We were talking about “gateway drugs” on Saturday in our hailing the birthday of Anton LaVey, founder of the Church a Satan which, when you stripped away all the Hollywood horror film trappings, was an embrace of Rabelaisian Thelemic principles…sort of.
Another organization that encouraged many to question the status quo of American mainstream society was the Church of the Subgenius. rationalwiki.org states:
“The Church of the SubGenius is a parody religion/THE ONE TRUE RELIGION described by some of its own members as an “insane bogus UFO mind-control cult”. SubGenius doctrine combines the worst elements of self-help groups, UFO cults, Scientology, apocalyptic Christianity, and utterly shameless money-grubbing antics.
“The organization was founded in 1979 when Rev. Ivan Stang and Philo Drummond (both pseudonyms) published a clip-art pamphlet entitled The World Ends Tomorrow And You May Die!, a clip-art extravaganza that described the basic SubGenius philosophy and introduced J.R. “Bob” Dobbs. The pamphlet found its way into the 1980s underground artist and rock-and-roll culture, as it was endorsed by comix artist R. Crumb in the pages of Weirdo magazine. This caused the SubGenius meme to spread into a graffiti and clip-art movement for several years. “Bob’s” smiling face made cameo appearances all over the United States and several other countries (in a manner later echoed by Obey and other graffiti-art campaigns), and the membership of the Church of the SubGenius swelled to several dozen hardcore members, a few thousand “paid-up SubGenius ministers” (people who sent $20 to the group for official “ordainment”), and many unofficial vocal supporters (including Frank Zappa, Pee-Wee Herman, David Byrne, and a few other celebrities).
“The Church of the SubGenius expanded in the 1980s with the publication of The Book of the SubGenius, High Weirdness by Mail, Three-Fisted Tales of “Bob,” and Revelation X: The “Bob” Apocryphon. However, the movement died down by the early 1990s, as other “wacky” pop culture groups made their own imprints on society. The underground zine movement which fueled the Church faded out and was replaced by the Internet and the World Wide Web, and the Church of the SubGenius moved online to sustain itself.
“During the 1990s and even 2000s the Church of the SubGenius continued to attract followers, as it attached itself to ongoing cultural and Internet memes; however, it didn’t find the “viral” popularity seen online by other parody religion figures such as the Flying Spaghetti Monster, the Invisible Pink Unicorn, and Anonymous. SubGenius members continue to pop up amid the latest “rebel” fads of the moment (such as the Occupy Wall Street protests), though the movement never moved past its hardcore membership of several hundred SubGenius “ministers” (and many hundreds or thousands of paid-up ministers worldwide giving lip service to the movement).” You can read the entire piece here: http://rationalwiki.org/wiki/Church_of_the_SubGenius
The Church of the Subgenius’s own site offers many “explanatory” pamphlets for your persual including Pamphlet #1 which states on it’s first page:
“The World Ends Tomorrow and YOU MAY DIE
Well, no, probably not…but whatever you do, just keep reading!
ARE WE CONTROLLED BY SECRET FORCES?
ARE ALIEN SPACE MONSTERS BRINGING A STARTLING NEW WORLD?
DO PEOPLE THINK YOU’RE STRANGE?
…THEN YOU MAY BE ON THE RIGHT TRACK!
“Unpredictables” are not alone and possess amazing hidden powers of their own!
Are You Abnormal?
YES! YOUR KIND SHALL TRIUMPH!”
View the pamphlet here: http://www.subgenius.com/pam1/pamphlet_p1.html
Here’s an excert from the “Arise” video self-documentary: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=BbHjybg50BU
For those of you keeping score Devo were deeply influenced by The Church of the SubGenius early on and published articles in fanzines like CLE that echoed the clip-art visual style and also the mock agit-prop prose style of SubGenius publications.
During the pre-punk period — a nadir of creative dissentive culture — The Church of the SubGenius provided an example of personal questioning of the status quo turning into a quest for individuation and then promulgation of such pursuit via avant artistic expressions distributed to the masses via affordable media options. This quest for individuation – even presented in this comedic context – could well be seen to be in harmony with the ideal: “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law.”