Thursday, September 18, 2014

Satanic Youth Outreach

Recently schools in Orange County, Florida, were sued over allowing the dissemination of Christian pamphlets and Bibles to students. The judge in the case allowed the material to be distributed, but only if materials from other religions were also allowed. Never one to miss an opportunity such as this, The Satanic Temple has assembled their own religious pamphlets espousing the virtues of Satanism. They plan on distributing them to the same Florida schools affected by the ruling.

The Satanic Temple took advantage of this decision, deciding to flood Orange County schools with a pamphlet entitled The Satanic Children’s Big Book of Activities that contains kid-friendly Satanic lessons. “These bullies are mad and afraid of things they don’t understand,” the instructions on the word-jumble reads. “Help Damian use inclusive language to defuse the situation.

The spokesman for the Satanic Temple, Lucien Greaves, explained that his organization “would never seek to establish a precedent of disseminating our religious materials in public schools because we believe our constitutional values are better served by respecting a strong separation of Church and State.”

“However,” he continued, “if a public school board is going to allow religious pamphlets and full Bibles to be distributed to students — as is the case in Orange County, Florida — we think the responsible thing to do is to ensure that these students are given access to a variety of differing religious opinions, as opposed to standing idly by while one religious voice dominates the discourse and delivers propaganda to youth.”

The Satanic Temple continues to make good use of the media to support the separation of church and state. While as an esotericist I find them a little silly and more dedicated to activism than any sort of spirituality, the fact is that calling themselves Satanists gives fundamentalist Christians the willies - and that's a good thing! If they really are going to push for religion in the public sphere, they need to understand that doing so opens that door for all religions, not just theirs.

Next question: who else wants in? The Pastafarians could have a field day with this, getting kids to dress up as pirates and wear strainers on their heads as protected religious practices. For that matter, how about Thelema? It seems to me that "Do what thou wilt" could attract some significant interest in a school environment.

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

It's Vampires, Not Satan!

Witch hunters are still unfortunately common in much of Africa. Recently, Nigerian evangelical Helen Ukpabio has threatened to sue two British activist groups. Ukpabio was accused by the two groups of writing that young children why cry at night are possessed by Satan, but she claims these comments are inaccurate and inflammatory. In fact, she wrote that such children were possessed by "vampiric witchcraft spirits." Which, in the context of throwing around baseless witchcraft accusations, is clearly such an important distinction that it merits a massive lawsuit.

The evangelical Christian, who claims to be a former witch herself, has drawn criticism for exploiting superstitions and potentially harming children. Among other things, she believes children under two years old who cry in the middle of the night might be possessed with black, red and vampire witchcraft spirits.

But Ukpabio, whose ban from the UK was made on the grounds of child protection, is now threatening to sue the British Humanist Association (BHA) and the Witchcraft and Human Rights Information Network (WHRIN) over the wording of complaints against her, which confuse possession by Satan with vampire spirit possessions.

The associations accused Ukpabio of writing: "a child under two years of age that cries at night and deteriorates in health is an agent of Satan". However, the Christian preacher claims it is "vampire witchcraft spirits" the children would be possessed by, not Satan. She is considering a defamation claim as the public may now believe her to be an "evil woman".

In fact, the saddest thing about this story is not arguing about the distinction between vampires and Satan. Given the nature of African witch hysteria, the distinction could very well be highly significant to an angry mob. No, the saddest thing is how Ukpabio has apparently built an entire ministry around demonizing normal childhood behavior. I know from personal experience that children under two years old sometimes cry at night, often when they're sick - and it has nothing to do with possession by vampires or Satan or anything else. They just feel bad and have no other way to ask for help.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Dyer Bigfoot is Fake, Surprising Almost Nobody

Remember Rick Dyer? Back in February the "Master Bigfoot Tracker" displayed a supposedly real bigfoot corpse at a Houston flea market. I noted back then that Dyer appeared to be following in the footsteps of P. T. Barnum, and that if his bigfoot were real he would be having actual scientists verify the discovery rather than dragging it around to flea markets and the like. When Dyer announced that the bigfoot corpse was in fact a hoax, nobody was surprised. Except, apparently, for this guy. Andrew Clancy, an Australian man who spent three months touring with Dyer, claims that he thought the body was real the whole time.

