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.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Calendar Truthers?

I can't believe that I never came across this idea sooner. The ominously named "Phantom Time Hypothesis" has been around since 1991, and yet it never once showed up on my fringe history radar. The idea is this - adjustments to our calendar during the Middle Ages resulted in the disappearance of 297 years, which means that the "real" year is 1720. That's pretty convenient for all those fundamentalists who thought the world would end in 2000 and were proved completely wrong, isn't it? I expect that we'll start hearing from those neo-Millerite idiots again soon if this idea gets enough coverage.

According to Illig’s hypothesis, Pope Sylvester II, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, and Constantine VII changed the dating system to place Otto III’s reign comfortably at the millennial year 1000, a more meaningful time than, say, 999 (although “Party like it’s 999” still holds the record for the most requested Gregorian chant in history).

Altering existing documents, creating fraudulent historical events (even people, such as the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne who, it is claimed, was simply a King Arthur-type myth), and tampering with physical evidence, this cabal inserted 297 years into our dating system. Two hundred ninety-seven years that don’t exist.

To back up his hypothesis, Illig said an inadequate system on dating medieval artifacts, and historians relying on written (and if Illig is correct, forged) documents, make the years 614 and 911 a bit dodgy. Mathematical errors between the Julian the Gregorian calendars further complicate matters, making a 297-year gap possible. Illig also claimed the fact that there was Roman architecture in 10th Century Western Europe shows the Roman Empire is more modern that what is currently thought.

Illig is not alone in this. University professor Dr Hans-Ulrich Niemitz published the paper “Did the Early Middle Ages Really Exist?” in 1995 in which he claims, “NO, the early Middle Ages did not exist.” “Between Antiquity (1 AD) and the Renaissance (1500 AD) historians count approximately 300 years too many in their chronology,” Niemitz wrote. “In other words: the Roman emperor Augustus really lived 1700 years ago instead of the conventionally assumed 2000 years.”

Like Illig, Niemitz discusses the discrepancies between the Julian and Gregorian calendars to prove his point, but also brings up the fact that, per accepted history, Byzantium and the Islamic realms were warring at this time. But Niemitz asserts, “nothing can be said about this period, because no historical sources exist for the supposed reform in this period."

Just as a point, regardless of how plausible this idea might be, I do appreciate the proper use of "hypothesis" here. It drives me nuts when writers of popular articles replace it with "theory" to match the vernacular, since a "theory" is a totally different thing in the sciences.

At any rate, it's certainly not inconceivable that several powerful leaders could have gotten together in the Middle Ages and decided to change the calendar dates. But the thing is, let me just add the phrase "in Europe" to that last statement from Niemitz. Because we have all sorts of records from around the world that show those 297 years did happen, even if record-keeping in Europe during the period in question was poor. Also, the timing of eclipses and the like does not show a bizarre 297-year gap - and it would. While there are discrepancies between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, there's nothing anywhere near that magnitude.

William Miller would have loved it. His 1843 doomsday prediction could still happen - you know, because according to the Phantom Time Hypothesis it still is more than 120 years away!

Monday, October 9, 2017

The Path of Initiation - Kether

This article is Part Eighteen 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, and Part Seventeen can be found here.

Initiation into the first sephira, Kether, the crown, is the eighteenth step on the path of initiation into the mysteries of Western Esotericism. It corresponds to the grade of Ipsissimus (10=1) in the A.'.A.'. system. The corresponding mystical vision is "Union with God." On the Kircher Tree of Life, Kether is attributed to the fixed stars and the primum mobile, the stellar realm beyond the zodiac. It represents the fundamental unity of all things in the universe, both manifest and potential.

This is one of those areas where I find beginning students are sometimes led astray. Idea like "all is one" and that division is "illusion" are true - from the point of view of Kether. But they are not true anywhere else on the Tree, even in Chockmah. It may be useful suggest them to keep students' "eyes on high," so to speak, but what I see so often with New Agers and the like is that students decide that if all is one, and division is illusion, they don't need to do any actual practice. This is a profound misunderstanding of the nature of Kether, since practice is essential.

The sephiroth have both microcosmic (psychological) and macrocosmic (physical) components, and as with practical magick, aligning those components 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.

Sunday, October 8, 2017

Evidence Against "The Simulation"

I've made no secret of my disdain for the "simulation argument" - the idea that we are actually living in some sort of artificially constructed universe as seen in the film The Matrix instead of a "real" universe. Recently, two physicists have claimed to have proven that we could not possibly be living in a simulation because as least one sort of quantum interaction would take far to much computational power to ever simulate on a large scale.

The pair initially set out to see whether it was possible to use a technique known as quantum Monte Carlo to study the quantum Hall effect – a phenomenon in physical systems that exhibit strong magnetic fields and very low temperatures, and manifests as an energy current that runs across the temperature gradient. The phenomenon indicates an anomaly in the underlying space-time geometry.

