the setup.”

He graduated from Harvard during the Depression, and since he could not get a job, went abroad for a year or so, living on a $200-a-month trust fund he had. He studied medicine at the University ofVienna for a while, kept a pet ferret, and in Greece married a Jewish girl flee­ing from the Nazis and brought her to this coun­try. They were divorced some years ago, but they are still good friends

*     *     *

Back in the States, Burroughs was still alone and he continued to drift. He studied general semantics with Korzybski in Chicago, learned jiu-jitsu, and went back to Harvard to take 2 years of graduate study in anthropology. He also entered psychoanalysis with a hypno-ana­lyst, who found him un-hypnotizable and re­sorted to drug therapy with nitrous oxide. Seven personalities came to light within Burroughs, he says, including a distinguished pro­fessor, a raving maniac who had to be put in chains while the analyst spoke to him, and an elderly Negro. “Analysis,” Burroughs wrote later, “removed inhibitions and anxieties so that I could live the way I wanted to live. Much of my progress was accomplished in spite of my ‘orien­tation,’ as my analyst called it. He finally aban­doned analytic objectivity and put me down as an ‘out-and-out con.’ I was more pleased with the results than he was.” Today, he writes: “I am now extremely doubtful whether any results are obtained by psychoanalysis, which I con­sider a rigidly dogmatic and superstitious system.”

‘” In 1941 he was drafted into the Army. “I decided I was not going to like the Army and copped out on my nut-house record-I’d once got on a Van Gogh kick and cut off a finger joint” to impress a boy he had a crush on. “The nut-house doctors had never heard of Van Gogh. They put me down for schizophrenia, adding paranoid type to explain the upsetting fact that I knew where I was and who was Pres­ident of the U.S. When the Army saw that diag­nosis they discharged me with the notation, ‘This man is never to be recalled or reclassified.’ ”

It is not necessary, perhaps, to comment on Burroughs’ defensiveness in this matter.

Once out of the Army, Burroughs worked as a private detective, an exterminator, a bar­tender, and so on. He had married a second time, and he and his wife, Jane, frequently used marijuana andbenzedrine “for kicks.” Soon after he began taking heroin, in 1942, he be­came hopelessly addicted.

One day recently I asked William Bur­roughs why he had become addicted. “Addic­tion is a disease of exposure,” he replied. “By and large people become addicts who are ex­posed to it-doctors and nurses, for instance. People I knew at the time were using it. I took a shot, liked it, and eventually became an addict. ”

“But weren’t you aware of the dangers?” I persisted.

Burroughs thought a moment and replied, “The Federal Narcotics Bureau does a grave disservice by disseminating a lot of misinforma­tion. Most of what they say is such nonsense that I didn’t believe them about addiction. I thought I could take it or leave it alone. They give out that marijuana is a harmful and habit-forming drug, and it simply isn’t. They claim that you can be addicted with one shot, and that’s another myth. . . They overestimate the physical bad effects. I just didn’t believe them about anything they said.”

Burroughs’ first few years of addiction were spent in New York City, where he met poet Allen Ginsberg. Burroughs “was my great­est teacher at the time,” says Ginsberg. “He put me on to Spengler, Yeats, Rimbaud, Korzybski, Proust, and Celine. Burroughs educated me more than Columbia, really.” Poet Alan Ansen met Burroughs through Ginsberg. He called him a “totally autonomous personality,” totally self-directed and nonconformist, and added that he looked like a con man down on his luck. “A cracker accent and the use of jive talk fail to conceal an incisive intelligence and a frighten­ing seriousness. . . . How many addicts one knows incapable of more than a sob or a mono­syllable, how many queers who seem to have no place in life except the perfume counter at Woolworth’s. . . . To use drugs without losing consciousness or articulateness, to love boys without turning into a mindless drab is a form of hero­ism.”

Burroughs’ dope habit soon reached the point where it cost more than the $200-per-month he received from his trust fund. Like most addicts, he began pushing the stuff himself. When it seemed that the law was beginning to take note of his activities, he skipped out to New Orleans. Jack Kerouac, who had met him in New York, visited Burroughs and has given a vivid description of the Burroughs household in his novel, On the Road, describing Old Bull Lee (Burroughs) taking his three shots of heroin a day and lecturing interminably about the Mayan codices; Jane Lee “never more than ten feet away from Bull,” loving him madly; their child, Ray (actually William Jr.), running around “stark naked in the yard, a little blonde child of the rainbow”; Bull showing off his arse­nal of guns; Jane devouring $100 worth of benzedrine every week; Bull falling asleep with Ray in his lap, “a pretty sight, father and son, a father who would certainly never bore his son when it came to finding things to do and talk about.” This idyllic period came to an end when Burroughs was arrested for possession of heroin. He skipped bail, took his family to Mex­ico, and began the exile that was to last 15 years.

*     *      *

In Mexico, Burroughs began his first serious attempt to kick the habit. He tried an’ unfortu­nate approach frequently recommended by junkies, the “liquor withdrawal.” You stay drunk all through the first 5 days of pain and agony, and for as long as possible afterwards, taking whiskey every time your cells cry out for junk. Charlie Parker, the great jazz musician, went insane trying to kick heroin this way and landed in a state hospital. Burroughs blanked out for several days, came to standing in a bar pointing a gun at a total stranger. He was furiously angry without knowing why and ready to kill the man, but a cop appeared and disarmed him. Then he came down with uremic poisoning (caused by alcoholism) and in agony took some paregoric from a sympathetic junkie. Paregoric is an opiate and contains the same addicting substance as opium, heroin, and morphine. Bur­roughs was hooked again.

. He tried “liquor withdrawal” a second time a few months later and shot his wife. Carl Solo­mon, in his introduction to Junkie, says Bur­roughs shot his wife “in a ‘William Tell’ experi­ment . . . demonstrating his marksmanship by attempting, to shoot a champagne glass off her head and killing her in the process.” Burroughs denies this. “I was just crazy drunk,” he says, “and didn’t know the gun was loaded.” The death was pronounced accidental. Burroughs sent his son back to St. Louis to live with his parents and he himself took off for Tangier, French North Africa, where the price of junk was still low enough to be covered by his $200­a-month trust fund.

Ten times he tried to kick the habit, trying accepted techniques and inventing some of his own. He tried the quick-reduction method, went through unmitigated hell, and relapsed. He tried a slow reduction, and found that it merely spread the pain over 2 months instead of 10 days. He tried using antihistamines during with­drawal, cortisone during withdrawal, Thorazine and resperine during withdrawal: The pain was always hideous, and relapse always followed. Once he tried using marijuana during with­drawal; it was an unspeakable nightmare. Marijuana, like all the consciousness-expanding drugs, magnifies and intensifies every experience. Music is sweeter, sex is tastier, colors are brighter-and pain is more wrenching. The aches, twitches, cramps, chills, fevers, nausea, diarrhea, and hallucinations of opiate withdrawal were all increased a thousand-fold and Burroughs almost died of shock and exhaustion.

Another time he tried the method known as “prolonged sleep,” in which the doctor keeps the patient unconscious with barbiturates for the first 5 days (the worst days) of withdrawal. The theory sounds good: You go to sleep and wake up cured. Burroughs woke up in hell-the most painful of all his withdrawals. He is convinced that his acute pain on that occasion was the result of barbiturate withdrawal superimposed on top of opiate withdrawal. (Barbiturate ad­dicts suffer even worse on withdrawal than opiate addicts. Sometimes they die.) Two weeks later he was still too weak to walk. He relapsed almost immediately after release.

*     *     *

In 1957, after 15 years, Burroughs found himself at the end of the junk line, in a state of ter­minal addiction. He had one room in the Native Quarter of Tangier. He had not taken a bath in a year, or cleaned or dusted his room,. Garbage was piled to the ceiling; light and water had been turned off for nonpayment. “If a friend came to visit,” he wrote later of this period, “– and they rarely did since who or what was left to visit? – I sat there not caring that he had entered my field of vision – a gray screen always blanker and fainter – and not caring when he walked out of it.” And yet, somehow, by some miracle of sheer character, William Burroughs got up, got out of that room, flew to London for one last attempt at withdrawal, and freed himself finally of the curse visited upon him 15 years earlier. In 8 years, he has not relapsed.

The miracle was accomplished with the aid of a remarkable physician, Dr. John Yer­bury Dent, and a new compound called apomor­phine. Apomorphine is made by boiling mor­phine with hydrochloric acid and it allegedly acts on the back brain to regulate the metabo­lism. “I can state definitely,” Burroughs has written in the British Journal of Addiction, “that I was never metabolically cured until I took theapomorphine cure.” Over the years be­fore Dr. Dent died, Burroughs sent numerous other addicts to him, with, reportedly, equally favorable results. But the American medical profession still maintains an uninterestin the whole subject. “They are afraid of apomorphine here,” Burroughs says. “It’s a semantic hang-up: The association with morphine scares them.” Burroughs is convinced that apomorphine is the best tool’ yet invented to handle all forms of anxiety and addiction, and is tirelessly propa­gandizing for further research to be done with it. One psychiatrist in New York has been per­suaded by Burroughs to try it on alcoholics and reports good results; the Federal hospital for narcotic addicts at Lexington still remains coldly indifferent.

“Apomorphine,” Burroughs says, “restores the natural self-regulation of the organism. It can be used, and should be used, for all the cases where tranquilizers are now used. A tranquilizer just hits you on the head and numbs you. Apo­morphine undercuts anxiety by restoring the natural metabolism.” He is particularly incensed that the ever-increasing number of opiate addicts in America do not have this method of treatment available.

According to government statistics, 90% of all those ever treated for opiate addiction in Federal hospitals relapse soon after their release. Other studies, such as Berger’s Dealing with Drug Addiction,argue that the actual relapse rate is more than 95 % . Barney Ross, the former boxer, has told of addicts he met at Lexington who had been through 30 to 40 “cures”; Dan Wakefield’s The Addict says that many, many more have been through more than 50 “cures” without redemption.

William Burroughs’ escape from this Inferno’ would be an epic of human endurance if he merely spent his remaining days sitting on park benches feeding pigeons. Instead, he has gone on to create a literature of cosmic fantasy unique in history. And if his books are full of the horror of being human, he has lived that horror and has the right to record it.

*     *     *

Getting the first of his books, Naked Lunch, into print was a saga almost as Herculean as kicking the junk habit. Over 40 publishers refused it because of its breath-taking sexual excesses. Finally, in 1959,the Chicago Review, a literary magazine sponsored by the University of Chicago, agreed to publish’ several episodes from Naked Lunch. Before the magazine went to press, however, university officials, seeing the galleys, reneged. The editors of the Chicago Review thereupon resigned and started a new magazine, Big Table, just to get Burroughs into print. The response was immediate, at least among other writers. Norman Mailer described Burroughs as a “genius” without waiting to see the rest of the book, and others were equally enthusiastic. The Evergreen Review immedi­ately began publishing further excerpts from Burroughs in almost every issue. The Olympia Press, in Paris, which had already rejected Naked Lunch, asked to see the manuscript again, and decided to publish it. Grove Press brought out an American edition shortly there­after. Everything Burroughs has written since then has been published immediately.

William Burroughs, after 15 years abroad – mostly in Tangier, Paris, and London – is now back in New York City, renting a loft on Centre Street. It is an austere, naked-looking room, with a refrigerator in one corner, a few comfortable chairs for guests, no carpet or, drapes, a typewriter, a tape recorder, and shelves full of neatly stacked manuscript pages arranged in some precise but recondite system comprehensible only to Burroughs himself. It is a room for serious work by a serious man. Bur­roughs shows you to a chair with a courtesy that was commonplace when he was young but has now almost vanished. He makes tea for you, following a complicated brewing and steeping system to ensure the perfect flavor. After an hour or so of conversation, he serves two mar­tinis. He answers all questions patiently and politely, in a Harvard voice with just a tinge of the St. Louis of his boyhood still in it. When you ask how he found this place, Burroughs says, grinning, “I was helped by Finkelstein the Loft King” (you can see the capital letters, just the way he would write it in one of his books) “also known as the Artist’s Friend. He knows where every empty loft in Manhattan is at any time.”

Burroughs has just finished writing and helping to direct a movie called Towers Open Fire and is now working on a book, Right Where You Are Sitting Now, combining his own words with news photos, advertisements, comic strips, and other Americana “that seem to go together.” He shows you some pages and explains, “That photo there-that’s a Vietnamese being beaten up by American soldiers. He wanted them to go home and leave his country alone. I took it out of the issue of Time which had an flttack on my Nova Express in it.” Under this photo Burroughs has placed a line from Nova Express: “Now I’ll By God show you how ugly the Ugly American can be.”

At 51, Burroughs looks, and talks, very much like the Harvard anthropologist he once almost became. Although his books’ are written in a style compounded of dozens of special (and vulgar) argots-underworld slang, homosexual slang, hipster slang, addict slang, and medical-school slang, among others-Burroughs in per­son can talk for 3 hours without ever using col­loquialism or obscenity. In his years as a heroin addict he became so thin that the street boys in Tangier where he lived for 12 years called him “BI Hombre Invisible”; today, he is a well-built, robustly healthy man whose glasses and precise speech suggest” that he is a theoretician engaged in some arcane branch of mathematics or math­ematical physics. He talks about the exploding star in the Crab Nebula which went nova in A.D. 1069 and was observed by Chinese astronomers; he is very intense and wishes to be sure that you understand the importance of this in the structure of Nova Express.

Nowadays Burroughs is not the lonely per­son he once was, having a son who is a folk singer as well as a coterie of admirers who are always inviting him to speak before Greenwich Village gatherings. Recently he even played a role in a movie, and he has just been offered another role, and this new career may yet win him away from writing altogether. “Acting gives me more of a charge than writing,” he told’ me. “I’d like to play gangster roles.”

