Wednesday, October 7, 2009

The Odd Volume- Religion Edition #1

We own a lot of books. The largest section of our personal library is the religion section. It comprises two bookshelves in our front room. As with most of our library, we have books that we love and wholeheartedly embrace, some that are quite good in spite of a few points, some that we strongly disagree with and own for the sake of reference to some of the abysmal theology in their own words. And then we have some odd volumes which we own mainly out of how bizarre they are.

This first volume is Dying Testimonies by a Rev. Shaw. It's from the late 1800s and it is collected stories of people on their deathbed at the moment of their death. Some of the people see, feel, experience and communicate the divine, some are experiencing and communicating their first taste of the infernal. Regardless of what one may think of it (personally I take it as probably intended to be mostly truthful accounts, some hear-say, some highly colored by apperceptions, hardly scientific, but I don't doubt the honest intentions of the author) it is a chilling book mainly because it is accounts of people dying and some of those are far from peaceful. Here's a sample:
"Near L-, lived P- K-, talented and wealthy, but a hater of God, of the Lord Jesus Christ and of the Holy Bible. He talked, lectured and published books and tracts against the Savior and the sacred scriptures... His death-bed beggared description. He clinched his teeth and blood spurted from his nostrils while he cried `Hell! Hell! Hell!!!' with a terror that no pen can describe. A neighbor declared that he heard him a quarter of a mile away. His family could not endure the agony of that death-bed scene. They fled to an adjoining wood across the road, and there remained among the trees until all became quiet at home. One by one they ventured back, to find the husband and father cold in death. He literally had been left to die alone, abandoned of God and of man."

I figured I would throw this in. You probably will either think this an odd volume or you will be entirely familiar with it. It's the Principia Discordia. It was written by two proto-hippies and, as the Discordians say, "Discordianism has been described as both an elaborate joke disguised as a religion, and a religion disguised as an elaborate joke."
Although I strongly suspect that Discordians were the ones who have described it as such as I have my doubts as to how much of the rest of the world ever really thinks about them all that much.
The religion itself, as much as it can be called that, is hard to explain. They don't have dogma. They claim they have catma instead. It's that sort of jokey religion thing long before the Sub-genius people were even born. It's full of clip art, strange little jokes, paradoxes, mind games and so forth. So much comes from this, like Fnord, the significance of the number 23, the Law of Fives, Pope cards, The Curse of Greyface. I think it may have something to do with enlightenment. It clearly has something to do with chaos.
In my past I've known some Discordians. I've gone to some of their parties. In my experience they tend to be atheists or agnostics who have a raging sense of humor.

This is a tremendously odd book that my old friend Lob introduced me to. It's the product of one of those 19th century "automatic writers" (which is to say a form of writing where the writer goes into some trance state and channels the text from the writer might say spirits or God, the orthodox would probably say demons, the skeptic would probably say the person's sub-conscious or possibly their conscious trying to con people. Although a fairly orthodox Reformed Baptist myself, I tend to believe the latter.) It's touted as a "new Bible" and the people who follow it were (or are) called Kosmons. Yes. It's that kind of book.
What I can guess from it is that they use some names familiar from Judeo-Christianity with a few mis-spellings here and there. Their deity seems to command them to be vegetarian. But what's always struck me most about the book is that it gets weirder the more you read it.

I hesitated to put this in the odd volumes (and apologize for the flash regardless.) This is a facsimile copy of the original 1611 King James Version of the Bible. The letter "s" looks like an "f" all the way through it. The font is "letters put in a printing press." And there are a few oddities in the text that you would not find if you walked into a bookstore and bought a more recent King James Version of the Bible. The textual variants are few. As you well know, we now have far more ancient and accurate manuscripts than they had in 1611.
My pastor actually calls me every once in a while to ask what the passage he's teaching on looks like in this edition.
While it is a supremely cool thing to own, it was also the only Bible I had unpacked when I first moved to Chico (I think it was at the top of a box) and I can tell you from that first week that it is not very user friendly for the modern Christian.

Once again, the hippie era produced a spiritual text with jokes and clip art. The Boo Hoo Bible was written by Art Kleps who was one of the footnotes of Timothy Leary's Millbrook LSD experiences. In fact, Kleps tried to found a church so that he could take psychedelics for "religious purposes" but the use of religion as thinly veiled excuse was transparent to the US Government. The book rambles on about psychedelics and freedom and the establishment.
So, why haven't you heard of Kleps and the Boo Hoo Bible? Why is it a bit of a rarity even though it's born from deep in hippie culture? Well, Kleps went on to become a rabid anti-semite, a Holocaust denier and a gun nut who actually got thrown out of The Netherlands for his nasty beliefs. I haven't read it and am kind of hard pressed, now that I'm talking about it, I'm a little hard pressed as to why I actually still own it. Hmm...

So, $35 plus shipping gets you my copy of this thing. Email me.


  1. I read this post with interest. Slight. But interest nevertheless. The last line is a hoot. Had me giggling. No! No! No! Do not send it to me! lol

  2. You do have a collection of oddballs, and I love it. Boo Hoo is worth keeping just for the tacky cover.