Quantum Monte Carlo methods use random sampling to analyse many-body quantum problems where the equations involved cannot be solved directly. Ringel and Kovrizhi showed that attempts to use quantum Monte Carlo to model systems exhibiting anomalies, such as the quantum Hall effect, will always become unworkable. They discovered that the complexity of the simulation increased exponentially with the number of particles being simulated.

If the complexity grew linearly with the number of particles being simulated, then doubling the number of partices would mean doubling the computing power required. If, however, the complexity grows on an exponential scale – where the amount of computing power has to double every time a single particle is added – then the task quickly becomes impossible. The researchers calculated that just storing information about a couple of hundred electrons would require a computer memory that would physically require more atoms than exist in the universe.

Now I have read a response to this article pointing out that this result is not "proof" - and frankly, despite my opinion of the whole simulation argument, I have to agree. It is possible that, say, the quantum Monte Carlo method used here is not the most efficient possible algorithm for calculating this sort of quantum behavior. It is often possible to model something that initially looks exponentially complex with something simpler than the most obvious method - and as a matter of fact, professional programmers like me come up with stuff like that all the time.

Saturday, October 7, 2017

"Slender Man" Case Finally Over

One of the things you learn pretty quickly trying to cover court cases is that the darn things move really slowly. Back in June of 2014, I covered the case of two Wisconsin girls charged with stabbing a classmate in order to appease Slender Man, a fictional character from a series of online horror stories. The girls were twelve years old at the time of the attack. A preliminary hearing was held eight months later, in February of 2015, and the case finally moved forward eighteen months after that, in August of 2016.

Now, finally, the case appears to be wrapping up, more than three years after the original attack. Morgan Geyser, the instigator of the attack, has reached a deal with prosecutors in which she will plead guilty in exchange for being committed to a mental hospital rather than being sent to prison. Her co-defendant Anissa Weier was already found to be mentally ill at the time of the attack, and was sentenced to at least three years of treatment.

The deal calls for doctors to evaluate 15-year-old Morgan Geyser and report to a judge to determine how long she should remain in a state mental hospital. Geyser's co-defendant, Anissa Weier, faces at least three years in a mental hospital after a jury this month determined she was mentally ill at the time of the attack on classmate Payton Leutner. All three girls were 12 at the time.

"It's been a tragic experience for everyone," Geyser's attorney, Donna Kuchler, said after the brief court hearing. "Our hearts go out to the victim and her family. And we're very grateful that the district attorney's office gave this case the considering it deserves."

Weier and Geyser lured Leutner into the woods at a park in Waukesha, a Milwaukee suburb. Geyser stabbed Leutner 19 times while Weier urged her on, according to investigators. Leutner survived after she crawled out of the woods to a path where a passing bicyclist found her. Both Weier and Geyser told detectives they felt they had to kill Leutner to become Slender Man's "proxies," or servants, and protect their families from him.

This case was a weird one from the beginning, and not just because of the "Slender Man" angle. Leutner survived the attack, and usually kids charged with attempted murder are not tried as adults. The decision to do so anyway probably had to do more with the media attention the case garnered than with the crime itself. And this probably is the right verdict - no person in their right mind thinks that a made-up character from online horror stories is going to come after them, as these two girls believed.

Geyser will be confined and faces mental health evaluation, and the reality is that if she's genuinely dangerous she's going to stay locked up. But if she recovers following treatment, she has a better chance of getting out as an adult than she would have if she were sentenced to a long term in an adult prison. Whatever happens there, like Slender Man himself, I imagine that this story will have a long life as a horror tale in its own right on the Internet.

Friday, October 6, 2017

Updating My Book Links

It's been a while since I've made any major changes to Augoeides. This latest one doesn't necessarily count as major, but I still wanted to call your attention to it. Over on the right sidebar, I have updated the links for my published books so that rather than going directly to Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Smashwords, and so forth, they now link to dedicated pages on my author web site with more information on the books. Those pages include links to order copies from all of the various online vendors that sell them, in both print and ebook editions.

I mostly did this because I can't fit full descriptions of my books in the sidebar without taking up way too much space, especially as I add more titles, and it's completely understandable for readers to want to know a little more about what they are buying before clicking on "order" solely based on a title and book cover. Also, having dedicated pages lets me share other information like reviews, links to book trailers, and so forth from a single online location.

So now, when you click on the link or the image for any of my five published books, you will be sent to the book's dedicated page over at my author site:
If you want to support what I'm doing here at Augoeides, buy my books. I went through a period where I hosted ads on the site years ago and hated it. I would much rather support Augoeides with book sales than with some other online revenue scheme that probably will just annoy everyone, myself included. So when you buy my books, you really are supporting my work here on an ongoing basis. I do think that I share a lot of material here for free that is hard to come by elsewhere in the magical community.

One other point - I also have links on the below on the sidebar for the two anthologies that include my articles, Holy Guardian Angel and Liber Spirituum. They both are good books and I encourage you to buy them, but since I was paid up-front for my contributions they don't generate ongoing royalties for me like my other books do. So if you want to buy a book in order to support the site, I recommend that you pick up something else.

