Tuesday, January 30, 2007

A Spell for Physical Immortality

There is a certain audacity that marks most cutting-edge magical research. Magicians like to seek the limits of the possible and push them as far as they can go. The great challenge of Western Alchemy is the creation of the Philosopher's Stone, which supposedly can be used to make an elixir that will confer immortality upon the alchemist. Most modern writers interpret this as the development of the astral or soul body, which is indeed immortal if properly strengthened and developed. But could there be more to it? Could a magical spell confer physical immortality?

For a number of years I have studied the science behind life extension. Human beings age because of two distinct processes. The first is related to the Hayflick Limit, discovered by Leonard Hayflick in 1965. Hayflick's research showed that cells could divide about fifty times before dying off. The cells start out as young and vigorous, but show signs of old age as they near the limit. More recent research has found that the limit appears to be related to the loss of Telomeres, sections of DNA that occupy the end of the DNA strand and are shortened with each cellular repetition. When the cell runs out of telomeres, it can no longer reproduce and will simply die. Since the shortening of telomeres is deterministic and an integral part of cell division, it is a poor target for a magical operation.

The body produces an enzyme called Telomerase that can prevent the telomeres from shortening during division if it is present in sufficient quantities, but even if a spell could increase the level of telomerase in the body it would be no guarantee of health. Telomerase is often found in cancer cells and it may be that the whole cellular clock system is an evolved defense mechanism against cancers that would otherwise kill us at much younger ages. The only strategy that seems to have much of a chance at slowing this process is Calorie Restriction - restricting the food intake of various animals appears to increase their lifespan by about 20 percent, and according to one hypothesis this extension is due to the slowing of the basal metabolic rate. Recent research, however, has suggested that some other mechanism is more likely involved. Notably, a chemical called Resveratrol appears to mimic the effects of calorie restriction when given to animals in sufficient doses without changing their metabolic rates.

The current research does not bode well for the aspiring immortal magician. There is little randomness in the cellular clock system that a spell could exploit, and the number of telomeres is fixed and finite. The only piece of good news here is how long the cellular clock would actually run when left to its own devices - about 120 years. The actual record for longest lifespan is held by Jeanne Calment, who died in 1997 at the age of 122, and it is unlikely that anyone will ever reach 125 unless calorie restriction really works by slowing basal metabolism.

This limit has actually been known in the Western world for a surprisingly long time, as the correct value for the limit appears in Genesis 6:3.

And the LORD said, My spirit shall not always strive with man, for that he also is flesh: yet his days shall be an hundred and twenty years.

It is interesting to consider how the ancients might have come up with the exact number calculated by Hayflick in the 1960's during a time in which very few people lived anywhere near that long. Even with modern medical science, such lifespans are very rare.

This brings us to the second process that is responsible for aging. If the only mechanism in play was the Hayflick limit, a normal human lifespan would probably fall between 115 and 125 years, while the actual average for people who survive into old age falls between 75 and 85 years. This difference is due to replication errors that occur as cells divide for various reasons, ranging from environmental toxins to free radicals (oxygen ions that react with other molecules) to random chance. This second mechanism, unlike the first, is a strong candidate for magical manipulation. DNA in the body tends to replicate correctly anyway and only occasionally goes wrong - but the occasional errors add up over time. The probability shift involved in reducing these errors should not be all that large and well within the powers of a genuine magician. If this process could be completely suppressed, the lifespan of the magician could be increased by as much as 40 years - an increase of around 50 percent.

It makes sense that true physical immortality is likely impossible. After all, the world is not crawling with alchemists who have been alive since the middle ages, and if anyone had ever managed to figure it out they probably would have taught their students and all of those individuals would still be alive. The truth is probably more like the idea of "immortality" that is found in Taoism - enhanced and extended longevity rather than absolute physical incorruptibility.

So now we finally get to the fun part - how do we achieve this?

One form of the secret may lie within the Enochian magical system. The Enochian system includes "Angels of Medicine" attributed to the upper left subquadrant of each of the four quadrants on the Tablet of the Watchtowers. It seems reasonable to assume that angels with the power to cure diseases would also be able to extend life. Furthermore, at one point John Dee was told by the spirits that he would live "a hundred odd years." Dee outlived three wives and most of his contemporaries, dying at the age of 81 in 1608, but his actual age was well short of 100. Perhaps the spirits were just wrong, or maybe they were assuming that he would practice the magical system that he was being given - which is something that most experts agree that Dee really did not do after his split with Edward Kelly in 1587. Could the Enochian Angels of Medicine extend life by eliminating DNA replication errors?

