Saturday, April 22, 2017

Aries Elixir Rite Intent for Leaping Laughter OTO

This post might be a bit obscure if you live outside the Twin Cities area (Minneapolis and St. Paul, Minnesota) or have no interest in Ordo Templi Orientis, the order I was initiated into more than twenty years ago. It's important to me, though, so that's why it's here.

Tonight Leaping Laughter will be holding a business meeting where our incoming master will be setting out priorities and such for the local body going forward. At Tuesday's Aries Elixir Rite, I issued the following intent in hopes of consecrating our local body to expanding into the greater community, and providing hospitality to all who seek us out in good faith.

As Aries is related to "The Power of Consecrating Things," I felt that this was the appropriate rite in which to issue such an intent, especially since it was the first of twelve zodiacal operations planned for the upcoming year. My intent consisted of five points, designed to dedicate and consecrate the Leaping Laughter community on all levels.

1. To strengthen and enhance Leaping Laughter’s relationships with the artistic and alternative spirituality communities in general, and increase positive attention to our work in all relevant contexts.

2. To bring members, guests, and visitors to Leaping Laughter who will contribute to our work in whatever capacity they can, who are committed to expanding the body and the order in general, and who are committed to maintaining fraternal relations with their brothers and sisters.

3. To protect Leaping Laughter from any person or situation that might undermine our hospitality, our work, and/or the personal safety of our members, such as those who are unable or unwilling to behave in a fraternal manner towards members, guests, and/or visitors.

4. To maintain Leaping Laughter as a welcoming and comfortable space for all who choose to attend our rites and events and abide by our policies, and to guard against the arising of any situation that might detract from this.

5. To extend the quality thus cultivated here at Leaping Laughter so as to inspire the healthy expansion of the order in general, in the United States and all across the world.

As I see it, these are all basic factors that go into making any group, and particularly a group dedicated to magical and alternative spirituality, a place where people will want to congregate, spend time, and hopefully support in whatever manner they are able. These are all qualities that I want to see cultivated going forward, and to be clear, none of these were issued because I find them lacking in the body as a whole or anywhere else.

I don't travel very much but I do attend the national conferences, and the people I meet there are generally awesome. That awesomeness is something that I hope every contact with our order can reflect, and as I'm sure you all know, I'm not shy about sending out magick to help wherever it's needed. After all, what's the point of learning magick if you don't put it to good use?

If all these tenets sound good to you and you're interested in checking us out, feel free to stop by. Most of our events are public, and our website can be found here with our calendar and other particulars.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Russia Bans Jehovah's Witnesses

Jehovah's Witnesses with their door-to-door proselytizing can be a little annoying sometimes, but I've never considered them dangerous. Russia, apparently, disagrees. Russia's Supreme Court has now declared the religious denomination an "extremist group," putting them in the same category as radical Islamic groups and other religious sects that support terrorism and violence. Since there's no evidence that Russian Jehovah's Witnesses have ever been involved in anything of the sort, it's hard to see this as anything other than a case of religious persecution.

Russia’s Supreme Court on Thursday declared Jehovah’s Witnesses, a Christian denomination that rejects violence, an extremist organization, banning the group from operating on Russian territory and putting its more than 170,000 Russian worshipers in the same category as Islamic State militants.

The ruling, which confirmed an order last month by the Justice Ministry that the denomination be “liquidated” — essentially eliminated or disbanded — had been widely expected. Russian courts rarely challenge government decisions, no matter what the evidence.

Viktor Zhenkov, a lawyer for the denomination, said Jehovah’s Witnesses would appeal the ruling. He said it had focused on the activities of the organization’s so-called administrative center, a complex of offices outside St. Petersburg, but also branded all of its nearly 400 regional branches as extremist.

“We consider this decision an act of political repression that is impermissible in contemporary Russia,” Mr. Zhenkov said in a telephone interview. “We will, of course, appeal.” An initial appeal will be made to the Supreme Court’s appellate division, Mr. Zhenkov said, and if that fails, Jehovah’s Witnesses will take the case to the European Court of Human Rights, in Strasbourg, France.

Religious freedom in Russia has been seriously curtailed for years. Under an "anti-extremism" law passed in 2002, any religion that claims to offer a "true path" to salvation - other than the Russian Orthodox Church - can be banned. That's flat-out bizarre, the sort of law that you would find in the sort of radical theocracy that the Christian Reconstructionists want to establish here in the United States. It's just one more reminder of how thankful we should be that the Constitution of the United States protects freedom of religion.

Thursday, April 20, 2017

Cannabis Church Opens on 4/20

For the longest time, this idea was basically a joke thrown around in response to the rise of "religious freedom" laws. Kind of like the version of Satanism practiced by The Satanic Temple, it was primarily intended to ruffle the feathers of fundamentalists who are vehemently opposed to the use of any illegal drugs.

