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10 October 2003 @ 06:52 pm
October list, day 9  

1. Julius H. Hlavaty
2. Fancille Hayman Hlavaty
3. Adrienne Fein
4. Rose and Theodore Du Bois
5. Robert J. Shea
6. John P. McClimans
7. Seth Goldberg
8. Marjii Ellers
9. Camden Benares

I think he's dead, but you can't tell with these Discordians.

As I've mentioned before, reading Illuminatus! and starting the Illuminatus! Nut Cult got me involved with the authors of the book and with many of those who remained in the Discordian movement. For instance, I corresponded with the late Kerry Thornley, who really was like that, nebech, at least from time to time.

Somewhere around 1980 I got in touch with Camden Benares, whose Zen without Zen Masters, a book of Discordian tales, had delighted me. There followed a long and enjoyable correspondence. He lived in LA, and I never met him. Once I was out there and we almost got together, but my own lack of order prevented it.

I never knew much about him. The unreliable narrator Thornley said he was born John Overton. Contemporary Writers knows him not. He wrote a second book, A Handful of Zen, almost as good.

In the mid-90s his beloved wife June sickened. At one point Camden asked me to send him any amusing stuff I had written, as he needed cheering. He survived her death and remained reasonably happy, but several years later, he wrote me to say that he had utterly lost his faith in medical science because it had told him he had six months to live, and that had been over a year ago. He indicated that he looked forward eagerly to the Next Big Adventure, and that when he did die, I would be on the list of those notified by his family.

I never was, but a while after that, a zine I sent him came back as unforwardable, so I guess medical science could finally say, "I told you so." (Or it's all a Huge Discordian Plot. How do we know that Thornley really...?)

Here is his most famous parable:

A serious young man found the conflicts of mid 20th Century America confusing. He went to many people seeking a way of resolving within himself the discords that troubled him, but he remained troubled.

One night in a coffee house, a self-ordained Zen Master said to him, "Go to the dilapidated mansion you will find at this address which I have written down for you. Do not speak to those who live there; you must remain silent until the moon rises tomorrow night. Go to the large room on the right of the main hallway, sit in the lotus position on top of the rubble in the northeast corner, face the corner, and meditate."

He did just as the Zen Master instructed. His meditation was frequently interrupted by worries. He worried whether or not the rest of the plumbing fixtures would fall from the second floor bathroom to join the pipes and other trash he was sitting on. He worried how would he know when the moon rose on the next night. He worried about what the people who walked through the room said about him.

His worrying and meditation were disturbed when, as if in a test of his faith, ordure fell from the second floor onto him. At that time two people walked into the room. The first asked the second who the man was sitting there was. The second replied "Some say he is a holy man. Others say he is a shithead."

Hearing this, the man was enlightened.

his wholiness the rev drjondrjon on May 21st, 2006 11:56 pm (UTC)
Hi, there.

I'm researching the Ur-Discordians myself, and having stumbled upon this entry, was wondering if you ever heard any more from Camden Benares?

El Coyote Gordo: actualsupergee on May 22nd, 2006 12:33 am (UTC)
Alas, no.
(Anonymous) on April 27th, 2008 01:27 am (UTC)
Camden Benares
I'm sorry to tell you that Camden Benares (aka John Albert Overton) died in 2000. I was his best friend and writing partner for over 25 years, and care taker for his last four years after June, his beloved wife, died.

Camden died of a massive heart attack, which was not unexpected. He had a major heart attack in the early 80's and was given six months -- at the time. That he lived almost another twenty years is a testament to his strong physique and the curative properties of pot.

I have in my possession several of his manuscripts (including his unpublished and last Zen book) as well as the outtakes of "Zen Without Zen Masters," the book Camden was writing in 1973 when we met.

John F. Carr
El Coyote Gordo: me-kindasupergee on April 27th, 2008 09:32 am (UTC)
Re: Camden Benares
Thank you.
(Anonymous) on September 8th, 2009 11:23 pm (UTC)
Re: Camden Benares
Thank you for the update. As a fan of Zen Without Zen Masters I have wondered where and how Camden Benares was. Thank you also for your care of him as apart from paying the purchase price of the book we don't often get to express our appreciation for this influence.

I and I am sure others would very much like to read more from his other writings and if possible please advise how we may do that.

As expressed in The Perfect Prayer

...may peace and peace be everywhere...

Om shanti shanti shanti

Ivan Richter
(Anonymous) on May 12th, 2010 07:45 pm (UTC)
I stumbled on this discussion and am glad I found it because some of you might be able to help us. We're working on building the website http://www.KerryThornley.com and are looking for information on Thornley and other early Discordians, including of course Camden Benares (whose story above appears on page 5 of Principia Discordia.)

If our information is correct (and we believe it is), Camden J. Benares was born as John Overton on August 30, 1932 (I don't know his original middle name or what the "J" in his final name stood for) but legally changed his name, probably in the last 1960s, and passed away July 8, 1999.

Our website is not an attempt to make any money--frankly, we'll be very happy if we break even--but is an attempt to put together information that's scattered everywhere and much that's simply not available. We've already gotten help from members of Kerry's family and some of his friends, and are excited to have material that's never appeared anywhere.

I'm not posting our email here as we're trying very hard to avoid spam, but it's listed at http://www.KerryThornley.com

Thanks for any help you can give us.