Monday, December 11, 2017

Free Will Truthers and Magick

Over the course of the last couple of weeks, the "Free Will Truthers" have been at it again. Now I just made that term up, but it seems appropriate for those psychologists and neuroscientists who are busy trying to prove that their idea of "free will" does not exist. As a magician, I obviously think the whole idea is ridiculous. If you have no conscious will at all, the very idea of practicing magick doesn't make sense. At the same time, the idea that our conscious wills are entirely free, at every moment, regardless of what we are doing, is also probably wrong.

To be clear, the formal "free will" debate is to a large degree over a philosophical question rather than a scientific one, since the definition of "free will" can refer to many things. Obviously, human beings can learn, so we're not talking about free will as opposed to absolute determinism. What psychologists and neuroscientists are trying to tease out with these studies is to what degree the mind as we experience it directs the body. And even that Cartesian breakdown isn't really correct. It's pretty clear at this point that the mind and body are not separate, but rather components of what we perceive as a unified human experience.

So really, the free will truthers are not necessarily trying to argue that human behavior is constrained in certain ways, but rather how much of our behavior is really motivated by "the unconscious." In a way, they're a little like the Freudians from a hundred years ago, arguing that our conscious perception of the world is merely the tip of a metaphorical unconscious iceberg. So that's not the same thing as what philosophers mean by "free will" at all, and that's not what I'm talking about in this article. When I use the term "free will," what I really mean is a sort of "unconscious will" versus "conscious will" as we generally experience it.

At any rate, the original "free will" observations came from studies that seemed to show that brain scans could predict the decision a person was going to make before said persons were conscious of having made them. As I have previously mentioned, these studies were undertaken around the same time as Daryl Bem's presentiment studies were going on. Using a similar technique, Bem seemed to have proved the existence of precognition, showing that subjects seemed to react to emotionally charged images before the images were actually displayed.

Friday, December 8, 2017

Let's Defeat Roy Moore

I have no idea how many people from Alabama read Augoeides, but as a dedicated fighter in the war against creeping theocracy, it behooves me to weigh in the special election for Alabama Senate which will take place next Tuesday, December 12th. Crazy theocrat Roy Moore is running on the Republican ticket against Democrat Doug Jones, an attorney best known for prosecuting two members of the Ku Klux Klan for perpetrating the infamous 16th Street Baptist Church bombing in Birmingham.

Alabama is a very conservative state and normally elects Republicans by large margins. Roy Moore isn't really a Republican, though, at least not a normal one. He is opposed to legal abortion and seems to be okay with kicking poor people, but that's where the similarities end. Moore is a theocrat, who believes that his fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible supersedes all existing law and that non-Christians should have no civil rights. That's flat-out insane, and has no place in American government.

I've spoken with a couple of conservatives who don't believe me when I make that assertion, but there's plenty of evidence out there. Moore was ordered to remove a Ten Commandments monument from his courtroom, refused, and had to be removed from office. Then, when he was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, he directed the state to defy the Supreme Court ruling legalizing same-sex marriage. He had to be removed from office over that one, too. Is it completely out there for me to think that somebody who's already been removed from office twice shouldn't be allowed to run for anything ever again?

But is there more? Of course there is. Moore was a lecturer and co-author of a course on "civil government and public policy" sponsored by the Vision Forum, a Christian Reconstructionist organization. If Moore is going to convice anybody that he's not a supporter of their ideas, he needs to explain his involvement. And to be clear, I'm pretty sure that he won't, because I don't think he can.

On Wednesday, ThinkProgress published a piece examining "Law and Government: An Introductory Study Course," which promised that in "addition to learning concepts of civil government and public policy, students will be strengthened in their understanding of biblical principles which govern us and which point us to the Lawgiver who governs us all -- Jesus Christ." Moore was one of the lecturers and a co-author of the curriculum, which appears to be part of the Witherspoon School of Law and Public Policy, which is not a school in any formal sense, but rather a program of four-day seminars teaching a fundamentalist Christian interpretation of the law to male-only audiences.

Wednesday, December 6, 2017

The Real "War on Christmas?"

A couple of weeks ago I covered the latest pathetic attempt by Fox News to drum up some of that old "War on Christmas" magic that got them such great ratings in the Bill O'Reilly era. The thing is, there really is a War on Christmas, but it's not being led by liberals or George Soros or lesbian coffee shops or whoever else the network doesn't like these days. According to this article from Huffington Post, it's being led by Christian evangelists themselves.

Pastor David Grisham, a self-described Christian evangelist, taunted children and their parents who were waiting for a meeting with Kris Kringle at the Santa Claus House in North Pole, Alaska.

“I wanted to tell you kids today too that Santa Claus does not exist. Santa Claus is not real,” Grisham announced. “The man you’re going to meet today is a man wearing a suit like a costume and it’s make-believe. It’s not real.”

“Your parents have been telling you a story that is not true,” he said. “There are no reindeer, flying reindeer.” An employee interrupted Grisham spiel and asked him not to interfere with the customers. “I’m not interfering,” Grisham said. “I’m just telling them the truth.” He then promised to be done “in about a minute.”

What I'll say about this is unlike the old Bill O'Reilly talking points, this actually makes sense. The commercialism and related hype around Christmas does detract from its meaning as a religious holiday. Our whole modern concept of Christmas and the somehow-non-religious "Christmas spirit" was invented by Macy's department store in order to sell toys, and has nothing to do with the birth of Jesus.

Fox News would rather demonize a bunch of people who really don't care one way or the other how Christians celebrate the holiday season, so my guess is that they won't be reporting on this story any time soon. But being upset about Christmas commercialism makes a whole lot more sense than throwing a fit about "lesbian hands" on a coffee cup.

Tuesday, December 5, 2017

Magick and Mental Illness

So this is a "Magick Tuesday" post. Yesterday evening I was at a writing event promoting my fiction, and didn't wind up with enough time to finish writing this up.

Lately there's been some discussion here on Augoeides regarding magick and mental illness. People who think occultism is evil like to throw around ideas like magicians who mess up developing severe mental illness, or wind up in abject poverty, or both. Back in 2007, I posted this article on the topic, which discusses my statistical approach to evaluating claims like those.

These days, fundamentalist Christians - particularly those of the "Green Gospel" persuasion (or heresy, really) - particularly have trouble with the idea that an occultist could ever be financially successful. After all, they believe that material success means God favors you, but they also believe that anything occult is sinful. So a financially successful occultist is a threat to their worldview that needs to be dealt with.

Some of them still buy into the "ritual abuse" nonsense that Satan is blessing occultists when they do things that are "evil enough," basically a Manichean inversion of the Green Gospel itself. But when occultists like me explain that magick just doesn't work like that, again, it's a threat. In fact, it's the Green Gospel that is messed up. There's nowhere in the New Testament where Jesus says that the rich are blessed and the poor are forsaken. In fact, Jesus says the exact opposite in The Sermon On The Mount.

Aleister Crowley gets brought up in this context a lot as an occultist who died "broke and insane," but a lot of the basis for that comes from John Symonds' tabloid biography The Great Beast. This is very inaccurate account of Crowley's life that accepted every claim about that made it into the press as true, regardless of how outlandish it sounded. Crowley was not seriously mentally ill in his old age - read The Book of Thoth, which was written towards the end of his life. It's dense like most of Crowley's writing, but it's lucid, comprehensive, complex, and deep. It is not the work of a "crazy person."

And Crowley was relatively poor at the end of his life, but for an entirely obvious and non-mysterious reason. By that time Crowley had spent his entire family fortune self-publishing his occult works. Back then book production was extremely expensive because it was still done mostly by hand, and works like The Equinox never made much if any money. Had Crowley lived in the time of CreateSpace, I imagine he probably would have died a wealthy man.

