Friday, September 30, 2016

Roy Moore Suspended

Today might not be the "black moon apocalypse," but it does sound like it might just be the end of Roy Moore's career as Chief Justice of the Alabama Supreme Court. Moore has been mentioned a couple of times here on Augoeides, and is most famous for opposing the removal of a Ten Commandments monument from the Alabama state courthouse.

That was the first time Moore was forced out as Chief Justice, for disobeying a federal court order demanding the monument's removal. So I suppose it should come as no surprise that history appears to be repeating itself. This time, he was suspended for interfering with a federal order to allow same-sex marriages in the state.

Moore’s misconduct regarding same-sex marriage litigation was sweeping and extensive. In January of 2015, a federal judge invalidated the state’s same-sex marriage ban. Moore promptly wrote letters to probate judges insisting that they remained legally prohibited from marrying gay people—in effect, demanding that they violate a federal court order. In May of that year, the judge explicitly held that probate judges must issue marriage licenses to all couples, same-sex or opposite-sex. The next month, the Supreme Court held that same-sex marriage bans violate the 14th Amendment to the United States Constitution.

Yet in January of 2016, Moore issued yet another letter ordering probate judges to stop issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples. Then, in March, Moore penned a bizarre opinion calling the Supreme Court’s decision “immoral,” “tyrannical,” and “unconstitutional.” He declared that he would refuse to follow it and urged all other state judges to follow suit. In response to Moore’s repeated defiance of federal court orders, the Southern Poverty Law Center filed a judicial ethics complaint against him. Moore secured Mat Staver, Kim Davis’ attorney, to defend him.

Alabama’s judicial ethics committee is not a beacon of progressivism. Its judgment in the Moore case begins with a declaration that many members of the committee do not “personally agree” with the Supreme Court’s same-sex marriage ruling or think it was “well reasoned.” But the committee unanimously concluded that Moore had abused his position, violated the integrity of the judiciary, failed to comply with the law and perform his duties impartially, and brought “the judicial office into disrepute.” In addition to suspending Moore, the committee ordered him to pay “the costs of this proceeding.”

If anybody still believes that the Poor Oppressed Christians are harmless and just want to be left alone, they should study Moore's career closely. I don't make fun of their hypocritical beliefs to be mean, but rather because they are not content simply practicing their faith. Until they can force everyone else to conform to their particular interpretation of Christianity, they will never be satisfied.

The United States is not a theocracy, Christian or otherwise, and it never will be as long as I have anything to say about it. How can religious beliefs of any sort be meaningful if people are not allowed to freely choose? Even if you accept the tenets of Christianity, I highly doubt that forcing it on an entire population will save one single individual from damnation. Conforming to laws and actual faith are two entirely different things, and always will be.

But I don't think that folks like Moore care about that very much. Their dogmatic approach to their religion has turned off plenty of people who might otherwise want to practice it, and again, if you accept the tenets of Christianity, those are now people who won't be saved. How could any devout Christian consider that a good thing?

Thursday, September 29, 2016

Black Moon Apocalypse

Tomorrow night will bring a "black moon," described by this article as a lunar eclipse so complete that the Moon will practically vanish from the sky. The article goes on to explain that this phenomenon is unusual but not especially so, happening about every three years. But that doesn't stop the doomers out there from arguing that this time, for sure, it heralds the Apocalypse because it follows a solar eclipse that took place earlier this month. As usual, I'll believe it when I see it.

The spectacular Black Moon occurs when the illuminated side of the moon is caught in the shadow of the Earth, making it virtually impossible to see. The phenomenon happens roughly every 32 months, but this one holds special significance due to other universal activity this month.

The first day of September brought with it a ‘ring of fire’ solar eclipse – where the moon falls in line with the Earth and the sun above Africa, making it appear as if the sun had darkened. This, coupled with the Black Moon, has got many fearing the worst.

One conspiracy theorist wrote on Facebook: “Those signs are letting us know that Jesus is soon coming. We are approaching the end of our world and the end of life on Earth for all human being. Every day, we have to come closer to our saviour Jesus Christ. For none can escape for what is coming for the Earth.”

Another wrote: “The Lord will make the moon turn red as blood … and turn black. Sounds familiar?” When the rare double phenomenon is linked to the Bible, it can make for terrifying reading for Christians and conspiracy theorists.