Thursday, October 5, 2017

"Satan Cakes" May Become a Thing

Devil's food, naturally

Now this is just plain hilarious. As usual, The Satanic Temple has come up with a plan to deal with the whole "same-sex wedding cake" issue. If the Supreme Court allows bakers to discriminate against same-sex couples, they will go ahead and start ordering "Satan cakes" from bakeries that refuse to make cakes for same-sex weddings. And since religion is established as a protected class, the bakers will be legally required to make them.

TST spokesperson, Lucien Greaves, explains: “Our organization has received a lot of concerned messages from people who are upset by the prospect of an environment in which the LGBTQ community are openly and legally treated as second class citizens. The laws of the United States require that no one may discriminate by way of refusal of service against an evangelical theocrat for their religious beliefs, but the evangelical theocrat may discriminate against LGBTQ people because of who they are. Because religion is a protected class, a baker may refuse service to LGBTQ people, but they may not refuse service based upon someone’s religion. If they aren’t willing to make a cake for same-sex unions, let’s have them make a cake to honor Satan instead.”

The Satanic Temple proclaims that if the right to discriminate against the LGBTQ community is codified into law by the Supreme Court, aggrieved parties who face discrimination should contact them. “If you can’t get a cake for your same-sex union,” Greaves said, “we’ll host a party in your honor at The Satanic Temple headquarters in Salem and order a cake that praises Satan from your offending discriminatory ‘religious liberty’ enthusiast.”

The whole wedding cake argument is super-stupid anyway. If we're talking about a same-sex marriage that will presumably be conducted by a religious denomination with different beliefs than those held by the bakers, the same religious freedom argument that works for "Satan cakes" should apply. And if we're only talking about a civil ceremony, there's no reason for religion to enter into it at all. Legal marriage and religious marriage are two entirely separate things - or at least they should be. That's because in America, we don't have a state religion.

As funny as the idea of "Satan cakes" may be, the most obvious solution is to outlaw discrimination against same-sex weddings. I'm hoping that when they take up the case, the Supreme Court sees it that way, too.

Tuesday, October 3, 2017

The Path of Initiation - The Logos

This article is Part Seventeen 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, and Part Sixteen can be found here.

The speaking of the Word or Logos is the seventeenth step on the path of initiation into the mysteries of Western Esotericism. According to the A.'.A.'. system, this is considered the task of the grade of Magus (9=2). To properly speak your Word you must be initiated into the second sephira, Chockmah, which means Wisdom.

We are almost at the end of this series now. The final step of initiation, union with the divine, will be covered in the eighteenth and final installment, and then I'll be moving on to something else. The point of writing this all up is related to my comprehension of the task of the Exempt Adept, who is supposed to publish a thesis synthesizing hsi or her comprehension of the magical path.

As I mentioned in the preceding article in this series, on the Kircher Tree of Life Chockmah is attributed to the zodiac as a whole, and the corresponding vision is "The Vision of God Face-to-Face." Chockmah represents active engagement with the universe at a cosmic level. It is the active counterpart of the third sephira, Binah or Understanding, which represents receptive comprehension of the universe at a cosmic level.

The sephiroth have both microcosmic (psychological) and macrocosmic (physical) components, and as with practical magick, aligning those components 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.

Monday, October 2, 2017

Via Solis Libra Elixir Rite

I know I said last week that I would be putting up a new Path of Initiation post this week, but I realized that I completely forgot that the Libra Elixir is tomorrow. So I'm putting the script up today to share with folks who might like to attend. However, I'll also try to get the next Path of Initiation article up tomorrow if I can get it finished by then so folks don't have to wait for it until next week. After all, I can put magick posts up on days other than Mondays, right?

Anyway, this post is a full script for the Libra Elixir Rite that we will be performing tomorrow, Tuesday October 3rd, at Leaping Laughter Oasis, our local Twin Cities body of Ordo Templi Orientis. This is an updated version of the Libra Elixir Rite I posted here back in 2014, but it includes some additional elements inspired by research that went into the Zodiacal Work posts. 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 Libra. The sign Libra is attributed to "Works of Justice and Equilibrium." So those sorts of intents are most appropriate, and as this is a general and highly adaptable power, it can be used for many different purposes, from obtaining justice in the external world to balancing your internal magical energies and/or spiritual perceptions. 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, September 27, 2017

A Great Pyramid Mystery Solved

Archaeologists may have finally solved one of the most enduring mysteries of how the Great Pyramid of Giza was built. And spoiler alert, it's not aliens. Sorry, History Channel!

According to an ancient papyrus scroll that was recently translated, the Egyptians used specially designed boats and a network of canals connecting the Nile and the Giza plateau to transport the gigantic stones used in the pyramid's construction. So it's not anti-gravity space flotation, just regular flotation, that allowed the blocks to be moved such long distances.

A group of archaeologists working at the Giza pyramid complex - an archaeological site - have unearthed an ancient papyrus scroll, remains of a boat and a network of waterways at the site of the pyramid, providing new evidence that points to how the oldest of the Seven Wonders of the Ancient World was built.

