Friday, March 24, 2017

Office of the Readings for 2017

Happy Thelemic New Year, everyone! It's that time again, for the Office of the Readings.

The Thelemic dates that you may see written online are arrived at by counting the number of 22-year cycles since 1904 to obtain the upper case Roman numeral, and then counting the years of the current cycle to get the lower case one. Within each 22-year cycle, many Thelemites ascribe the Major Arcana trumps of the Tarot to the years in order starting with The Fool and ending with The Universe. So the year that we're about to enter into is V:iii, attributed to the Empress card.

This post will remain the top article here for the duration of the Thelemic Holy Days from March 20th to April 10th. The Rite of the Office of the Readings is performed for all of the readings beginning on March 20th.

This year I'm pleased to announce that like last year, this year's Office of the Readings will be presented at Leaping Laughter Lodge, the Minneapolis local body of Ordo Templi Orientis. In order to synchronize our series with the Lodge's equinox ritual scheduled for March 19th, the Prologue of the Unborn will be read preceding the Invocation of Horus on that date.


The Invocation of Horus
The Rite of the Office of the Readings


March 19

Liber VII, Prologue of the Unborn, preceding the Invocation of Horus.

March 20 - Saturn/Earth, The Universe

Liber LXV, Cap I.
Liber VII, Cap II.

March 21 - Fire/Spirit, The Aeon

Liber LXV, Cap IV.
From "The Four Zoas" by William Blake.

March 22 - Sol, The Sun

Liber VII, Cap IV.
From "A Mithraic Ritual" Translated by GRS Mead.

March 23 - Pisces, The Moon

Liber VII, Cap VI.
From “Dark Night of the Soul”, Book II, Cap 8 by San Juan de la Cruz.

March 24 - Aries, The Emperor

Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus.
From the “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu, Cap 37 and 39.

March 25 - Mars, The Tower

Liber VII, Cap I.
From Liber CDXVIII, The 16th Æthyr.

March 26 - Capricornus, The Devil

Liber A'ash.
Relevant to Liber A'ash is my solution to the mystery of the duck.
From Liber CXI, Cap 174-175.

March 27 - Sagittarius, Art

From “The Vision of the Universal Mercury” by G.H. Frater S.R.M.D.

March 28 - Scorpio, Death

From Liber Arcanorum.
From Liber CXI, Cap 192-194.

March 29 - Water, The Hanged Man

Liber LXV, Cap III.
"I. N. R. I." by Frater Achad.

March 30 - Libra, Adjustment

Liber Libræ.
Selections from “The Spiritual Guide” by San Miguel de Molinos.

March 31 - Jupiter, Fortune

Liber VII, Cap III.
From Liber CDXVIII, The 20th Æthyr.

April 1 - Virgo, The Hermit

Liber VII, Cap V.
"The Emerald Tablet of Hermes" by Hermes Trismegistus.

April 2 - Leo, Lust

Liber Stellae Rubeæ.
From “The Daughter of Fortitude” Received by Edward Kelly.

April 3 - Cancer, The Chariot

Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegni.
"Maha Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra" (The Heart Sutra, Buddhist text. Translation by the Kuan Um School of Zen).

April 4 - Gemini, The Lovers

Liber LXV, Cap II.
From Liber DCCCXXXVII, The Law of Liberty.

April 5 - Taurus, The Hierophant

Liber LXV, Cap V.
From “On Christ and Antichrist” by Hippolytus, Cap 2.

April 6 - Aquarius, The Star

From “The Thunder, Perfect Mind” (Gnostic text).

April 7 - Venus, The Empress

Liber VII, Cap VII.
From Liber CDXVIII, The 7th Æthyr.

April 8 - Luna, The Priestess

Liber AL, Cap I.
“Vajrasattva, Primordial Buddha of Diamond or Rainbow Light” From Songs and Meditations of the Tibetan Dhyani Buddhas.

April 9 - Mercury, The Magus

Liber AL, Cap II.
“Visvapani, The Bodhisattva and Spiritual Emanation of Amoghasiddhi” From Songs and Meditations of the Tibetan Dhyani Buddhas.

April 10 - Air, The Fool

Liber AL, Cap III.
From Liber CDXVIII, The 22nd Æthyr.

If you would like to perform this series and have questions, feel free to e-mail me here. All Office of the Readings posts may be viewed here. Our Office of the Readings series is based on this ritual series by the Companions of Monsalvat.