Wednesday, November 29, 2017

Meet The Yeti

Granted, he doesn't look that much like a yeti on all fours. But imagine him standing up...

Back in 2013, I covered a paper that claimed to show that "yeti DNA" collected from the Himalayan mountains matched the DNA of an ancient species of polar bear. But as it turned out, that paper had a problem. While it did correctly identify the samples as bear DNA, the section that was highlighted turns out to be a mitochondrial DNA sequence that matches that of almost any bear. Bear evolution expert Charlotte Lindqvist and her team decided to take another look, and compare other regions of the "yeti DNA" with DNA from Himalayan brown bears (Ursus arctos isabellinus). As it turns out, the samples matched. This provides strong evidence that the Himalayan brown bear and the yeti are in fact the same animal.

That previous paper didn’t really prove what it claimed to prove. It looked at a sequence of mitochondrial DNA (yes, the powerhouse of the cell is used in genetic sequencing), but the particular region the scientists focused on is highly conserved in bear populations. That means that polar and brown and black bears all have extremely similar, if not identical, sequences there. It makes no sense to claim that a sample matched an ancient polar bear based on this stretch of DNA, because that sequence would match almost any bear.

To confirm a real match, you have to look at more variable parts of the mitochondrial DNA. So that’s exactly what Lindqvist did. And in the process, she and her international team in Pakistan and Singapore provided the first strong evidence that presumed yetis are actually bears. They published their results in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B on Tuesday. Icon Film secured nine samples that purported to be genuine yeti artifacts, and Lindqvist gathered 15 samples from known bear populations. By sequencing mitochondria from all these sources, she and her fellow researchers were able to determine that all but one of the yeti artifacts actually came from local bears. That last sample was from a dog.

They also figured out that Himalayan brown bears split off from the rest of the regional bear population several thousand years ago, which is why they’re so genetically distinct from most other brown bears. Living in geographic isolation for so long has separated them from other Asian brown bears, and even from their relatives on the nearby Tibetan plateau. They even look different. But prior to Lindqvist’s work, it wasn’t clear just how long Himalayan bears had been on their own. Researchers will need higher-quality samples to figure out the whole picture, but even this small step is major for a species that’s hardly been studied.

We don’t know a lot about Himalayan brown bear behavior, since they’re rare and tend to shy away from people, but bears make sense as a source of mythology. “We know that bears can be aggressive and get up on their hind legs, so they may have been attacking livestock or ravaging local villages,” says Lindqvist. “It’s not that surprising that a large animal like that could feel scary and lead to myths, especially in a culture that lives in very close connection to their environment.”

Monday, November 27, 2017

Via Solis Sagittarius Elixir Rite

Today's Magick Monday post is a full script for the Sagittarius Elixir Rite that we will be performing tomorrow, Tuesday November 28th, at Leaping Laughter Oasis, our local Twin Cities body of Ordo Templi Orientis. Going forward, we will be performing one of these per month, once for each of the twelve signs, in a ritual series called Via Solis (the way or path of the Sun). I will be posting the full scripts here on the preceding Mondays so people can take a look at them if they want to attend. Also, if you are in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota) and would like to attend, let me or someone at the lodge know. This is a public ritual and all are welcome.

0. The Temple

The ritual space is set up with an altar table in the center. The bell chime, banishing dagger, and invoking wand are placed on the altar. In the center of the altar is placed a cup of wine for creating the elixir, within the Table of Art corresponding to Sagittarius.

The sign Sagittarius is attributed to the power of “Transmutations." It is also the only sign attributed to a vision, the "Vision of Universal Peacock." This vision is a significant step in alchemical processes. Transmutation is a general power with many applications, since in a sense all magical operations represent attempts to transmute or transform some aspect of yourself, the external world, or both. So any intent along those lines would be in harmony with the power of the sign.

For this rite, I will be attempting an experiment that I have not previously tried - I'm going to see if I can use the transmutation power of Sagittarius to cure a chronic illness, the idea being to transmute an unhealthy state into a healthy one. You can use Mercury to mediate the effects of chronic illnesses, but that tends to behave more like a holding action where the illness gets better for a couple of weeks and then the effect wears off. I want to see if Sagittarius can accomplish a more permanent result.

This ritual may be performed with one, two, or three officers, who may alternate taking the Officiant role and divide up the reading from Liber 963.


I. Opening

All stand surrounding the altar. Officiant inhales fully, placing the banishing dagger at his or her lips. The air is then expelled as the dagger is swept backwards.

Officiant: Bahlasti! Ompehda!

Officiant then performs the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. All rotate accordingly.

Officiant: We take refuge in Nuit, the blue-lidded daughter of sunset, the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night sky, as we issue the call to the awakened nature of all beings, for every man and every woman is a star.

All: MAKAShANaH

Officiant: We take refuge in Hadit, the secret flame that burns in every heart of man and in the core of every star, as we issue the call to our own awakened natures, arousing the coiled serpent about to spring.

All: ABRAHADABRA

Officiant: We take refuge in Heru-Ra-Ha, who wields the wand of double power, the wand of the force of Coph Nia, but whose left hand is empty for he has crushed an universe and naught remains, as we unite our awakened natures with those of all beings everywhere and everywhen, dissolving all obstacles and healing all suffering.

All: AUMGN

Officiant: For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.

All: All is pure and present are and has always been so, for existence is pure joy; all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass and done; but there is that which remains. To this realization we commit ourselves – pure and total presence. So mote it be.


Bell chime.

Wednesday, November 22, 2017

A Flat Earth Reality Show

To answer the question you probably are about to ask, yes, there are apparently people in the world who believe that the Earth is flat. Some of them might be trolling, but apparently at least a few take it seriously. A clever Redditor recently came up with the idea that somebody should produce a reality show in which flat-earthers hunt for the edge of the world. We'd do it for the lulz, naturally.

A number of people online have decided that a TV studio should put their hands in their pockets and shell out to make a show about flat-earthers showing the rest of us where the edge of the world is. You'd probably just need to pay for a boat and camera rental.

The initial idea for finding the edge of the world was pitched on Wednesday by a redditor who is hopefully going places in the entertainment world. After 24 hours the idea already had around 65.7k upvotes - just think of the viewer numbers HBO.

To be fair, some flat-earthers do not believe a flat earth means it has an edge. Some argue there's an infinite earth that carries on in all directions (like standing on a sphere, perhaps). Others think that it is impossible to reach 'the edge' because of an ice wall - like Game of Thrones.

Here's the concept - take your teams to the top of the "ice wall" - you know, the glaciers in Antarctica. Then outfit them with all the gear they need and dogsleds (because dogsleds are funnier than snowmobiles). The first team to reach the other edge of the wall wins. The rest of us could watch as they embark on the 1200 mile trip across the continent... oh, wait, I mean the "ice wall." To be clear, that's a pretty thick wall.

And, of course, the joke is on the winning team, who will arrive at the "edge" and find - more ocean! You know, because Antarctica is a continent and not the edge of some sort of crazy wall. For bonus points, make them navigate by compass so that when they reach the south pole it becomes clear that the only direction they can go is north. That would be funny, too.

Tuesday, November 21, 2017

Against Lesbian Hands

Just as I referred back to the stupid controversy about Starbucks holiday cups from 2015 in my recent article on the Museum of the Bible, a new controversy was growing regarding this year's design. Or, more specifically, Fox News was desperately trying to stir one up. And this time around, it might even be dumber than arguing that the cups should include "ancient symbols" of the Christian faith like snowmen and snowflakes - and to be clear, coming up with something dumber than that is a real achievement.