Pierre Tale, who spent four years painstakingly deciphering the papyrus written by an overseer working on the pyramid’s construction, told Channel 4 in the new documentary Egypt’s Great Pyramid: The New Evidence: “Since the very day of the discovery it was quite evident that we have the oldest papyrus ever found in the world.”

The document was apparently written by a man called Merer who was in charge of 40 elite sailors. Archaeologists discovered that thousands of trained workers used boats to navigate canals dug along the River Nile for the purposes of transporting limestone.

The boats were held together by thick, twisted ropes, some of which have survived and were found in good condition. After collecting the materials, workers would bring them to an inland port a few metres from the base of the pyramid. In total, some 2.3 million blocks of stone were shipped across the land over the course of two decades.

I have previously mentioned that there's a lot of evidence that the Egyptians used to flood the Giza plateau. A pyramid itself is a representation of the primordial mountain that rose out of the ocean according to one of the Egyptian creation myths, so surrounding it with water makes perfect sense. That water would logically come from the Nile through some sort of a canal.

Tuesday, September 26, 2017

October 15th Now, For Sure!

The Rapture is upon us!

Yes, David Meade has clearly rolled out the Harold Camping playbook. When doomsday failed to happen as predicted, he first said that the September 23rd date was "the start" of the end of the world. Now he's saying the real end of the world will actually be October 15th. Of course, that's not going to happen either, because the whole idea is fundamentally flawed from the get-go. "Apocalypse" doesn't mean "end of the world," and Millerist timing methods have been disproved more times than I can count.

The conspiracy theorist who supposedly predicted the world would end on September 23 has clarified his doomsday prophecy, saying the rapture is, in fact, coming in October.

David Meade, a self-proclaimed "researcher" and Catholic who hit global headlines last week, believes the end of the world as we know it, as foretold in the biblical Book of Revelation, will take place next month and the 23rd was simply a sign of the oncoming of the oncoming disaster.

Writing on his website, Meade clarified his belief that the 23rd is the date of a “historical event” in the skies that would signal the oncoming rapture. Doomsday itself, he says, will begin on October 15.

When this is all said and done, I wonder how many times he'll reschedule it before he gives up. Camping rescheduled once, and then was apparently "mystified" that nothing came to pass on his second try (which was really his third - he made his first doomsday prediction many years before the 2011 one that got all the media attention). Or maybe I'll cast a mighty spell to save us all from damnation or something - which, of course, will be deemed a success if no doomsday comes to pass on October 15th. Clearly, that will be a testament to my magical power, and have nothing to do with Meade's cluelessness and gullibility. Right?

Monday, September 25, 2017

Seb-Hed Ritual

Today's Magick Monday post is the full script for the Seb-Hed Ritual that we perform every year for the Autumnal Equinox. For the last several years we have been performing this ritual at Leaping Laughter Oasis here in Minneapolis. Before that, we performed it as a private ritual for our magical working group. The Seb-Hed is based on a rite of renewal practiced for the pharaohs of ancient Egypt, updated with modern ritual forms and so forth. It invokes the balanced energies of Set and Horus, who in ancient times represented Upper and Lower Egypt. Note that I am not the author of this rite - it was written by another member of our magical working group who may identify himself if he wishes. I have made a few small modifications to it over the years, the largest being the Offering section. I added that when I revised all of the Via Solis rituals to include an offering component. We performed this ritual on Saturday, and the end of the world did not come to pass. Coincidence?

0. The Temple

The Set altar is in the North, and Horus altar is in the South. The material basis is placed on each altar; red wine or juice for Set, white wine or juice for Horus. A statue of each deity is placed on the corresponding altar. A third larger altar with a chalice is placed between them and slightly to temple east. This allows the Officiant and other participants to stand directly between the Set and Horus altar during the ritual. The invoking wand and banishing dagger are placed on this central altar.

I. Opening

Officiant performs the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram using the banishing dagger.

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: AUMGN

Officiant: We take refuge in Set-An, the secret Black Flame that burns in every heart of man and in the core of every star, as we issue the call to our own awakened nature, arousing the coiled serpent about to spring.

All: XEPER
(pronounced KEH-fer)

Officiant: We take refuge in Har-Wer, 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: THELEMA.

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

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

All: So mote it be.


Officiant performs the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram (Comselh Ananael or standard version) using the invoking wand, replacing ARARITA with SOTHIS.

Sunday, September 24, 2017

Still Here!

So as everybody now knows, there was no Rapture or Apocalypse or whatever yesterday. Can we be done with Millerism yet? Please? The whole idea of predicting "the end of the world" - when, in fact, "apocalypse" doesn't even mean "end of the world" - from "clues" hidden in the Bible has now failed every single time, and not for a lack of trying.

David Meade, the man who made yesterday's prediction even backtracked on Friday, probably in an attempt to remain relevant for another couple of weeks, and said that yesterday wasn't the actual end of the world, but rather "the beginning" of the end of the world. Harold Camping tried the same thing, and he was just as wrong as I'm sure Meade will turn out to be.

David Meade, who claimed the world is ending Saturday when a mysterious planet collides with Earth, is now backtracking on the calamitous claim.