Like Arthur Koestler, Colin Wilson, and the theologian-scientist ‘Teilhard de Chardin, Burroughs is convinced that only a “mutation in consciousness” can save Mankind from nuclear destruction (a catastrophe he thinks will occur “just as soon as the U.S. and Russia sign a mutual nonaggression pact. When you read about that, run for the South Pole. The bombs will start dropping on China before, the ink is dry”). Burroughs believes that his whole 1ife has been an attempt on his part to experience, and to transmit to others, his own “mutation in consciousness.”

I myself have no doubt that Burroughs through his journeys into and out of the hell of addictive drugs and the “artificial paradise” (as Baudelaire called it) of the hallucinatory drugs – has experienced some sort of expansion of consciousness. After all, he has experimented with not only heroin and marijuana, but with hashish, psylocybin, yage, Pakistan berries, LSD-25, mescaline, and the fantastically potent N-demethyltrytamine – No One goes to Bur­roughs expecting to find a tormented and warped genius like de Sade; one finds instead a gentle-man in the old meaning of that term, a courteous, scholarly person with the serenity of the Chinese sages of legend. As he himself puts it, “Any drug that increases your awareness increases your insight into other people. I think that what prevents people from seeing other people’s minds is that they’re so preoccupied with their own minds, with their own petty problems. If you learn to shut your own mind off, you’ll get a pretty good idea of what’s in other people’s minds.”

Yet this man whose own life has been per­meated by drugs, whose entire philosophy has been inspired by drugs, and whose literary suc­cess itself can be tied to his drug-taking, is no emphatic in his rejection of all of them, includ­ing the consciousness-expanding drugs. “They do lead to new, nonverbal insights;” he says, “but you very soon reach a point of diminishing re­turns. And they are dangerous. I have seen people go through anxiety states which could have led to suicide if they had not been re­strained.”

William Burroughs, always unpredictable, has a new message: “Learn to make it without any chemical corn.”

 

Don’t Go Away, Mad

“Don’t Go Away, Mad
By Robert Anton Wilson

from Ralph Ginzburg’s fact:
 Nov-Dec 1965
Volume 2, Issue 6

 

Though the John Birch Society is fighting Mad, and even Mad Aye’s just aching to get Mad, the Madmen remain as uninhibited – nay, as madcap as ever. Reason: the millions of Madolescents who, are confirmed Maddicts have lots and lots of Mad money

Up to now, the Radical Right has been pretty lucky. True, it has antagonized a lot of librar­ians, psychiatrists, and P.T.A. members, but these groups have always been, as enemies go, rather meek and ineffectual. But now the Right Wing’s luck has run all the way out. For it has gone and picked on Mad Magazine, and now it is no longer messing with amateurs and softies but with the most savage and artful assassins in America today. The Right Wing has gone from fighting Girl Scouts to tangling with hell-for-leather Marines.

It took an unusual amount of valor com­bined with an extraordinary lack of discretion to attack Mad, and, logically enough, the men re­sponsible were both retired Army generals. First, a brigadier general denounced Mad on a TV show down South, calling the magazine “the most insidious Communist propaganda in Amer­ica today.” His wrath was inspired by Mad’s having published a hipster version of the Gettys­burg Address (“Fourscore and like seven years ago. . .”). Next, Maj. Gen. Edwin A. Walker hurled down his gauntlet by publicly announc­ing his little list of pet peeves – and la, Mad Magazine led even Harvard University.

The Madmen nursed their wounds, bided their time, and then – in their July, 1965, issue – struck back. “The magazine’s inside back cover depicted a Right Wing rally on the steps of the Statue of Liberty. The reader was asked to fold the page according to instructions supplied at the top – and then the picture changed and the rally’s leader was shown running a sword through Miss Liberty’s heart. Two months later, in its September issue, Mad portrayed a day in the life of a John Birch Society policeman, in­cluding his attendance at a Birch Society meet­ing to hear a lecture on “Better Policemen for a Better Police State.” Obviously, these attacks have been just warm-ups; more is to come.

Hoping to stimulate the feud a bit more, Fact sent a. copy of the Mad article to Robert Welch, dictator of the Birch Society, and asked for his comments. Alas, Mr. Welch is wisely hightailing it for the hills. Wrote Mrs. Mary F. White, Welch’s assistant: “We feel that it would be much better to ignore both the ‘article’ and its source.”

By running away after attacking Mad, Mr. Welch was doing a typically Right thing and an untypically right thing. After all, others who have fought with Mad in the past have lost abys­mally. Ten years ago, for example, Time Mag­azine, with its usual uncanny accuracy, called Mad “a “‘short-lived satirical pulp.” Mad waited a few years, then ran a devastating satire on monopoly newspapers, including one mock story, that read “as follows:

DAILY MONOPOLY WINS COVETED “HENRY R. LUCE AWARD”

FOR EXCELLENCE IN NEWS REPORTING 

New York, Feb. 13-Henry R. Luce, Editor-in-Chief of LIFE and TIME Magazines, presented The Daily Monopoly with his annual award for “Excellent News Reporting” today.

“Of all the newspapers considered,” said Luce, “The Daily Monopoly most closely follows the long-estab­lished journalistic traditions of LIFE and TIME in not allowing such mundane and unimportant things as facts to stand in the way of the personal feelings and prejudice of its publisher and editor in the presentation of straight news.”

Nor is being in the firing lines anything new for Mad. Once it urged its readers to sub­scribe to the “Crime-of-the-Month Club” by writing to “Mafia, Italy.” This prompted a stern rebuke from a postal inspector – the Italian Government had protested to the State Depart­ment, which asked the New York Post Office to investigate.

Another time, Mad ran an article on games, including a section on “How to Become a Draft Dodger.” It recommended its readers, in order to get their official Draft Dodger card, to write to J. Edgar Hoover. Not long after, an FBI man paid a formal-visit to the Madhouse on New York’s Lexington Avenue to warn the staff that Hoover was decidedly not amused.

 *     *     *

Despite its penchant for trouble and its passel of enemies, Mad is thriving as no other Ameri­can satire magazine ever has. It boasts a circula­tion of 1,900,000, which includes 43% of the nation’s high-school students and 58 % of the nation’s college students, as well as adults like Herbert Gold, Jack Kerouac, and Orson Bean, in addition to virtually every cartoonist and humorist in the country. Maddicts adore their magazine as much as Cassius Clay adores Cas­sius Clay. They send the editor 1500 letters every week, and a few readers have collected every single copy since Vol. 1, No.1, 13 years ago. At the 1960 Republican National Conven­tion, Mad fans even squirmed past guards to wave an ALFRED E. NEUMAN FOR PRESIDENT sign in the middle of a Goldwater demonstra­tion. Neuman, an imbecilic child with buck teeth and a fatuous grin, is Mad’s mascot, like Playboy’s bunny. In fact, china busts of Neuman sell in the millions, and his motto – “What-me worry?” – has become so famous it may soon appear in Bartlett’s. Mad’s camp followers also purchase Swedish, Danish, and British editions, three “annual” reprint editions every year bear­ing such titles as The Worst of Mad, More Trash from Mad, and Son of Mad,plus paperback re­prints and hard-cover rereprints. Like all ingroups, Mad readers have their own language, which consists of nonsensical words like “pot­rzebie,” “furd,” “veeblefetzer,” “axolotl,” and “eccch.” One fan has published a cross-index to the magazine, The Complete Mad Checklist. A few other fans have gone so far as to print entire magazines devoted to Mad, one of which, en­titled Hoo-hah, publishes articles like “What is Potrzebie?” (Answer: a Polish word for aspi­rin.) ,

Mad has even given birth to a classicist cult, just as film and jazz have. Where your film classicist dotes on the early Griffith and Eisen­stein and deplores the decline of the art since sound was introduced, and your jazz enthusiast puts down every innovation in the blues since 1928, the Mad classicist claims that the first 3 years (1952-55) were the best, and that Mad has been going down ever since. When asked about this cult, Mad editor Albert Feldstein replies tersely, “Nuts to them. No further com­ment.”

This is a sore point with the 39-year-old Feldstein, since Mad had a different editor in those years, one Harvey Kurtzman, who left after a dispute with Mad publisher William M. Gaines. Feldstein prefers not to discuss the Kurtzman cult, but Gaines will discuss it eagerly and at great length, pointing out that Kurtzman has started three magazines since he left Mad. One of them was called Trump, and in this venture Kurtzman had the solid backing of Playboy’s Hugh Hefner, trying to duplicate his success in swiping the Esquire formula. Trump, along with Kurtzman’s two other imitations, failed, and now he and artist Will Elder are doing a comic strip, “Little Annie Fanny,” for Playboy.

To get his side of it, I telephoned Kurtz­ man in Mt. Vernon, New York. “I’ll admit,” he told me, “that Feldstein has a successful formula -he touches the mass market more than I did. However, Al Feldstein did an imitation of Mad when it first came out, called Panic, and it failed. Mad has cornered the market. It had a running head-start and a lot of money to work with.” Kurtzman also mentioned being miffed because the early annual Mad collections don’t have his name on them. “I really got them together my­self and laid them out and made the covers, and they all had my name on them. After I left, my name was carefully deleted in the collections. A kind of dirty pool.”

*     *     *

The reason for Mad’s maddening success might astonish its readers. Writer Richard Gehman hinted at it when he said, “The main reason for Mad’s popularity is its thumb-nosing attitude.” George Lea, a Chicago writer, says “Mad puts everybody and everything on.” Al Feldstein, Mad’s editor, is closest when he says, “People enjoy satire because in laughing they get rid of some pent-up hostility.”

The most penetrating analysis ever made of Mad was a study by psychologist Charles Winick, writing in the Merrill-Palmer-Quarterly at Behavior and Development in July, 1962. Ac­cording to Dr. Winick, the very name – Mad­ suggests hostility. What Mad does is to let its teen-aged readers vent their antagonism toward adults and the world of adult_ in an acceptable way.

The magazine, says Dr. Winick, “largely mocks the adult world. This is a world in which the magazine’s readers have not yet engaged di­rectly, but which they are approaching during a period when they are trying to learn who they are and what their feelings’ are. By enjoying satire on this adult world, they can approach it while mocking it.”

Dr. Winick goes on: “A major problem of adolescents is how to express their hostility while seeming not to do so. One noted expression of this conflict was ‘Hound Dog. . . .’ This rock-and-roll record sold 5,500,000 copies, almost all to teen-agers. Its lyrics represent pure hostility. . . . Elvis Presley, the nonpareil exemplar of the rock-and-roller’s hostility toward the adult world, is the first performer in history to make a long-playing record that sold over a million copies. Another example of adolescents’ ability to use media in this way is the extent to which they will seem to read all of a school-circulated magazine (i.e.,Reader’s Digest) which has both serious and humorous material, but will pay at­tention to the jokes and cartoons, and largely ignore serious material.”

Mad, in short, gives its young readers a socially acceptable outlet for releasing their ag­gressions against the frightening world that adults have built around them. Says Dr. Winick: “The adolescent readers of the magazine face the prospect of going out into the adult world, not with anxiety but with an opportunity for gratification through laughter, as they achieve symbolic mastery over the adult world by con­tinually assuring themselves that its institutions and personalities cannot be taken seriously.”

Among the adult institutions ridiculed again and again by Mad are movies, magazines and newspapers, television, and – especially advertising. Mad has satirized virtually every major advertising campaign of the past 13 years. It is Mad’s forte. Every time a new ciga­rette ad is launched, Mad will parody it – in­cluding a blunt reminder that cigarettes cause cancer. For example, in a parody of a famous Lucky Strike ad, Mad first ran a picture of a rough hombre smoking a Lucky, carrying a rifle, and being admired by two younger men. The line underneath: “Likely Strife separates the men from the boys. . . .” The next picture showed the same fellow, still carrying his rifle, but in a doctor’s office now-being told he has lung cancer. The line underneath: “. . . but not from the doctors.”

Every new liquor ad is also picked up by Mad-with a jolting suggestion that the cus­tomer will probably wind up with a case of the DTs. Old Crow whiskey has recently been run­ning stories of great moments in American his­tory that were connected with its booze. This drew from Mad a picture with these lines: “John Wilkes. Booth gets primed for the job with Old Croc. . . . American idiots, alcoholics and assas­sins have been getting up their nerve with Old Croc for 127 years.” When the American Medi­cal Association began its series of “Great Mo­ments in Medicine,” Mad struck back with a painting, on the same style as the A.M.A. ads, showing a “Great Moment” called “Presenting the Bill.” The unfortunate patient, just recov­ering from a heart attack, ‘is shown suffering another one as he finds out how much the doc­tor is charging him. And Life Savers ads were parodied in a dentist’s bill, with Life Savers in place of the zeroes, “Decayers” in place of “Life Savers,” and the terse motto, “The best friend your dentist ever had.”

The most brutal of Mad’s recent onslaughts was against Bayer aspirin. “Bayer needs fast relief!” shrilled this ad. “Disastrous rumors about all aspirins being alike is causing com­pany GREAT CONCERN. You can’t imagine how sick the Bayer people are about-this vicious rumor.” Off to one side is Bayer’s familiar cross­-section of the human body, with the stomach bearing a new motto: “What are you doing here for a headache, stupid?” Opposite this is the usual criss-crossed “Bayer” trademark with the caption, “Men who know medicine recommend aspirin. The trouble is, they never recommend Bayer by name-despite the billions of free samples we send them. . . because aspirin is as­pirin, darn it!” The usual panel of satisfied cus­tomers appears somewhat distorted: “I take Bayer because competition from other aspirins is giving me that anxious feeling of NAUSEA,” says a gent inconspicuously labeled as the presi­dent of the Bayer Aspirin Company. “I take Bayer because aggravation from my client is giving me that gut-ripping feeling of ULCERS!” enthuses the president of Fink Advertising Agency. But a simple housewife says bluntly, “I don’t take Bayer because I get plain just-as-­good aspirin much cheaper, which gives me a feeling of THRIFT.” She is holding up a bottle of “1000 aspirin $0.79.”