Part of this year's design shows an image of holding hands at the top of the cup. The hands are shown attached to arms but not to bodies, which are entirely out of frame. Apparently some yahoos on the Internet have decided that the image depicts "lesbian hands," whatever that means, and are upset about it. Does a hand even have a sexual orientation?

But because it's essentially its job, Fox News waded into this non-story in the ongoing Culture Wars. Pairing a Buzzfeed article that noted that the image was not explicitly heterosexual, not explicitly cisgendered, with a couple of tweets, Fox News' website sold the whole mess as a report on a supposedly massive backlash against the coffee purveyor for trying to make baby Jesus gay.

Now, Fox News itself doesn't go very far into actually proving that there is a right-wing avalanche of criticism here. It offers a couple of tweets and not much else. As far as Salon can tell, there's not really more out there in the way of red-state rage. Matter of fact, look into the comments on that same Fox News post and you'll see that many of the site's readers see the whole matter as a massive serving of nothingburger, be they there to support or slam the right-wing outlet.

That Fox News tried so very hard to make this into a thing, however, says quite a lot about where it is and how desperately it misses its foremost fighter in the War on Christmas, Bill O'Reilly. He totally would have made something wonderful of this.

It's actually good to see that hardly anybody is taking this seriously. For years I wondered if Poor Oppressed Christian outrage had a limit, and it looks like this could be it. But it's also funny to see how desperate Fox News is to create a controversy based on nothing more than a couple of tweets. After losing its number one blowhard Bill O'Reilly to a sexual harrassment scandal earlier this year, the network is clearly floundering as it tries to drum up the old "War on Christmas" ratings.

I'm happy to see this whole idea spiraling down the drain to where it belongs. Nobody is trying to attack anyone by making an effort to be inclusive and inoffensive. Starbucks is a business, and they want to appeal to the largest possible demographic. The same is true of stores that put up "Happy Holidays" banners and the like. There's nothing more sinister to it than that.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Thoughts on Retro-Enchantment

The subject of retro-enchantment - that is, casting spells into the past in order to make changes - came up in the discussion of my post on the feasibility of time travel. In the chaos magick system, such as it is, the idea is treated seriously and a number of people claim to have done it successfully. I, on the other hand, have not. Or, more to the point, all of the experiments I have done trying to exploit this method explicitly have failed to work, or at least failed to work any better than rituals performed without any retro-enchantment component.

It is true that if you look at a particular result and trace it back to its causes, you often can find some precipitating event that took place before you performed your ritual. Some take this to mean that either (A) the ritual effect went backwards in time, or (B) that the result was something that was going to happen anyway with or without the ritual. According to my quantum information model of magick, neither of these suppositions is precisely correct. I can illustrate how I think this works in practice using a simple thought experiment.

Basically this is the same idea as Schroedinger's Cat, but I like cats so instead of a thought experiment in which a cat might or might not be killed, I'm going to go with two light bulbs. The experimental apparatus is designed as follows: inside a light-proof box, you assemble a quantum diode (a simple random number generator) and connect it to a red light bulb and a blue light bulb. For each trial, the quantum diode returns either 1 or 0 based the decay of a radioactive element inside it and calibrated to produce a perfect 50/50 probability differential. On a 1, the red bulb lights. On a 0 the blue bulb lights.

While their findings are disputed by capital-S Skeptics, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory showed that human intention could create a shift of between 0.1 percent and 0.5 percent, depending on the subject. So the first step in testing this red/blue light device would be to see if it shows a similar shift. If it does, you can proceed - and anyway, this is a thought experiment, so for purposes of argument I'm just assuming that it works and you can reliably show a shift of that magnitude.

Ideally you would want the best subject you can find, so let's say that you can identify somebody who can do a 0.5. You conduct the test two ways. For the first set of trials, test the diode after you have your subject concentrate on the desired result. For the second set, test the diode before they concentrate on the desired result. Then you compare your data sets. According to my quantum information model of magick, these two sets should both show the same deviation from chance, my hypothetical 0.5. If they reliably differ, that's a flaw in the model that would need to be corrected.

Saturday, November 18, 2017

Museum of the Bible Disappoints

Of course there's a Museum of the Bible. I mean, compared to building a giant replica of Noah's Ark, stockpiling a bunch of Biblical artifacts is easy, right? In fact, according to this article from The Washington Post, the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. does have an amazing collection of artifacts from Biblical history, such as one of two known copies of the first edition King James Bible and fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, it's one thing to study the history of the Bible, and another to engage with and understand its teachings.

The “impact” floor is where the deeper shortfall becomes evident. The section offers high-tech exhibits on the Bible’s role in U.S. history, popular culture and the world at large. There’s a motion ride that flies you through Washington to explore biblical references around the city, spraying water at you for an extra thrill. (The tour guide winkingly noted that its designer worked on projects in Paris and Florida for a company beginning with the letter D.) As on the other floors, there is a baffling array of touch-screens and tablets, modern-day interactives and glossy timelines.

Yet while the exhibits dutifully touch on past conflicts involving the Bible (it was deployed in defense of and against slavery!) and play up its crowd-pleasing successes (verses from the book of Genesis helped to define human rights!), overall the museum eschews any difficult engagement with issues of the day. A timeline of the Bible in U.S. history conveniently ends in 1963; its role in our debates on sexuality, contraception and abortion are pointedly left undiscussed. Therein lies the problem. It is increasingly clear that Christianity in America has been reduced to more of a cultural identity than a way of life. Fine, perhaps, if you’re part of the growing minority of Americans who identify as nonreligious or in active opposition to Christian belief. Less so if you had hoped it might yet inspire moral behavior among its adherents.

A cultural Christianity that reveres religious trappings and neglects their requirements is exactly the sort that props up figures such as Ten Commandments-toting, allegedly teen-molesting Senate candidate Roy Moore. (The Gospel of Luke warns that it’s better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around one’s neck than to cause a child to stumble; the museum has a millstone replica Moore might want to investigate.) Cosmetic faith is the sort that displays charming engravings from Leviticus 19:34 — “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself” — while celebrating its achievements at Trump International Hotel.

Let me add a little more nuance to this. I don't think it's true that Christianity in general has been reduced to this, just the Poor Oppressed variety of fundamentalism. These folks are maybe twenty percent of the population, or about a quarter of all American Christians. They're just really vocal about dumb stuff like Starbucks cups and reliably make the news. The most extreme example is the Westboro Baptist Church - twenty or so people, mostly relatives - which is smaller than the local Twin Cities body of Ordo Templi Orientis, but so awful that they grab a lot of eyeballs on social media. I mean, they expelled their own founder for not being extreme enough. It's practically a comedy religion.

I'm going to put this one out there again, too - I don't take the Revelation of Saint John literally, but if I did I would have to point out that the "falling away" of Christian who believe themselves virtuous and yet have no real comprehension of God totally applies to these folks, not the more liberal mainstream Christians that they disdain. They've turned their version of Christianity into a sect that glorifies wealth instead of helping the poor, and whose only real issues seem to be hatred of homosexuality and abortion. It should be clear to anyone who actually reads the Bible that the first tenet there is entirely contradictory to the teachings of Jesus, and the other two are by no means the most important issues with which a Christian should be concerned.

Friday, November 17, 2017

Time Travel is Possible

Now, to be fair, possible doesn't mean easy, but still. The energy requirements are so far beyond what our civilization can produce that they're hard to imagine, but the point is that the laws of physics don't explicitly prevent it from happening. According to astrophysicist Ethan Siegal, what you need is a pair of entangled wormholes and a way to accelerate one end to the speed of light. Then someone in the future could pass through the wormhole and arrive in the past. The only issue is that it's a one-way trip, at least through the wormhole.

