Saturday, April 30, 2016

Like an Insult to Lucifer

Last week former Speaker of the House John Boehner was asked his opinion of Texas senator and Republican presidential candidate Ted Cruz. Boehner replied by describing Cruz as "Lucifer in the flesh." Satanists then announced that they were offended by that characterization, on the grounds that comparing Lucifer to Ted Cruz is insulting to Lucifer.

Has this been like the weirdest election year ever, or what?

When asked for his opinion about the Texas senator, Boehner said, “I have Democrat friends and Republican friends. I get along with almost everyone, but I have never worked with a more miserable son of a bitch in my life.” It turns out that the Satanic Temple agrees with Boehner’s sentiments — but they said there’s no way Cruz is the living incarnate of Satan.

When asked by the Friendly Atheist, Satanic Temple spokesman Lucien Greaves bashed Cruz. “Cruz’s failures of reason, compassion, decency, and humanity are products of his Christian pandering, if not an actual Christian faith,” Greaves responded. “It grows tedious when pedophile priests and loathsome politicians are conveniently dismissed as Satanic, even as they spew biblical verse and prostrate themselves before the cross, recruiting the Christian faithful. Satanists will have nothing to do with any of them.”

It's not that politicians aren't routinely referred to as the embodiment of Satanic evil. I remember back in the 1980's when Ronald Wilson Reagan was supposed to be 666 because his first, middle, and last name all had six letters. More recently, of course, Obama has been accused of being the Antchrist. But I have to say, this is the first time I've heard of Satanists being up in arms over the comparison.

I guess Ted Cruz really is just that awful.

Friday, April 29, 2016

It's Goatman!

Recently a new photograph of Maryland's Goatman has been circulating on the Internet. So is it real? Goatman is a completely goofy urban legend, a half-man half-goat created by 1970's genetic research gone wrong who now haunts the woods of Prince Georges County on the outskirts of Washington, DC.

The urban legend itself is absolutely absurd. The creature haunts Maryland make out spots, and leaps out at passionate young couples brandishing an ax. The creature was also blamed for locally high-profile pet mutilations in the 1970s.

Many reputable sightings of strange creatures do occur in Bowie, Baltimore, and several other densely populated areas in and around the Washington area, though almost all of the sightings describe large, upright, hairy hominids which sound much more like the equally legendary Bigfoot. Literally hundreds of these sightings have been collected in Mark Opsasnick’s essential book, The Maryland Bigfoot Digest. Hardly any of the people who’ve allegedly seen what they call the Goatman, actually describe a creature like the one in the photo.

I do not agree with WBAL’s assertion that the photograph depicts a bear carrying a dead goat. That’s asinine. The Goat’s head clearly belongs to the body of the hairy creature pictured. I do not, however, believe this to be a legitimate photograph of Goatman. I would never accuse the photographer of being untruthful, but I do believe he, himself to be the victim of a hoax. The whole thing is just too good to be true.

Sadly, I have to agree. The photograph is "real" for what it is, but it's also pretty obviously somebody running around in a costume. It should also be noted that Goatman's iconic fire axe is nowhere to be seen in the picture. An omission on the part of the hoaxer, perhaps?

Goatman is a funny enough legend that maybe for once I agree with an argument made by sasquatch skeptics back in the late 1970's. There very well could be more people out there running around in costumes than anyone realizes.

Thursday, April 28, 2016

Ken Ham is a Piker

Creation Museum founder Ken Ham is continuing to plug away on his "Ark Encounter" exhibit, a full-size replica of Noah's Ark that he hopes will become a major tourist attraction. His efforts to secure funding for the project have bordered on comical, including junk bonds and tax incentives that he later lost because he insisted on discriminatory hiring for everyone involved in the project.

But here's the thing - Ham's ark, which still is not complete, isn't the first replica of Noah's Ark to be built. Dutch creationist Johan Huibers finished his in 2012, after first building a half-scale replica as a proof of concept. Huiber's ark is no landlocked tourist attraction either - it's a totally functional ship.

So it's way cooler than anything Ham has proposed. Not only that, plans are in the works for "Johan's Ark" to sail across the Atlantic ocean later this year and make stops along the coast of the United States and Brazil. While I don't personally believe that Bible story of Noah is literally true, the voyage should put to rest the idea that the original ark could not have been seaworthy.

The ark, which was created by Dutch carpenter Johan Huibers, will stop at several port cities in Brazil and make four stops along the coast of the U.S., according to the Ark of Noah Foundation, which is working to raise funds for the ark’s journey.

According to the organization, which was founded by Huibers, the idea to build the ark came to Huibers after he dreamt that a massive flood covered the province of Noord-Holland in the Netherlands.

"That dream marks the start of an exciting adventure in which Johan overcame seemingly insurmountable obstacles to achieve his ultimate goal: The building of a replica of Noah’s Ark," the organization said online. The modern ark, dubbed "Johan’s Ark," is a fully-functioning replica of Noah’s Ark, as described in the book of Genesis in the Bible.

