Make your own free website on

to return to my home page...

Click Here NOW!!!:

Bokononism Explained


If you care anything of me or of the well-being of the human race, please 
read and understand all of this.  It is all foma, all worthless lies.  Please, 
read on...

I have been told that everyone in the end must have a religion to fall 
back upon, like a bed after a hard day.  Well, this is my bed.  It is a bed 
of nails, it looks quite tough, even deadly, but it suits me fine.  
Bokononism  is my religion.  Originally constructed by Kurt Vonnegut 
in Cat's Cradle to explain the coexistence of God and nuclear warfare, it 
has become a religion that is not merely fictional, but a real system.  It is 
based on 
faith, which is based on a rational need to close one's eyes to the horrid 
Truth.  Those who become 
Bokononist close thier eyes and embrace the Social Dream, which is the 
notion that all man, working separately together, can achieve something 
that even God could be proud of, which is of course all foma.  We all 
have a purpose we do not see, namely the bemusement of God, but We 
must believe We are worth more.   We must.  So what do we believe, 

Enter Bokonon, and the World laughed again....

Outline:  His Biography
	Famous Quotes
	The Doghouse Parable
	His Books
	His Poetry
	Dictionary of Bokononist Terminology


Bokonon was born in 1891. He was a negro, born an Episcopalian and a 
British subject on the island of Tobago.  

He was christened Lionel Boyd Johnson.  

He was the youngest of six children, born to a wealthy family. His 
family's wealth derived from the discovery, by Bokonon's grandfather of 
one quarter of a million dollars in buried pirate treasure, presumably the 
treasure of Blackbeard, or Edward Teach.

Blackbeard's treasure was reinvested by Bokonon's family in asphalt, 
copra, cacao, livestock and poultry.

Young Lionel Boyd Johnson was educated in Episcopal schools, did 
well as a student, and was more interested
in ritual than most. As a youth, for all his interest in the outward 
trappings of organized religion, he seems to
have been a carouser.

Lionel Boyb Johnson was intellectually ambitious enough, in 1911, to 
sail alone from Tobago to London in a
sloop named the Lady's Slipper. His purpose was to gain a higher 

He enrolled in the London School of Economics and Political Science.

His education was interrupted by the First World War. He enlisted in 
the infantry, fought with distinction, was
comissioned in the field, was mentioned four times in dispatches. He 
was gassed in the second Battle of Ypres,
was hospitalized for two years, and then discharged.

And he set sail for home, for Tobago, alone in the Lady's Slipper again.

When only eight miles from home, he was stopped and searched by a 
German submarine, the U-99. He was
taken prisoner, and his little vessel wasused by the Huns for target 
practice. While still surfaced, the submarine
was surprised and captured by the British destroyer, the Raven.

Johnson and the Germans were taken on board the destroyer and the U-
99 was sunk.

The Raven was bound for the Mediterranean, but it never got there. It 
lost its steering; it could only wallow
helplessely or make grand, clockwise, circles. It came to a rest at last in 
the Cape verde Islands.

Johnson stayed in those islands for eight months, awaiting some sort of 
transportation to the Western

He got a job at last as a crewman on a fishing vessel that was carrying 
illegal immigrants to New Bedford,
Massachusetts. The vessel was blown ashore at Newport, Rhode 

By that time Johnson had developed a conviction that somethings was 
trying to get him somewhere for some
reason. So he stayed in Newport for a while to see if he had a destiny 
there. He worked as a gardener and
carpenter on the famous Rumfoord Estate.

During that time, he glimpsed many distinguished guests of the 
Rumfoords, among them J.P. Morgan, General
John J. Pershing, Franklin Delano Roosevelt, Enrico Caruso, Warren 
Gamaliel Harding, and Harry Houdini. And
it was during that time that the First World War came to an end, having 
killed ten million persons and wounded
twenty million, Johnson amongst them.

When the war ended, the young rakehell of Rumfoord family, 
Remington Rumfoord, IV, proposed to sail his
steam yacht, the Scheherazade, around the world, visiting Spain, France, 
Italy, Greece, Egypt, India, China, and
Japan. He invited Johnson to accompany him as first mate, and Johnson 

Johnson saw many wonders of the world on the voyage.