Mad’s ridicule of other American institu­tions is often quite as brilliant as its take-offs on advertisements. What it did to Reader’s Digest was a classic. Showing a mock cover of the magazine Reader’s Digress, it listed these typical articles: “We Are Losing Idaho and Montana to the Russians”; “What Your Dog Should Know About Sex”; “We Is Winning the Education Battle with the Reds”; “The Day They Shot Jim Bishop”; “The D.A.R.-A Communist Men­ace”; and, “My Twenty-Five Favorite Dirty Jokes, Passed Off by The Reader’s Digress as Wholesome American Folklore.”

One feature of Mad’s satire is only discov­ered when you wade through a few hundred issues and copy out excerpts for use in an article about Mad, as I have recently done. This dis­covery is that, without the charming illustra­tions by Mad’s artists, Mad’s words seem more blunt and considerably braver than they do in the company of the illustrations. The hostility becomes more naked, less jovial, when the illus­trations are missing. Mad’s appeal, obviously, is as a catharsis for those who feel they will go berserk if some form of counterattack against Mad Avenue’s calculated insults to our intelli­gence is not provided for them. The teen-agers apparently are the ones, not yet “adjusted” to our society, who need this form of counterag­gression most.

*     *     *

The men who run Mad are, not surprisingly, a little like rambunctious adolescents themselves. William M. Gaines, the 200-pound publisher, is a resolutely noncommercial individual who has nevertheless made a million dollars several times over in his 43 years. E.C. Publications, the firm that publishes Mad, has always been more of a joke than a business to him. He calls an editorial conference by honking a Harpo Marx horn, and clears the air (when a conference develops disagreements) by firing a blank car­tridge from an old Western pistol. He has never installed an inter-com system: When he wants to speak to the editor, he bellows, “Hey, Al!” When the editor wants to speak to Gaines, he bellows, “Hey, Bill!” The offices are decorated with signs bearing such inspiring mottoes as “GOD BLESS OUR FALLOUT SHELTER, “DOWN WITH GOOD TASTE,” and –largest of all – BILL GAINES IS A RAT FINK.”

Typical of Bill Gaines’s way of running a business is a whim that struck him in 1960, when he discovered that Mad’s only subscriber in Haiti had not renewed for 1961. Gaines im­mediately did what seemed logical to him. He chartered a plane and flew the entire 9-man staff of Mad to Haiti, where they sought out the recalcitrant subscriber and knelt on the ground before him, begging him to renew. When the subscriber continued to play hard to get, Gaines presented him with an honorary gift subscription for life, gave the staff a week at a Haitian hotel at his own expense, and flew back to New York.

Again like an adolescent, Gaines loves practical jokes. For 4 years he had Mad’s office boy convinced that he had a criminal twin brother, “Rex” Gaines. frequently Bill would leave the office early, then the villainous “Rex” would lurch in, ask the terrified office boy some incomprehensible and sinister questions, snatch a few dollars from the petty-cash box, and dis­appear. Filially tiring of this game, Bill told t4e office boy that “Rex” had departed on a world cruise, and never brought him back.

*     *    *

Gaines got into the satire business more or less by accident. Educated at New York University, he was preparing for a career as a chemistry teacher when his father was killed in an auto­mobile crash and he inherited E.C. Publications, then a fumbling little company putting out such comics as Picture Stories from History and Pic­ture Stories from the Bible. Parents approved of these comics, but children found them dull and traded 10 of them for one Batman. Gaines, a fan of horror magazines and old horror movies, introduced two new B.C. comics, Vault of Hor­ror and Tales of the Crypt. (Some of the most gruesome stories were written by Gaines him­self, in collaboration with Al Feldstein, who now edits Mad.) Kids went for these comics in a big way, and even some adults began reading them and sending Gaines fan letters; for a while it looked as if E.C. Publications was on its way to a big success in the horror field. Then the roof fell in.

Dr. Fredric Wertham, a New York psychi­atrist, wrote a book, Seduction of the Innocent, charging that crime and horror comics were a major cause of juvenile delinquency, and his worst examples were drawn from Vault of Hor­ror and Tales of the Crypt. Mothers’ groups and P.T.A.s around the country began passing reso­lutions condemning Gaines; local censorship drove his books out of the candy stores in many places; and, finally, the late Sen. Estes Kefauver summoned Gaines to appear before his Congres­sional Committee in 1952. Both Kefauver and the nation’s press portrayed Gaines as a callous monster, seducing children into sadistic prac­tices and lining his pockets with the profits of crime. ”

Bill Gaines was almost crushed by this experience. He believed-and still believes that his horror books were genuine literature in the tradition of Poe, Hoffmann, and Lovecraft. Confronted by Kefauver’s moral indignation, Gaines mumbled and shambled nervously and behaved exactly like the guilty wretch Dr. Wer­tham had accused him of being. When the ordeal was over, Gaines came back to New York, stopped publication of his horror comics, and concentrated his energies on the new comic, Tales Calculated To Drive You Mad, which he had just launched as a parody of his horror books.

The first issue of Tales Calculated To Drive You Mad consisted, of a parody of one of Gaines’s horror comics, a parody of one of his science-fiction comics, a parody of one of his competitors’ crime comics, and a parody of a Western movie (“Varmint”). Tales Calculated To Drive You Mad succeeded so well that, by 1955, it was outselling the combined total of all the horror comics before they were abandoned. Gaines then shortened the title to Mad, con­verted to slick paper and an adult format, and raised the price from 101 to 251 (it’s 301 now). The rest is history.

Despite his success with Mad, Gaines is anything but ambitious. He loves to tell the story of a brief conversation he once had with Hugh Hefner. Hefner asked him, “What new projects are you starting?'” Gaines replied firmly, “None.” Hefner gasped in horror, “None?” “It was like blasphemy,” Gaines chuckles, as he tells the story. “Nothing could have shocked Hefner, I’m sure, any more than that.”

Yet Gaines does retain a pained nostalgia for the old Vault of Horror days. So do many of his old readers. Recently the publisher showed me a letter from a man, a Ph.D. in the physics department of a leading university, who confessed being a Vault of Horror fan and begged Gaines to revive that magazine. “I get two or three letters like that every month,” said Gaines proudly. But when I asked him if he might bring back Vault of Horror, his lips pressed together determinedly and he said, “Never.”

Former editor Harvey Kurtzman, who ad­mits “I see red when I talk about Mad,” none­theless has many kind words to say about Gaines. “I think Bill is an intelligent man. There was always a straightness and an honesty that impressed me about Gaines. I never knew him to sell out. He has integrity.”

On the other hand, Kurtzman left Mad be­cause he couldn’t take what he calls Gaines’s paternalism. “I was just being strangled under his paternalism. He holds his people very tightly and jealously, and he treats them like little chil­dren. You have the feeling that you just don’t have any rights. Instead of just handing you a bonus at Christmas time, he’d buy us-oh, one guy would get an outboard motor, another guy. . . I remember once I got a very expensive camera-projector set. Well, the point was, if I did good work, I wanted cash for it, cash 1 could spend for myself.”

Another former Madman, artist Will Elder, says of Gaines: “I felt Bill had to be the nucleus of activity, or else he was quite cold. And I think he kind of did all the thinking for us. 1 knew a lot of us resented that.”

Finally, editor Feldstein has this to say about his boss: “Mr. Gaines is a unique pub­lisher. He’s honest. He’s not money-mad-re­gardless of what some people say. And Bill gives me complete editorial freedom, except for working in an advisory capacity, where he might feel 1 was going overboard with a legal prob­lem. He has refused to merchandise this maga­zine, and he has not opened the pages for ads. Yes, we have been approached for ads-by the Coca-Cola people. We turned them down.”

*     *    *

Mad is certainly to be praised for its honesty, for instilling a healthy attitude of skepticism in America’s adolescents, and for being an hilari­ously funny magazine. But it does have its faults. What most readers object to, however, is star­tling: Alfred E. Neuman, Mad’s mascot.

Gaines is so fond of Neuman that he has turned down thousands of offers from compa­nies that want to make Alfred E. Neuman wrist watches, calendars, etc. Once Gaines let an Alfred E. Neuman T-shirt be marketed, but soon had qualms and withdrew it from the mar­ket. “I can’t commercialize Alfred,” he said. (The picture itself may have originated in a noncopyrighted ad for an Ohio State Fair in 1892. As for the name, Alfred E. Neuman was a mad scientist in one of the horror stories Gaines and Feldman wrote for Tales from the Crypt.)

According to Dr. Winick, who conducted a poll of 411 regular readers of Mad, one-half of those who expressed any dissatisfaction with the magazine did so because of Neuman. Their ex­planations were that he “runs too often,” “looks too dopey,” and so on. (Curiously, most of the students who liked Neuman were doing poorly in school. Says Dr. Winick: “It can be specu­lated that the less successful students are more likely to identify with Neuman because he conveys a feeling of failure, defeat, defensiveness, and uninvolvement. His non-worry slogan has a ‘let the world collapse, 1 don’t care’ qual­ity, and his appearance suggests stupidity. . . . The less effective adolescent might like Mad because of Neuman, who represents fecklessness and nonachievement.”)

The ubiquity of Alfred E. Neuman, though a minor matter, is one thing definitely wrong with Mad. Richard Gehman complains of the magazine’s occasional monotony. Then there are the stories that are just plain silly-like the loathe some Spy vs. Spy feature. And then there is the complaint that virtually everyone hurls at any magazine at one time or another: that it’s edited by formula. As artist Will Elder says, “1 thinkMad has found a formula, and it’s happy with it. It’s the same old cookie they keep stamping out. Occasionally they come out with something real good, but its not enough. And I think their formula is running the mag­azine downhill-because nothing new is done, nothing experimental is done.”

The most current criticism of Mad, how­ever, is not that it’s edited by formula, but that it sedulously avoids important social issues. In other words, that even Mad has a few sacred cows.

Esquire Magazine was among the first to assert this, last year, in a weak parody of Mad. “Hey, gang!” wrote Esquire. “Have you ever noticed how we are the leading magazine of satire and act brave about daring to poke fun at all kinds of sacred cows, but mainly we never criticize anything that really matters:?” Some topics Esquire suggested: integration, capital punishment, poverty, and fall-out.

As usual, though, Esquire was a few years behind the times. Mad used to avoid important issues; but no longer. If. any thing, Mad seems to be turning into an illustrated version of the Nation. .

In the last few years Mad has dealt with capital punishment, poverty, labor-management relations, problems of Latin America, – nuclear war, and-as the attack on the John Birch Soci­ety shows-with politics. The funny thing is, these articles usually haven’t been funny. As one reader, Rick Wood of Memphis, Tennessee, wrote to Mad recently, “In the old days, Mad Magazine aimed its satire at such allied indus­tries as comic books and advertising. Today, the admitted clods at Mad aim their barbed shafts at government, art, politics, and anyone else unfortunate enough to stand in their way. Today, thru progress,Mad is sharply satiric, bitter, pointed, and fraught with meaning. Once upon a time, Mad was funny!” ­

The fact is, this is probably the most seri­ous criticism to be made of Mad-it’s getting a little bit too serious, too social-minded, and in that direction lies disaster. For most of Mad’s readers are simply not interested in interna­tional affairs and in major social problems. In his survey, Dr. Winick found that “Respondents expressed no interest in seeing problems of ado­lescence like parents, vocational choice, or sex treated by the magazine. Its readers seem to prefer that matters close to them not be satir­ized, with the exception of movies and educa­tion, which are both relatively external institu­tions. . . . Adolescents may have difficulty in perceiving comic elements in situations in which they themselves are involved.”

*     *    *

But if Mad does keep on its present road and does begin losing circulation, and if Bill Gaines suddenly decides to take a whack at the old hor­ror comics again, there would be at least one benefit. For it has been rumored that at typical Mad story conferences, the entire staff tries to outdo one another in telling sexy and scabrous stories, none of which, of course, ever appears in the magazine. “We have,” boasts editor Feld­stein, “the greatest collection of unprintable ma­terial in the world. Compared to us, the Kinsey Institute is just a library for kindergartners. And we’re going to publish all of it-in our last issue.”

That last issue will certainly be something to see. I only hope that, long before it arrives, Mad has gotten around to giving the John Birch Society the coup de grace.


The Religion of Kerista and Its 69 Positions

“The Religion of Kerista
and Its 69 Positions”
By Robert Anton Wilson

from Ralph Ginzburg’s fact:
 July-Aug 1965
Volume 2, Issue 4

Beatniks, swingers, and hippies all over the world are banding together to create a society where anything – but anything – goes

Eight years ago, an ex-Air Force officer named John Presmont was sitting in his room on East 31st Street in New York City when a voice spoke to him and told him he would be the founder of the next great world religion. Presmont, after leaving the Air Force with an honor-able discharge, had become, by the age of 38, what nice people call a “bohemian” or beatnik.” At the time the Voice spoke to him, he had been reading the Koran and smoking marijuana rather heavily for 6 weeks. For several months before that, he had been laboriously plowing through all the scriptures of the great religions-Hindu, Confucian, Buddhist, Taoist, and so forth. Earlier still, he had chewed and digested a great deal of modern psychology and sociology. Like most of us, he was concerned with the growing horror of this age and, like a few of us, he had felt this concern grow within him until it overmastered and all but obliterated all his other interests. Nonetheless, he was abashed by the Voice.

“Why does it have to be me?” he cried.

BECAUSE YOURE SO GULLIBLE, the Voice answered solemnly.

“But what should I do?” Presmont continued to object. “I don’t know anything about founding a religion.”

PEOPLE WILL COME TO GIVE YOU STRENGTH,” said the Voice unperturbed.

THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT THIS THING FROM HAPPENING. HAVE A BALL, ENJOY YOURSELF TO THE UTMOST. FIND THE MOUNTAIN BESIDE THE SEA. THE PIED PIPER WILL PULL OUT THE SWINGING PEOPLE.

Today, a chubby and cherubic 44, John Presmont has become Jud the Prophet to a few thousand followers scattered in such odd places as London, Berlin, Tangier, New York City, San Francisco, and Passaic, New Jersey. For the first 5 years, his religion was called our thing” by its adherents because the Voice had said that THERE IS NOTHING YOU CAN DO TO PREVENT THIS THING FROM HAPPENING. Three years ago, however, the word got out that the Mafia is called “our thing” (cosa nostra) by its members, and Jud soon had another vision, seeing a colony of Buddhas (Enlightened ones) living on an island with a huge mountain by the sea, and it was revealed to him that the island would be called Kerista (derivation unknown). His followers now call themselves Keristans, and the religion is called Kerista.

The rule of the religion of Kerista is the rule of Rabelais’s abbey of Theleme: Do What You Will. Kerista is a religion of joy and freedom, a religion without dogma or restriction, and a religion of ecstasy, for the Voice had told Jud the Prophet, HAVE A BALL, ENJOY YOURSELF TO THE UTMOST. The Keristansuninhibitedly follow this injunction, and Kerista is, therefore, utterly unlike the dominant forms of religion .in Judaeo-Christian cultures. The New York police have been harassing the New York Keristans for quite a while, and on Oc­tober 16, 1964, they arrested Jud the Prophet and 1I. others for possession of marijuana. The police, obviously, don’t believe that anybody who is having a ball is really religious. Jud the Prophet, like Jesus and Mohammed before him, will have to endure the persecution of the infidels.

 *     *     *

A few weeks ago, I journeyed down to the eastern part of Greenwich Village – where the bohemians now hang out – to meet nine members of Kerista and learn about the essence of their faith. Do you know the East Village? You can walk for 10 blocks and never see a building that doesn’t look as if it should have been condemned during the reign of Warren Gamaliel Harding. Puerto Rican kids, sleepy from marijuana, lounge in windows watching you with insect eyes of indifference or brush past you angrily on the sidewalk and the mes­sage Screw white America comes off them like garlic from an Italian kitchen. Negroes loiter about with no more hope of the future or despair for the present than a rock has. The smell of poverty comes back to you, and if you haven’t smelled it in 20 years you still recognize it – it is a blend of cooking that is too spicy (to hide the fact that the food is too little) and the reek of the dying bodies of old men who have known despair for too many years and the odor from the always-slightly-plugged-up hall toilets – and you see teams of cops pacing nervously around and they look at you with mean cop eyes won­dering if you’ve got $100,000 worth of Heroin in your attaché case and what you are doing here in your uptown clothes anyway. Yes, this is a good place for a religion to be born; in such squat hutches Peter and Paul and Matthew must have preached.

My appointment was with a 24-year-old C.C.N.Y. graduate who called himself Dau. When I found his apartment, a good-looking brunette who said her name was Tre let me in and said Dau would be back shortly. (Most of the Keristans eventually take these new names, which, like the Black Muslim “X” or the Catholic confirmation-name, symbolize a new identity.) The apartment consisted of just two rooms. A monument-sized American flag acted as a room divider-, another American flag hung over the window in lieu of curtains. There were no lights.

Dau suddenly charged in behind me, a hyperactive boy with a short, neat beard, and announced that the “vibrations” were better in the “nursery,” so we would conduct the in­terview there. We tramped down the stairs into the building next door and went to another apartment where seven other members of Kerista were waiting.

“I’m E.Z.,” said a giant of a man who re-minded me vaguely of the illustrations to Paul Bunyan stories. He was wearing trousers, but nothing above the waist and no shoes or socks. His thick black hair hadn’t been inside a barbershop for at least a year and his curly black beard was as wild as Rex Barney’s pitching the season the Dodgers retired him. Three naked babies, all less than a year old, were playing on the floor. (The Keristans share everything, including the care of babies.) A blonde young lady wearing nothing but a pair of black panties came out of the kitchen, nodded at me, and went into another room, from which she soon emerged in a bathrobe and joined the discussion.

“You see?” Dau said. “Aren’t the ‘Vibra­tions better here?” Everybody agreed that the vibrations were better.

I asked if Jud was present, and it turned out that he wasn’t. “But I wanted to speak to the leader,” I complained. A 22-year-old boy named Good quickly explained, “No, no, man, you don’t get it. Kerista has no leader. Jud is the prophet. Kerista doesn’t need leaders, or teachings, or theories, or stipulations, or restric­tions. Kerista is freedom.”

“Kerista is freedom and love,” E.Z. corrected.

What I had heard around town was that Keristans were all bisexual, promiscuous, and 99% of the time zonked out of their skulls on marijuana, peyote, LSD-25, or some other psychedelic drug. As delicately as I could, I in­quired about this aspect of their freedom.

“Well, first of all,” Good said, “we’re not trying to enforce anything on anybody. That goes against freedom, and freedom is our first law. People can keep any hang-up they’ve got, as long as they want to keep it. Of course, if they want to get over their hang-ups, we’ll help them. But we don’t pressure anybody to try anything that they’re still square about. We have one member who’s still a virgin.”

It developed that this apartment – which belonged to E.Z. and Marquel, the blonde girl who greeted me in her panties – was the “nursery” only today. The three babies belong to all of this Kerista cell, and whichever apartment they are in for a day is the “nursery” for that day. All in all, there are 10 such apartments in the EastVillage now.

The interview proceeded:

Q: Well, what happened after Jud heard the Voice?

A: [By Good] Nothing. He had to wait for the people to come, like the Voice said. One by one, over the years, we’ve found him.

Q: Do you take these odd names when you join Kerista?

A: [By Dau] Well, first you got to get in contact with your pure self, through Buddho, the art of no-defense. That means not defending the social self with all the usual hang-ups and bullshit. When you find the pure self, you take a new name.

Q: How do you get the new names?

A: [By Dau] From a Ouija board.

Q: I see. What is Buddho, the art of no-defense?

A: [By Dau] You get rid of bullshit.  You stop defending yourself. Dig? You don’t put up a front. You admit who you are. You don’t play-act, you don’t put people on.

Q: But how do you Learn Buddho?

A: [By Good] We teach it. You name the price, half-price for the first lesson. You start with conversation and learn how to stop de-fending yourself on that level. Then you move in and get rid of the more subtle defenses.

Q: Did Jud invent Buddho?

A: [By Tre, 23, female] Dau invented Buddho. It’s a contraction of Buddha and judo. We’ve all added something to Kerista. There’s no one truth.

Q: Now, about this voice that spoke to had. Do you believe it was the Voice of God?

A: [By E. Z.] If you want to call it that. You could call it Jung’s “collective uncon­scious” or the Zen “not-self” if you wanted. We’re not particular. The important thing is not theories. The important thing is living accord­ing to the pure self, not full of a lot of bullshit.

When you ask the Keristans about the “vibrations,” they are rather vague. “You know, man, the vibrations.” When you ask if they mean the hypothetical “orgoneenergy ocean” suggested by Freudian heretic Wilhelm Reich, they disagree. Some think Reich’s orgone energy is the vibrations, some doubt it. Reich and Freud, chiefly, they blame for the conservatism of modern psychiatry, and recently they sent out advertisements to all the psychiatrists, psy­choanalysts, and psychotherapists in New York City offering to help them. “Let us solve your problems,” the ad said. “We have none of our own. Learn Buddho, the art of no-defense. You name the price. First visit half-price.” There have been no takers.

The Keristans I interviewed come from a variety of backgrounds and it was hard to find a common denominator among them. E.Z. is 28 and grew up in the slums of the lower East Side, not far from where Kerista now flourishes. Although he was born of poor Russian immi­grants and didn’t finish junior high school, E.Z. acquired an education in the Air Force and worked for the Federal Aviation Agency after his discharge. “I was a good, middle-class square for 5 whole years,” he says of his period with the F.A.A. His salary finally reached $10,500 and he acquired a wife and a home in a fashion-able Long Island suburb. But all the time he was “reading, reading, reading” and brooding over the meaninglessness of his job and his life. One day, he says, “The bullshit got to be too much for me. I just said to myself, `This is no way for people to live.’ ” He quit his job, left his wife, and moved to the East Village and “became a beatnik,” in his own words. Two years later he met JohnPresmont and was con­vinced that Kerista was the proper way for peo­ple to live. “Our society is all warped and fucked-up,” he says.

Onn, a divorced 22-year-old with one child, was born in Alaska. Her parents were both teachers. Onn attended Northeastern University before making the EastVillage scene. She was converted to Kerista after her first LSD session with Keristans because “they looked so beau­tiful and everyone else looked so ugly.”

Fly, an intense, highly-charged girl, is also 22 and has a B.A. in philosophy from Brooklyn College. Before becoming involved with Kerista, she was a member of the Committee for Non-Violent Action, an uncompromising pacifist group that practices hard-core Gandhian civil disobedience and is always going to jail for it. Fly is convinced that Kerista will be “the next great world religion.” Self-consciously hip, Fly told me that she has sampled “pot, hashish, and Heroin,” quickly amending the last to “uh, I mean, junk.”

Dom, 21, a bearded giant, comes from a Ukrainian farm family in Pennsylvania, “real European peasants,” he says. He attended the University of Pennsylvania and later lived for a while in the Glen Gardner community in New Jersey, a religious (mostly Roman Catholic) anarchist group.

Good, 22, comes from a lower-class Hungarian-American family and summed up Kerista for me by quoting a line of poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti’s: “Everybody has his own hole to climb out of.” He has attended C.C.N.Y. and joined Kerista as soon as he heard of it. “Like as soon as it came along it was the thing to do,” he says.

Marquel is an attractive 29-year-old blonde who was born of a middle-class Irish-American family and attended Bennington. She worked as a researcher for a leading advertising firm for 3 years, then, in disgust, went on unemploy­ment “while I tried to find myself.” When un­employment ran out, she waited on tables and posed for artists. Later she went to Paris and lived on a houseboat on the Seine for a year. She has had two children, by natural childbirth, and has never married. Along with the standard psychedelic drugs, she also has tried belladonna, an unpleasant experience which she finds im­possible to talk about.

Tre comes from a middle-class German family in Pennsylvania and is 23. She attended Maryville College and now lives with Dau, who is 24. “The first time I was turned on LSD,” Tre told me, “I wanted to see Dau, so I picked up his vibrations and followed them. I went right into a park, following the vibrations, and there he was.”

 *     *     *

All of these Keristans were either born into the middle-class, or, like E.Z., achieved middle-class status through their own talents, and all have rejected it. They have turned their backs on the Affluent Society and now squat in the slums of the East Village convinced that they have liberated themselves from a living death. Their poverty does not bother them much, ex­cept to the extent that it handicaps them in fending off the police, who are taking an in-creasing, and unwelcome, interest inKerista.

All that is central to Kerista, as it was ex­plained to me, is Buddho, the art of no-defense; there are no regulations or stipulations. Buddho, it seems, is a technique, invented by Dau, for escape from other-directedness. It begins with watching yourself in ordinary conversation and observing how often you are “defending” against implicit (or projected) criticism from the other party. More advanced Buddho in­cludes the conquest of greed, sexual jealousy, and other “hang-ups.” “We’re trying to live ac-cording to the pure self, not full of bullshit,” E.Z. says. When asked how Kerista differs from the many other swinging, free-living people in the East Village, San Fran, and other pockets of bohemia, E.Z. answers, “No difference. Except we have purpose, direction, goals, and love.”

The economics of the Keristans, I learned, are as strange as their religion and their sexual practices. At present, in the East Village group, four are working, four are receiving compensation from the Department of Welfare, and 18 are living hand-to-mouth. In practice, the eight are supporting the 18-or, if you prefer, the four who are working and the State of New York are supporting the 18. (Whenever anyone is in danger of eviction, for example, the group raises the money for that month’s rent on that apartment.) What keeps this from being pure parasitism is that the ones who are working and the ones who are sponging are continually changing places, and that the ones not working are providing services for the entire group, such as baby-sitting or shopping or carrying clothes to a laundermat. When money gets especially short, a few members will return to their parents’ homes for a while. (The groups in Passaic and Paterson each have a high-salaried executive in them, and the group in Las Vegas are all said to be comfortable.) John Presmont’s Air Force pension guarantees that the New York group will always have an apartment on which the rent is paid up to date.

It was getting late, and Dom was eager to brew up some peyote tea, so I left, after making an appointment to meet Jud the Prophet.

 *     *     *

Two days later, I went up to the Radio City office of a man named Desmond Slattery to meet Jud the Prophet. I found Jud to be a large, amiable, bearlike man with a shock of white hair that made him look more elderly and patriarchal than his 44 years. I started by ask­ing him about the Kerista philosophy of sexual freedom. “We believe in love,” he said. “People shouldn’t be like balloons, ready to explode if they’re touched. We believe in total sharing, and that means sharing love and affection as well as property. In Kerista, the only standard of a sexual relationship is mutual consent, by the two or three or four or however many parties are involved. We only have one full-time homosexual member that I know of, but most of us are bisexual. People either dig that this is the natural, decent, loving way to be-have, or they don’t. I won’t give you a lot of details for pornographic readers to drool over.

Look,” Jud said, “my work is over, in a way. I had the vision and communicated it, and now I’m finished. It’s up to Des here to take the next step. You should really interview him. Des is the most important man right now, because the most important part of -Kerista right now is building an island colony, and that’s his territory.”

Desmond Slattery, a man of 50 with a short, gray beard that made him look like Walter Huston playing Satan in The Devil and Daniel Webster, took the ball immediately. “Get this clear,” he said. “I’m not religious. I abominate all religions, without exception. To me, Kerista is a social movement, and Jud knows how I feel.”

“I don’t care whether people call it a re­ligion or a social movement,” Jud said. “The important thing is that they act naturally and decently.”