Meade said the world won't end on Sept. 23 after all, but instead Saturday will only mark the beginning of a series of catastrophic events to occur over several weeks.

“The world is not ending, but the world as we know it is ending,” he told the Washington Post. “A major part of the world will not be the same the beginning of October.”

Meade said his prediction is based on verses and numerical codes found in the Bible, specifically in the apocalyptic Book of Revelation. He said recent events, such as the solar eclipse and Hurricanes Irma and Harvey, are omens of the approaching apocalypse.

The Bible is not a puzzle. Traditional Jewish Kabbalists do meditate on particular passages, and try to find deeper meaning within them by analyzing gematria and so forth, as we modern magicians do with our own highly divergent system of attributions. But the whole idea of tying that to predictions of real-world events is just plain wrong.

For one thing, there are so many versions of the Bible that if you're working in English you are basically hosed. Remember the whole "Bible Code" thing years ago? They came up with a few passages that they claimed could be linked to past events because they had an enormous sample size, but the method turned out to have no predictive power at all.

In the years to come, my guess is that people are going to throw this at Meade, and he'll pull up a bunch of evidence showing that the world "really did change" after yesterday. He probably will even have some dead-ender followers who keep believing, just like Harold Camping did. But you can make that case for practically any date if you reach far enough, because the world changes every day and any event can be a turning point for something.

Thursday, September 21, 2017

Tucker Carlson's Witch Interview

Tucker Carlson has always been a something of a tool. It's not that he's a conservative, but rather that he seems to have a remarkable ability to trivialize almost anything he doesn't agree with and hone in on its least relevant points. Case and point - Carlson recently interviewed a practicing witch named Amanda Yates Garcia on his show, and ignored her political points because he just had to know whether witches used "eye of newt" in spells. What that has to do with anything is anybody's guess.

“Sincere question: Is eye of newt an actual ingredient?” Carlson asked. Garcia rolled her eyes.

“I think the real problem is not whether or not eye of newt is an actual ingredient,” Garcia said. “The real problem is we’re about to have some kind of big nuclear extravaganza with North Korea. The real problem is that we’re punishing immigrant children. The real problem is that we’re causing students to go into deep debt. I don’t think the real problem is whether or not we use eye of newt.”

“I’m not suggesting it’s a problem,” Carlson laughed. “I’m with you on the student debt, by the way.” He then pushed forward with his original question. “Is eye of newt an actual thing or not?” he insisted.

“Eye of newt? Isn’t that from Shakespeare?” she replied. “I think he was probably using a bit of poetic license.” Most witches use what’s on hand, such as candles and paper, Garcia said.

If anybody out there has doubts about magick being a niche interest with a tiny following, there you go. On a political show, a witch brings up real political issues. But all the host wants to know about is "eye of newt" - which, by the way, is a thing because newts have eyes. I don't know of any spells calling for that as an ingredient, though. That's not just Carlson's personal cluelessness there - that's the level at which most people understand what we do.

Carlson also asked about a “binding spell” Garcia and others have cast on President Donald Trump to prevent him from harming others, whether or not she was worried about the supernatural consequences of spells and if there were any federal regulations on witchcraft.

What Carlson doesn't understand here is that when somebody engages in prayer with a specific intent, that's the same damn thing as a spell. Purely devotional prayers are different, but whenever you are "praying for xxx to happen" you are casting a spell. Even if you don't consider yourself a witch or a sorcerer or a magician. We just use specialized techniques to make our "prayers" more efficient and more likely to work.

Any federal regulation against spells would have to outlaw directed prayers as well, and when you look at it that way it should be clear that this would constitute an illegal restriction on free exercise of religion. So no, there's no law against spells, and it would be entirely unconstitutional to create one.

Wednesday, September 20, 2017

Roy Moore is Back, Unfortunately

One of these days Roy Moore should just go away. I'm not alone in that sentiment. Moore first became well-known as an Alabama judge who displayed the Ten Commandments in his courtroom, and was removed from office for refusing to stop doing it. Then he was elected to the Alabama Supreme Court, and was removed from office again for refusing to support same-sex marriage rights after they were upheld by the United States Supreme Court. Now he's running for Jeff Sessions' old senate seat, and unfortunately looks to be the front-runner. Slate has an article up today on Moore's latest offensive statement.

In 2003, Alabama judge Roy Moore was removed from office because he insisted on displaying the Ten Commandments in his courtroom. In 2016, he was removed from office again because he refused to enforce the (United States) Supreme Court's ruling on same-sex marriage rights. Now he's running for the Senate seat vacated by Jeff Sessions—he's probably going to win—and saying stuff like this during campaign events:

"We have blacks and whites fighting, reds and yellows fighting, Democrats and Republicans fighting, men and women fighting. What’s going to unite us? What’s going to bring us back together? A president? A Congress? No. It’s going to be God."

Ironically, one way God could improve white Americans' relationships with Native Americans and Americans of Asian ancestry is by coming down hard on people like Roy Moore who still refer to Native Americans and Americans of Asian ancestry by using racial terms that were already considered insulting and antiquated 50 years ago.