Huibers has identified himself as a creationist, but I have no idea if he's what Ken Ham considers the "right kind" of creationist - somebody who literally believes in the interpretation-heavy totally-not-literal Ussher Chronology from the seventeenth century. Last year ago Ham got into a big argument with evangelist Pat Robertson when he dared to criticize Ussher, claiming that Robertson was not a "real Christian."

But whether or not Huibers agrees with Ham, one thing is indisputable. Johann Huibers has the best ark, by far.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Those Trump-Hexers Sure Messed Up

After big wins in yesterday's so-called "Acela Primary," Donald Trump is in a good position to win the Republican presidential nomination over his remaining rivals Ted Cruz and John Kasich. Back in September, a group of self-proclaimed witches attempted to hex Donald Trump with the intention of ending his campaign for president. While I'm not personally a Trump supporter, as a student of magick it is my duty to call this like I see it - those hexers somehow really messed up.

Their spells, very clearly, have not accomplished a thing. Trump is stronger than ever. Cruz and Kasich attempted to form an alliance to deny him an outright win, but it collapsed practically overnight. I should also point out that as a Christian Reconstructionist, Cruz would probably be a worse president than Trump from where I'm sitting as a member of a minority, non-Muslim religion. In my opinion, Trump is mostly a pragmatist while Cruz is a dangerous ideologue.

So looking back on the spell and how it was put together, what went wrong? All I have to go on is the video that this group of witches posted on YouTube, and some of the "spells" performed are amusing but don't look very magically effective. A few of them, however, looked like traditional Hoodoo-type methods that in theory should have worked. They just didn't. Since September, Trump has vanquished rival after rival in primaries all over the country.

From the video you can see that each member of the group did their own thing, employing a wide variety of methods, rather than pooling their efforts into any sort of a group rite. You can make an argument either way; a bunch of smaller rituals could take advantage of the shoaling effect, with many smaller operations targeting various aspects of Trump's campaign all at once. But at the same time, without coordination it is very possible that the few effective spells in the bunch may have gotten in each others way.

I also think that posting the video on YouTube was probably a mistake. It got hits, and parts of it were funny, but it also gave Trump even more free media coverage - something he excels at exploiting. In cultures where belief in magick is widespread, you can sometimes increase your spell's effectiveness by telling your target they have been cursed, but in the Western world belief in magick is so sparse that I doubt it has any effect. If anything, it usually provokes skepticism and little more.

Personally, I think the wisest course is always to keep your casting secret while your spell does its work. Either the magick works or it doesn't, and then even if it fails it can provide you with valuable experimental data. On the other hand, if you publicly announce what you're doing or what you did before the spell has a chance to run, you potentially are skewing your sample with all sorts of suggestion effects and so forth. And in a field as media-heavy as politics, you run the risk of making people who don't like "witches" more likely to support whoever it is you're hexing.

I do perform political operations, as I will be covering in more detail in my next Enochian book, Mastering the Thirty Aires. I also cover some of that material in my Introduction to the Thirty Aires lecture that I have transcribed here on Augoeides. I always keep them secret, never announcing to anyone outside my magical working group what I'm doing. We have also found that we seem to get better results when we pool our efforts rather than trying to rely on shoaling, but I still am not sure why that has been the case.

So next time, I suggest that these would-be hexers take this critique into account. It's possible that Trump, as a master media manipulator, is something of a special case, but I still think my points stand. By adhering to them, I have gotten good results on a pretty reliable basis.

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

New Scientology Expose on the Way

L. Ron Hubbard's Church of Scientology has been the target of critics for a long time. Last year, HBO released a documentary critical of the church and leaders of the Belgian branch of the organization were charged with fraud and extortion.

Now Lisa Marie Presley, the daughter of Elvis Presley and a longtime Scientologist, is believed to be behind the promotion of a memoir written by Ron Miscavige, father of Scientology leader David Miscavige. Ron will be appearing on ABC's 20/20 on April 29th to discuss his experiences in the church, and the book is slated to be released next week.

Lisa Marie is using her media savvy and connections with other celebrities and other important figures inside Scientology to release explosive revelations about Miscavige, while keeping her own role quiet. The result, so far, has been the skillfully timed release of media stories that have damaged Miscavige at the same time that Scientology is in a long term decline.

In Lisa Marie Presley, David Miscavige has cultivated a powerful enemy. And in this story, we explain how things got to that point.

Yesterday, we described how David Miscavige’s family has been ripped apart by Scientology’s toxic policy of “disconnection,” which has left David and his twin sister, Denise Gentile, cut off from other members of the family, including their father, Ron Miscavige.

On May 3, Ron will release a memoir titled Ruthless: Scientology, My Son David Miscavige, and Me. On April 29, he will be interviewed by ABC’s Dan Harris as part of a full hour 20/20 is dedicating to Scientology. The book and interview come as the result of series of events that began with Ron’s escape from Scientology’s International Base near Hemet, California in March 2012.

Ron had been a Scientologist for about 40 years, and was a well liked and popular member as the Sea Org’s musical director. But by 2012, he could no longer take the deprivations of Sea Org life under his dictatorial son, and with his wife Becky Bigelow, he “blew” from the base, as Scientologists say. We’re looking forward to reading in his book just how he managed that escape.

