The Church of the SubGenius

 

 

One could argue that material produced by the Church of the SubGenius was created by a company to promote itself and is thus, not strictly amateur samizdat, I feel I must include at least something by this creative group, which remains active today. Rather than bother to rewrite the Wikipedia article, I’ll quote from it directly as the most succinct definition of the group:

 

The Church of the SubGenius is a parody religion that satirizes better-known belief systems. It teaches a complex philosophy that focuses on J. R. "Bob" Dobbs, purportedly a salesman from the 1950s, who is revered as a prophet by the Church. SubGenius leaders have developed detailed narratives about Dobbs and his relationship to various gods and conspiracies. Their central deity, Jehovah 1, is accompanied by other gods drawn from ancient myth and popular fiction. SubGenius literature describes a grand conspiracy that seeks to brainwash the world and oppress Dobbs' followers. In its narratives, the Church presents a blend of cultural references in an elaborate remix of the sources.

Ivan Stang, who co-founded the Church of the SubGenius in the 1970s, serves as its leader and publicist. He has imitated actions of other religious leaders, using the tactic of culture jamming in an attempt to undermine better-known faiths. Church leaders instruct their followers to avoid mainstream commercialism and the belief in absolute truths. The group holds that the quality of "Slack" is of utmost importance—it is never clearly defined. The number of followers is unknown, although the Church's message has been welcomed by college students and artists in the United States. The group is often compared to Discordianism. Journalists often consider the Church to be an elaborate joke, but a few academics have defended it as an honest system of deeply held beliefs.

 

The Church of the SubGenius was founded by Ivan Stang (born Douglas St Clair Smith) and Philo Drummond (born Steve Wilcox)[4] as the SubGenius Foundation.[5] Dr. X (born Monte Dhooge) was also present at the group's inception.[6] The organization's first recorded activity was the publication of a photocopied document, known as the Sub Genius Pamphlet #1, disseminated in Dallas, Texas in 1979. The document announced the impending end of the world and the possible deaths of its readers.[5] It criticized Christian conceptions of God and New Age perceptions of spirituality.

 

Church leaders maintain that a man named J. R. "Bob" Dobbs founded the group in 1953.[5] SubGenius members constructed an elaborate account of the life of Dobbs, which is described by commentators as fictional.[8] They assert that he telepathically contacted Drummond in 1972, before meeting him in person the next year, and that Drummond persuaded Ivan Stang to join shortly afterwards.[9] Stang describes himself as the "sacred scribe" of Dobbs and a "professional maven of weirdness”. (1)

Not long after the group formed, a friend of my wife became an Ordained Minister of the Church of the SubGenius. In practical terms, she sent in her fee and got back her formal certificate. Then one day, our friend told us that the core SubGenius gang had rented a beach house on Bolivar Peninsula, about an hour’s drive, including a ferry ride, from our house in Houston. She invited us to the party, so we rode down there with her and had a nice time with these clever, smart people.

 

So, tenuous as it is, I feel a direct connection to the Church of the SubGenius. As I said, they’re still operational, so I don’t want to step on their toes and reproduce any of their current material. But what I’ve included here is pure vintage SubGenius from the 1980s—stuff that was intended to be reproduced at will by anybody.

 

NOTES

 

(1) “Church of the SubGenius.” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Church_of_the_SubGenius.

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