Remote Viewing Mars

The Central Intelligence Agency has recently declassified more information from its remote view program, called Project Stargate. This program was started in the 1980's and ran until it was shut down in 1995.

According to accounts from people who worked with the program, one of its most important contributions to parapsychology research was a protocol by which a significant percentage of people could be trained as effective remote viewers. This is an old idea in the occult community, referred to as "astral projection" or "travel in the spirit vision." According to the lore, if you can learn to do it correctly, you can obtain all sorts of information about faraway places that you otherwise could not possibly know.

Slate reported this week that in with this latest batch of declassified material is an account of an attempt to remote view the planet Mars, which apparently took place in 1984. That was early on in the program, and my understanding is that at that time the protocol was still in development. Nonetheless, a transcript of the session contains some interesting and possibly testable pieces of information - once humans finally are able to travel to the red planet.

After this introduction, you’ll find a seemingly unedited transcript of the interview, a dialogue that reads like some fragment of a lost Samuel Beckett play. You need not crawl through the full seven pages of dialogue to get a sense of its strangeness. Here’s a representative sample from the start. (All ellipses in the following are original to the document and seem to indicate long pauses.)

"[Subject]: … I’m seeing, ah … It’s like a perception of a shadow of people, very tall … thin, it’s only a shadow. It’s as if they were there and they’re not, not there anymore.

[Monitor]: Go back to a period of time where they are there.

Sub: … Um … (mumble) It’s like I get a lot of static on a line and everything, it’s breaking up all the time, very fragmentary pieces.

Mon: Just report the data, don’t try to put things together, just report the raw data.

Sub: I just keep seeing very large people. They appear thin and tall, but they’re very large. Ah … wearing some kind of strange clothes."

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Church Police?

Salon is reporting today that a bill has been proposed in the Alabama State Senate that would allow Briarwood Presbyterian Church in Birmingham to hire its own police force, “invested with all of the powers of law enforcement officers in this state.” Besides alluding to a Monty Python sketch, this would set a dangerous precedent regarding the separation of church and state if the bill is passed and signed into law.

“The sole purpose of this proposed legislation is to provide a safe environment for the church, its members, students and guests,” the church said in a memo sent to Salon after requests for comment. The memo also mentioned the Sandy Hook school shooting in Connecticut, claiming that the church needs “qualified first responders” in case such a thing would happen there.

This particular church does not sit in some kind of lawless territory without access to the same law enforcement services available to other Alabama citizens. As NBC News has noted, the church is served by the sheriff’s departments in both Jefferson and Shelby Counties. “This proposed legislation seems like a clear violation of church-state separation, and a clear violation of the Constitution,” Alex Luchenitser, the associate director of Americans United for Separation of Church and State, said in a phone call. “Government bodies must not delegate official power to religious entities.”

Luchenitser cited a 1982 Supreme Court case, Larkin v. Grendel’s Den, in which an 8-1 majority found that states could not give churches the official authority to grant and deny liquor licenses. The ACLU of Alabama cited the same decision in a memo sent, upon request, to Salon. “Indeed, allocating any quintessential governmental power to a religious institution plainly violates the Establishment Clause,” the memo said, warning the state of Alabama that giving a church its own police force “would not survive a legal challenge.”

The thing that I find weird about the idea is that it's a solution in search of a problem. There are no laws on the books that would prevent the church from hiring private security, even armed private security. Hiring "qualified first responders" is likewise not an issue. So it's not clear to me what this church is trying to do, or why they specifically want to set up a "police force." It's not like the church couldn't hire police officers as private security officers. That happens all the time at large organizations.

My guess is that given all this, the bill probably won't go through. There's really no need for church police that can't be served by private security and/or private first responders, and the constitutional challenges that the concept poses are substantial. What I'd like to know is whether the deal is just that the church didn't think it through, or if there's some ulterior motive at work that nobody from the church wants to talk about.

Monday, March 20, 2017

The Zodiacal Work - Sagittarius

This article is Part Nine in 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, and Part Eight can be found here.

The work of the Zodiac is neglected by most magical resources intended for beginners. The reason for this is that in the tradition, students start out studying the elemental work, move on to the planetary work, and only after that explore the system of the Zodiac. But in the context of practical work, the signs are important, because they represent half of the practical magical powers listed in Liber 777.

When going through this series, you can refer back to my Angels of the Zodiac presentation for additional information. The presentation goes into greater detail regarding some aspects of the zodiacal work, as does my Evoking Zodiacal Angels article in Liber Spirituum.