The Scheherezade was rammed in a fog in Bombay harbour and only 
Johnson survived. He stayed in India for
two years, becoming a follower of Mohandas K. Ghandi. He was 
arrested for leading groups that protested
against British rule by lying down on railroad tracks. When his jail term 
was over, he was shipped at Crown
expense to his home in Tobago.

There, he built another schooner, which he called the Lady's Slipper II.

And he sailed her about the Caribbean, a idler, still seeking the storm 
that would drive him ashore on what was
unmistakingly his destiny.

In 1922, he sought shelter from a hurricane in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, 
which country was then occupied by United
States Marines.

Johnson was approached there by a brilliant, self educated, idealistic 
Marine deserter, Earl McCabe. McCabe
was a corporal. He had just stolen his company's recreation fund. He 
offered Johnson five hundred dollars for
transportation to Miami.

The two set sail for Miami.

But a gale hounded the schooner onto the rocks of San Lorenzo. The 
boat went down. Johnson and McCabe,
absolutetly naked, managed to swim ashore. As Bokonon himself 
reports the adventure:

     A fish pitched up
     By the angry sea,
     I gasped on land,
     and I became me.

He was enchanted by the mystery of coming ashore naked on an 
unfamiliar island. He resolved to let the
adventure run its full course, resolved to see just how far a man might 
go, emerging naked from salt water.

It was a rebirth for him:

     Be like a baby,
     The Bible say,
     So I stay like a baby
     To this very day.

How he came by the name of Bokonon was very simple. 'Bokonon' was 
the pronunciation given the name
Johnson in the island's English dialect. Shortly after Johnson became 
Bokonon, the lifeboat of his shattered
ship was found on shore. That boat was later painted gold and made the 
bed of the island's chief executive.

There is a legend made up by Bokonon, that the golden boat will sail 
again when the end of the world is near.

When Lionel Boyd Johnson and Corporal Earl McCabe were washed up 
naked onto the shore of San Lorenzo,
they were greeted by persons far worse off than they. The people of 
San Lorenzo had nothing but diseases,
which they were at a loss to treat or even name. By contrast, Johnson 
and McCabe had the glittering treasures
of literacy, ambition, curiosity, gall, irreverence, health, humour, and 
considerable information about the outside

In 1922 every piece of arable land on the island was owned by Castle 
Sugar. Castle Sugar's San Lorenzo
operation never showed a profit. But, by paying labourers nothing for 
their labour, the company managed to
break even year after year, making just enough money to pay the 
salaries of the workers' tormentors.

The form of government was anarchy, save in limited situations wherein 
Castle Sugar wanted to own something
or to get something done. In such situations the form of government 
was feudalism. The nobility was
composed of Castle Sugar's plantation bosses, who were heavily armed 
white men from the outside world. The
knighthood was composed of big natives, who, for small gifts and silly 
privileges, would kill or wound or
torture on command. The spiritual needs of the people caught in this 
demoniacal squirrel cage were taken care
of by handful of butterball priests.

The San Lorenzo Cathedral, dynamited in 1923, was generally regarded 
as one of the man-made wonders of the
New World.

That Corporal McCabe and Johnson were able to take command of San 
Lorenzo was not a miracle in any sense.
Many people had taken over San Lorenzo - had invariably found it 
lightly held. The reason was simple: God, in
His Infinite Wisdom, had made the island worthless.

Hernando Cortes was the first man to have his sterile conquest of San 
Lorenzo recorded on paper. Cortes and
his men came ashore for fresh water in 1519, named the island claimed it 
for Emporer Charles the Fifth, and
never returned. Subsequent expeditions came for gold and diamonds 
and rubies and spices, found none,
burned a few natives for entertainment and heresy, and sailed on.

When France claimed San Lorenzo in 1682, no Spaniards complained. 
When Denmark claimed San Lorenzo in
1699, no Frenchmen complained. When the Dutch claimed San Lorenzo 
in 1704, no Danes complained. When
England claimed San Lorenzo in 1706, no Dutchmen complained. When 
Spain reclaimed San Lorenzo in 1720, no
Englishmen complained. When, in 1786, African Negroes took command 
of a British slave ship, ran it ashore on
San Lorenzo, and proclaimed San Lorenzo an independent nation, an 
empire with an emperor, in fact, no
Spaniards complained.