Desmond Slattery began to explain the island colony to me. He had voluminous papers, maps, booklets, charts, and other paraphernalia to illustrate everything he said. A graduate in sociology from the University of Wichita, Slattery went into the jungles of British Honduras 5 years ago and created a new industry-the breeding of bees in a new environment and the extraction from them of a special honey obtain-able only from bees fed on jungle vegetation – and his success was written up enthusiastically in an article in Bee World, the beekeeper’s journal. Slattery sold the business as soon as he had proved it could be done, for profit-making is the least of his interests. He has been a merchant seaman, a pilot for Pan Am, an Air Force officer, a hobo, a movie actor, and a TV producer, but most of the time he has preferred agricultural work in such odd corners as Tahiti, Japan, and South America. His real love is ecology, the science of biological balances that reveals the interdependence of all living beings. “That’s my religion,” he says. “Ecology.” The Kerista island colony is to him a scientific experiment. “We’ll put Jud’s ideas to work in a natural environment and find out what they can do,” he says. All the laws relating to agricultural co-operatives in British possessions are before him on his desk, together with maps of several possible islands; you believe, suddenly, that he will do what he says he will. He may well be the Pied Piper who will pull out the Swinging People.

But a doubt remains. “How do you get the money to start?” I asked.

Slattery hauls out a piece of paper. “Here’s four plans,” he says. “I’m cooking up a few others if these all fall through.” He has set his goal at $50,000 and each plan seems like a fairly possible approach. One plan starts with 200 members, and another with 100 members. “If we can’t get all the bread we really need,” he says, “I go in with only 14 people, hire a few Indians, and start clearing the jungle with machetes.” He means it. He has done it before. “Of course,” he adds, and his eyes twinkle, “I’1I pick those 14 damned carefully.”

After the island is founded, Slattery plans to make it a tourist attraction for hipsters. “Kerista will become the hip San Juan,” he says enthusiastically. “We’ll keep our rates low, so people without a lot of bread can afford to come. There’ll be thousands every year. Instead of living in a hotel with a lot of rich squares for 3 days, they can be with other swingers for a whole month. Every hippie in the States will eventually come down to make the scene with us.” He is expecting to charge $120 for a year on the isle of Kerista, payable at $10 per month for the previous year. (Further details about the island colony can be found in Keristan Flyer, 25 cents from Box557, Radio City Station, New York.)

A friend of mine asked Jud, 4 years ago, why he founded Kerista, and Jud had answered, “I don’t want to work for a living.” I asked him about that, and he answered, “That’s right. When we get the colony going, nobody will work. When you’re doing what you want to do, it isn’t work; it’s play. One cat is raising rabbits, another is raising chickens, somebody’s growing vegetables, they’re all having a ball, is that work? Work is when you’re taking orders from somebody you hate.”

“How would you sum up Kerista?” I asked,

“Total sharing,” he said. “Getting rid of masochism and sadism, inferiority and superiority. Being yourself.

“Kerista is the essence of hip,” Jud went on. “There are millions of hipsters all over the world who have part of it. They’re looking for Kerista without knowing it. Norman Mailer said that hip was going to give birth to the next re­ligion. He was right and we’re it.”

When I had entered Slattery’s office, I had been introduced to a young Negro girl, Joy, who then proceeded to sleep through most of the interview. Just before I left, I. asked Jud if Keristans objected to monogamy-I was think­ing of the Oneida colony in 19th century New York which regarded monogamy as antisocial selfishness-and he said, “You still don’t understand. Kerista is freedom. People can have one partner, if that’s what they really want. I’m married to Joy. We were married 7 weeks ago.”

Joy, who is 19 and came up from Alabama a year ago, told me how she got into Kerista. “I was taking around a petition to ask the city; to keep Mobilization for Youth open, and I met Jud in a bar and asked him to sign. ‘Sure,’ he said, ‘I sign everything.’ Then he started telling me about Buddha, and I agreed to come to aKerista meeting. After I heard them all I said, `You people are crazy.’ But I thought it over. Two days later, I joined up.”

 *     *     *

About a week afterwards, at my invitation, Jud and Joy came out to spend a weekend with my family in our home high in the mountains of Sussex County, New Jersey. Unlike many hipsters we have had over, Jud and Joy were excellent guests, and my four children quickly fell in love with Joy. After the first meal, Jud insisted onwashing the dishes. Joy cooked the big meal on Sunday. Jud also forced us to let him pay for some of the food for the weekend.

In the relaxed atmosphere of my own living room, I probed Jud for some more information about the unconventional sexual practices of the Keristans. I soon learned, for one thing, that it is not at all unusual for two or three Keristans to be engaged in sexual hi-finks on a couch while several others carry on a conversa­tion in the next room. I then inquired about the problem of contraception.

“Most of the Keristan men detest condoms,” Jud said, “so it’s up to the girls to protect themselves. They use the usual things, dia­phragms and coils and pills.”

This is protection against unwanted births, but it seemed to leave the venereal-disease problem unchecked. I asked about the rumor that Kerista had suffered a gonorrhea epidemic a few months ago.

“Yeah,” he said morosely. “That was Dau’s fault. He went balling with outside chicks and brought back a beautiful case of the clap. It spread to nine of the downtown Keristans in a week. But then we caught it and everybody went down to the Public Health Service and had shots. It’s all cleared up now. On the island, we’ll take precautions and make visitors submit to a medical before mixing with the community.”

None of the unmarried Keristan girls has yet become pregnant through Keristan group-sex, Jud said. “At least,” he added, “not in the New York groups.” The three babies I had seen were all born before the mothers joined Kerista. Feeling the lack of a definitive summary of Kerista, Jud has been working on a kind of statement of principles. Since Moses had his 10 Commandments, Luther his 95 Theses, and the Anglo-Catholics their 39 Articles, Jud has decided to have 69 Positions. “This is just tentative, though,” he said. “You don’t have to agree with all of it to be a Keristan.” He has written 25 of the 69 Positions and showed them to me:

Legalize group marriage. Legalize indecent exposure. Legalize trial marriage. Legalize abortion. Legalize miscegenation. Legalize religious intermarriage. Legalize marijuana. Legalize narcotics. Legalize cunnilingus. Legalize transvestitism. Legalize pornography. Legalize obscene language. Legalize sexual intercourse. Legalize group sex. Legalize sodomy. Legalize fellatio. Legalize prostitution. Legalize incest. Legalize birth control. Legalize Lesbianism. Legalize polygamy. Legalize polyandry. Legalize polygyny. Legalize homosexuality. Legalize voluntary flagellation.

“You see,” he said, “it’s all common sense. Almost all intelligent people are Keristans al-ready, without knowing it.” He has a half-formed plan to amalgamateKerista with LEMAR (the League for Legalized Marijuana) and form a new political party with the 69 Positions as its platform. “We’ve still got a secret ballot,” he said, “and people who are afraid to stick their necks out in public could go into the voting booth and, for once, stand up for what they really believed. I bet we’d get a lot of votes and scare the pants off the squares.”

Later, Jud was reminiscing about the loft in which 22 Keristans had lived together for a while last year. “It was groovy,” he said. “The rent came to $10 a month for each person.” It had its drawbacks, though: Dau brought in some really weird types. “There was one guy who showed up, balled 20 girls in a week, and never came back or paid for anything. And there was a girl who was pretty far out, all she ever said was the word ‘fuck.’” Jud is trying to persuade the other Keristans to screen out “the wrong types.”

Joy is pregnant and Jud is shortly coming up for trial on a marijuana charge, but his spirits remain high. “Kerista can’t fail,” he says, “because people need it. We’re all isolated in modern society. Isolation makes men paranoiac: They’ve proved that in the laboratory. Cut a man off from all human contact and he starts going mad in about 6 hours. We’re all too isolated and cut-off since the old religions died and commercialism began. We need a new religion-Bernard Shaw said it, Koestler said it, every intelligent man has said it. Kerista is the new religion. Nothing can stop Kerista. Noth­ing.”

The Voice that spoke to Jud 8 years ago had more humor than the Voices that have spoken to other visionaries in the past, and Kerista may even seem, to the skeptical, a satire on religion. But there could be no doubt of the fervor, and the sincerity, of Jud when he said, “Nothing can stop Kerista.” Kerista might very well become, like Zen in Japan, the church of an intellectual and artistic minority. There is certainly a market waiting for Jud’s product. Three-quarters, at the very least, of the creative people I have met have been living as if they were members of Kerista without knowing it.

The Messiah of Madison Avenue

“The Messiah of Madison Avenue”
by Robert Anton Wilson

from Ralph Ginzburg’s fact:
 Mar-Apr 1965
Volume 2, Issue 2

The battle rages over Dr. Ernest Dichter’s use-or misuse-of motivational research to ply consumers with goods that are often worthless, if not downright harmful

A woman walked into a supermarket some­where in America today and bought $20 worth of magic potions-love charms, amulets against old age, talismans of status, totems and icons against all the ills of the flesh. The woman was not a witch, and she did not know that she was purchasing the implements of sorcery. She thought she was buying cigarettes, detergents, cosmetics, and food. The denizens of the Ave­nue of the Mad – Madison Avenue in New York City, where the advertising industry is clustered – know better. They know better be­cause the advertising industry is now working hand-in-glove with- another industry known as Motivational Research, and Motivational Re­search is the new witchcraft, the science and art of reducing modern, educated populations to the fear-ridden and fetish-worshipping status 6f the savages of the Old Stone Age.

According to the dictionary, “fetish” has two meanings. In anthropology, a fetish is “an object regarded with awe as being the embodi­ment or habitation of a potent spirit or demon.” A charm, a lucky piece, a rabbit’s foot are all fetishes in this sense. In psychiatry, on the other hand, a fetish is “an inanimate object used in attaining sexual gratification,” and typical ex­amples collected by those persons having this compulsion are shoes, locks of hair, stockings, underclothes, and necklaces.

Motivational Research has discovered and, to some extent, created-a new kind of fetishism somewhere between those two. MR (as it is called by the ad-men) is a technique that enables manufacturers to persuade con­sumers to buy products-not because of any physical property they possess-but because of psychological gratifications they provide. Virtu­ally all advertising in America today is under the influence of MR. You can’t leaf through a magazine, look at TV, listen to radio, or even ride a bus without being in sight-or-sound range of an MR – inspired attempt to imprint the new fetishism on your nervous system.

The high priest and original inventor of MR, Dr. Ernest Dichter of the Institute for Motivational Research, is well aware of the roots of his science in primitive black magic. In his Handbook of Consumer Motivations, he tells us bluntly:

This book is a sort of contemporary cultural an­thropology of modern man. His customs, motivations, desires and hopes are often not too far removed from the rituals and fetishes of the New Guineans. He buys his fetishes in the department store, and the New Guin­eans carve theirs out of the skulls of their enemies.

And this black magic is now big business. Dr. Dichter lists 72 different advertising agen­cies as regular clients. Among them are such leaders as Young & Rubicam; J. Walter Thomp­son; and Ogilvy, Benson & Mather. In addition, he has done special MR studies for such com­panies as Allstate Insurance, The Borden Co., Chrysler Corporation, Dow Chemical Co., For­est Lawn Memorial Park, Goodyear Tire and Rubber Co.,’ Johnson & Johnson, Kimberly ­Clark Corp., Lane Bryant, Mars Company, The Nestle Co., Procter & Gamble, Quaker Oats Co., Reynolds Metals Co., Socony Mobil Oil Co., Time magazine, and Hiram Walker. All in all, Dr. Dichter has performed 2500 MR studies to date, and many of his clients have come back again and again, such as the Col­gate-Palmolive Co. (8 times), Ford Motor Co. (20 times), Esso (13 times), and Nationwide Mutual Insurance (24 times).

To be sure, Dr. Dichter is not alone in this field. Louis Cheskin’s deliberately misnamed Color Research Institute is also an MR outfit, with the special advantage that its subjects be­lieve they are being interviewed about the psy­chology of color and do not know that their consumer habits are also being psychoanalyzed. James M. Vicary Company is another leading MR firm. Edward H. Weiss & Company made a unique contribution to MR a few years ago by performing a massive study of how women’s purchasing habits vary at each stage of their menstrual cycle. There are more than 90 other firms engaged in motivational research in America today, staffed by fully qualified psy­chologists, sociologists, and other behavioral scientists. In addition, many of the top ad agencies now have their own MR departments. McCann-Erickson of New York, for example, employ five full-time psychologists whose main function is to work in consultation with the agency’s copywriters.

*     *     *

There are several techniques used in MR, but the most popular, created by Dr. Dichter, is the “depth interview.” A depth interview is a sort of instant psychoanalysis, except that psycho­analysis aims to cure neurosis while MR ex­ploits it. The subject-any average consumer -is interviewed, on the surface, in the manner of traditional market research: Why do you like, or dislike, this product? What would you like to see improved about it? What do you like, or dislike, about its commercials?

Beneath this surface, the real “depth inter­view” is going on. The interviewer is a trained psychologist or other social scientist. Classic psychological tests such as the Thematic Apper­ception Test or Rorschach Inkblot Test are brought out. Or the subject is shown photos of 12 men and asked to pick out the 6 he likes best (he will, inevitably, pick out the 6 most like himself, psychologically. Latent homosexu­als, for example, will pick out a homosexual who is also latent). Or the subject is asked, frankly, to daydream out loud about the prod­uct. Sometimes a group of subjects are given blindfold tests to see if they can identify the product by taste (if it is a food or cigarette). Naturally, if the subjects cannot identify it by taste-a very frequent occurrence-the MR men know at once that the product’s entire ap­peal is psychological and fetishistic. This is true, for instance, of cigarettes. The MR men have never found a consumer who can identify his favorite smoke when blindfolded. “They are smoking an image completely,” Dr. Dichter has written. .