The thing is, though, recreational cannabis is now legal in Colorado, so Steve Berke and Lee Molloy decided to give it a go. They are opening the doors of their International Church of Cannabis in Denver today - which is, of course, 4/20, alluding to "420" as slang for cannabis. They even have a name for their religious philosophy, Elevationism, which they describe as "elevating one’s life and spiritual self-discovery through the sacrament of cannabis."

The church’s stated purpose is to serve as “a home to adults everywhere who are looking to create the best version of themselves by way of the sacred plant.” Just how that will be achieved is still up in the air, but church leaders told 9News that programming is expected to include guest speakers, comedians, artists, musicians and film screenings.

And while city officials ― and skeptical neighbors ― are concerned that founders Steve Berke and Lee Molloy are merely exploiting a legal loophole to create a cannabis club, the two promise the church isn’t just a smokescreen for illegal activities. No marijuana will be sold at the church.

“First and foremost, this is a community church,” Berke told Denver publication Westword. “There are rumors that this is a rasta smoking lounge or a nightclub. It’s not. It’s a safe place to congregate and consume.”

“Elevationism is about elevating one’s life and spiritual self-discovery through the sacrament of cannabis,” Molloy added. “I grew up in an evangelical, Pentecostal religion with people speaking in tongues and falling on the floor. If those people are considered a real religion, then why not us?”

Many people consume mind-altering substances as part of their spiritual or magical practices. Aside from sacramental wine, such as that used in Tuesday's elixir rite or the Gnostic Mass, I don't go that route because I find mental clarity important for my magical work. Still, my education in experimental psychology included a bit of psychopharmacology, and I find models like Timothy Leary's "set and setting" to be entirely plausible. So if this works for folks, I think it's great, even though it wouldn't interest me personally.

As far as legality goes, the "gateway drug" hypothesis was debunked by the LaGuardia Committee Report in the 1940's and has no scientific basis. Beyond that, there's no scientific evidence showing that cannabis is more harmful than alcohol, so it seems to me the most reasonable approach to regulating it should be something like the system they now have in Colorado. At the very least, it should be removed from Schedule 1 at the Federal level, since the key criteria there is that a drug have "no medical uses" - and cannabis has several.

On one level, I would really like to see somebody try to challenge the legality of the church and take the case all the way to the Supreme Court. I think there's a reasonable chance that Neil Gorsuch, Mr. Religious Freedom, might rule in the church's favor, and then the fundie heads would really explode.

Wednesday, April 19, 2017

Alex Jones Says He's Stephen Colbert

Alex Jones' InfoWars is the epicenter of many a conspiracy theory movement. Generally speaking, most people either consider Jones to be completely nuts, or a misunderstood truth-teller who dares to call out the mainstream media. But now, according to Jones' attorney, both of those interpretations are entirely wrong. Essentially, Jones is now at least officially claiming to be a fraud. Or a fake. Or maybe a joke.

In a custody dispute with his ex-wife, Jones' legal team is now saying that he is a "performance artist" who is "playing a character." In other words, they're trying to argue that he basically is Stephen Colbert - not the Stephen Colbert who currently hosts The Late Show, but the "Stephen Colbert" who hosted The Colbert Report on the Comedy Central network for nearly a decade.

InfoWars host Alex Jones may have built his media empire off of unhinged comments — from propagating innumerable conspiracy theories to using homophobic slurs and threatening violence against California Rep. Adam Schiff — but now his lawyer in a custody battle wants us to believe that this is all an act.

“He’s playing a character. He is a performance artist,” said Randall Wilhite, Jones’ lawyer in a custody dispute with Jones’ ex-wife Kelly Jones, according to a report by the Austin American-Statesman. By contrast, Kelly Jones insists that “he’s not a stable person. He says he wants to break Alec Baldwin’s neck. He wants J-Lo to get raped.”

She added, “I’m concerned that he is engaged in felonious behavior, threatening a member of Congress. He broadcasts from home. The children are there, watching him broadcast.” According to District Judge Orlina Naranjo, this case is going to be about Jones’ capacity to be a good parent to the three children he shares with Kelly Jones, not the content of his controversial show InfoWars.

It should be noted that after this story originally broke, Jones posted a video completely contradicting his lawyer's statements - on the way to divorce court while he was allegedly under a gag order, which technically is not allowed. So which is it, Alex? Are you some sort of clown, or are you really as paranoid and messed up as you sound on your show?

A disturbing number of people in the occult community take Jones' nonsense seriously. One would like to think that sustained magical practice would lead to greater self-knowledge, which in turn would lead to better critical thinking. But much of the time, I have found that this is not the case. Maybe my error in thinking there is that I'm assuming anybody who claims to be a magical practitioner should at least be doing some work. But that's a whole other discussion.

Even as a performance artist, Jones is different than Colbert for one key reason - he's dangerous. I was a fan of The Colbert Report from day one, and one thing I never saw was "Stephen Colbert" inciting his fans to level threats and engage in actual violence against innocent people. Jones does this all the damn time. Frankly, if his whole show is a big joke, it's not a very funny one.