Time travel has been the holy grail of science for centuries but it could finally be within our grasp. There is just one problem, we might not be able to return to the present from the past.

Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel has outlined in his blog Starts With a Bang how the theoretical rules of physics might allow a way to use wormholes to travel back in time. A wormhole which is still at one end and as fast as the speed of light at the other could provide the basis for humans to step back into another era. This will not be easy, and considering how many people get confused when the clocks go forward or back the chances of successfully pulling off the creation of time travelling wormholes could be tough.

Siegal said: ‘If, 40 years ago, someone had created such a pair of entangled wormholes and sent them off on this journey, it would be possible to step into one of them today, in 2017, and wind up back in time at the mouth of the other one back in 1978. ‘The only issue is that you yourself couldn’t also have been at that location back in 1978; you needed to be with the other end of the wormhole, or traveling through space to try and catch up with.’

As far as returning to the present, that actually is so easy (relative to going through everything that you would have to do to create and accelerate time-entangled wormholes, of course) it doesn't even get a mention in the article. We already know how to do that, and it's a mainstay of every introduction to relativity theory. You just go really, really fast. That's how the "twins paradox" works. The fast-moving twin who doesn't age isn't rendered ageless, he or she experiences dilated time - in effect, the same thing as jumping forward in time.

So if you jump into the past via a wormhole, it's entirely possible for you to get back. Just fly through space at very close to the speed of light and make a really big loop that starts and ends at the earth. When you finish your journey, hardly any time will have passed for you but many years will have passed on earth and you will have traveled in time in the other direction.

Thursday, November 16, 2017

New SubGenius Documentary in the Works

Inquiring minds have been asking the question for years - is the Church of the SubGenius a joke disguised as a religion, or a religion disguised as a joke? More importantly, might it be both? Dangerous Minds reports that the makers of a new documentary claim that for the first time, their film will tell the true story of how J. R. "Bob" Dobbs and the church came to be - that is, if they can raise enough money on Kickstarter to pay for post-production.

The Church of the SubGenius’ annus mirabilis, 1998, may have come and gone (or it may be yet to come, as some of the faithful believe), but it’s never been easier to hear the word of “Bob.” OSI 74 carries on the Church’s TV ministry. Evangelical radio programs such as Hour of Slack, Puzzling Evidence, and Ask Dr. Hal no longer splutter from our computer speakers in a pitiable dribble of RealAudio 1.0, but burst forth in full stereo at 64 Kbps, a mighty firehose of Slack. The classic SubGenius recruitment movie Arise!, which used to cost 20 whole dollars, is now just as free as an ISKCON book with Ganesha on the cover. And The Book of the SubGenius is still in print.

But a documentary in the works promises to do something new for the Church, namely, to situate its founding and founders in real, actual historical time. Slacking Towards Bethlehem: J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius will tell the story of Rev. Ivan Stang and Dr. Philo Drummond meeting in mid-Seventies Texas as young weirdos. The pair “quickly forged a friendship over a shared love of comic books, Captain Beefheart and UFO paperbacks,” in the words of the movie’s press release, before starting a religion that won converts in R. Crumb, Robert Anton Wilson, DEVO, Frank Zappa and Negativland. Directing is Austin filmmaker Sandy K. Boone, whose late husband, David Boone, directed the 1980 cult film Invasion of the Aluminum People, which might be “an allegorical testimony for the Church of the SubGenius.”

The Church of the SubGenius was always dedicated to the virtue of Crass Consumerism, so it's no surprise to see a Kickstarter appeal to raise money for the film. And whatever else you want to say about the SubGenius movement, it has never failed to be deeply, deeply weird. The world could use more of that, especially these days. Which is to say, we all would appreciate a lot more slack. The article includes a link to the Kickstarter for the film, in case you would like to contribute and receive your very own bizarre backer reward.

I hope to see this get funded, because no matter what the truth is it sounds like it will be a lot of fun to watch. I'll be sure to update my readers here if and when it becomes available.

Wednesday, November 15, 2017

Witchcraft Accusations Prompt Zimbabwe Coup

Emmerson Mnangagwa, who probably is not a witch

While the situation in the African nation of Zimbabwe appears to be up in the air for now, news outlets are reporting today on what appears to be a military coup in progress against Robert Mugabe, who has been president of the country since 1987 after serving as prime minister from 1980-1987. Many years ago Mugabe played an instrumental role in Zimbabwe's struggle against colonial rule, but he has also been criticized as an authoritarian dictator who has become wealthy while taking advantage of his people.

Where this story falls into Augoeides territory is that the coup appears to have been precipitated by Mugabe's dismissal of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Mugabe accused of witchcraft last week.

Addressing supporters at the headquarters of his Zanu-PF party in Harare, 93-year-old Mugabe accused Emmerson Mnangagwa of consulting witchdoctors and prophets as part of a campaign to secure the presidency. Mnangagwa, who was sacked by Mugabe on Monday and expelled from the ruling Zanu-PF party on Wednesday, said he had fled Zimbabwe because of death threats and was safe.

"My sudden departure was caused by incessant threats on my person, life and family by those who have attempted before through various forms of elimination including poisoning," he said in a statement on Wednesday. The head of the influential war veterans association, Chris Mutsvangwa, said that Mnangagwa, 75, would travel to Johannesburg in neighbouring South Africa "very soon".

Mugabe's critics claim that the charges against Mnangagwa are trumped up, and that Mugabe dismissed him so that he could install his wife, Grace Mugabe, as his successor. This created divisions within Zimbabwe's ruling party, and those divisions appear to be fueling the coup.

Mugabe told supporters he had dismissed Mnangagwa for disloyalty and disrespect, as well as using witchcraft to take power. The move exacerbated divisions in the ZANU-PF party, where the youth faction is firmly on Grace Mugabe’s side, while the older veterans of the struggle against white rule look to Mnangagwa. At one point last month, Grace Mugabe even warned that supporters of Mnangagwa were planning their own coup.

Mnangagwa, who fled to neighboring South Africa, has strong support with the military, and Chiwenga, the army chief, threatened Monday to “step in” to stop the purge of Mnangagwa’s supporters. The military was once a key pillar of Mugabe’s rule. The party’s website later reported that Mnangagwa was back in the country and would be taking over leadership of the party. Political commentator Maxwell Saungweme said by phone that the military will probably try to pressure Mugabe to step down in favor of Mnangagwa as acting president.

Mugabe is known for leveling witchcraft charges against his political opponents, and Mnangagwa is not the first high-ranking member of the government to be dismissed because of them. So it's likely that the charges are made up. But if they're not, this is a good place to point out that magick sometimes works in mysterious or unexpected ways.

Let's say that Mnangagwa did a spell to make him president, without any particular limitations. One way for the spell to work would be for this exact situation to unfold, provided that when the dust clears Mnangagwa really does come out on top. A success is always a success, regardless of how it manifests.

Tuesday, November 14, 2017

Roy Moore Needs to Go Away

Back in September I covered "Ten Commandments Judge" Roy Moore's return to Alabama politics. At the time he was favored to win the Republican primary against sitting senator Luther Strange. Moore did win the primary, and was heavily favored to win the election - that is, until allegations of sexual abuse from his past came to light. He may yet win because Alabama is such a conservative state, but many Republicans are now calling on him to withdraw from the race in light of these allegations.

The thing is, though, that as I've pointed out here on Augoeides and as this Slate article explains, Moore was always unfit for public office. He's been removed from office twice for refusing to abide by decisions of the courts, believes that the Bible should be the rule and guide to law, and that Muslims - or really, anybody who isn't Christian - should not be allowed to hold public office. He's the same sort of religious extremist that he accuses fundamentalist Muslims of being, and to be clear, I would be just as opposed to a Muslim who believed that the Koran trumped the Constitution as I am to Moore.