An average MR study involves 500 to 2000 “depth interviews.” When summarized, these interviews reveal to the clinical eye of the MR men the fetishistic associations which the product already has in the public mind. Future advertising then emphasizes these fetishistic as­sociations in every indirect and subliminal way that the imaginative copywriters can dream up.

Typical is the first-and, perhaps, still the most influential-MR study performed by Dr. Dichter. This was the study of the Plymouth car, performed by Dr. Dichter in 1940. The study determined that the car is simultaneously a sex symbol, a mother symbol, and a status symbol-a phallus, a womb, and a badge of distinction all in one package. Chrysler scored so big by exploiting these fetishistic associations in their ads for the Plymouth that soon the whole industry followed suit and began to imi­tate the ads. Today, 25 years later, it is impos­sible to find an automobile ad that doesn’t have leering sexual innuendoes. Indeed, MR has infiltrated automobile design as well as auto­mobile advertising, arid each year the manufac­turers strive to create an ambiguous chromium beast that looks at once like a penis and a womb, and also glitters like a child’s toy. Safety experts-as pointed out in Fact, May-June 1964-are convinced that these gimcracks have made the American car ten times more lethal than it need be.

*     *     *

A study performed by the Institute for Moti­vational Research for the Pharmaceutical Ad­vertising Club offers an example of a more specialized use of MR. Physicians were shown a cartoon of a man telling his doctor, “Doctor, I’ve been wondering about antibiotics for my condition.” The doctors were asked to guess what the doctor in the cartoon was thinking. Typical responses were: “These wonder drugs have been oversold,” “Let me be the doctor, I’ll do what I think best,” “How the hell would you know what to suggest; self-diagnosticians are a pain in the gluteus maximus.” From these responses (together with other interview tech­niques), the MR men were able to conclude, unknown to the doctors themselves, that:

While, on the surface, the physician claims that he just wants factual scientific information [in pharmaceu­tical ads], our depth interviews and ad tests made clear that a cold black-and-white rational presentation of ob­jective facts is most often simply ignored. Similarly, highly technical copy-featuring complicated charts and chemical formulae-tends to be rejected because he can­not understand it and because it serves as an unpleasant reminder of his lack of knowledge in this area.

MR not only discovers fetishistic associations; it also creates them. Have you ever won­dered why the Marlboro Man looks so much like the Neanderthal Man and the Piltdown Man? Some years ago, filter-cigarette makers discovered, through MR, that their sales were lower than those of the nonfilter brands because they were not functioning as virility fetishes. The male population, it was found, regarded filter cigarettes as sissified, upper-class, effem­inate, and almost swishy. The Marlboro Man – and all the deep-sea divers, truck drivers, and cowboys in the ads for other filter cigarettes­ – represented an attempt to create “rugged” asso­ciations. The sales of filter cigarettes have been rising ever since this campaign began. Similar techniques are now being used to peddle per­fume to men, and would probably work with any other previously “feminine” product, with the possible exception of tampons.

Besides inducing us to butcher one another in unsafe cars and poison our lungs with coal-­tar, MR also deserves part of the credit for alcoholism having become America’s No.3 health problem, right behind heart disease and cancer.

“We are not concerned with the moral values involved,” Dr. Dichter royally declares in the section of his Handbook on booze. With this refreshingly frank admission, he proceeds to probe the fetishistic associations of beer, bour­bon, scotch, rum, vodka, and wine, each of which appeals to a different personality type. The beer drinker wants to be a “regular guy,” but the scotch drinker is consciously seeking a superior status. The bourbon drinker is an individualist: He says that scotch tastes like medicine and is aware (without the MR boys telling him) that its fans drink it for status. Rum is very masculine and almost makes one an honorary pirate – it is the drink for fantasy, escape, swashbuckling, and building “a true male image. ” Vodka is glamorous and exotic and creates a feeling of superiority: “I dare to be different.”

Wine, however, has a connotation of snobbery and aristocracy. Most Americans are still afraid to serve it because they are not sure what type of meat or fish goes with what type of wine. Dr. Dichter suggests that the wine sellers should emphasize that “any kind of wine is the right kind of wine as long as the consumer likes it.”

The chief reason for drinking any liquor, however, is to escape from oneself. Dr. Dich­ter writes:

Our studies have shown that drinking permits the discovery of a different personality within oneself. The person who is drunk really says, “Is this me, I did not know that I had these other sides, these ot_er potentiali­tie,s. . . .” It is a dynamic psychological remedy.

The “dynamic psychological remedy,” for many people, is an endless curse. For most of us, MR -type ads, intended to subliminally hyp­notize us into taking a drink, are no problem, but for the five million alcoholics in America and for their families-these ads are psychologi­cal poison. Albert Camus, symbolizing all the neuroses of man as one allegorical plague, once asked, “Are we on the side of the plague or’ against it?” MR, undeniably, is on the side of the plague.

Dr. Dichter has recently published a sum­mary of the results of the’ 2500 motivational studies he has conducted over the past 25 years. Here, in alphabetical order, you can learn all about the fetishistic meaning of everything from apples to yoghurt. The apple, for instance, is a symbol of immortality, an amulet against death. The Greeks, Dr. Dichter reminds us, pre­sented an apple to the winner of the Olympics; the apple in the Garden of Eden promised im­mortality; and we have all heard that “an apple a day keeps the doctor away.” Yoghurt, strangely enough, is also a symbol of immortal­ity, and many people believe you can live to 120 years on a yoghurt diet. Most everything else, however, is either a mother symbol or a sex symbol. Cotton is sexy and feminine; wool is sexy and masculine. Meat is very sexy, and so is the butcher because he handles it. He is the only merchant allowed to flirt with his female customers. Steak is more sexy than chicken, because bulls are virile and chickens are-well, chicken. Most of us still believe, unconsciously, that we will acquire the bull’s bravery by eat­ing him and fear that we will acquire the chick­en’s cowardice by eating her. Soup is motherly, and we want it when we are ill, because mother gave it to us when we were jll as children: It is almost identical with mother’s milk in the unconscious. The – sexiest and most enticing product of all is silk, and Dr. Dichter is de­lighted to report that “silk ‘worship’ is, in fact, a surprisingly frequent ‘secret vice’ in our soci­ety, and is found in a great many otherwise well-adjusted people. Many, many children are ardent silk fetishists and cannot go to sleep without a piece of silk to hold and rub between their fingers.”

When he is not writing books, Dr. Dichter publishes a newsletter, called Findings. Its Janu­ary 1965 issue declares:

1965 promises to be a year when advertisers will discuss the sexual implications of their products with less restraint, more freedom. Toothpaste manufacturers will not only show beautiful teeth, but also that they can be used to bite, to express passion. Cars will increasingly become symbols of strength, vitality, conquest. The ad­vertising of candy, cigarettes, and perfume will embody stronger connotations of love and compassion.

Sex in advertising will be used with less inhibition, with less double-entendre. Advertisers will begin call­ing a spade a spade. . . .

I couldn’t believe that when I read it. After all, how much more blatant can you get than “Come all the way up with Kools?”

*     *     *

It isn’t only manufactured commodities that have become fetishes in modern America. So have political candidates. Perhaps the first con­scious use of MR in politics was by William Benton of Benton & Bowles advertising agency, who ran for the U.S. Senate in 1946 using mo­tivational research, and got elected. (Ironically, Benton subsequently tussled with the late Joe McCarthy, who intuited a few things about MR that even Dr. Dichter hasn’t discovered yet, and Benton was soundly defeated in the next election.)

The big breakthrough in MR came in 1952, when Batten, Barton, Durstine and Os­born Advertising Agency employed it in politics. BBD&O managed the Eisenhower campaign, using the full arsenal of the new fetishism to establish “Ike” as the Big Daddy symbol of all time. This campaign was so effective that, even today, many people who violently criticize Eisenhower as President, still retain a deep filial affection for the man himself. In every election since 1952, Democrats and Republicans alike have employed MR, and there is a continuous search for new gimmicks.

Even the Church is resorting to MR. The slogan, “Take a friend to church next Sunday,” was inspired by an MR study which quoted David Riesman’s sociological classic, The Lone­ly Crowd, to demonstrate that Americans are becoming increasingly “other-directed.” Church attendance increased markedly after this slogan was introduced.

Dr. Dichter has even performed a study, for the Air Force, on how to induce more young men to enter military service. Perhaps someday, as a crowning achievement, MR will banish peace-mongering except in such ironic contexts as the Air Force’s celebrated motto, “Peace is our profession.”

*     *     *

However, voices of protest are beginning to rise against the mass mesmerism of MR. As long ago as 1942, Philip Wylie castigated Freud-derived advertising in an unforgettable chapter of his Generation of Vipers, and many still remember his blunt paraphrase of the basic question asked in all ads directed at women: “Madam, are you a good lay?” (Alas, the same question is still being asked, and the ads for men are more and more explicitly enquiring, “Broth­er, does your wand come all the way up?”)

Author Marshall McLuhan writes bitterly, “Ours is the first age in which many of the best trained individuals make it a full-time business to get inside the collective public mind to ma­nipulate and exploit it, to generate heat, not light.” And semanticist, S. I. Hayakawa, bitter­ly castigates MR men as “harlot scientists.” Social scientist Kenneth Boulding sums up the fears of many, writing that through MR “a world of unseen dictatorship is conceivable, still using the forms of democratic government.” And psychiatrist Fredric Wertham, insists that MR men “do not discover needs, they create them.” But the basically retrogressive and paleo­lithic nature of the new fetishism was perhaps best described by Judge Learned Hand, who called it simply “a black art.”

Interested to’ find out how he feels about these criticisms, I recently got on the phone to see if I could make an appointment with Dr. Dichter himself. To my surprise and delight, the big man’s secretary immediately gave me an appointment to see him the next day, in his com­bination office-and-home in Croton-on-Hudson, New York.

When I arrived I found the Institute for Motivational Research located in a mansion perched boldly atop the tallest mountain in the area, commanding a baronial view of the Hud­son River far below. The mansion has 26 rooms and, during the day, houses 60 employees who supervise and coordinate the activities of 1200 interviewers scattered throughout every metro­politan, suburban, and rural area in the United States. (Most of these interviewers are graduate students in psychology or sociology, and some are teachers or social workers.) It is a mile’s drive from the entrance gate to the castle, and you are going uphill all the way, a factor which is probably calculated by Dr. Dichter to estab­lish his eminence and authority, subliminally. It is rather like paying a visit to the Wizard of Oz.

A receptionist showed me into a waiting room and told me, regretfully, that Dr. Dichter was “running 10 minutes behind schedule to­day,” so there would be a short wait. I sat down, wondering if this was just another psychological gimmick to put me in my place. Then I noticed a bookcase full of bound motivational studies, and, since they were in the waiting room, I eagerly began to sample them.

The first report I picked up was done for the Commission for Intergroup Relations and dealt with landlords’ objections to the New York City Fair Housing Law. Its conclusion was that landlords are willing to integrate, but want pressure to be put on them by the government so that they can justify themselves by saying, that they were forced into it.

Doctor Dichter has argued, in his book The Strategy of Desire, that MR is often used for “far loftier goals” than selling soap and cigarettes. I began to wonder if this sample shelf was deliberately stacked to reinforce that claim, so I grabbed another report at random. This one was written for a pharmaceutical company and concerned the unwillingness of doctors to pre­scribe hormones made by the company for female disorders. Depth interviews revealed that the doctors were afraid the hormones might be cancer-producing. The company’ was advised to counteract that fear in their future advertis­ing in medical journals.

I picked out another report, for Brown and Williamson Tobacco Corporation. This was a study of the failure of Viceroy Cigarettes’ ad­vertising campaign, “The man who thinks. for himself smokes Viceroys.” Depth interviews revealed, according to the report, that “Too much thought tends to stir up anxieties and to interfere with the emotional pleasure people seek in smoking.” Viceroy was advised to give up rationality and to “combine basic promises of pleasure with reassurances of ‘health’ anxie­ties.” Viceroy’s latest campaign reflects this advice.

Just as I began to peruse a study for the Consolidated Cigar Corporation-which con­tained the not-very-original observations that cigars are phallic and connote status-the re­ceptionist told me that Dr. Dichter would see me now.

*     *     *

The Messiah of Motivation, I found to my sur­prise, was a jaunty, merry-eyed, debonair, little man, looking considerably younger than his 58 years, and with no notable resemblance to either Dr. Frankenstein or Dr. Strangelove. After the initial amenities, I aimed for blood with my first question: “The Surgeon-General is trying to get people to stop smoking cigarettes because they cause cancer. Part of your work is selling cigarettes by psychological gimmicks. How do you justify yourself?”

To my surprise, Dr. Dichter answered cheerfully, “The Surgeon-General is probably correct, but I’m not convinced people would live longer if they gave up smoking. They would probably be frustrated and get other diseases. ”

Stunned, I mumbled something about heroin pushers being able to use the same ra­tionalization. Unruffled, Dr., Dichter replied, “Well, I’m not smart enough to answer the ulti­mate questions of philosophical right and wrong. No matter what companies I work for, somebody will object. Cars are dangerous, too. Should I stop working for Detroit? Or should I listen to the vegetarians and stop working for the meat industry? I’m just not smart enough to answer the ultimate questions that philosophers have been debating since the dawn of history.”

“Well,” I asked, “is there anybody you wouldn’t do MR for?”

“The Catholic Church,” he answered at once. “I would hesitate to work for them.”

I asked why Dr. Dichter had given up his psychoanalytical practice to create MR.

“I practiced psychoanalysis for 2 years, in Vienna,” he said, “but I was frustrated at not being able to help more than 20 people a year. Most of the patients were just suffering from a wrong environment anyway. I wanted to get into mass psychology. Advertising was the nat­ural direction.” He went on to talk of his first attempts to sell MR, in Paris, in 1937, and the failure of French businessmen to appreciate his approach. Then, in 1938, he arrived in America and sent out six letters, outlining the MR serv­ices he was prepared to offer. He received four replies, and two of them led to his first two MR projects-a study of Ivory soap and a study of reader reactions to Esquire magazine. This led immediately to the epoch-making study of Ply­mouth cars, and MR had fully arrived on the American scene.          .