That's why, to my way of thinking, Jones deserves to lose this custody dispute, big time. Either he's lying in his statements to the court and really is nuts, or he's telling the truth and he's the sort of person who thinks that unleashing hundreds of fans to harass parents of the kids killed at Sandy Hook, or motivating an armed gunman to attack a pizza parlor full of children, is funny. Neither of those options says "good parent" to me.

Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Easter Egg Roll Salvaged

As you all know, I've never been a fan of Donald Trump, but never let it be said that I'm not willing to give credit where credit is due. The Trump Administration has successfully dodged its biggest challenge yet, pulling off Monday's annual White House Easter Egg Roll at basically the last possible minute.

The event was much smaller than last year's, which was attended by 35,000 people and featured numerous celebrity guests. The White House claimed that it was focusing on "quality instead of quantity," which is what you say when you send out all the invitations too late for you to have any chance at quantity.

Some 21,000 people were invited to attend the annual White House Easter Egg Roll on Monday, one of the year’s largest events held at the mansion and one that attracted additional attention this year after the newest occupants of the most famous house on Pennsylvania Avenue got a slow start planning the party.

But despite concerns, all seemed to go off without a hitch. It was lower key and less flashy than in years past. First lady Melania Trump wanted to focus on the more traditional aspects of the longtime Easter Egg Roll, her spokeswoman said.

Children and families roamed the lawn and stopped at picnic tables to make drawings that would be sent to troops overseas. They tossed beanbags and practiced soccer at makeshift goals set up by D.C. United. And some tried their hand at what has arguably become one of the more challenging jobs in the Trump administration: They stood in for Sean Spicer at a miniature press secretary podium set up on the lawn.

The success of the event was ensured by hundreds of volunteers, who stepped up and did the work normally done by White House staffers - many of whom Trump has not gotten around to hiring. That's most likely why everything had to be done at the last minute in the first place, because until the volunteers showed up there was no one to do the organizing work.

For all my snark, though, it does sound like the kids who attended had a good time, and really that's what the whole event is about. Events like these don't need to be huge, star-studded affairs so long as everybody involved is having fun.

Now, about North Korea and Syria...

Monday, April 17, 2017

Via Solis Aries Elixir Rite

Today's Magick Monday post is a full script for the Aries Elixir Rite that we will be performing tomorrow, Tuesday April 18th, at Leaping Laughter Lodge, our local Twin Cities body of Ordo Templi Orientis. This is similar to 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 Aries. Items to be consecrated may be placed on the altar by any of the attendees, as Aries is attributed to the Power of Consecrating Things. 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.


Sunday, April 16, 2017

War on Easter?

In the time-honored Augoeides tradition of bringing you the most ridiculous news items featuring offended Christians over-reacting to the most trivial possible slights, for Easter Sunday I present this story from the New York Times. British candy maker Cadbury, the manufacturer of the creme eggs popular during the Easter season, decided to remove the word "Easter" from the name of an annual egg hunt that the company sponsors. And British Poor Oppressed Christians, naturally, completely freaked out.

The “storm in an egg cup,” as the network ITV put it, began after the confectionary giant Cadbury decided to omit the word “Easter” from the title of an annual egg hunt it sponsors, calling the event “Cadbury’s Great British Egg Hunt.”

The event, which has been around for a decade and has been known as the Easter Egg Trail, is co-sponsored with the National Trust, a conservation charity. It sends hundreds of thousands of children hunting for Easter eggs on historic properties across the country on Easter weekend.

The decision was considered such an affront to traditionalists that none less than the archbishop of York and Prime Minister Theresa May intervened to express dismay. The archbishop, John Sentamu, lamented that omitting an explicit Easter reference was akin to “spitting on the grave” of John Cadbury, a Quaker who founded the company, which initially sold cocoa and drinking chocolate, in Birmingham in 1824.

“If people visited Birmingham today in the Cadbury World they will discover how Cadbury’s Christian faith influenced his industrial output,” he told The Daily Telegraph. “He built houses for all his workers, he built a church, he made provision for schools. It is obvious that for him Jesus and justice were two sides of the one coin.”

Now I do understand that the whole "Easter is really Pagan!" thing that gets thrown around on Facebook during this time of year is basically bullshit. At the same time, the truth is that rabbits and eggs and all that are European folk traditions that have been associated with Easter for a long time, but which have little to do with the Christian religion itself. For example, many Pagans and Neo-Pagans also color eggs, hold egg hunts, and the like in the spring, so it is accurate to suggest that Christians do not have a monopoly on those activities.

But the Poor Oppressed can't have that. They need their monopoly in order to feel special, so any hint of losing it turns them into whiny babies - and, apparently, this goes on in Britain as well as in the United States. In the United Kingdom, people explicitly don't have constitutionally protected freedom of religion like they do in the United States, so it is even more telling that Cadbury made this decision entirely on its own. It's logical, really, that if you want your event to appeal to the most people, limiting it to members of one religion is kind of silly.