Even without the racist bullshit, Moore is still totally full of it. In his world, the only people who matter are those who follow God - that is, his particular interpretation of fundamentalist Christianity. Those of us who follow minority religions, atheists and agnostics, and probably even those who follow the "wrong" strands of Christianity are left out in the cold. I'm never going to convert to Moore's religion, full stop. So his god is not going to be unifying me with anybody or anything. For that matter, mainstream Christians aren't even remotely interested in becoming fundies.

I shouldn't be surprised that Moore is the leading senate candidate in conservative Alabama, but it seems to me that his long history of placing his religion before the law should disqualify him from holding office. Senators swear an oath to support and defend the Constitution, and Moore has shown repeatedly that he believes in putting his religion ahead of the actual law. Conservatives freak out about even liberal Muslims holding office, but how is Moore's past behavior that different from the principle behind Sharia law?

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

New Apocalypse This Weekend!

Secular doomsday conspiracies and the Christian Apocalypse are apparently two great tastes that taste great together - at least according to David Meade. Meade has put together his own timeline for the Biblical Apocalypse and connected it with the hypothetical (that is, made up) Nibiru cataclysm, which doomsday nuts have been claiming is due to destroy the world or at least human civilization any minute now for the last several decades.

He has tied the disaster to a number of Biblical prophecies and passages, including Revelation 12:1. This passage reads: “A great sign appeared in heaven; a woman clothed with the sun with the moon under her feet and a crown of 12 stars on her head. And being with child, she cried out in her travail and was in anguish of delivery."

Mr Meade claims the “sign in the sky” refers to the stunning eclipse experienced last month. He explained: “The great sign of The Woman as described in revelation 12:1-2 forms and lasts for only a few hours. According to computer generated astronomical models, this sign has never before occurred in human history. It will occur once on September 23, 2017. It will never occur again. When it occurs, it places the Earth immediately before the time of the Sixth Seal of Revelation. During this time frame on September 23, 2017, the moon appears under the feet of the Constellation Virgo. The Sun appears to precisely clothe Virgo.”

Theorists also claim natural disaster signal the approach of Planet X, as the huge planetary body would interfere with the Earth. They say the high number of serious hurricanes to have hit the Caribbean so early in the season, plus the large number of earthquakes striking across the globe, prove disaster is near. However, the scientific community has dismissed claims Nibiru is a legitimate concern, claiming it is merely a result of overactive imaginations.

So yes, this weekend, September 23rd 2017, is the end of the world. You know, if you believe in anything like that. The problem with the Nibiru idea is that if a planet-sized object were really close enough to Earth to influence hurricanes and earthquakes, we would be able to see it in the sky with our naked eyes quite easily. Astronomers track objects all over the solar system all the time, and they're not about to miss anything the size of a whole planet.

As for the Biblical angle, haven't we see enough of this nonsense already? The whole Millerite notion that we can "time the Apocalypse" has been discredited so many times that I've almost stopped making fun of it - you know, almost. Way too many assumptions go into the Millerite model for it to possibly be considered Biblical literalism, and while it offers a bunch of possible testable claims, none of them have ever turned out to be correct. I think it's about time we gave some serious thought to junking the whole thing.

Monday, September 18, 2017

The Path of Initiation - Chockmah

This article is Part Sixteen 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, and Part Fifteen can be found here.

Initiation into the sephira of Chockmah is the sixteenth step on the path of initiation into the mysteries of Western Esotericism. On the Kircher Tree of Life, the second sephira is attributed to the zodiac as a whole, and the corresponding vision is "The Vision of God Face-to-Face." The word Chockmah means Wisdom, which alludes to active engagement with the universe at a cosmic level. It is the active counterpart of Binah, Understanding, which alludes to receptive comprehension of the universe at a cosmic level.

The sephiroth have both microcosmic (psychological) and macrocosmic (physical) components, and as with practical magick, aligning those components 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.

"Effective" is harder to define with rites of illumination than it is with practical magick. Practical magick is relatively simple to assess - you perform an operation with a specific objective, and then record whether it succeeds or fails. Effective visionary work should obtain information from the exterior world that you could not possible know by any other means, and effective illumination work should transform you in a positive way, increasing your degree of realization and in some real sense making you a "better person."

This process can be highly subjective, and failed initiatory operations often go unrecognized. I am of the opinion that a lot of the nonsense out there from certain allegedly "advanced" magical practitioners can be traced back to these sorts of initiatory failures, and this is a problem that has been acknowledged for a long time in the tradition. To avoid this, you always need to be skeptical about any apparent attainment.

Always test spirits. 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.

Saturday, September 16, 2017

Only "Counterfeit Christians" Support Religious Freedom

For many years now, the United States Air Force has been infested with fundamentalist Christians. For whatever reason, this particular branch of the service has acted like a magnet for evangelicals who join the military. I don't necessarily want to deny them the opportunity to associate with people who share their beliefs, but at the same time this concentration is making the Air Force downright inhospitable to people with different beliefs, even different strains of Christianity. Recently, an Air Force Chaplain called out "counterfeit Christians" who are committing the terrible sin of upholding the Constitution.