In March, Mr Clacy learned that he had Dyer was behind a second Bigfoot hoax when he posted on his Facebook page: ‘Coming clean about everything is necessary for a new start! From this moment on I will speak the truth! No more lies, tall tales or wild goose chases to mess with the haters!’

Clacy returned back home, but not without a serious toll: he was $12,000 out of pocket. He had also damaged his business, and says he was subject to a torrent of ridicule. ‘I was broken-hearted when I came back to Australia,’ he told Nine MSN. ‘I felt like a fool.’

To make matters worse, Dyer has embarked upon an online campaign to boycott Clacy, alleging on his blog that Clacy knew about the hoax throughout the period he was promoting it. He has even allegedly been hacking the Victorian’s emails. ‘He is actively trying to destroy me,’ Clacy said.

And no, it doesn't surprise me that a scammer like Dyer would also be an asshole. It kind of goes with the territory. In fact, given that he was charging people to see the body and publicly claiming that it was real, I'm wondering how he's managed to avoid being charged with fraud. It seems to me that some jail time might convince him that going around ripping people off is just a bad idea. To be fair, at this point anybody believing a word out of Dyer's mouth probably only has themselves to blame, but at the same time that's no reason to let his ridiculous confidence games go unchecked.

I can't say whether Clancy is being truthful in his statements, but either way Dyer comes off as a complete tool. Either he scammed Clancy out of a bunch of money, or Clancy was a partner in the scam who got thrown under the bus as soon as things started to unravel.

Friday, September 12, 2014

Higgs Boson Research Won't "End the Universe"

Lately a quote from physicist Stephen Hawking has been going around the Internet that, according to the media, means that the Higgs Boson could in some way end the universe as we know it. Others have gone on to suggest that such an event could be triggered in some fashion by further scientific exploration of the quantum realm, such as the sort of particle accelerator research that determined the mass of the Higgs Boson in the first place. Neither of these conjectures, though, are in any way accurate.

What Hawking meant was that the value we have now found for the mass of the Higgs Boson shows that the universe is in a meta-stable state rather than a stable one. What this means is that we now know it would be possible for the universe as we know it to suddenly end, whereas before we were not sure. Nothing scientists did changed the structure or nature of the universe; rather, determining the value of the Higgs alerted us to the (extremely extremely unlikely) possibility that the universe we live in could collapse into an unstable state.

Just as on a slope of a mountain, where there may be a little valley part way up the hill (above the real valley), it is possible that there could be little "valleys" in the energy slope. As the universe cooled, it could be that it might have been caught in one of those little valleys. Ideally, the universe would like to fall into the deeper valley below, but it could be trapped. This is an example of a metastable state.

As long as the little valley is deep enough, it's hard to get out of. Indeed, using classical physics, it is impossible to get out of it. However, we don't live in a classical world. In our universe, we must take into account the nature of quantum mechanics. There are many ways to describe the quantum realm, but one of the properties most relevant here is "rare things happen." In essence, if the universe was trapped in a little valley of metastability, it could eventually tunnel out of the valley and fall down into the deeper valley below.

This leads us to ask how the transition would occur. Would we have any warning? Actually, we'd have no warning at all. If, somewhere in the cosmos, the universe made a transition from a metastable valley to a deeper one, the laws of physics would change and sweep away at the speed of light. As the shockwave passed over the solar system, we'd simply disappear as the laws that govern the matter that makes us up would just cease to apply. One second we'd be here; the next we'd be gone.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

More Stonehenge Secrets Uncovered

This has been a good couple of weeks for Stonehenge discoveries. In the wake of England's dry summer revealing the positions of missing stones, archaeologists have now released the results of a large ground-penetrating radar and laser survey showing the site to be far more than a single isolated monument. Rather, it was part of a much larger complex several miles across, the exact function of which is still unknown.

Just a week after finding out that Stonehenge was once a complete circle, archaeologists from Birmingham and Bradford universities, and from the Ludwig Boltzman Institute in Vienna, have shattered the image of Stonehenge as a desolate and lonely place.

After four years of painstaking effort, and by using a magnetometer, a ground-penetrating radar (GPR), and a 3D laser scanner, archaeologists have shown that Stonehenge was once a sprawling complex that extended for miles.