When I asked about his connection, if any, with Freud, Dr. Dichtedaughed and said, “The University of Vienna discouraged students in the psychology department from studying psy­choanalysis. Naturally, that made us curious, and we all studied it, just as the taboo on social- I ism drove us toward that.”

“Were you a socialist?” I asked.

“Ninety-five percent of the people in I Vienna were, in the ’30s,” he answered eva­sively. Actually, if he were a socialist in those I days, he had good reason. Poverty forced him I to leave school and take a job at 15, and he was I only able to enter the University of Vienna later I under a ruling which admitted impecunious students who could pass a special examination. He worked his way through the University of Vienna, and the Sorbonne in Paris, as a tailor’s assistant, a window decorator, a translator, and in other odd jobs.

Again aiming for blood, I asked him if MR were not reinforcing the very neuroses which psychoanalysis originally aimed to cure. “I be­lieve in constructive discontent,” he replied. “I’m not here to make people happy. If such a being as Homo sapiens actually existed, he would be miserably unhappy.” He went on to point out that he didn’t keep his work secret, having published two books on the discoveries of MR. However, when I asked if knowing about MR techniques makes one invulnerable to them, he smiled ironically and said, “Nobody is invulnerable. Ninety-nine percent of human actions are irrationa1. I buy more useless things than the rest of my family put together.”

When I asked about the totalitarian im­plications of motivational research in politics, Dr. Dichter repeated, “I’m not smart enough to answer the ultimate questions of right and wrong.” He went on to say that he was a reg­istered Democrat and a libera1. He added that he did not share the sentimentality of most lib­erals. “When I was in Haiti,” he said, “I ad­mitted to myself that seeing all those Negroes got on my nerves.”

When I asked Dr. Dichter about Fredric Wertham and other psychiatrists who charge that MR creates frustration, he replied that many other things besides MR create frustra­tion in our civilization. He went on to reiterate his concept of “creative discontent,” which he holds to be the fountainhead of all progress. By teaching people to want more than they ever wanted before, he said, modern advertising is freeing us from Puritanism.

“I do care about people,” he said. “I am trying to teach them to recognize their own ir­rationality and to demand more desirable goals.” He proceeded to point out that organ­ized religion has traditionally brainwashed helpless children, indoctrinating them in dog­mas which they cannot intellectually evaluate. “They force children into a church when they’re too young to think rationally,” he said, blithely ignoring the lion’s share of MR that is directed at children these days.

*     *     *

It is obvious that Dr. Dichter thinks of himself as a creative rebel. He told me, with glee, how he had shocked a Catholic priest by saying that our high divorce rate indicates an increase in public morality. “It is immoral for a marriage to stay together if it is bad for the people in­volved,” he pronounced sternly. Then he” grinned again and repeated, “The priest was awfully shocked.”

When I asked if ‘1 could take a few MR studies home to read at leisure, Dr. Dichter graciously complied, and I had a weird moment of deja vu, feeling that I had lived this scene before. Then I realized that Dr. Dichter remind­ed me of another jaunty, co-operative, strangely likeable man I had interviewed only a few months before: Robert Shelton, Imperial Wiz­ard of the Ku Klux Klan. The quality that both men share is innocence, guiltlessness. Both – I realized – are co-operative and friendly because they are convinced that their critics are mis­guided men, and are eager to explain themselves and set the record straight. And both men look younger than their years precisely because of this boyish innocence.

Before leaving, I asked Dr. Dichter about one of his recent critics, psychologist Betty Friedan, whose best-seller, The Feminine Mystique, holds him largely responsible for creating a false ideal of femininity which is driving, Ameri­can women into nervous breakdowns. “She re­minds me,” Dr. Dichter snapped, “of the kind of girl who accuses a guy of raping her, after she led him on.” He insisted that MR only mir­rors the drives of consumers and does not create drives. But then, inevitably, he cheered up. “Books like hers and Vance Packard’s The Hid­den Persuaders are, after all, good publicity,” he concluded happily.

And that, undoubtedly, will be his final verdict on this article also. Criticism cannot hurt him. One year after the Surgeon-General’s report, 90% of the cigarette smokers in Amer­ica are still puffing their way to an early grave, myself included. “Nobody is immune,” I can still hear Dr. Dichter saying, with a cheerful smile, “99% of all human acts are irrational. . . .”

The Fastest-Growing Religion in the World

“The Fastest-Growing Religion in the World”
by Robert Anton Wilson

from Ralph Ginzburg’s fact:
 Nov-Dec 1964
Volume 1, Issue 6

Despite a history of horrible persecution and despite a theology that makes even the Holy Rollers seem rational, the Jehovah’s Witnesses have been so successful they’ve got all good Catholics and Protestants worried.

Of the three major religions that have been born in America-Mormonism, Christian Science, and Jehovah’s Witnesses-it is the last that has met with the most success. Today, 1,200,000 members of the Jehovah’s Witnesses are knocking on doors and distributing literature on all six continents and reaping 5000 new con­verts a year-in the last 20 years the Witnesses have increased their membership by an amaz­ing 700%. Total circulation of the religion’s main magazine, The Watchtower, published in 66 languages and in Braille, is 4,300,000­ – only 10 U.S. magazines have larger circulations. Another Witness magazine, Awake!, is pub­lished in 25 languages and has 3,950,000 sub­scribers. And the religion’s main textbook, Let God Be True, published in 194 countries, has a circulation second only to that all-time best seller, the Holy Bible. Not only is the Jehovah’s Witnesses the fastest growing religion in the world, but a Catholic writer, William J. Whalen, has stated (in Armageddon Around the Corner, 1962), “Should the growth of Jehovah’s Wit­nesses continue at anywhere near the pace set during the past 30 years, the cult may very well become a serious threat to organized Chris­tianity .”

And there isn’t the faintest sign of any let-up. Even now the Witnesses’ 1,200,000 “pio­neers” (members engaged in door-to-door mis­sionary work) are tirelessly circulating through­out the ten zones into which the world has been divided by strategy planners at the Jehovah’s Witnesses International Headquarters in Brook­lyn. Each zone has already been covered again, and again, and again. A pioneer has probably been to your own door once or twice already. He will be back, in a month, or a year, or a decade. Meanwhile, a continuous program of conventions goes on in all the major cities of the world. The United States alone had 22 such conventions this summer, everywhere from Yuba City, California, to Austin, Texas, to Brewer, Maine. Each of these conventions averages about 10,000 in attendance; the largest attendance so far has been 253,000 (in New York).

My main task, in writing this article about the Jehovah’s Witnesses, was to find out why this particular religion is gaining converts so easily and quickly while Judaism, Catholicism, and Protestantism are lucky to make even slight gains. What, in short, is the secret of the phe­nomenal success of the Jehovah’s Witnesses?

First off, I betook myself to the Witnesses International Headquarters in Brooklyn, which I found to be a startlingly modern building complex on the East River, with an unsurpassed view of the Brooklyn Bridge and the looming Manhattan skyscrapers. Like all Jehovah’s Wit­nesses enterprises, it has never been segregated. A staff of 400 co-ordinates and organizes the preaching activities of the pioneers throughout the world. A few blocks away, in a somewhat slum­mier neighborhood, stands the factory where an additional staff of 300 produces the Watch­tower magazine. Every single employee, from Witnesses’ President Nathan Knorr on down, receives the same compensation: lodging, food, clothing, and $14 a month. Yet the morale in this factory is amazing. In 3 hours of sightsee­ing, I didn’t meet a single bored-looking worker. Everybody, devoutly convinced he is doing Je­hovah’s work, is happy, enthusiastic, and ef­ficient. Many of the machines were designed by the workers, who put together parts of previ­ously-existing machines. One contraption, which looked like an illustration for a science-fiction magazine, was made from three other machines. Those three machines had taken ten men to operate, but the new monster needs only three operators. “Seven more men,” the manager told me, “released to return to pioneer work in spreading the Message!” Unique among printing plants, nowhere on the floors in this fac­tory will you find a piece of scrap paper. Each department has a chute for scrap paper, and on the second floor one department receives all this waste and wraps it into 1200-pound bales, aver­aging about 20 bales a day, which are then sold. The factory also generates its own electricity and makes its own ink.

*     *      *

All this modern technology and wonderful ef­ficiency really jolted me, knowing what I did about the ideology of the Jehovah’s Witnesses. If someone sat down and deliberately dreamed up all the most nonsensical clap-trap he could think of, he probably couldn’t top what the Jehovah’s Witnesses actually believe. Among other things, the Witnesses are opposed to the Roman Catho­lic Church, the Greek Orthodox Church, Protestantism, Judaism, Christmas trees, reli­gious crosses, segregation, the theory of evolu­tion, fishing, hunting, blood sausages, movies, cigarettes, voting (no Witness voted in the re­cent election), the doctrine of the Trinity, yoga, extrasensory perception, fortune-telling, Com­munism, Fascism, and saluting national flags – all of which they regard, literally, as Devil-in­spired plots to lead mankind away from Je­hovah God. The battle of Armageddon, foretold in Revelations, has already begun (in 1914) and is drawing to a close. Contrary to the lead­ing Jewish and Christian scholars, Yahweh is not the correct name of the Old Testament God. The correct name is Jehovah (which, accord­ing to most historians, wasn’t invented until the 11th Century). Scientists who think the earth is 2 ½ billion years old, and Fundamentalists who think it is 6000 years old, are both wrong.  It is 42,000 years old. Jehovah, who resides in the constellation Pleiades, is very touchy about his name and can’t abide being called any such general noun as “Lord,” “God,” or “Almighty” unless “Jehovah” is included before or after it; otherwise, for all He knows, you might be in­voking some upstart deity of the heathens. Only 144,000 people will be admitted to heaven, and sinners will not go to hell (which doesn’t exist) but will merely be annihilated. Millions who are neither saints nor sinners, but who are Jehovah’s Witnesses, will happily remain on earth after the Last Judgment. As for the secular world, the Witnesses regard every government on earth as a devilish conspiracy. They firmly believe that Satan himself-a real Fallen Angel dedi­cated to fighting against Jehovah God-is the hidden ruler of every government based on force. Nor are they internationalists, at least in the secular, liberal sense. When the League of­ Nations was founded, Jehovah’s Witnesses de­nounced it as another clever plot by the Devil; they have the same attitude toward the United Nations. Add to this carnival of eccentric dogma the orthodox Christian repugnance to­wards physical love, and you have the whole theology of Jehovah’s Witnesses.

Despite their theological hodge-podge, the Witnesses themselves are far from being odd­balls, as I discovered when I attended a conven­tion at West Springfield, Massachusetts, from July 23 to July 26 of this year. A Jehovah’s Witnesses’ convention is not what you would expect if you identify them with Billy Graham or the Holy Rollers. They make no attempt at Instant Christianity; indeed, they positively avoid quick, emotional conversions. Their speakers may crack a few jokes and shout oc­casionally, but the basic tone is one of what they call “intellectual” persuasion. And if you accept their fundamental premises-which are that the Bible contains prophecies and that their readings of controversial Hebrew and Greek words are the correct readings-much of what they say is logical.

*     *     *

A mass baptism was going on when I arrived early on the morning of the 24th. Like many Protestant ‘sects, the Witnesses believe in, total immersion. The ministers and the candidates all wear bathing suits, and the women are bap­tized separately from the men. The actual bap­tism is a striking spectacle. The candidate wades out to a depth of about 4 feet, where the minis­ter is waiting. No words are exchanged (the verbal part of the ceremony has been performed on shore). The candidate holds his hand tightly over his nose, as if smelling a vat of Lieder­kranz, and the minister, wasting no motion, smartly grabs his shoulders, leans him back­ward, and dunks him. I watched 300 baptisms, including that of a one-legged woman, and I chatted with a few Witnesses, who explained to me that the ceremony was symbolic only, and not a magic ritual.

The Witnesses – like the ones I’ met in Brooklyn – were conspicuously polite and con­spicuously middle-class in appearance. (Actu­ally, the appearance is deceptive. A sociological study has clearly demonstrated that the majority of Jehovah’s Witnesses belong to the lower-in­come brackets.) I noticed one interesting pattern when I began asking various Witnesses why they had been converted: A significant number who had lost faith in the religion of their parents investigated several other religions and settled on Jehovah’s Witnesses for ethical reasons. Some of the remarks I heard were, “It’s the only religion that practices what it preaches,” “It’s the only desegregated church in America,” and, “Every time I met an honest man in business, he was a Jehovah’s Witness.” One man told me how he had accidentally discovered that his parent’s church was involved in local business corruption, so he set out to find for himself a church that wasn’t corrupt. “Jehovah’s Wit­nesses,” he said, “is the only one I found that isn’t up to its neck in political and commercial graft.”

One of the factors, I discovered, that helps explain the’ sky-rocketing growth of the move­ment is, not the conventions or the pioneers, but the Hydrogen Bomb. All the speakers at the convention eventually got around to paying their respects to the Bomb. It is their boffola, their clincher. It condemns the society which made it, justifies their own withdrawal from that society, and provides a suitably apocalyptical vocabulary for the letting-off of personal anger and pain. If the Bomb didn’t exist, they would have had to invent it.

But they don’t really need the Bomb to cheer them. In 3 days with the 12,000 Witnesses at this convention, and 2 days with the 700’at the Brooklyn headquarters, I never saw an un­happy Witness. Bomb or no Bomb, they are sure the Great Day is coming soon, when Dad can throwaway his truss, and Mother’s dental plate will be replaced by newly sprouted real teeth, and Aunt Sally’s cancer will be cured, and Junior won’t have pimples anymore, and the Lion will lay down with the Lamb.