Today I will be moving on to the sign Sagittarius. In Liber 777, Sagittarius is attributed to "Transmutations" and the "Vision of Universal Peacock." The latter will be addressed in greater detail in the context of the Path of Initiation. In brief, it refers to the transition from lunar to solar consciousness and is represented in laboratory alchemy as a stage called the "Peacock's Tail" because of the iridescent oil produced at that point in the process. Transmutation also alludes to the alchemical nature of the path of Sagittarius, which connects Yesod (The Moon) and Tiphareth (The Sun) on the Tree of Life.

Transmutation is an extremely useful power with practically unlimited applications. It can be used in its literal sense to aid laboratory alchemical operations, or in a more metaphoric sense to transmuted one situation or state into another. As the fundamental point of magical operations is to produce change in conformity with will, this power may be thought of as a relatively basic one that overlaps with a number of other powers. For example, you could use it for healing, to transmute a state of illness into that of health. Or, you could use it for financial purposes, to transmute a state of poverty into that of wealth. And so forth.

In Qabalah, the signs correspond to the twelve single letters of the Hebrew alphabet. These letters are so named because they correspond to a single specific sounds. The signs are all attributed to the sephira Chockmah, and are associated with paths only in the context of practical magical work. The sephiroth represent states of manifestation, whereas the paths represent the movement of energy between those states.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

Containment Structure

This is not ritual magick in the usual sense, but it still is pretty amusing. Artist James Bridle came up with this design for a "magic circle" designed to trap self-driving cars. The dotted line on the outside of the circle means the car can drive in, but the solid line on the inside means that it can't drive out. So it's sort of like a roach motel for these vehicles. Essentially, the car behaves like a spirit conjured into a containments structure.

In a picture posted to Flickr by artist James Bridle—known for coining the term, "New Aesthetic"—a car is sitting in the middle of a parking lot has been surrounded by a magic salt circle. In the language of road markings, the dotted white lines on the outside say, "Come On In," but the solid white line on the inside says, "Do Not Cross." To the car's built-in cameras, these are indomitable laws of magic: Petrificus Totalus for autonomous automobiles.

Captioned simply, "Autonomous Trap 001," the scene evokes a world of narratives involving the much-hyped technology of self-driving cars. It could be mischievous hackers disrupting a friend's self-driving ride home; the police seizing a dissident's getaway vehicle; highway robbers trapping their prey; witches exorcizing a demon from their hatchback.

Self-driving cars aren't there yet, but the artist-philosopher-programmer's thought-provoking photo is a reminder that we'll have to start thinking about these things soon. If a self-driving car is designed to read the road, what happens when the language of the road is abused by those with nefarious intent?

The answer to this is actually quite simple. Never build a car that a person does not have the option of driving. I'm thinking self-driving cars like they had in the I, Robot movie - the car can drive on its own, but you can also can drive it yourself. I would never buy a car I wasn't able to drive at all, and it's not just because of circles like this.

Where I live, far from the always-warm weather of Silicon Valley, we have these things called "Snow Emergencies." In order to allow plowing, we have to move our cars around to different streets, or the other side of streets. If you can't just get in the car and drive it, that's kind a of a pain to do with software. The same is true of a lot of short trips, like from the driveway to your street, or for that matter, to move the car so it's on the other side of the driveway.

And all of these issues are avoided if you can just drive the damn car, even if it has a self-driving mode. The "trap" then becomes trivial. The software doesn't even have to figure it out, because all you have to do is grab the wheel and drive off. It really is the best solution all around.

Friday, March 17, 2017

Eclipse or Apocalypse?

Next fall, much of the continental United States will experience its first total solar eclipse in almost a century. American astronomers are looking forward to the event and are getting ready to take advantage of the opportunity to observe one of these eclipses without having to travel around the world. Total solar eclipses in general are unusual, but not that rare. What's rare is to see one without leaving home, since they only are total from particular locations.

Of course, it's not just the scientists who are interested in the event. Some apocalyptic Christians believe that the eclipse is yet another sign of The End of the World. You know, like that "blood moon" series of lunar eclipses in 2015 that heralded precisely nothing, unless, I suppose, your idea of an apocalypse is the election of the Trump Administration.

Gary Ray isn't worried about just travel plans and adequate eye protection. He's focused on the Rapture. Ray, a writer for the evangelical Christian publication Unsealed, views this eclipse as one of several astronomical signs that the day when Christians will be whisked away from the Earth is fast approaching.