Indeed, Moore has campaigned for this Senate seat on the theory that the Bible overrides federal law: “The Judeo-Christian God reigned over both the church and the state in this country, and … both owed allegiance to that God,” he has said. He thinks that “Christianity should be favored by the state” in America and that Muslims who are democratically elected to office should not be allowed to serve. He has called Islam a “false religion” and asserts that the “rule of law” demands that NFL players stand for the national anthem.

James Dobson, an emblematic Moore supporter on the Christian right, describes the disgraced justice as “a tireless champion of religious liberty, standing down those who want nothing less than to rid our nation of its Judeo-Christian foundations.” Today, that “tireless champion” of family values stands accused of, among other horrific acts, offering a 14-year-old girl alcohol and asking her to touch his penis. That it took this alleged breach for the Republican Party to maybe lose faith in him speaks to its broken constitutional values.

As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin put it, even before Moore’s accusers came forward, his and Arpaio’s place in the Republican Party firmament risked “making contempt for courts into a mainstay of the GOP ideology.”

One of the oddities that has emerged from the allegations against Moore is an aspect of fundamentalist Christian culture that I was previously unaware of. Apparently, not only do they home-school their kids to keep them away from the "godlessness" of the modern world, they encourage their young teenage daughters to "court" much older men. That's apparently what Moore was doing when he was "dating" teenage girls when he was a district attorney in his thirties. Frankly, I find that creepy as hell, even regardless of the abuse allegations. People did marry at fifteen or sixteen in Biblical times, but that was back when the average life expectancy was only forty years or so.

It should be obvious that it's a lot different today with people routinely living into their eighties, and wives and daughters no longer considered the property of their father and then their husband. I can't really fathom why it would be remotely reasonable to roll the clock back on that, but apparently it makes sense to these folks because from their perspective it's "God's law." Suffice it to say that the customs of a civilization from thousands of years ago are not a good fit for the modern world, nor should they be.

Monday, November 13, 2017

Considerations for Conjuring

Since it's Magick Monday and I'm not in the middle of an ongoing series, I thought I would sum up some of the ideas from today's discussion in the comments regarding figuring out the best way to work on a particular magical problem. One of the issues with the state of modern magick is that there are all sorts of methods available that were considered secret even a hundred years ago, and as a result the modern magician is faced with a completely different problem than the magician of old. Instead of having to track down a bunch of secret lore in order to do magick at all, the modern magician has just about every possible method to choose from.

The whole obsession with secrecy has held magick back for centuries. In the physical sciences, we have long since had a shared base of knowledge that continually evolves towards a more accurate representation of the universe with every new experiment. Magick, on the other hand, is still at the level of a proto-science at best, with all sorts of competing models and methods and no real agreement on what works the best for accomplishing particular objectives. I remain confident that such a schema will eventually emerge from magical culture as a whole, but so far we're just not there yet.

So here's the question - how do you determine the right approach to solving a problem with magick? I can't say that I have the entire answer, but there are some basic principles that I have been able to work out by experimentation over the years. The first of these is that practical magick works by adjusting probabilities in the physical world. I don't personally believe in "supernatural" forces, but as I see it that belief is a bit of a tautology. Everything that exists is natural, so by definition "supernatural" makes little sense when discussing anything real.

That being said, I do believe that those probability adjustments rise to the level of paranormal, since such probability shifts are unusual and don't follow the "normal" order of things. Some of that is because in the overall scheme of things there are really hardly any magicians or occultists out there. I expect that magical probability shifts would become more "normal" if more people practiced magick, but to be fair that really is just a guess. It may be that most magically talented people already do it, and it's the talent itself that's rare.

Thursday, November 9, 2017

It's a Miracle!

When I complain about faith healers here at Augoeides, it usually has to do with people who insist that faith healing cannot be done in conjunction with conventional medical treatment. Faith healing - that is, magical healing - can and does work, but just like with any other spell, the mundane steps that you take towards your goal such as conventional medical care help to bring the likelihood of a successful cure within the probability range that the spell can create. So with anything life-threatening, arguing that conventional care somehow undermines magical care is especially dangerous.

But this article is not one of those cases. Pastor Mboro of South Africa, a popular celebrity preacher who does faith healing, used his powers to cure a man's erectile dysfunction on his television program. The man and his wife immediately had sex, which prompted the television station to refuse to show the episode - even though the sex was blurred out. Mboro is planning a march on the station to protest the decision.

He told Sunday World: ‘Thabisile came to church a while ago and complained that although she was blessed with three children and recently got a promotion at work, she was sex-starved because her husband suffered from erectile dysfunction. I went there and entered their bedroom and asked them to put their hands on their private parts. After that I prayed for them and the husband immediately regained his erection.’

Grateful wife Thabisile said: ‘My husband got his erection back and when he came back from outside to call the crew to film our testimony, we were already busy having sex. We just couldn’t wait as it had been long since we had sex. I apologised to the pastor for doing that because that was embarrassing.’

Pastor Mboro has blurred out the sex for his TV show and claims the testimony of the couple is no more pornographic than other programs on the station. ‘Every weekend we watch movies which have episodes where people are shown having sex. Here there is no sex but they can’t show it. They have not shown two of my shows as a result of this dispute.’

Now you can point out that a lot of erectile dysfunction can be psychological, which makes it a prime target for faith healing, and I won't disagree with you. Just from this incident, it's hard to say (pun intended) whether Pastor Mboro really has highly effective paranormal healing powers. Mboro has come up on Augoeides before, and his previous statements make him sound like a complete fake, or at the very least highly prone to exaggeration.

But at the same time, my first rule of magick is that if it works it works, and that's apparently what happened here - to the chagrin of the television station in question. I also think that it's good to see a Christian pastor doing something that is basically sex-positive, as opposed to the anti-sex fire-and-brimstone stuff that usually makes the news, even if it is an over-the-top self-promoter like Mboro.

As far the television station goes, I don't know how explicit South African television is, and I'm sure that there probably are various standards that they try to adhere to with obscenity laws and so forth. I can see American authorities being squeamish about this sort of thing as well, even though it seems to me with the actual sex blurred out, there really isn't much to see compared with what is shown on a lot of other programs.

So I think the television station should go ahead and air the episode with the offending portion blurred out, as Mboro is demanding - that is, unless there's a compelling reason under South African law that prohibits them from doing it.

Monday, November 6, 2017

Via Solis Scorpio Elixir Rite

Today's Magick Monday post is a full script for the Scorpio Elixir Rite that we will be performing tomorrow, Tuesday November 7th, at Leaping Laughter Oasis, our local Twin Cities body of Ordo Templi Orientis. Going forward, we will be performing one of these per month, once for each of the twelve signs, in a ritual series called Via Solis (the way or path of the Sun). I will be posting the full scripts here on the preceding Mondays so people can take a look at them if they want to attend. Also, if you are in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota) and would like to attend, let me or someone at the lodge know. This is a public ritual and all are welcome.

0. The Temple

The ritual space is set up with an altar table in the center. The bell chime, banishing dagger, and invoking wand are placed on the altar. In the center of the altar is placed a cup of wine for creating the elixir, within the Table of Art corresponding to Scorpio. The sign Scorpio is attributed to the power of “Necromancy." Note that this refers to work with the spirits of the dead, including ancestors, rather than magick involving dead things such as body parts and so forth. This ritual may be performed with one, two, or three officers, who may alternate taking the Officiant role and divide up the reading from Liber 963.

I. Opening

All stand surrounding the altar. Officiant inhales fully, placing the banishing dagger at his or her lips. The air is then expelled as the dagger is swept backwards.

Officiant: Bahlasti! Ompehda!