The emperor was Tum-bumwa, the only person who ever regarded this 
island as being worth defending. A
maniac, Tum-bumwa caused to be erected the San Lorenzo Cathedral 
and the fantastic fortifications on the
north shore of the island.

The fortifications have never been atacked, nor has any sane man ever 
proposed any reason why they should
be attacked. They have never defended anythings. Fourteen hundred 
persons are said to have died while
building them. Of these fourteen hundred, about half are said to have 
been executed in public for sub-standard

Castle Sugar came into San Lorenzo in 1916, during the sugar boom of 
the First World War. There was no
government at all. The company imagined that even the clay and gravel 
fields of San Lorenzo could be tilled
profitably, with the price of sugar so high. No one complained.

When McCabe and Johnson arrived in 1922 and announced that they 
were placing themselves in charge,
Castle Sugar withdrew flaccidly, as though from a queasy dream.

There was at least one quality of the new conquerers of San Lorenzo 
that was really new, McCabe and Johnson
dreamed of making San Lorenzo a Utopia.

To this end, McCabe overhauled the economy and the laws.

Johnson designed a new religion.

Everyone on San Lorenzo is a devout Bokononist, the hook 
notwithstanding. Bokononism is outlawed on San
Lorezo, punishable by the Hook. This is a gallows, two posts and a 
cross beam, from which a great big kind of
iron fishhook is hung, The hook is put through one side of the 
condemned's belly and out the other and then
he's let go.

When Bokonon and McCabe took over San Lorenzo they threw out the 
priests. And then Bokonon, cynically
and playfully, invented a new religion.

When it became evident that no governmental or economic reform was 
going to make the people much less
miserable, the religion became the one real instrument of hope. The 
Truth was the enemy of the people, because
the truth was so terrible, so Bokonon made it his business to provide 
the people with better and better lies.

He asked McCabe to outlaw him and his religion, too, in order to give 
the religious life of the people more zest,
more tang. Bokonon suggested the hook as a proper form of 
punishment for Bokononists. It was something
he'd seen in the Chamber of Horrors at Madame Tussaud's. That was for 
zest too.

At first it was all make believe. Rumours were cunningly circulated 
about executions, but no one really knew
anyone who had died that way. McCabe had a good old time making 
bloodthirsty threats against the
Bokononists - which was everybody.

And Bokonon went into cosy hiding in the jungle, where he wrote and 
preached all day long and ate good
things his disciples brought him.

McCabe would organize the unemployed, which was practically 
everybody into great Bokonon hunts.

About every six months McCabe would announce triumphantly that 
Bokonon was surrounded by a ring of
steel, which was remorselessly closing in.

And then the leaders of the remorseless ring would have to report to 
McCabe, full of chagrin and apoplexy, that
Bokonon had done the impossible.

He had escaped, had evaporated, had lived to preach another day. 

McCabe and Bokonon did not succeed in raising what is generally 
thought of as the standard of living. The
truth was that life was short and brutish and mean as ever.

But people didn't have to pay as much attention to the awful truth. As 
the living legend of the cruel tyrant in
the city and the gentle holy man in the jungle grew, so, too, did the 
happiness of the people grow. They were all
employed full time as actors in a play they understood, that any human 
being anywhere could understand and

The drama was very tough on the souls of the two main actors, McCabe 
and Bokonon. As young men they had
been pretty much alike, had both been half-angel, half-pirate.

But the drama demanded that the pirate half of Bokonon and the angel 
half of McCabe wither away. And
McCabe and Bokonon paid a terrible price in agony for the happiness of 
the people - McCabe knowing the
agony of the tyrant and Bokonon knowing the agony of the saint. They 
both became, for all practical purposes,

And then people really did start dying on the hook.

But McCabe never made a really serious effort to catch Bokonon. It 
would have been easy to do. McCabe
always realized that without the holy man to war against, he himself 
would become meaningless. He executed
one Bokononist every two years, just to keep the pot boiling. 