And then there's the previously unknown "super henge," a monument located just two miles from Stonehenge. Scans suggest that each buried stone is about three meters (10 feet) long and 1.5 meters (5 feet) wide. The stones are positioned horizontally, not vertically, but it's conceivable that they originally stood upright like other standing stones. The archaeologists suspect they were brought to the site shortly before 2,500 BC.

The "super henge" is known as the Durington Walls, and can be seen in the upper right of the image above, which you can click to enlarge. None of the stones are still standing, but according to this latest survey it is likely that they originally did. The circle indicates its relative size compared to Stonehenge, near the center of the picture. The various red dots show new monument sites unearthed by the survey, and with so many new locations to investigate it seems that more discoveries about the ancient complex should be forthcoming.

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

No, You're Not Using "Invocation" Improperly

I came across a discussion recently on a Facebook forum in which a commenter was chided for using the term "invocation" improperly. The commenter had used the term just like I and most other ceremonialists I know use it, to refer to the calling up of a spirit into one's field of consciousness, and this was deemed wrong because "invocation" means "prayer or supplication."

I don't know if this is a meme that certain magicians have recently started throwing around, but in case it is I'm going to head it off right here. Invocation can mean "prayer or supplication," but like most English words it has more than one definition. From the listing:

1. the act of invoking or calling upon a deity, spirit, etc., for aid, protection, inspiration, or the like; supplication.

2. any petitioning or supplication for help or aid.

3. a form of prayer invoking God's presence, especially one said at the beginning of a religious service or public ceremony.

4. an entreaty for aid and guidance from a Muse, deity, etc., at the beginning of an epic or epiclike poem.

5. the act of calling upon a spirit by incantation.

6. the magic formula used to conjure up a spirit; incantation.

7. the act of calling upon or referring to something, as a concept or document, for support and justification in a particular circumstance.

So definition #5, "the act of calling upon a spirit by incantation," and #6, "the magic formula used to conjure up a spirit; incantation" both refer to calling upon and/or conjuring up spirits. And anyway, I really don't see the point of being overly dictionary-pedantic about the word as a technical magical term. "Invocation" has been used this way by magicians for more than a century, dating back to Aleister Crowley's works and before that the original Golden Dawn schema.

After all, when magicians use terms like "energy" - ala "energy work" - we're not talking about the physics definition of the term. There are a whole lot of other similar examples as well, and the entire reason that the dichotomy between "invocation" and "evocation" exists in ceremonial magick is that it's useful to be able to distinguish between summoning a spirit into a containment structure like a triangle and summoning a spirit into your field of consciousness.

I suppose we could make up new nonsense terms that would let us distinguish between the two methods and appease the pedants, but why bother? "Invocation" and "evocation" already work fine, especially as terminology that most ceremonial magicians understand. And as I see it, that's the entire point of language - to communicate with others precisely and efficiently. Anything else is just pointless posturing.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Summer Drought Reveals Stonehenge Secret

For many years archaeologists have argued over whether or not Stonehenge was originally a complete circle. Now, thanks to a dry summer and a short hose, the question appears to be resolved.

Stones buried in the ground affect the growth of grass, long after they fall down, break, or are removed. This last summer was particularly dry in England, and those charged with maintaining Stonehenge found themselves with a hose that was too short to reach all the way across the circle. So part of it was left to dry out, which revealed a pattern of "ghost stones," areas of grass that died off faster than the surrounding turf.

"A lot of people assume we've excavated the entire site and everything we're ever going to know about the monument is known,” said Susan Greaney, from English Heritage.

"But actually there's quite a lot we still don't know and there's quite a lot that can be discovered just through non-excavation methods. It's great that people who know the site really well and look at it every day were able to spot these parch marks and recognise them for what they were.

"We maintain the grass with watering when it's very dry in the summer, but our hosepipe doesn't reach to the other side of the stone circle. If we'd had a longer hosepipe we might not have been able to see them. It's really significant, and it shows us just how much we still have to learn about Stonehenge.”

Historians have long wondered whether Stonehenge was an intentionally-incomplete circle, but countless high resolution geophysical surveys and excavations have failed to give the answer.

So it seems where high-tech archaeology failed, drought and a short hose may have succeeded. From a magical standpoint it makes sense that the site would have been built as a complete circle. The magical circle is an ancient construct, and in order to serve as an effective spiritual boundary it should not be broken. But speculative conjecture can only go so far until you need real data to fill in the gaps - pun intended.

And now it seems that we have it.