Officiant then performs the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. All rotate accordingly.

Officiant: We take refuge in Nuit, the blue-lidded daughter of sunset, the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night sky, as we issue the call to the awakened nature of all beings, for every man and every woman is a star.

All: MAKAShANaH

Officiant: We take refuge in Hadit, the secret flame that burns in every heart of man and in the core of every star, as we issue the call to our own awakened natures, arousing the coiled serpent about to spring.

All: ABRAHADABRA

Officiant: We take refuge in Heru-Ra-Ha, who wields the wand of double power, the wand of the force of Coph Nia, but whose left hand is empty for he has crushed an universe and naught remains, as we unite our awakened natures with those of all beings everywhere and everywhen, dissolving all obstacles and healing all suffering.

All: AUMGN

Officiant: For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.

All: All is pure and present are and has always been so, for existence is pure joy; all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass and done; but there is that which remains. To this realization we commit ourselves – pure and total presence. So mote it be.


Bell chime.

Friday, November 3, 2017

A New Chamber in the Great Pyramid?

Scientists using a new form of imaging involving tiny particles called muons have reported the discovery of a new chamber inside the Great Pyramid of Giza. Originally the group set out to determine if muon imaging could detect two known rooms within the massive structure. The method worked perfectly for those two chambers, but to the surprise of the scientists involved it detected a third, unknown void above the space called the Grand Gallery.

The Great Pyramid of Giza has been probed with the tools of modern particle physics by scientists who say they have discovered a huge, secret space hidden within its ancient walls. It is located above a tall, cathedral-like room known as the Grand Gallery, and this newly found space is comparable in size — about 100 feet long, according to a report in the journal Nature.

That makes it a major structure within this royal tomb, which was built around 2500 B.C. and is considered to be one of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World. Yet until now, despite centuries of study, no one knew this space was there. "The romantic interpretation and what everyone wants to hear is that this is a hidden room and the king's body is inside or there's grave goods we didn't know about or we're going to learn more about history ... and none of that is responsible speculation at the moment," cautions Peter Der Manuelian, an Egyptologist at Harvard University who was not part of the research team.

"All we know is that we have a void, we have a cavity, and it's huge, which means possibly intentional and certainly worthy of further exploration," Manuelian says, noting that it's not yet clear whether it's a single chamber or more than one. "In that sense it's obviously frustrating," he says. "On the other hand, as an architectural discovery, something we didn't know about the interior of the Great Pyramid, it's absolutely big news." Indeed, the team that made the find reports that it is the first significant internal structure found within the Great Pyramid since the 19th century.

Archaeologists will have to verify that the new chamber exists, and then see if there is a good way to reach it without damaging the rest of the structure. It would be fascinating to find a cache of undisturbed burial goods in the new chamber, as that would be a discovery rivaling that of Tutankhamun's tomb in 1922. Tutankhamun was a minor Pharaoh who took the throne as a child and died at the age of eighteen, but his tomb was so significant because it was mostly intact and literally stuffed with artifacts from the time of his reign. One can only imagine what sorts of goods might have accompanied the burial of Khufu, the much more significant Pharaoh for whom the Great Pyramid is believed to have been built.

Still, I have to say, it's probably more likely that the new chamber is empty, just like all the others in the Great Pyramid. It's not clear that the place was ever filled with burial goods, or if it was the tomb was emptied long ago. The chambers inside the pyramid may perform some entirely different function that serving as a tomb, and if this new chamber does turn out to be empty, it will lend some credence to those ideas. I'm looking forward to hearing more about this, once archaeologists have worked out a way to find out what might be inside.

Monday, October 30, 2017

My Latest Ritual Template

One of the things I do here in the Twin Cities at my local OTO body is run a Ritual Night workshop class every Tuesday night. It gives me a chance to teach the rituals that I post about here on the blog, and also to experiment with various ideas that sometimes make it into articles (if they're any good) and sometimes don't (if, say, they don't work at all). So this is probably a little underwhelming for my Magick Monday fans after the Path of Initiation series that I just wrapped up, but it is a handy document for anyone looking to construct their own rituals from scratch.

Ritual Night attendees keep asking for all of this information, so I decided to write up this short outline that shows the full structure for ceremonial operations using Aleister Crowley's versions of the Golden Dawn and Thelemic ritual forms. That way, I can just refer them here. I also am putting together a handout with the same information to give out tomorrow night. Note that there are reasons for why each piece goes where it does, and sometimes those reasons are technical enough that they do not need to be fully understood in order to start working with practical magick. In my opinion, waiting until you completely understand everything that you're doing is just one more way to put off the work. You can get good results from these operations long before your comprehension of them is complete, and your understanding should continue to deepen as you work with them.

Friday, October 27, 2017

Practical Magic Was Cursed

Here's an interesting tidbit of Hollywood lore about the 1998 film Practical Magic. In a recent interview published by Vulture, director Griffin Dunne claimed that the film was cursed by a real witch. The film did poorly at the box office when it first came out and critics hated it, but it apparently has developed something of a cult following over the years. You know, just as if somebody threw a curse that waned over time. In the article, Dunne explains how it happened.

There’s something that I’ve never told anyone about before, it’s an interesting story and kind of scary too. I had a witch consultant on the movie. While I was developing it, I was never quite sure I had a real handle on the movie because, quite honestly, witches had no great interest to me. But I loved the book and I liked the setting and when I was working with this witch consultant, it occurred to me that I was making a movie about something I do know a lot about — strong women. I grew up in a house with a strong mother and my grandmother. These were formidable women. And my sister was no slouch.

So I had three generations of formidable women and when I got that into my head, I realized it’s not really about spells and spell books and all that — it’s about a legacy being passed from one generation to another. That helped me understand it, and that understanding came out of these conversations I had with this witch consultant. I thought she was a really intelligent person and I invited her to come to Los Angeles to observe the rehearsals with Sandy and Nicole. I had my producer make her a reservation at a nice hotel, and call her, and the witch goes, “You’re not going to buy me off with a hotel room. I want a percentage of the movie. I’m going to have my own Practical Magic cookbook.” She was paid quite well, and she says, “I want an additional $250,000 dollars.” The producer told her that’s just not possible. And she goes crazy and scares the shit out of the producer.

She says, “I’m going to put a curse on you. I’m putting a curse on this movie, and I’m putting a curse on Griffin.” So the producer comes back to my rehearsal, white as a ghost, and she tells me, “That call did not go well. She’s really really angry.” I had no idea quite what happened, so I get back to my office on the Warner Bros. lot and I listen to my voice-mail. [Drops voice to a growl.] “How dare you sic that shrew on me? You think you can buy me off, well let me tell you something? There is a land of curses!” And then she slips into tongues. It was terrifying. I listened to as much as I could and then I hung up. Within minutes, Warner’s been served with papers. She’s suing Warner Bros.

The movie flopped, Dunne never worked as a director again, and Warner Bros. would go on to settle the suit for an undisclosed sum. So there's really no way to say that the curse didn't work. The witch got everything she wanted. As for the cult status of the film, I've never seen so I have no idea if it's any good. But all curses wane over time, so if the film was good and its quality was at first being obscured by a curse - well, everything would work out pretty much as it has. I do find it bad form, though, to make threats if you're planning on cursing someone.

For one thing, threats render your results unscientific. If your target knows they're cursed they might change their behavior, and that means whatever happens won't necessarily be the result of paranormal action. So it makes your results hard to compare with those of other pure-probability spells that don't involve people. As I see it, a magician who threatens is doubting his or her ability to get the job done with magick alone. Magicians who are confident in their abilities simply curse, say nothing, and then sit back and observe the results.