Or, really, for anyone who shares their special kind of stupid. The Apocalypse, as modern evangelical Christians expound it, only dates back to William Miller in the early nineteenth century. Early Christians, including Jesus himself, would barely have recognized it at all. Similarly, for some reason, literalists who believe that it describes a distinct future event completely disregard the words of Jesus the Gospel of Matthew, that "But of that day and that hour knoweth no man."

It seems pretty clear to me that the words of Jesus should override any of the claims made by the author of Revelation, and it should also be noted that this was the position of most Christians until Miller decided that his elaborate timelines actually meant something. But Miller was proved wrong twice in his own lifetime, and the predictions made by every denomination descended from his Millerite movement have likewise always failed.

So is it at last time that we just give it up, after almost two centuries? I sure think so. And I'll make the same prediction that I do whenever a new date surfaces. Friday will come and go without any fanfare, and come Saturday we will still all be here. That prediction's a sure winner - so far, it has never failed me.

UPDATE: So as it turns out, the linked article is even wrong about the nature of the "black moon." It's not an eclipse - that is, it is not caused by the illuminated side of the Moon passing into the Earth's shadow. It's just a regular New Moon that happens to be the second one occurring this month - and freaking out over something that entirely artificial is even dumber than freaking out over an unusual eclipse. Good job, doomers!

Monday, September 26, 2016

Regarding Magical Models - Part Five

This is Part Four in a series. Part One can be found here, Part Two can be found here, Part Three can be found here, and Part Four can be found here.

At this point, we start to diverge into more speculative territory than the last few posts. These are the sorts of speculations that most "quantum paranormal" models are built on, but they rarely are acknowledged as such. They may wind up as part of quantum physics at some point in the future, once we develop instruments that can measure quantum information more directly. On the other hand, the uncertainty principle might conceivably make such devices impossible to build.

We left off last time talking about meta-awareness. The concept itself is not particularly controversial in psychology; while it is difficult to measure directly, there is substantial evidence for the development of this sort of cognition in the works of psychologists such as Jean Piaget, and the concept has proved useful in education theory and a number of other areas. Ken Wilber has proposed a model in which Piaget's general idea can be extended beyond normal mundane consciousness to include mystical states.

Wilber's model is too complex to recount here, but the basic idea is that each developmental step consists of a level of meta-awareness that includes all the levels that preceded it. Piaget's model ends with Formal Operational, which is a level of meta-awareness that includes Concrete Operational, and likewise, Concrete Operational is a level of meta-awareness that includes Pre-Operational. Wilber proposes that mystical consciousness is essentially a series of levels of meta-awareness that include and transcend Formal Operational.

As I also mentioned last time, this idea is not at all foreign to the various mystical traditions. Buddhism speaks of levels of enlightenment, in Christianity you find the ideas of metanoia and gnosis, and so forth. These are merely examples. Every contemplative tradition has some version of this concept - a sort of meta-awareness that transcends mundane consciousness and opens our consciousness up to a greater and more expansive world than the one we experience through our physical senses.

Sunday, September 25, 2016

Witches! All the Way Down!

Evanglist and potato soup huckster Jim Bakker's show is back in the news here on Augoeides, and for once he's not even the craziest guy on it. For a recent episode, that honor goes to his guest, Richard Maginnis of the Family Research Council. After Bakker went off on one of his usual tirades about the Obama administration favoring Muslims, apparently because the administration has refused to violate the constitution by barring Muslims from all political posts, Maginnis added that the "senior leadership" in this country is being influenced by witches. Because of course it is.

Bakker had a segment on his show yesterday where he brought up President Obama‘s recent nomination of a Muslim federal judge as proof that his administration is giving “preferential treatment” to Muslims… which is an absurd notion. As if Abid R. Qureshi was nominated because he was a Muslim and not because his credentials are impeccable. Meanwhile, Christians make up every branch and twig and leaf of government, but Bakker doesn’t think there’s anything weird about that.