A U.S. Air Force chaplain who ministers to thousands of men and women at an Ohio base is asserting that Christians in the U.S. Armed Forces “serve Satan” and are “grossly in error” if they support service members' right to practice other faiths.

In an article posted on BarbWire.com three days ago, Captain Sonny Hernandez, an Air Force Reserve chaplain for the 445th Airlift Wing at Wright-Patterson Air Force Base in Ohio, criticized Christian service members who rely on the Constitution “and not Christ.”

He wrote: “Counterfeit Christians in the Armed forces will appeal to the Constitution, and not Christ, and they have no local church home—which means they have no accountability for their souls (Heb. 13:17). This is why so many professing Christian service members will say: We ‘support everyone’s right’ to practice their faith regardless if they worship a god different from ours because the Constitution protects this right.”

Hernandez continued: “Christian service members who openly profess and support the rights of Muslims, Buddhists, and all other anti-Christian worldviews to practice their religions—because the language in the Constitution permits—are grossly in error, and deceived.”

I would have a lot less ire for fundamentalist Christians if they could just mind their own damn business. It is entirely possible to follow the Christian faith and at the same time support the rights of others to practice their own religious traditions. "Sharing the good news" really shouldn't mean little more than shitting all over people who disagree with you, but within many of these conservative Christian communities that's exactly how they interpret it.

The fact is that members of the United States Military swear an oath to uphold and defend the Constitution, and that same Constitution states clearly that our government cannot support one religious belief over another - a point that Hernandez doesn't even dispute in his comments here. So he's telling his congregation that actually, they shouldn't support the Constitution and instead support his religion. Because what, the Constitution is just "sort of a guideline?"

Can you imagine how this would go if Hernandez was, say, a Muslim? He'd be fired right away if he said that everybody serving in the Air Force had to submit to Allah and deny Christians the right to practice. That's really the same as what he's saying here, and in a world where all religions had equal standing he should be fired for it as well. If he isn't, let's just say that this is what Christian privilege looks like and leave it at that.

And can we all agree that having people who believe in a literal apocalypse and don't necessarily see it as a bad thing in charge of America's nuclear arsenal just might be sub-optimal? That's a real danger, and let me point out that despite it, I still support the rights of fundamentalist Christians in the Air Force to believe whatever they want. They just need to be willing to accept that everybody else has those rights, too.

Wednesday, September 13, 2017

The Satanic Temple Versus Abortion Restrictions

The Missouri case brought by The Satanic Temple challenging two abortion restrictions in the state has been working its way through the court system since 2015. On Monday, arguments before a state court finally began in the case. The case really should be a slam dunk according to the constitution, especially with regards to the requirement that anyone seeking an abortion consider a bunch of made-up propaganda supplied by conservative Christian groups. A legal argument could possibly be made for a waiting period in general, but if that period is intended to force those seeking abortion to "consider" the religious beliefs of a particular denomination, that also represents a clear-cut violation of church and state separation.

Missouri’s recent stroke of good fortune in the reproductive rights realm may have to do with intervention from the fiery underworld. On Monday, the Satanic Temple argued in a Missouri court that the state’s abortion restrictions violate worshippers’ rights to free religious practice. The organization is challenging two Missouri laws: one that requires patients to look at unscientific anti-abortion propaganda and another that forces them to wait 72 hours between their initial consultations and a second appointments for their abortions. Satanic Temple members argue that their religion prizes rational, independent thought and that forcing Satanists to read anti-abortion pamphlets and “consider a religious proposition with which they do not agree” during the 72-hour waiting period constitutes a violation of their beliefs.

The Satanic challenge to the laws began in 2015, when a pregnant Satanist from rural Missouri identified as “Mary” tried to use a religious waiver to exempt herself from the state’s many requirements designed to prevent women from going forward with abortions. Mary said she had the $800 she needed to get the abortion, but to get to the clinic in St. Louis for two separate appointments, she needed to save up for gas money, a hotel, and child care. As a Satanist, Mary said, she believes her body is “inviolable”—thus, a mandatory waiting period with no medical justification that hampers her bodily autonomy inflicts a “substantial burden” on her “sincerely held religious beliefs,” as does the law that requires she be informed that “abortion will terminate the life of a separate, unique, living human being.” The temple filed both state and federal lawsuits challenging the restrictions; a judge tossed out the federal case in 2016 because Mary was no longer pregnant.

Regardless of whether or not you approve of abortion, it seems to me that the whole idea of having to sit through a bunch of propaganda that has been repeatedly debunked by actual science (that is, lies) is laughable. Or at least it should be. It's the kind of nonsense that you would expect to find in a totalitarian dictatorship like the world of George Orwell's 1984, not the United States. Informing people of the real risks of abortion before they have one is reasonable. Informing them of imaginary ones? Not so much. And as for the waiting period restrictions, those become more onerous as the number of abortion providers in a state declines, especially for people who live in rural areas far from large cities where most clinics are located.