In the interview, Dunne also mentions that in response to the curse he added the line to the film, “Curses only have power when you believe them.” That's a common New Age trope, but don't buy it for a second. It's true that a curse with no paranormal power, that works only by fear and suggestion rather than probability manipulation, won't work if you don't believe in it. But a real paranormal curse shifts probabilities around a target, so belief doesn't matter at all.

Tuesday, October 24, 2017

Vampires in Malawi

Vampires are on the loose in the African nation of Malawi. At least, that's what vigilantes who are running around killing these suspected blood-suckers believe. The government of Malawi is attempting to crack down on the vigilantes, since obviously they're just running around killing regular people rather than protecting their nation from the undead.

Vigilante killings started on 16 September when three people suspected of being blood suckers were killed by a mob. Traditional leaders in southern Malawi believe the vampire rumours started across the border in Mozambique where rumours of blood sucking have led to violence this week.

In Mozambique, protesters have targeted police because they believe they are protecting the supposed vampires, leading a northern town's administrator to flee the city. The villagers in these areas believe human blood sucking is a ritual practised by some to become rich. They also believe they are failing to catch the blood suckers because they use magical powers.

If these communities believe in "mysterious magical explanations for things, then people will tend to attribute their difficulty on what they call blood suckers," Dr Chioza Bandawe, a clinical psychologist at the University of Malawi, said. For some that represents "the life of the hope being sucked out of them," he said. But this has been "expressed on innocent people or on people who are different".

So basically, this is the same old witch-hunting hysteria that pops up in way too many parts of the world. The police are protecting these vampires because they are not really vampires, but simply innocent people who are disliked by their neighbors. And this whole thing is way too familiar - a fanciful rumor gets started, and anybody who's different pays the price.

Here's hoping that the government crackdown succeeds, and that this violence can be stopped in its tracks. One thing the world doesn't need is a whole crop of delusional vampire hunters.

Monday, October 23, 2017

The Path of Initiation - Conclusion

This article is Part Twenty of a series. Part One can be found here, Part Two can be found here, Part Three can be found here, Part Four can be found here, Part Five can be found here, Part Six can be found here, Part Seven can be found here, Part Eight can be found here, Part Nine can be found here, Part Ten can be found here, Part Eleven can be found here, Part Twelve can be found here, Part Thirteen can be found here, Part Fourteen can be found here, Part Fifteen can be found here, Part Sixteen can be found here, Part Seventeen can be found here, Part Eighteen can be found here, and Part Nineteen can be found here.

Over the course of the last nineteen articles in this series, I have tried to communicate my understanding of the path of initiation into Western Esotericism as it has worked for me, and as I expect it will work going forward based on my practice and study. In previous series I discussed the practical magical work of the elements, planets, and signs, and that was done for the specific reason that a focus on mysticism over magick seems to be the default approach of many teachers.

This is not to imply that I think practical work is necessarily more important than mysticism. Mystical practices like the path of initiation outlined here should elevate and illuminate your consciousness and also make you a more effective practical magician, while practical magical work should align your life in such a way that it becomes easier and more convenient to do those practices with greater regularity and focus.

So as you can see, engaging in both approaches at the same time results in each strengthening the other. This also suggests, for example, that a person who gets to some point in the path and decides they are "done" with practice, both mystical and practical, is making a big mistake. These practices should be ongoing and you should maintain them throughout your entire life. Much as a Buddhist who does no meditation is not much of a Buddhist, a magician who does no magick is to my way of thinking not much of a magician.

But let me clarify that a bit. I don't necessarily mean that a period of practice focused on mystical work is somehow inferior or lacking. If we define magick as Aleister Crowley did, as "the science and art of causing change in conformity with will," mystical operations are simply magical operations in which the target of your work is yourself - your own physical body, energetic body, and consciousness. There are points along the path where such a focus is highly appropriate.

Friday, October 20, 2017

That's Not How Any Of This Works

"Evil for evil's sake" has to be just about the dumbest human motivation ever proposed. What's even dumber is when religious people insist that "obviously" this is what motivates anyone they disagree with. Like, say, people who make movies - you know, good movies as opposed to the wretched genre of "Christian film." According to Rodney Howard-Browne, a pastor who was involved with other evangelical leaders in a "laying on of hands" prayer ceremony for President Donald Trump, had this to say about - I guess - the entire Hollywood film industry.

“These people are full of the devil. These people can’t even be reasoned with,” Rodney Howard-Browne said in a sermon over the weekend. “They have already given their soul to the devil. Are you with me? These people go through seances, these people drink blood, these people sacrifice children.” In a clip posted online by Right Wing Watch, Howard-Browne added:

“They sacrifice children at the highest levels in Hollywood. They drink blood of young kids. This is a fact. That’s why the next thing to be exposed will be all the pedophilia that is going to come out of Hollywood and come out of Washington, D.C. The human sacrifice and the cannibalism has been going on for years.”

When someone told Howard-Browne that “they don’t do that,” he insisted that “it’s worse than what you think.” Howard-Browne then described the supposed satanic rituals that go on in Hollywood. “Many of the Hollywood actors that you go see on a screen, what you don’t know, they bring a witch, they do a big seance right there on the set and they worship devils and they allow devils to come into them before they take the part of what they’re going to act,” he said. “It’s a fact what I am telling you.”

Let's go down the list. In real occultism, "the devil" doesn't want to buy your soul so obviously you can't sell it. Some California New Agers do seances, so you probably could find a lot of people in the film industry who have at least attended one. But blood-drinking and human sacrifice? Sorry. Those are from horror movies, not real life. They also are pretty pointless for casting actual spells - you know, like the what most occultists really do.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Church of Trump?

In my new satirical novel Trump Card, members of a laughably inept religious cult calling themselves the "Sons of Kek" make repeated failed attempts on my plucky teen heroine's life because she poses a threat to their beloved President Trump. But according to a man named Greg Piatek, his support for Donald Trump really does constitute a religious belief. Piatek is suing a New York City bar for religious discrimination after he was criticized for wearing a Make America Great Again baseball cap and eventually ejected from the establishment.

Piatek claims he spent his time at The Happiest Hour wearing the most controversial hat in the world, the red Make America Great Again baseball cap. According to him, he was called a “terrible person” by one bartender, that another the bartender ignored him, asking if the hat was a “joke” while serving him and yet another cut him off. Ultimately, he alleges, a bouncer kicked him out at the manager’s request. The management at The Happiest Hour denies every part of Piatek's story.

Now, Piatek has slapped the bar with a “discriminatory conduct” lawsuit alleging “anxiety and severe emotional distress,” according to the Gothamist. This he said-they-said legal kerfuffle has taken on religious proportions as the Trump supporter is claiming his reverence for the president — signaled by his red hat — should have the same legal protections as any religion.

"A religious belief can appear to every other member of the human race preposterous, yet still be entitled to protection,” say the legal briefs field on behalf of Piatek. As part of a claimed “protected class,” Piatek was "adhering to his closely held spiritual beliefs by adorning the hat in question,” says his attorney. According to him, the MAGA hat, emblazoned with a logo for a race the highest political office in the nation “transcends the political realm.” Eighty-sixing Piatek, the lawsuit claims, is little different than, say, denying service to a believer because they wore a veil, cross or yarmulke.

As mentioned, the manager of The Happiest Hour denies Piatek’s story, reasoning that he must have had a good time because of his tip noted on the receipts provided. Piatek, however, says the night at The Happiest Hour was “the most discriminatory, humiliating and 'Saddest Hour' of his life."His attorney says his client has "such a good heart that he’s going to tip no matter” the service or discriminatory treatment.