It's not clear whether Presley's goal is to bring down the church or simply to damage Miscavige, with whom she's been engaged in a long-running feud. It's hard to deny, though, that Miscavige is largely responsible for much of the cultish behavior reported with regard to the group. At the very least, he continued all of Hubbard's most paranoid policies and jacked up fees to ridiculous levels during his tenure.

As I've mentioned before, Scientology does have some beliefs I consider weird, but then so do most religions. My problem with the group has nothing to do with what it teaches, but rather with how it goes about suppressing dissent, threatens legal action and engages in outright harassment against anyone who tries to leave, and soaks its members for huge sums of money that are really out of line compared to every other initiatory religious organization.

Maybe new leadership is just what the church needs. On the other hand, if Miscavige is pressured into stepping down and the new boss is the same as the old one, the criticism of the church is probably going to continue.

Monday, April 25, 2016

More on Linguistics and Magick

So my comments about linguistics in my article on Qabalah have prompted a larger discussion on Facebook. I suppose it's to be expected; I did slip a hyperbolic statement in there with my comment "linguistics as a discipline is not only overrated by magical practitioners, but furthermore has practically nothing to do with magick as it is commonly practiced."

That statement clearly is not literally true, as I would guess the majority of practitioners probably do make use of at least a few linguistic models and concepts in their practice. I want to be clear that in no way was I telling anyone to stop doing that. My first rule, above all else, is that if it works it works. As it says in The Book of the Law, success is your proof. I do think, though, that if those models and concepts are held up as essential to effective magical practice, it fails to take into account real differences in cognition among the human population.

I suppose, then, that this is the "Linguistics is Overrated" post I mentioned wanting to write for years, or at least part of it. The entire conversation is much longer and more involved than anything I can do justice to in a format that anyone would be willing to read, as like the science of cognition itself, it touches on many different disciplines. But I'll do my best to be concise.

When I was a kid I read George Orwell's Nineteen Eighty-Four and was absolutely stunned that anyone could believe the idea behind "Newspeak" - that by eliminating words from the language, the Inner Party could control people's thoughts. I just figured it had to be satire, Orwell commenting on how stupid the leaders of the Party really were. Because, obviously, language is how you talk to other people, not how you think. It took me years to realize that there are people in the world who think like that, and after that I no longer knew whether Orwell meant the concept to be satire or if he found it plausible.

I imagine verbal thinkers are the exact same way, wondering how somebody could possibly think without using words or symbols. I've been told by more such people than I care to recount that obviously I must think in language and my direct perception of my thoughts has to be wrong - though how they could possibly know, I have no idea. My guess is that they're operating from the same "generalizing from self" fallacy that I fell into when reading Orwell.

Now I would normally just chalk all this up to individual differences and leave it alone, except that in my opinion generalizing a linguistic model of magick can create more problems than it solves.

Thursday, April 21, 2016

Is this a Ghost?

Colorado's Stanley Hotel is famous for inspiring Stephen King's horror novel The Shining, which was adapted into the iconic Stanley Kubrick film that starred Jack Nicholson. The hotel also is an alleged hotspot of paranormal activity, and has been featured multiple times on paranormal investigation shows such as Ghost Hunters. Recently a hotel visitor snapped the photo shown above, which looks like it contains a human figure at the top of the stairs. But the visitor saw nobody on the staircase while the picture was being taken. So is it a ghost?

Henry Yau took a panoramic image of the lobby of the Stanley Hotel in Estes Park, Colorado, this week.

When he snapped the photo, there was no one at the top of the staircase, he claims — but when he took a look at it later, he saw a ghostly figure in what looks like period clothing coming down the stairs.

“When I took it, I didn’t notice anything,” Yau, director of public relations at the Children’s Museum of Houston, told Click2Houston.com.

One paranormal expert said the photo shows not one, but two spirits.

“When we blew up the picture, we immediately saw a second anomaly just to the left of the first figure,” Kevin Sampron, a paranormal expert at SPIRIT Paranormal Investigations in Denver, told WUSA. “To us it looks like the first figure is a lady dressed in black and to the left of her it looks like a child.”

Looking at the picture myself, finding two figures in it is a bit of a stretch. It also is hard to say whether the figure is dressed in period clothing or anything like that. It just looks like a dark, human-shaped outline to me - like someone dressed all in black. I'm thinking that spotting two figures in the picture is more likely to be a mosaic effect.

Skeptics have argued that the figure is an artifact created by the cell phone camera's panorama function, which is possible - except that in my experience when that happens you usually see a more defined line where the images splice incorrectly. I can't find a line like that in the photo, but I'm also not familiar with the version of the software used to take it.

So without access to the camera and the location to try and replicate the shot, it is difficult to say whether or not this is some sort of artifact. The panorama function adds another layer of complexity to the shot, where something like that could have been introduced. On the other hand, it does look a lot like a classic ghost photo, so the camera may have captured something paranormal or at least unusual.