During my sojourn in Massachusetts I got a chance to catch up on my reading, and nat­urally delved a bit into the history of this re­markable religious movement. And I learned that, just as the Witnesses manage to combine Medieval ideology with modern technology, their history is an outrageous combination of buffoonery and bravery. It all began in 1813 when a self-educated seaman named. William Miller, after mulling over some obscure pas­sages in the Bible, decided that the world was coming to an end in 1844. His followers, known as the Millerites, multiplied rapidly and created considerable qualms throughout the country as the year 1844 approached. When 1845 finally arrived and the world went on, the movement fell to pieces. Within a few years, however, new messiahs arrived to put the pieces together again by offering different interpretations of the same Bible passages. One sect decided that the cor­rect date for the end of the world was 1864, and others picked 1866, 1870, and 1889. In 1870, Charles Taze Russell, a self-proclaimed Greek scholar who knew no Greek, attended a meeting of one of these groups, the Second Adventists, who had picked 1889 as their year, and was inspired to go home and search the Scriptures himself for enlightenment. He quickly discovered the theological and mathe­matical errors of the other groups-especially those who had picked 1844, 1864, 1866, and 1870. He decided, however, that even the Sec­ond Adventists were wrong with their choice of 1889, and that the correct year was 1914.

Russell quickly communicated this news to the Second Adventists, but they, probably misled by Satan, refused to listen to him. In 1889 Russell had his first vindication: The world did not end, proving that he was right and they were wrong. By this time he had a few thousand followers who, cheered by his success in not picking another wrong year, en­thusiastically went forth to warn the world about the cataclysm of 1914. In those days, his followers called themselves simply “Bible Students” and were usually mockingly called “Millennial Dawners” by others. The name “Jehovah’s Witnesses” was not officially adopted until 1931. (The word “Witnesses” refers to their belief in their God-given command to go forth and “testify to the world.”)

Some readers will claim that the world did not end in 1914. The Witnesses will quickly explain that the world began to end then and is still in the process. Of course, after 1914 a few minor changes had to be made in Russell’s books. The 1908 edition of his Millennial Dawn, for instance, states “That the deliverance of the saints must take place sometime before 1914 is manifest.” Eleven similar changes were incorporated into the 1916 edition, to make Jehovah’s plan clearer. Even so, some persons, misled by worldly vanity, dropped out of the movement after 1914.

In the 1920s the Witnesses were among the first groups to denounce Mussolini and the Vatican. This led to widespread attempts by the Catholic Church to prevent the distribu­tion of Jehovah’s Witnesses’ literature. In many American cities, especially in Connecticut and New Jersey, new laws were passed making it a crime to hand out leaflets without first having them approved by local officials. The Witnesses bravely defied these laws, went to court, and fought until all such precensorship regulations were declared unconstitutional. A boycott organized by the Roman Catholic bishop of Philadelphia did, however, force them off the radio there. The battle grew more bitter when Hitler came’ to power, -signed a pact with the Vatican, and, shortly thereafter, banned the Witnesses in Germany in a statement explicitly attacking them for “damaging the Catholic faith.” Henceforth, throughout the ’30s and ’40s, all Jehovah’s Witnesses’ publications car­ried blistering assaults on what they called “the Catholic-Nazi-Fascist plot” to destroy them.

*     *     *

Probably no other religionists of modern times have been persecuted more cruelly than these same Jehovah’s Witnesses. Open the official history of the movement at any page and you will find a story like the following; which oc­curred at the Neuengammer concentration camp outside Nuremberg on Sept. 12, 1943:

Seven Jehovah’s Witnesses, newly arrived at the camp, were led into the yard, where an SS officer asked the first of them, “How long will you be a Jehovah’s Witness?” “Until my death,” the prisoner replied. He was flogged 25 times. The next prisoner was asked the same question. “Until my death,” came the reply a sec­ond time. After all seven had been questioned and flog­ged, the first prisoner was again asked, “And how much longer will you continue to be a Jehovah’s Witness?” The same level-voiced reply: “Until my death.”

After all seven prisoners had been questioned three times, and flogged 75 times, they were led, their backs raw and bleeding, into the shower rooms, where alter­nating jets of freezing-cold and red-hot water were turned on them. They were then paraded into the yard, naked, and forced to do calisthenics until one of them fell dead of a heart attack.

All six survivors were now asked in turn, “How much longer will you continue to be Jehovah’s Wit­nesses?”

Each replied, levelly and firmly, “Until my death.”

This anecdote is entirely typical of the History of Jehovah’s Witnesses in Nazi Ger­many, where 11,000 of them were incarcerated in similar camps, leading some observers (in­cluding an official English government report, “Treatment of German Nationals in Germany,” by Sir Neville Henderson) to say that they were actually treated “worse than the Jews.” Old Jews, in most cases, were murdered quickly. Young Jews were forced to work under brutal conditions, then killed. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were tortured continuously in a scientific pro­gram intended not to exterminate them, but to force them to repudiate their religion. The pro­gram failed: Not one .of the 11,000 ever signed the official statement of repudiation prepared for therapy the Nazi government, although 7000 perished. They actually organized and carried through the only successful resistance movement in the concentration camps, refusing to work on the construction of munitions boxes until the Nazis gave up and assigned them to other work. (Many of them became barbers. The Nazis were sufficiently convinced of the Witnesses’ nonviolent principles to let them­selves be shaved by Witnesses without fear of having their throats cut.)

That was Nazi Germany. Here is a story from the democratic United States a few years earlier:

Seven Jehovah’s Witnesses drove up to the Town Hall in Richwood, West Virginia, on June 29, 1941, and applied to Martin L. Catlette, deputy sheriff, for a permit to distribute literature. According to subse­quent court testimony, Catlette held the Witnesses pris­oner and called the local American Legion post, saying, “We have the sons of bitches here.” Some 1500 Ameri­can Legion members gathered outside the Town Hall and, under Catlette’s leadership, forced the Witnesses to drink 16 ounces of castor oil each. Bound with ropes, the Witnesses were led to the local Post Office where the mob abused and manhandled them in an attempt to force them to salute the American flag, an act that violates their religion. Deputy Sheriff Catlette then read aloud the Constitution of the United States while the Witnesses were led out of town and their car . inscribed with obscene and abusive ‘slogans. They were released and warned never to come back to Richwood.

Similar stories could be collected from any country on earth. Jehovah’s Witnesses have suffered worse in totalitarian Germany and Russia than in more democratic’ countries, but even England and Canada, traditionally the two nations most fair to heretical minorities, have much to be ashamed of in their treatment of this sect. Persecution has befallen the Witnesses in every country they have entered since their founding 94 years ago. In the United States, which is neither the best nor the worst example, the American Civil Liberties Union has re­ported 335 cases of mob violence against the Witnesses in one typical year, and during the 1930s lower courts pronounced nearly 30,000 convictions against them. These convictions, usually an trumped-up charges of “disorderly conduct,” were overturned with monotonous regularity because higher courts found palpable bias on the part of the lower-court judges. This did not stop similar convictions from the benches of other lower-court judges. Charles A. Beard, the distinguished historian, has written of the Jehovah’s Witnesses in his book The Republic (Viking Press, 1943): “They have money to hire lawyers and fight cases through the courts. As a result in recent days they have made more contributions to the de­velopment of the constitution allow of religious liberty than any other cult or group.”

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In the United States today, the only persecu­tion (if it should, be called that) faced by the Jehovah’s Witnesses is connected with their re­fusal to submit their children to blood trans­fusions, even in cases where life is at stake. Courts, in several cases, have taken the children into custody and ordered the transfusion to proceed. The Witnesses’ skilled legal depart­ment is fighting every case with its usual vigor, and the most passionate advocates of civil lib­erties are – for once – divided. Does religious liberty include the right to sacrifice one’s child to one’s God? (The whole issue arises out of the well-known text in which God commands his worshippers not to eat meat with blood in it, which Jehovah’s Witnesses’ interpret as a condemnation of taking blood in any form.)

Perhaps all this persecution has helped to make the J.W. movement the success that it is.  Call it masochism, call it sympathy for the underdog, call it what you will, people tend to flock into a religion that is being persecuted. When the Witnesses were banned by dictator Rafael Leonidas Trujillo of the Dominican Republic in 1950, there were only 217 of them on that unfortunate island. When the ban was lifted in 1956, there were 469.

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But I still did not, I felt, really have the answer. I did not know why people are drawn into this grandiose carnival in ever-increasing hordes while other churches are lucky to hold onto the members born into them, why no other reli­gionists since the first Christians have made so many converts so quickly. Persecution helps. So does the up-to-date efficiency of the staff at International Headquarters. So does the pioneer program (while other churches sit back and wait for converts to walk in, the J.W.’s are out on the street busily hawking the message from door-to-door). Yet the key to the mystery, I had to admit, was missing. That is, until August 11, 1964, when I accompanied a team of pio­neers on their door-to-door calls in the Park Slope area of Brooklyn.

The pioneers were an attractive young couple, Dick and Jeanne DeChaine. He is a salesman for World Book encyclopedias and she is a hostess for Trans WorId Airlines, but under Witness rules they must devote 10 hours a week to pioneer preaching. Since the Wit­nesses never send more than two persons to a door (“If they see three of us,” Dick DeChaine explains, “they’ll feel we’re ganging up on them and won’t answer the door”), I accompanied only one of them, Mrs. DeChaine.

The first door we tried was answered by a harassed-looking, middle-aged Italian house­wife. Mrs. DeChaine informed her we were making door-to-door calls to encourage home Bible reading. “I’m Catholic,” the woman snapped. “I got enough religion.” The door closed.

Cheerfully, Mrs. DeChaine tried the next door. Another middle-aged Italian housewife, who also looked harassed. Mrs. DeChaine got further along with her spiel this time, but the woman hastily resorted to the Great Housewife’s Ploy that every salesman knows and dreads. “The baby’s crying,” she said, “I-gotta run-upstairs-sorry-good-bye. ”

Next was an elderly woman so gushingly feminine that she reminded me of a homo in drag (but, of course, a great many women of that generation are exaggeratedly feminine in that way). She cut into Mrs. DeChaine’s spiel immediately: “Oh, darling, you don’t need to tell me. I know my Lord, I know my God. I talk to Him all day long. I have lived with His companionship for 20 years now, darling, and I grow closer to Him every day.” Mrs. DeChaine complimented her and commented on how few there are these days who have this treasure. The old woman fluttered her hands excitedly, “Oh, darling, they don’t know what” they’re miss­ing,” she cried. Mrs. DeChaine sold both maga­zines and left an advertisement of the next Watchtower lecture. Amid a shower of “Bless yous” we made our way down the stairs.

The next three calls were brief. “Busy.” “Not interested.” “The baby is crying.” Next was an adorable blonde creature in white shorts and halter who broke my heart by using the crying-baby ploy just when I thought we were going to get in.

The next door was opened by a tall, good-looking Negro who listened politely for a few moments and invited us in. Like most Negro apartments in white neighborhoods, his was conspicuously clean and neat (“Can’t have ’em thinking I’m running down their real-estate values”). When Mrs. DeChaine, rather intui­tively, asked about his health, he poured out a wretched story: After years of hard work as a longshoreman, he finally achieved a salary high enough to move into “this nice neighborhood,” and then, 2 months ago, he suffered a heart attack, and the doctors told him he couldn’t do hard work anymore. “But what other kind of work is anybody going to offer me?” he told us bitterly. He had only one consolation, he told us: the Bible. “I’ve been reading it a lot since I got home from the hospital,” he said, “and it’s the only comfort in this whole world.” Mrs. DeChaine asked if he was familiar with the following passage from Revelations 21:4:

And God shall wipe away all tears from their eyes; and there shall be no more death, neither sorrow, nor crying, neither shall there be any more pain: for all the former things are passed away.

And he that sat upon the throne said, Behold, I I make all things new. And he said unto me, Write, for i these words are true and faithful.

“Isn’t that a wonderful promise?” Mrs. DeChaine exclaimed, her eyes shining. “And, look, it tells you deliberately that it isn’t a symbolic passage or an allegory. ‘These words I are true and faithful,’ it says. And it’s the word I of Jehovah God Himself, who would never deceive us. But the really exciting thing is this: Do you know when all this will happen? It tells you: ‘When Babylon the Great has fallen.’ Now what is Babylon the Great?” And she went on into the usual Witnesses’ line-Babylon is our whole cruel civilization that is obviously about to pass away, Millions Now Living Will Never Die, and so on. I watched the man closely as he listened. Skepticism flickered in his eyes, and then a painful longing, and then his mouth turned down in rejection and he unconsciously shook his head-too often he had heard prom­ises that were not fulfilled. But then, as she continued, the longing came back into his eyes, and he looked at the Bible himself to check that the words were really there, and then some­thing frightened and hungry bloomed in his face: He might have been fighting for his life, which in a sense, I suppose, he was. “And we can be sure it will be soon,” Mrs. DeChaine went on. “Ever since 1914 the prophecies have been coming true, year after year.” A great determination was coming into his face, wash­ing away the fear, which I now recognized as fear that she might be wrong. I looked away, embarrassed. It is a beautiful, terrible sight to see hope appearing in a face where despair has lived for a long time.

“I want to talk to my minister about this on Sunday,” he said finally, “and I want you to come back again, so I can talk to you some more.”

Mrs. DeChaine made an appointment for herself and her husband to drop back the fol­lowing week for an hour of Bible study. We shook hands, and I muttered, “Good luck.” They were the first words I had spoken since entering, and my throat was hoarse and my voice cracked.

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And the Heavens were rent asunder and the veils fell from my eyes. And, behold, a voice spoke to me saying, Now it is revealed unto you how Jehovah’s Witnesses are made – out of the depth of despair that lies in one apartment out of nine on any street.  And I knew not whether to laugh or cry, and so I did both, and came home and wrote this article.