For such a ritual to be truly effective it would probably need to be practiced daily. That means that it should be as short as possible without sacrificing magical effectiveness. Also, it is likely significant that the tradition always speaks of an elixir that confers immortality - a eucharist of some sort is probably the best way to internalize the conjured energies of the rite. My choice for this would be the traditional red wine, given that it contains a low level of resveratrol and has also been shown to have some beneficial health effects when consumed daily in moderation.

So here it is - building on my "Fast-Casting" Template, the ritual would look something like this. The temple would be set up with a small glass of red wine in the center of the Sigillum Dei Aemeth. If you don't have an Enochian temple setup, though, you should be able to put the wine on a regular altar table in the center of your ritual space.
  1. Banishing Lesser Pentagram Ritual
  2. Invoking Lesser Hexagram Ritual
  3. Preliminary Invocation (See Template)
  4. First Enochian Call
  5. Additional Calls to open the upper left quadrant of each Tablet (Air of each element in the Golden Dawn system). I use a simpler Call order than the more popular GD system, but if that system works for you use it.
  6. Conjure the Angels of Medicine for each of the four directions.
  7. Charge the Angels to imbue the wine with the power of the Philosopher's Stone to ensure perfect health and extend your life.
  8. Drink wine.
  9. Dismiss the Angels.
  10. Close the rite with a Qabalistic Cross or similar ritual, not a full banishing.

The drinking of the wine could also be followed by a Middle Pillar ritual, Animadversion to the Aeon, or some similar practice that energizes and strengthens the body of light. According to Hermetic metaphysics, there should be a reciprocal relationship between the body and the spirit - "As above, so below."

We live in a society without professional magicians, so we already lose enough practice time to our necessary non-magical vocations. If this ritual really works, imagine what you could do with an extra 30-40 years of healthy life. The problem with any spell like this is of course that you won't really know the outcome for a long time, but even after a week or two you should see some positive effect on your health if the rite is working properly. This has the added advantage that it doesn't add that much to the daily practice you should be doing anyway, so you're not really out all that much time if it doesn't seem to work for you.

Integrating Spirituality and Neuroscience

The University of Pennsylvania has recently opened the Center for Spirituality and the Mind, which will study the neurological processes associated with religious and spiritual experiences using brain scanning and related technologies.

Scientists Bridging the Spirituality Gap

We should see if we can get them to do a study on ritual magicians. I'm curious enough about the neural processes involved in creating a magical effect that I've considered buying my own EEG machine and doing some primitive tests, but of course a functional MRI would be a whole lot better.

Wednesday, January 24, 2007

Enochian Fast-Casting

I love a long and involved ceremonial ritual as much as most ritual magicians, but sometimes you need something that you can cast relatively quickly - like in fifteen minutes or so. The full Enochian Ritual Template that is posted here runs a little under an hour, and sometimes you just don't have that kind of time.

With this in mind, I am in the process of composing a simple Enochian ritual form that takes less time to cast than the full template. Here is the first draft, which I will begin testing this evening.

The basic Enochian Temple setup will improve the results of this ritual dramatically. That is, you should at the very least have an Enochian ring and if possible a Holy Table or altar with the Holy Table design represented on the top. It will work without the Sigillum Dei Aemeth, but the Sigillum will further concentrate and intensify the effect. I'm assuming a solo magician in this rendition.
  1. Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.
  2. Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram.
  3. Preliminary Invocation:

    Omniscient, omnipresent, and omnipotent MAD, I invoke and call upon thy divine power, wisdom, and glory by thy twelve mystical names: ORO IBAH AOZPI MOR DIAL HCTGA OIP TEAA PDOCE MPH ARSL GAIOL. By these names may all of thy Angelic spirits be called forth to work my magical will upon the Earth. AMEN.

  4. First Call in Enochian
  5. Begin the Conjuration to each or the four directions starting with the East and moving clockwise, inserting the appropriate Angelic names.

    [NAME or NAMES], dooaip [CONTROLLING NAME or NAMES], zacar od zamran micalzo!

    Then conclude the Conjuration once you have completed the circle and are again facing the East.

    Zacare ca od zamran, odo cicle qaa, zorge, lap zirdo noco MAD hoath iaida! AMEN.

