Eddie Paradise Investigates: A Strange Beauty is Born: The Cult of Paschull in Korea, Part 1

Sunday, September 21, 2008





“Paschull, like all other gods, springs purely from humanity's crazed imagination. He's just the only one out there who has the good graces to admit it.” Mike, The False Prophet of Paschull

It was true that after reporting on such oddities as Ajummah-do and the rise of the mullet among schoolchildren, there was little I would credit to this peninsula that would still have the power to outright surprise me. I suppose that's the beauty of living here; your arrogance of having seen it all is ever being challenged. One day, you see a few happy guys in gold-lamé windbreakers and feel like a world traveler and next week you see a venerable old lady dry-humping a tree. I should not have been surprised then that a flier concerning a recruitment meeting for the Cult of Paschull passed across my desk a week ago. It's the latest craze to sweep Korea up in a tide of religious fervor, but I should have seen it coming. I had heard the odd rumbling in the underground before, but nothing specific. Then there was the subway preacher who carried not a Bible but a stuffed penguin who sang a little song. He then bowed politely and moved on to another car. In the faces of the people around me I saw confusion, hope and a desire to learn more. That was really my first clue that something was up. Then came the red neon penguin and panda signs among all the crosses, illuminated against the Seoul night skyline. What follows is a reflection of my time as a prospective member of the Cult of Paschull.

Monday- Research

According to what little information is presently available on its Facebook group, the Cult of Paschull was started by Mike, the False Prophet of Paschull. It is rife with spelling errors and poorly organized, but at the very least it gave some insights into the sick mind that has unleashed this new monster player in the god-game upon our fair shores of Korea. He freely admits that Paschull is an entirely made-up deity and created him because he had nothing better to do at the time. There is also a suspicion that he may be listening to voices in his head. Thus far the revealed physical aspects of Paschull, (at least, according to the False Prophet) are Paschull the Penguin and the Panda of Joy, represented in the Cult's rituals by stuffed animals. While not explicitly stated, it appears from the literature that Paschull the Penguin would be the aspect of the law-giver and the Panda of Joy provides emotional support for his followers. Thus, among Paschullians in Korea, the Penguin is venerated above the Panda. These aspects are invoked in the traditional Paschullian blessing, “may Paschull the Penguin shall waddle beside you and the Panda of Joy hold you to His furry heart all the days of your lives.” Such a blessing is usually followed by a qualifying statement to the effect that Paschull probably won't be doing either of these things as he does not, in fact, exist. It gets kind of old after a while.

Paschull's name is influenced by the strange winds that whistle between the False Prophet's ears and the name of a demon as revealed to him by a good friend who is known to the internet community as “slicer69 ”.With so much focus on the idea of “the name of the god,” I'm curious to learn more about how this odd name actually came about.

The main focus of the Cult seems therefore to be the repeated insistence of Paschull's non-existence and the idiocy of any one who would follow the teachings of such an obvious charlatan and plagiarist. The False Prophet further claims that Paschull is a close personal friend of Gary Busey. At the time of publication, Mr. Busey could not be reached for comment though being friends with imaginary animals does sound like the sort of thing he would do. Besides these assertions, there is really no hard dogma associated with the Cult. The False Prophet insists on his supremacy as the only False Prophet but allows for any number of False False Prophets who are allowed to make up whatever they want to in the name of Paschull. Mike defends his decision to make his religion effectively public domain thus: "If everyone goes about telling lies and making outrageous claims based on false pretenses which are knowingly known as false then eventually the lies and false claims will reach a critical mass and there will be an explosion of truth, indivisible and pure. Praise Paschull."

Paschull's Cult is not wholly original, showing a lack of imagination on the part of its creator. The most obvious plagiarisms are Vonnegut's Bokononism and Pure Land Buddhism. Bokononism was used as a narrative device in his novel “Cat's Cradle.” All one needs to know of Bokononism is that insists that all religions (including Bokononism) are completely false. In this state of falsity, there is room for play, silliness and satire. For more information, read the book, I can't be telling you everything. The Pure Land school of Buddhism would have us all believe that if we but say the name of Amithaba Buddha (“Namu Ahmitahbhutz”) one is instantly reborn in heaven on a lotus flower. It sounded pretty goofy to me too until I learned that a lot of Pure Landers (no relation to Anne) don't even believe in this but simply uphold this story as a metaphysical place-holder to stand in for one's own efforts to achieve enlightenment. They are supplicating themselves to a higher power that is actually themselves. Paschull's teachings similarly preach this sort of random weirdness as a way of madly dancing through this vale of tears to the point where they seemed to have been copied whole. Again, being a religion of full disclosure, Mike makes these plagiarisms known on the Cult's main page.

The Cult's fragmented nature does not allow for any truly centralized hierarchy beyond individual churches whose membership rolls range in numbers of one to five thousand. Innumerable Popes, Arch-Deacons and Grand Dragons are in circulation all around the country as many individual Cult leaders are rejecting their status as False False Prophets and creating new titles for themselves. This seems to be in keeping with the Cult's general tone and I imagine Paschull approves. Paschullianism is therefore an open source religion where any and all are encouraged to take the basic tenants of the Cult and use it for their own ends, whatever they may be.

I have no idea what I'm going to encounter during this week in the arms of the Panda of Joy, under the watchful eye of the Penguin. How did this odd grouping of far-out loony tunes become such a big vertebrae on Korea's religious spine? Will I be able to meet the Cult's mysterious and obviously nutbar “leader”? What are the long term aims of this group? Tomorrow, I'm easing myself into the beast's furry (or downy in the case of the Penguin) belly by going to an “Orthodox” (their finger-quotes, not mine) Paschullian church in Girum-dong. I've taken all necessary precautions by dropping off my laundry and sending a short note to my mother. To gain these people's trust I must become a searching acolyte and, like a little child, enter the kingdom of heaven. Selah.

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