Some Favourite Lines

     "Peculiar travel suggestions are dancing lessons from God." 
     "Live by the foma that make you brave and kind and healthy and 
     "Maturity is a bitter disappointment for which no remedy exists, 
unless laughter can be said to remedy
     "Beware of the man who works hard to learn something, learns it, and 
finds himself no wiser than
     before. He is full of murderous resentment of people who are ignorant 
without having come by their
     ignorance the hard way." 
     "It's never a mistake to say good-bye" 
     Jesus once said, "Render therefore unto Caesar the things which are 
Caesar's". Which Bokonon
     paraphrased, "Pay no attention to Caesar. Caesar doesn't have the 
slightest idea what's really going
     "As it was meant to happen" 

Concerning the Karass

     "If you find your life tangled up with somebody else's life for no very 
logical reasons, that person may
     be a member of your karass". 
     "Man created the checkerboard; God created the karass." 
     "Likes and dislikes have nothing to do with it." 
     "Wampeters come and wampeters go" 
     "No karass is without a wampeter, just as no wheel is without a hub." 
     "A true duprass can't be invaded, not even by children born of such 
a union." 
     "Members of a duprass always die within a week of each other." 
     "A duprass is a a valuable instrument for gaining and developing, in 
the privacy of an interminable love
     affair, insights that are queer but true." 
     "A duprass is also a sweetly conceited establishment." 

Speaking Generally

     "Ah God, what an ugly city every city is!" 
     "Write it all down. Without accurate records of the past, how can 
men and women be expected to avoid
     making serious mistakes in the future?" 
     "History! Read it and weep!" 
     "God never wrote a good play in His Life." 
     "Sometime pool-pah exceeds the power of humans to comment." 
     "Any man can call time out, but no man can say how long the time 
out will be." 
     "If I am ever put to death on the hook, expect a very human 
     "Today I will be a Bulgarian Minister of Education. Tomorrow I will 
be Helen ' of Troy." 
     "Midget, midget, midget, how he struts and winks, For he knows a 
man's as big as what he hopes and
     "The hand that stocks the drug stores rules the world. Let us start 
our Republic, with a chain of drug
     stores, a chain of grocery stores, a chain of gas chambers, and a 
national game. After that we can write
     our Constitution." 

It is not known, in which Book this parable appeared, but it reads as 

     I once knew an Episcopalian lady in Newport, Rhode Island, who 
asked me to design and build a
     doghouse for her Great Dane. The lady claimed to understand God 
and His Ways of Working perfectly.
     She could not understand why anyone should be puzzled about what 
had been or what was going to

     And yet, when I showed her a blueprint of the doghouse I proposed 
to build, she said to me, "I'm sorry,
     but I never could read one of those things."

     "Give it to your husband or your minister to pass on to God," I said," 
and, when God finds a minute, I'm
     sure he'll explain this doghouse of mine in a way that even you can 

     She fired me. I shall never forget her. She believed that God liked 
people in sailboats much better than
     he liked people in motorboats. She could not bear to look at a worm. 
When she saw a worm she
     screamed. She was a fool, and so am I, and so is anyone who thinks 
he sees what God is Doing.

A parable on the folly of pretending to discover, to understand

Bokonon's Cosmogeny

It is not known, in which Book this cosmogony appeared, but Bokonon 

     Borasisi, the sun, held Pabu, the moon, in his arms, and hoped that 
Pabu would bear him a fiery child.

     But poor Pabu gave birth to children that were cold, that did not 
burn; and Borasisi threw them away in
     disgust. These are the planets that circle their terrible father at a safe 

     Then poor Pabu herself was cast away,and she went to live with her 
favourite child, which was Earth.
     Earth was Pabu's favourite because it had people on it; and the 
people looked up at her and loved her
     and sympathised.

Bokonon describes his cosmogeny as a "Foma!, A pack of foma!" 


Selected extracts from the Books of Bokonon are here presented. It is 
not known how many books Bokonon
ultimately wrote, though they number at least fifteen. 

The First Book of Bokonon

Apearing on the title page: "Don't be a fool! Close this book at once! It 
is nothing but foma!"

The book commences:

     All of the true things I am about to tell you are shameless lies.

     In the beginning, God created earth, and he looked upon it in His 
cosmic loneliness.

