Book: James Shelby Downard’s Mystical War
Author: Adam Gorightly
Type of book: Non-fiction, conspiracy theory, occult symbology, Masonry
Why Do I Consider This Book Odd: It’s about James Shelby Downard’s whacked out and at times strangely on the nose beliefs and how they relate to the mass of conspiracy theory as a whole.
Availability: Published by Virtualbookworm.com in 2008, you can get a copy here:
Comments: Having read Carnivals of Life and Death by James Shelby Downard (I reviewed it here), I wanted to know more about the man, whether or not he was a real human being, and specifically what Gorightly had to say about him. I really like Gorightly’s biography of Kerry Thornley, which I also discussed on this site. I also have a soft spot for Discordians, it must be said, so I am kindly disposed towards Gorightly in general. But I was not as impressed by this book as much as I was by Gorightly’s earlier effort. There was a scattered quality to this book, with a ton of information thrown at the reader in very short order. If you are unfamiliar with Downard or with vast swathes of conspiracy theory in general, you will spend a lot of time Googling when you read this book.
It was quite nice to see that some of my own research and my own suspicions may have some validity to them (because it is impossible not to start feeling some paranoia when you read content like this and it can become hard to determine if you are suddenly seeing odd shadows where there are none). In my review of Carnivals of Life and Death I posited that Downard likely did not exist and may have been a group hoax created by Adam Parfrey, Michael Hoffman and William Grimstad, and Gorightly addresses that idea without confirming or denying it. I find that interesting but don’t see it as anything anyone should find upsetting if Downard is indeed a hoax. Art (or artifice, as it were) is the lie that tells the truth, sometimes. And even though I felt at times that Golightly veered off into his own riffs, I found this book mostly interesting, though the discussions were shallow and yet covered a shocking amount of ground. This is a short book, only 93 pages long, 10 of which are two separate introductions and another three are the index and appendices.
Chapters 1-5 discuss some of the topics Downard covers in Carnivals of Life and Death, as well as the article Downard wrote about the JFK assassination called “King Kill 33.” His unbelievable stories of being a Masonic scapegoat, combined with his supposed sex slave wife and similar mental maunderings are better read in his book, but Gorightly’s discussions are amusing enough. I particularly enjoyed chapter five, which dealt with mystical toponomy. There is an intoxicating “holy crap” element to Downard’s discussions about the 33rd latitude – there is something completely insane yet undeniably obvious about all of it.
It’s around chapter six and onward that things just let loose, applying various branches of conspiracy theory to Downard, mainly via mystical toponomy and mind control. A whole bunch of names who are more or less entire books in their own right get tossed out there in just chapter six alone, from Aleister Crowley to Richard Oppenheimer to Jack Parsons and how they all relate back to the 33rd latitude. From there we expand into Robert Temple’s Sirius theory and UFO-lore, including the Order of the Solar Temple cult suicides, then move on to the assassination of Robert Kennedy, “The Revelation of the Method,” insane journeys with Downard in his silver stream trailer, the connections between Jim Keith’s death at Burning Man and the movie The Wicker Man and the Son of Sam murders… and it was about here that I found myself a little overwhelmed. There is a ton of information crammed into this little book, almost too much.
Seriously, from chapter six on it is like a who’s who of whacked culture and fucked history. David Berkowitz, Terrence McKenna, the Unibomber, Jim Keith, the Carr family, Henry Lee Lucas, Stanley Kubrick, Bill Cooper, Prescott Bush, my hometown hero Alex Jones and so many, many more. This little book could make you go blind from the sheer audacity of its scope. I am unsure if this is a complaint or praise. You tell me…
Because stuff like this matters to me, I will add that the editing at times annoyed me. I suspect that most people who read this sort of stuff don’t care but the editing got very sketchy half-way in. Pepsi Cola did not have an ad that wanted to teach the world to sing. The use of dashes was bizarre. The book incorporated British-style and American-style use of conversational punctuation with no real rhyme or reason. If you’re gonna present a boatload of information in a short amount of space, it helps when the editing and more basic elements of fact checking are on the nose. In some places the editing outright grated.
And so did some of the theories and assertions. I mean, one cannot really disprove that the planet Sirius brought civilization to Earth (well, maybe you can) but you can definitely prove that Henry Lee Lucas and Ottis Toole did not commit several hundred cannibalistic murders. The only reason Henry Lee Lucas is linked to Jim Jones is because he confessed to killing everyone at Jonestown himself, but I think he claimed he shot and stabbed them instead of delivering cups of cyanide-laced fruit drink. Lucas was a semi-literate, probably mentally-challenged grifter who could be coerced into admitting anything. Indicating there was anything sinister in Bush the Lesser commuting his death sentence, linking him to the MK-ULTRA program and the Matamoros drug cult is wacky and sort of dumb. But then again, I also tend to think Gorightly has more than a little trickster in him. I suspect sometimes he just throws things out there to see what will stick, who will believe and who will not. But that’s just a guess because of the whole, you know, Discordian thing.
So, this is a reserved recommendation. If you’re new to the game, you may wanna read up on various insanities before reading this book because it is just an overview of madness and how it related to the theories of James Shelby Downard, and if you have not read Downard, definitely read Carnivals of Life and Death before you read this book. This book was loony though maddening at times, but because I kind of like Gorightly and because I was never bored reading it, I fall more on the end of recommending it than not. But heed my warnings, gentle readers – this book is a one-inch dip in the ocean of conspiracy and as a result may be more taxing than entertaining.