So far most of The Satanic Temple's legal victories have been largely symbolic, like over whether religious monuments get displayed in particular places, or whether members of minority religions get to offer prayers at public functions. But if they win this one, the ruling will make a big difference in peoples' lives. And it seems to me that it falls right in line with the push for "religious freedom" that the evangelicals are always on about. If you have different beliefs about abortion than conservative Christians do, the law should respect that.

Tuesday, September 12, 2017

Voynich Manuscript Solution Isn't

Last week a researcher named Nicholas Gibbs claimed to have finally deciphered the mysterious Voynich Manuscript, a text from the Renaissance that has defied translation for centuries. Gibbs' "solution" garnered a lot of attention, but then experts on the manuscript weighed in. Gibbs' basic idea is not necessarily wrong, but it also isn't that original. The text does look like a bunch of abbreviated Latin, especially when compared with other texts of the period - but the abbreviations aren't standard, so they could mean just about anything.

As soon as Gibbs' article hit the Internet, news about it spread rapidly through social media (we covered it at Ars too), arousing the skepticism of cipher geeks and scholars alike. As Harvard's Houghton Library curator of early modern books John Overholt put it on Twitter, "We're not buying this Voynich thing, right?" Medievalist Kate Wiles, an editor at History Today, replied, "I've yet to see a medievalist who does. Personally I object to his interpretation of abbreviations."

The weirdly-illustrated 15th century book has been the subject of speculation and conspiracy theories since its discovery in 1912. In his article, Gibbs claimed that he'd figured out the Voynich Manuscript was a women's health manual whose odd script was actually just a bunch of Latin abbreviations. He provided two lines of translation from the text to "prove" his point.

However, this isn't sitting well with people who actually read medieval Latin. Medieval Academy of America director Lisa Fagin Davis told The Atlantic's Sarah Zhang, "They’re not grammatically correct. It doesn’t result in Latin that makes sense." She added, "Frankly I’m a little surprised the TLS published it...If they had simply sent to it to the Beinecke Library, they would have rebutted it in a heartbeat." The Beinecke Library at Yale is where the Voynich Manuscript is currently kept. Davis noted that a big part of Gibbs' claim rests on the idea that the Voynich Manuscript once had an index that would provide a key to the abbreviations. Unfortunately, he has no evidence for such an index, other than the fact that the book does have a few missing pages.

The idea that the book is a medical treatise on women's health, however, might turn out to be correct. But that wasn't Gibbs' discovery. Many scholars and amateur sleuths had already reached that conclusion, using the same evidence that Gibbs did. Essentially, Gibbs rolled together a bunch of already-existing scholarship and did a highly speculative translation, without even consulting the librarians at the institute where the book resides.

A couple of points here. The complete failure to decipher the manuscript points to it being a code rather than a cipher. A cipher is a translation that is performed letter by letter, while a code is translated word by word. It is known in cryptography circles that without some sort of reference or code book, it is basically mathematically impossible to crack all but the simplest codes. So something like Gibbs' "abbreviated Latin" might be in play here, but we don't know what the code reference might have been. It could have been an index of some kind, though the manuscript only has a few missing pages. It might also be an entirely separate text that so far has not been found.

But basically, all of this is old news. All Gibbs really did was assemble a bunch of research put together by other people and call it a "solution," when in fact it's no such thing. Looking at the text and saying "this is a code" is not exactly a difficult conclusion to reach. You can say "the code book was in the index," but nobody knows if there even was one. The missing pages could be something else entirely. The diagrams do suggest a treatise on women's health, but again, this isn't Gibbs discovery either. It has also been noted previously by other researchers.

Gibbs' day job is as a television writer, so it has been suggested that his work may be associated with some sort of upcoming television series - maybe one of those highly speculative "documentaries" that air on cable networks like the Discovery Channel and the History Channel. I suppose we'll just have to wait and see on that one.

Monday, September 11, 2017

The Path of Initiation - Binah

This article is Part Fifteen 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, and Part Fourteen can be found here.

Initiation into the sephira of Binah is the fifteenth step on the path of initiation into the mysteries of Western Esotericism. On the Kircher Tree of Life, the third sephira is attributed to Saturn, and the corresponding visions are "The Vision of Sorrow" and "The Vision of Wonder." The word Binah means Understanding, which alludes to comprehension of the fundamental nature of the universe at a cosmic level.

The sephira have both microcosmic (psychological) and macrocosmic (physical) components, and as with practical magick, aligning those components 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.

"Effective" is harder to define with rites of illumination than it is with practical magick. Practical magick is relatively simple to assess - you perform an operation with a specific objective, and then record whether it succeeds or fails. Effective visionary work should obtain information from the exterior world that you could not possible know by any other means, and effective illumination work should transform you in a positive way, increasing your degree of realization and in some real sense making you a "better person."

This process can be highly subjective, and failed initiatory operations often go unrecognized. I am of the opinion that a lot of the nonsense out there from certain allegedly "advanced" magical practitioners can be traced back to these sorts of initiatory failures, and this is a problem that has been acknowledged for a long time in the tradition. To avoid this, you always need to be skeptical about any apparent attainment.

Always test spirits. 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.