First off, the Constitution is pretty clear that political affiliations and religious beliefs are two entirely separate things. Second, even if Piatek's story is true, the missing piece is how he behaved in response to the bartenders not thinking much of his hat. It seems to me that if Piatek's political affiliation was why he was thrown out, why did the bartenders serve him at all? On the other hand, if he became belligerent or highly intoxicated, the managers of the bar had every right to throw him out.

This would also be true in a more unambiguous case involving religion. Let's say that a fire-and-brimstone preacher showed up at the bar and started arguing with patrons. The preacher in that case would obviously be motivated by religious beliefs, but those beliefs don't confer the right to act out and make other patrons uncomfortable. I have no idea whether Piatek did anything like that, but it's also not clear that any of it happened as Piatek claims.

To be clear, even though I'm about as far from a Trump supporter as you can get, I don't think it's cool for a business to refuse service to someone based only on their political beliefs. At the same time, though, I don't think it rises to the same level as religious discrimination or that it ever should.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Santa's Grave

The modern-day version of Santa Claus has a lot in common with the version of Jesus found in modern Christianity. Santa Claus was originally based on a real historical person, Saint Nicholas, a Turkish bishop who lived during the fourth century and was known for helping the sick and the poor. However, Santa Claus has accumulated so much additional baggage over the last few centuries that he would be unrecognizable to anyone who knew the real Saint Nicholas.

Now Turkish archaeologists claim that they have discovered the grave of Saint Nicholas, and plan on excavating the site in order to confirm the existence of his remains.

Turkish publication Daily Sabah reported Tuesday that an undisturbed gravesite discovered under a church in the Antalya province may belong to the saint. The head of the province’s monument authority said the gravesite was discovered as archaeologists performed digital surveys of the ground below St. Nicholas Church. St. Nicholas Church is in Antalya’s Demre district, which is known as the birthplace of Santa.

“We believe this shrine has not been damaged at all, but it is quite difficult to get to it as there are mosaics on the floor,” Cemil Karabayram said, according to the Daily Sabah. Each tile in the mosaics has to be scaled, one by one, and removed as a whole, Karabayram said. He said he is optimistic that St. Nicholas’ remains can be reached.

Newsweek reported that the claims conflict with previous narratives that placed the saint’s bones, known as his relics, in Italy. Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that the Basilica di San Nicola, in Bari, Italy, is where his remains lie.

St. Nicholas was initially buried in 343 A.D. at a church in Demre, but his bones were taken during the Crusades in the 11th century, Newsweek said. The belief was that the relics were taken to Italy at that time. Turkish experts now believe that the bones stolen centuries ago actually belonged to an anonymous priest, the news magazine reported.

I personally believe that the modern story of Santa Claus is a lot like what happened with the story of Jesus. Some historians believe that no historical Jesus ever existed, but personally I think it's more likely that there was a historical person who led the sect established by John the Baptist when he was imprisoned by the Romans. It's not even unlikely that his name was Yeheshua, as it was a common Jewish name of the period.

However, I also think that the Jesus story in the Gospels was compounded with so many additional mythological elements that many of the events attributed to him probably never happened - just like how the real Saint Nicholas never lived at the North Pole, flew around in a sleigh, kept reindeer, or distributed presents around the world. He apparently did have a white beard and gave poor children gifts, but that's where the resemblance ends.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Path of Initiation - The Three Veils

This article is Part Nineteen of a series. Part One can be found here, Part Two can be found here, Part Three can be found here, Part Four can be found here, Part Five can be found here, Part Six can be found here, Part Seven can be found here, Part Eight can be found here, Part Nine can be found here, Part Ten can be found here, Part Eleven can be found here, Part Twelve can be found here, Part Thirteen can be found here, Part Fourteen can be found here, Part Fifteen can be found here, Part Sixteen can be found here, Part Seventeen can be found here, and Part Eighteen can be found here.

Initiation into the Three Veils of Negative Existence is the final step on the path of initiation into the mysteries of Western Esotericism. This realization lies beyond all formal degrees and classifications, and the corresponding mystical vision is "The Supreme Attainment, or Vision of No Difference." The Three Veils also lie beyond the sephiroth, as they form the complement to the "positive existence" of the potential and manifest universe - that is, the force that we refer to as God prior to manifestation into any particular spiritual realm.

The Three Veils are called Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur. Ain means nothing, Ain Soph means limitlessness, and Ain Soph Aur means endless or limitless light. In Liber 777, the Three Veils have the key scale value of 0 and have few defined attributions. But this is because in a sense, they correspond to any and all attributions, even those outside what we generally consider our spiritual universe.

As with practical magick, aligning the macrocosmic and microcosmic components of the spiritual path is the key to experiencing effective illumination and visionary work. Hence, I use the operant field in these rites just like I do for practical workings. This allows you to integrate magical principles and forces into your life more quickly and effectively.

Always keep track of any changes you observe following illuminating and visionary experiences, and do your best to see if the changes you are seeing from your work are going in a positive direction. Stories of magicians "going insane" from failed operations are highly exaggerated - most often, nothing happens, and the danger lies in being convinced that something did happen and then acting from that perspective.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Twin Cities Book Festival This Saturday!

Cross-posted from my author website.

This Saturday, October 14th, I will be appearing with Moonfire Publishing at the Twin Cities Book Festival brought to you by Rain Taxi. Click the link for more information about the festival, including directions, maps of the site, and the event's programming schedule.

The festival will be held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and runs from 10 AM to 5 PM. Moonfire Publishing will be at table #205, with information about upcoming titles, current titles, submission guidelines, and more. If you are local to the Twin Cities area, or for that matter just passing through, I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ghost Girl at the Stanley Hotel?

Colorado's Stanley Hotel is famous for paranormal activity. In addition to many ghost sightings over the years, the hotel is also famous for inspiring the Stephen King novel The Shining. King and his wife stayed at the hotel at the very end of the season in 1974, and were the only guests in the place. That experience gave King the idea for the book. As with many other allegedly haunted sites, the Stanley Hotel hosts "spirit tours" in which guides recount various paranormal incidents while walking guests through a tour of the premises. It was on one of these tours that the the digital photo above was taken.

The Mausling family of Aurora, Colorado, participated in a “spirit tour” at the 108-year-old Stanley Hotel in Estes Park last month. After returning home, they noticed a photo taken by John “Jay” Mausling that seemed to show a young girl walking down the stairs.

John Mausling and his wife, Jessica Martinez-Mausling, told HuffPost via email that there were no young girls in their 11-member party or on the tour. “At first we tried to be logical and think we somehow missed her so we asked our kids, their girlfriends and our friend if they remembered seeing a little girl,” they wrote. “Nobody did. We do not remember seeing anything on the stairs when we took the picture.”

Ben Hansen, former FBI agent and host of “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files,” said a careful analysis of the photo turned up no obvious signs of trickery. “I really like this photo,” Hansen said. “Assuming that it’s not doctored, it ranks up there as one of the best photos of possible paranormal evidence I’ve seen. If it is faked, I’ve got to hand it to them for their level of detail and creativity because there’s usually enough easy signs to suggest hoaxing.”

So is this a ghost? My first thought is that it looks like some sort of artifact from a bad cell phone camera. There's blurring all over the photo, which suggests something like that might be what happened. However, it also is true that the girl looks a lot more blurry than anyone else in the picture. That could be because she was moving when the picture was taken, but according to witnesses there was no girl on the stairs at that time. If those witness accounts are accurate, we could be looking at something paranormal.

I will say that the picture doesn't look faked, but my guess is that there was someone coming up the stairs right when the picture was taken that the witnesses just don't remember. Memory is less reliable than we like to think. For that matter, it could have been a grown woman who just looks like a girl because of the blurring - so anybody asked if there was a girl present would honestly reply that there was not. Still, I could be wrong, and if I am this is one of the best paranormal photos that I've seen.