    "Dooaip" means "in the name of," "zacar od zamran micalzo" means "move and appear in power," and the conclusion reprises the end of the First Call - "move and show yourselves, open the mystery of your creation, be friendly unto me, for I am the servant of the same your God, the true worshipper of the highest."
  6. Charge to the spirits, concluding with AMEN.
  7. Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram.

This form will also work with my AOIVEAE/MADRIAX rituals rather than the Golden Dawn pentagram and hexagram ritual forms. The Star Ruby/Star Sapphire could also be used.

Tuesday, January 23, 2007

Thelema on Street Prophets

Street Prophets is Yet Another Scoop Site - this one dedicated to the discussion of religion and politics from a liberal perspective. The religious ideas discussed there are for the most part pretty mainstream, but last summer a fellow Thelemite posted a story about Thelema that received mostly positive comments.

Testament of a Thelemite

A handful of individuals had various issues with the philosophy, though from reading through the threads it seems like the critics didn't really grasp the categorical imperative implied by "Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law." It is a sadly common misperception that all Thelemites just run around doing whatever the hell they want. Actually, carefully considering every action on the basis of whether or not it serves your understanding of your will tends to lead to ethical, honorable behavior.

As with the article on Kuro5hin, I just think it's cool that in the last year Thelema has been showing up in places other than occult discussion forums.

Friday, January 19, 2007

Now Only Fakes Need Apply

I posted awhile back that I've gone back and forth on whether or not I think taking the Randi Million Dollar Paranormal Challenge is a particularly good idea for accomplished ritual magicians.

The arguments in favor of doing so are:
  1. It's a million dollars - I make a decent living, but I could still use the prize money.
  2. A success would help validate the existence of paranormal phenomena.
  3. It would serve James Randi right for being so smug for all these years about it.
The arguments against taking the challenge are:
  1. The deck really is stacked against anyone who wants to claim the money. I don't have a big problem with that - it is for a million dollars, after all - but magick runs on probability rather than certainty. Failure is likely at least some of the time no matter how good you think you are.
  2. If you succeed and it is widely publicized, what happens? Everyone in the world believing in magick is not necessarily a good thing for magicians. In countries where belief is widespread practitioners are routinely killed by angry mobs who blame them for all sorts of misfortune. I'd like to think that wouldn't happen in the USA, but you never know.
I've considered these issues for years, but now it looks like Randi may have made my decision for me. According to an article in Wired, Randi is revamping his Million Dollar Challenge.

Skeptic Revamps $1M Psychic Prize

The new guidelines limit applicants to those with "significant media profiles" - in other words, fakes. This may seem a surprising statement coming from a practicing ritual magician, but the truth is that magick doesn't work all the time. Media psychics who claim to just be able to turn their powers on and off like a switch and get perfect, accurate results are generally frauds. Don't misunderstand me - ritual magick gets real results, but they are not nearly as instantaneous and dramatic as what shows up in television and movies. Similarly, psychics who have to make their powers work reliably every week for a television show have to use stage magic tricks like cold reading so they appear successful often enough to keep people tuning in. As an example, read that Wikipedia link on cold reading and then watch the John Edward show sometime and see if you can pick up on what he's doing.

Randi claims that the prize is being revamped because of too many unknown people coming out of the woodwork wanting to test ridiculous claims like "I can fly by flapping my arms" and his foundation does not have the resources to deal with all of these individuals. That probably is true - I have read Randi's message board and some of the claims that are posted there are pretty laughable - but it also works out well for the Randi foundation in that most of people that fit the new guidelines do fake, at least some of the time, and the foundation gets a lot more publicity from offering to test celebrity psychics than from trying to test unknown folks with wild claims. Also, a celebrity psychic is much more likely to refuse the test. Such celebrities usually already have enough money, and a high-profile failure could cost them a lot more than a million dollars regardless of how difficult the test scenario turns out to be.

Wednesday, January 10, 2007

Thelema on Kuro5hin

Kuro5hin is the original Scoop site, where the software that ran the original Augoeides was developed. I actually saw this article posted there almost a year ago, so it's a little out of date, but it still is cool.

Thelema: A Modern Religion for Modern Times

The article is not perfect, and quite a few of the comments show that most people are not that familiar with Aleister Crowley and pretty much buy the stuff John Symonds wrote in The Great Beast, but it's still cool to see people talking about Crowley and his work on a site that is for the most part non-occult.

By the way, a full analysis of everything wrong with The Great Beast would be a long article unto itself that I might attempt someday when I have more time. Many of the incidents described in the book are taken from dubious accounts in John Bull, a series of British periodicals that were essentially early tabloids.