     And God said, "Let Us make living creatures out of mud, so the mud 
can see what We have done." And
     God created every living creature that now moveth, and one was 
man. Mud as man alone could speak.
     God leaned close as mud as man sat up, looked around, and spoke. 
Man blinked. "What is the purpose
     of all this?" he asked politely.

     "Everything must have a purpose?" asked God.

     "Certainly," said man.

     "Then I leave it to you to think of one for all this," said God. And He 
went away.

Bokonon says of his first book: "Of course it's trash" 

The Sixth Book of Bokonon

All that we know of this book is that it is devoted to pain, in particular 
to tortures inflicted by men on men.
Bokonon speaks of the hook, the rack, the peddiwinkus, the iron 
maiden,the veglia and the oubliette. Bokonon

     In any case, there's bound to be much crying.
     But the oubliette alone will let you think while dying.

The Seventh Book of Bokonon - "Bokonon's Republic"

All that we know of this book is that it concerns itself with utopias.

In it, Bokon writes: 

     The hand that stocks the drug stores rules the world.

     Let us start our Republic, with a chain of drug stores, a chain of 
grocery stores, a chain of gas
     chambers, and a national game. After that we can write our 

The Fourteenth Book of Bokonon - "What can a Thoughtful Man Hope 
for Mankind on
Earth, Given the Experience of the Past Million Years?"

This is the only book which we have in its entirety. It's contents are as 


The Final Book of Bokonon

We have only the final sentence, which reads: 

     If I were a younger man, I would write a history of human stupidity; 
and I would climb to the top of
     Mount McCabe and lie down on my back with my history for a 
pillow; and I would take from the ground
     some of the blue-white poison that makes statues of men; and I 
would make a statue of myself, lying on
     my back, grinning horribly, and thumbing my nose at You Know 


Bokonon's 14th Calypso

     When I was young,
     I was so gay and mean,
     And I drank and chased the girls
     Just like St Augustine.
     St Augustine,
     He got to be a saint.
     So if I get to be one also,
     Please, mama, don't you faint.

Bokonon's 53rd Calypso

     Oh, a sleeping drunkard
     Up in Central Park,
     And a lion-hunter
     In the jungle dark,
     And a chinese dentist,
     And a British queen -
     All fit together
     In the same machine.
     Nice, nice, very nice;
     Nice, nice, very nice;
     Nice, nice, very nice -
     So many different people
     In the same device.

Bokonon's 119th Calypso

     "Where's my good old gang done gone?"
     I heard a man say.
     I whispered in that sad man's ear,
     "Your gang's done gone away."

On the People of San Lorenzo

     Oh, a very sorry people, yes,
     Did I find here.
     Oh, they had no music,
     And they had no beer.
     And, oh, everywhere
     Where they tried to perch
     Belonged to Castle Sugar, Incorporated,
     Or the Catholic Church.

On the Roots of Bokononism

     I wanted all things
     To seem to make sense,
     So we all could be happy, yes,
     Instead of tense.
     And I made up lies
     So that they all fit nice,
     And I made this sad world
     A par-a-dise.

On Contrast

     'Papa' Monzano, he's so very bad,
     But without bad 'Papa' I would be so sad;
     Because without 'Papa's' badness,
     Tell me, if you would,
     How could wicked old Bokonon
     Ever, ever look good?

On Boko-Maru

     We will touch our feet, yes,
     Yes, for all we're worth,
     And we will love each other, yes,
     Yes, like we love our Mother Earth.

On God

     Someday, someday, this crazy world will have to end,
     And our God will take things back that He to us did lend.
     And if, on that sad day, you want to scold our God,
     Why go right ahead and scold Him. He'll just smile and nod.

On Life

     We do, doodley do, doodley do, doodley do,
     What we must, muddily must, muddily must, muddily must;
     Muddily do, muddily do, muddily do, muddily do,
     Until we bust, bodily bust, bodily bust, bodily bust.

On the Quest for Understanding

     Tiger got to hunt,
     Bird got to fly;
     Man got to sit and wonder, 'Why, why, why?'
     Tiger got to sleep,
     Bird got to land,
     Man got to tell himself he understand.

On the Outlawing of Bokonon

     So I said good-bye to government,
     And I gave my reason:
     That a really good religion
     Is a form of treason.

