Only one person in the history of the world did all of the below:

  1. Co-founded a well-known if eccentric religion and helped write its first book
  2. Wrote a book about Lee Harvey Oswald before Oswald was accused of assassinating President John F. Kennedy
  3. Got officially investigated in the JFK assassination
  4. Posthumously influenced the naming of a planet

That person was Kerry Thornley, aka Ho Chi Zen, aka Lord Omar Khayyam Ravenhurst.

Today, April 17, 2023, would have been his 85th birthday.

Personal life

The Sacred Chaos, symbol of Discordianism

Kerry Wendell Thornley was born on April 17, 1938 in Los Angeles to Kenneth and Helen Thornley. He had two younger brothers, Dick and Tom. In 1965, he married Cara Leach with whom he one child, a son named Kreg Thornley. Kerry Thornley passed away at age 60 on November 28, 1998.

During his 60 years, Thornley frequently shifted his ideology. While raised Mormon, he explored atheism, anarchism, Objectivism, neo-paganism (a term some claim he coined), Kerista, and Buddhism.

Thornley is perhaps best known as the co-founder, with Gregory Hill aka Malaclypse the Younger, of Discordianism. Discordianism began around 1958-59 and is often called either “a joke disguised as a religion, or a religion disguised as a joke.” Discordia, also known as Eris, is the Roman and Greek goddess of strife and discord.

Hill, with Thornley and help from others, wrote Principia Discordia. The first edition was allegedly printed using District Attorney Jim Garrison’s Xerox printer in 1963. Other editions followed, with the fourth being the best known. The religion/philosophy was quite obscure until publicized by Discordian Playboy editors Robert Shea and Robert Anton Wilson in their popular The Illuminatus! Trilogy. Versions of the fourth and best-known edition of Principia Discordia, which was made “kopyleft” (public domain), were published by several companies including Loompanics in 1979, and Steve Jackson Games in 1994.

While the book is widely regarded as humorous, it contains actual philosophy. It recognizes disorder as being as important as order. And the book includes this:

“With our concept making apparatus called ‘mind’ we look at reality through the ideas-about-reality which our cultures give us. The ideas-about-reality are mistakenly labeled ‘reality’ and unenlightened people are forever perplexed by the fact that other people, especially other cultures, see ‘reality’ differently. It is only the ideas-about-reality which differ. Real (capital-T True) reality is a level deeper than is the level of concept.”

Oswald and Kennedy

In early 1959, just about the time Thornley and Hill were creating Discordianism, Thornley served in the same United Marine Corps radio operator unit as Lee Harvey Oswald. This was in Santa Ana, California. The two quickly became friends, discussing philosophy, society, culture, literature, and politics. Militaristically, it was an idle time for the two trained “warriors.”

Thornley later wrote a fictional work based on his experiences called The Idle Warriors. The main character, Johnny Shellburn, was heavily inspired by Oswald. Thornley completed it in February 1962, a year and a half before Lee Harvey Oswald was arrested in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy. That was the first book written about Oswald, and the only one finished before the Kennedy assassination.

Thornley’s connection with Oswald, his time living in New Orleans, and his anti-Kennedy feelings caught the attention of New Orleans District Attorney Jim Garrison. Garrison suspected the assassination was part of a New Orleans-based conspiracy, and wanted to find a “second Oswald.” Thornley and Oswald were noted for having a similar appearance.

Garrison had mentioned a second Oswald in an October 1967 Playboy interview. “A young man approximating Oswald’s description and using Oswald’s name — we believe we have discovered his identity—engaged in a variety of activities designed to create such a strong impression of Oswald’s instability and culpability in people’s minds that they would recall him as a suspicious character after the President was murdered.”

In 1968, Garrison questioned Thornley before a grand jury. Thornley said he had been in contact with a couple of mysterious men in New Orleans who went by “Gary Kirstein” and “Slim Brooks.” There was some suspicion they had been associated with the Kennedy assassination. But when Thornley said he hadn’t had contact with Oswald since 1959, Garrison charged him with perjury. The charge was later dropped.

Thornley later said in an interview on A Current Affair that he had wanted to see Kennedy dead. But that’s during a time he was apparently suffering from paranoia.

There has been some conjecture that both Thornley and Oswald may have been subjected to mind-altering experiments. Those were performed on some military personnel as part of Project MKUltra (also called MK-Ultra). MK-Ultra was a secret project of the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA). It tested the effects of various drugs in mental weakening and “brainwashing.” Most of the records of MK-Ultra were destroyed before they could be released. So whether or not Thornley and Oswald were test subjects will likely never be known.

Planet X

But what does Discordianism co-creator Kerry Thornley have to do with the naming of a planet?

A Palomar Observatory-based team discovered a large outer Solar System body in January 2005. Michael E. Brown led the team which also included Chad Trujillo and David Rabinowitz.

The heavenly body was nicknamed Xena after the character appearing in the television series Xena: Warrior Princess. (Xena starts with an X as in “Planet X”). A debate about whether to classify it as a planet or minor planet led to naming campaigns—amidst the strife and discord of Pluto being reclassified from planet to dwarf planet. Some pushed to have the planet named “Bob” after the central figure of the Church of the SubGenius1. Meanwhile, the Discordian/Erisian known as Professor Mu-Chao began a campaign to name the dwarf planet “Eris.”

Dwarf Planet Eris
Eris is a dwarf planet situated beyond Neptune on the edge of the Kuiper Belt. It is an icy rocky planet, bigger than Pluto and twice as far from the Sun.

In September 2006, the dwarf planet was officially named 136199 Eris. The successful naming campaign then became known as “The Jake that Changed a World.”

Mike Brown later published a memoir about the naming of Eris and demotion of Pluto called How I Killed Pluto and Why It Had It Coming. Several Discordians noted the similarity between that and the subtitle of the best-known edition of Principia Discordia. That includes How I Found Goddess And What I Did To Her When I Found Her.

For their eccentric work, Thornley, Hill, Shea, Wilson, and Brown were named in various years to the tongue-in-cheek Order of the Pineapple. Winners who accepted the award include Alan Moore, Steve Jackson, Professor Mu-Chao, Sondra London, Adam Gorightly, Dr. Demento, and Robert Crumb.

Unfortunately, Thornley didn’t live to see the naming of the dwarf planet Eris. One can imagine that, if he had, he might have recited the Discordian proclamation: “Hail Eris! All Hail Discordia!”

Special thanks to the people at


1 In the 2000 animated film Titan A.E., the new world created to be the new home of humanity was also named “Bob”.

Alden Loveshade
Alden Loveshade

Alden Loveshade first thought of emself as a writer when in 3rd grade. E first wrote professionally when e was 16 years old, and later did professional photography and art/graphic design. Alden has professionally published news/sports/humorous/and feature articles, poems, columns, reviews, stories, scripts, books, and school lunch menus.