"The Bible says a number of times that there's going to be signs in the heavens before Jesus Christ returns to Earth. We see this as possibly one of those," Ray said about the eclipse. He is even more interested in another astronomical event that will occur 33 days after the eclipse, on Sept. 23, 2017.

The Book of Revelation, which is full of extraordinary imagery, describes a woman "clothed with the sun, with the moon under her feet and a crown of twelve stars on her head" who gives birth to a boy who will "rule all the nations with an iron scepter" while she is threatened by a red, seven-headed dragon. The woman then grows the wings of an eagle and is swallowed up by the earth.

Ray says that image will be created in the sky on Sept. 23. The constellation Virgo - representing the woman - will be clothed in sunlight, in a position that is over the moon and under nine stars and three planets. The planet Jupiter, which will have been inside Virgo - in her womb, in Ray's interpretation - will move out of Virgo, as if she is giving birth.

The first big problem there is that the whole idea of the Rapture is poorly supported in scripture. It's an innovation interpretation that came out of Millerism and only dates to the early 1800's. It's very likely that the original First Century Christians would likely have not even recognized the doctrine. The Book of Revelation doesn't say anything about Christians vanishing or flying up into the air aside from the 144,000 elders, which doesn't fit the "Rapture timeline" that the Neo-Millerists like so much. The idea comes from 1 Thessalonians 4:17, which to me and many mainstream Christians doesn't read like a literal statement.

But if we ignore that part, and treat September 23, 2017 as the date of Christ's return, I suppose what we really have is yet another date for the apocalypse. "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man," remember? That's from Mark, the oldest of the Gospels. Revelation, on the other hand, only dates back to the Second Century. Based on that, I'm going to go ahead as usual and make my prediction. The eclipse will come and go, September 23rd will come and go, and nothing particularly revelatory or apocalyptic will happen.

That's the prediction I always make, and longtime readers know that I've never been wrong. The same can't be said for the apocalyptic doomers.

Wednesday, March 15, 2017

"MormonLeaks" is a Thing

These days just about everybody has heard of WikiLeaks. I recently found out about MormonLeaks, a website dedicated to posting leaked documents from the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints. The 66 leaked documents posted so far mostly concern the inner workings of the church, and really aren't much of a bombshell. Nonetheless, the church has formally issued a DMCA takedown notice to the site, whose attorney accused the church of attempting censorship.

Gizmodo reported that the church responded with a DMCA (Digital Millennium Copyright Act) takedown notice demanding MormonLeaks remove PowerPoint presentations. The group responded via their attorney (PDF) that the group obtained the information legally and is entitled to use and distribute it as a journalistic source. Attorney Marc Randazza cited the church’s response to the musical “Book of Mormon,” which celebrates religious tolerance and free speech.

“Where most religions react to mockery with anger, and sometimes even violence, the LDS Church embraced what others might have considered to be an insult,” he explained in his letter. “There is no better way to demonstrate the strength of your beliefs than to tolerate criticism and mockery of them.”

He went on to argue that the efforts of the LDS church will ultimately be fruitless. Even if his clients deleted the information from their website the documents would still be distributed all over the world. “You tried to blow out a single candle, but in the process, you knocked it over into a field of dried leaves,” he wrote. “You may have extinguished that initial flame. However, your attempted censorship simply caused the document to be further reproduced and redistributed that even a hypothetical divine being could not possibly undo the dissemination.”

Here's one point that the linked article doesn't cover. A lot of people don't realize that you are required by law to defend any and all copyrights you hold, or you could lose them. The first step of that process is a DMCA takedown request. So this may not be about censorship at all. Rather, the leaders of the church may have been informed by their lawyers that they were opening themselves up to potential legal problems by not taking action against MormonLeaks.

The Book of Mormon musical is a totally different thing. The beliefs and history of the LDS church are not under copyright, and the musical is an original composition that is not affiliated with the church in any way. So the same legal burden does not apply, and judging from the response of church leaders, they don't seem to care very much about being made fun of or embarassed or anything like that. So I wonder if the same action would have been taken against MormonLeaks in a world where copyright law is treated differently.

The intent of the church could be more sinister than that, of course. But it doesn't sound like there's much in the leaked documents that is particularly weird or that I haven't heard before from other sources. As "leaks" go, it's actually pretty tame, at least so far. Of course, the church may be issuing the takedown notice now in advance of anything more incriminating that they fear the site might put up.