On Love

     A lover's a liar,
     To himself he lies.
     The truthful are loveless,
     Like oysters their eyes!

On Bokonon's Rebirth

     A fish pitched up
     By the angry sea,
     I gasped on land,
     and I became me.

On Growth

     Be like a baby,
     The Bible say,
     So I stay like a baby
     To this very day.

On Torture

     In any case, there's bound to be much crying.
     But the oubliette alone will let you think while dying.

On Granfalloons

     If you wish to study a granfalloon,
     Just remove the skin of a toy balloon.

On the Members of a Karass

     Around and around and around we spin,
     With feet of lead and wings of tin ...

The San Lorenzan National Anthem (1922, Bokonon)

     Oh, ours is a land
     Where the living is grand,
     And the men are as fearless as sharks;
     The women are pure,
     And we always are sure
     That our children will all toe their marks.
     San, San Lo-ren-zo!
     What a rich, lucky island are we!
     Our enemies quail,
     For they know they will fail
     Against people so reverent and free.

The Last Rites of the Bokononist Faith

     Performed in the Boko-Maru posture, both parties repeat one after 
the other:

     God made mud,
     God got lonesome,
     So God said to some of the mud, "Sit up!",
     "See all I've made," said God, "the hills, the sea, the sky, the stars."
     And I was some of the mud that got to sit up and look around.
     Lucky me, lucky mud.
     I, mud, sat up and saw what a nice job God had done.
     Nice going, God!
     Nobody but You could have done it, God! I certainly couldn't have.
     I feel very unimportant compared to You.
     The only way that I can feel the least bit important is to think
     of all the mud that didn't even get to sit up and look around.
     I got so much, and most mud got so little.
     Thank you for the honour!
     Now mud lies down again and goes to sleep.
     What memories for mud to have!
     What interesting other kinds of sitting-up mud I met!
     I loved everything I saw!
     Good night.
     I will go to heaven now.
     I can hardly wait ...
     To find out for certain what my wampeter was ...
     And who was in my karass ...
     And all the good things our karass did for you.


boko-maru: The mingling of awareness. A Bokononist ritual during 
which two people press the soles of their
bare feet together. Bokononists believe it is impossible to be sole-to-
sole with another person without loving
that person, provided the feet of both persons are clean and nicely 

busy, busy, busy: What bokononists whisper whenever they think of 
how complicated and unpredictable the
machinery of life really is.

duffle: The destiny of thousands upon thousands of persons when 
placed in the hands of a stuppa.

duprass: A karass composed of only two persons.

dynamic tension: Theory that good societies can be built only by 
pitting good against evil, and by keeping the
tension between the two high at all times. Derived from a theory of 
Charles Atlas, that muscles can be built
without bar bells or spring exercisers, by simply pitting one set of 
muscles against another.

foma: Harmless untruths. Lies.

granfalloon: A seeming team that is meaningless in terms of the ways 
God gets things done. Textbook
examples include the false karass, the Communist party, the Daughters 
of the American Revolution, the General
Electric Company, the International Order of Odd Fellows and any 
nation anytime anywhere.

kan-kan: The instrument that brings someone into their particular 

karass: A team which unknowingly executes God's Will. Bokononists 
believe that all humanity is divided into
such teams.

pool-pah: Shit storm. Wrath of God.

saroon: To aquiesce to the seeming demands of one's vin-dit.

sin-wat: One who wants 'all' of somebody's love.

sinookas: The tendrils of one's life.

stuppa: A fogbound child.

vin-dit: A sudden, very personal shove in the direction of Bokononism.

wampeter: The pivot of a karass. Anything can be a wampeter: a tree, a 
rock, an animal, an idea, a book, a
melody, the Holy Grail. At any given time a karass actually has two 
wampeters - one waxing in importance, one

wrang-wrang: A person who steers people away from a line of 
speculation by reducing that line, with the
example of the wrang-wrang's own life, to an absurdity.

zah-mah-ki-bo: Fate, inevitable destiny. 

If you have any questions, feel free to e-mail me at   I 
shall confuse thee with great efficiency.


Bayard Russell
10925 Lakeview Way
Carmal, IA 46053
United States