Anyway. That wasn’t even the worst part of the segment. His guest, Robert Maginnis, a senior fellow with the Family Research Council and a former Army lieutenant colonel, responded to Bakker’s claim with an even more ludicrous one:

"… I know that there’s demonic forces in that city. I have personally met people that refer to themselves as witches, people that say they advise the senior leadership of the country. We invite within the federal government people to advise us, and often some of those advisers, I think, have evil motivations, things that you and I would not approve of."

Now I do want to point something out here. To a fundamentalist like Maginnis, somebody who reads the Bible different that he does is a Satanist, and Satanists and witches are the same thing. So most likely, the "witches" he's talking about are Episcopalians, or Methodists, or Presbyterians. Don't believe me? Hillary Clinton is a devout Methodist and these folks have been calling her a witch from day one. And isn't Donald Trump a Presbyterian?

Seriously, though, I don't know of any Pagan or occultist who might describe themselves as a witch in any senior advisory position whatsoever. Look what a stink gets put up when a Muslim gets nominated for something. Can you imagine how bad it would be for an actual Pagan? Legally there's no religious test, but for minority religions like Paganism there might as well be.

Sadly, though, the Family Research Council was quite influential during the second Bush administration. Because unfortunately, there's no similar test for reactionary fanatics.

Saturday, September 24, 2016


If this is the best the Illuminati have to offer, let's just say they might want to rethink that whole world domination thing. San Diego man Titus Colbert Jr. has appeared in court on multiple occasions on charges of attempting to murder police officers last November. Instead of mounting a legal defense, though, Colbert started shouting about being a member of the Illuminati on his first appearance. Then, during a subsequent appearance, he started singing about it.

The first time Titus Colbert Jr. appeared in a San Diego courtroom after his November arrest he started shouting. “May 1, 1776!” he said — a reference to the founding day of an Enlightenment-era secret society, the Illuminati. He then made references to “a new world order” and Benjamin Franklin.

Colbert, who is accused of toting a handgun and a couple of rifles to a Bankers Hill condo complex, then shooting at police after they were called to the scene, was kicked out of the courtroom after he ignored warnings to keep quiet.

When Colbert returned to court the following week, he again refused to be silent. This time, he sang. “We are the Illuminati, we stand for a new world order!” he repeated in a loud baritone. Again, he was he removed from the room.

All of this made for some interesting moments in the earliest days of Colbert’s case in San Diego Superior Court. He faces a string of felony charges, including four counts of attempted murder on a peace officer, stemming from the Nov. 4 incident. No one was injured.

While I'm happy that no one was injured, from an evil Illuminati standpoint the case is a complete disaster. Not only is this guy an idiot, he's a total failure. Presumably he was supposed to murder those officers to somehow further the mysterious plans that the secret, not-at-all-secret, Illuminati society is attempting to set in motion. Those plans were clearly thwarted by Colbert's arrest, probably largely because he's such a dim bulb.

You know, the sort of bulb that's not illuminated at all.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Regarding Magical Models - Part Four

This is Part Four in a series. Part One can be found here, Part Two can be found here, and Part Three can be found here.

Now that we have taken a look at some of the basics of quantum physics, we can move on to examining the nature of consciousness. Consciousness is a vital component of every magical operation, and because we still do not really understand how it works, the same is true of magick. While we have no current instrument to measure consciousness, I expect that if such a thing were ever developed we would be able to generate an accurate model of magical processes with a few years of dedicated research, if that.

Consciousness studies is a relatively new discipline that brings together experts in the various fields that contribute to cognitive science, along with philosophers and even a few esotericists here and there. The discipline is currently trying to unravel what is called the "hard problem" of consciousness, and has been at it for over a decade. Simply stated, the hard problem has to do with going from the biochemical "machinery" of the brain and nervous system to the subjective experience of self-awareness.

I have some ideas about that, which I will be touching on in this section, but I want to be clear that none of those ideas can currently be objectively validated, because of the lack of a consciousness measuring instrument that would let us examine the phenomenon experimentally. The first piece is what has been dubbed "quantum consciousness," which refers to the idea that consciousness is somehow related to the brain and nervous system interacting with quantum-scale events.

I'll repeat the same caveat as last time. Even if some form of quantum consciousness turns out to be the best model, it does not prove that consciousness works the way esotericists like me think it does. There isn't necessarily anything paranormal about it at all. I believe that there is based on my experiences as a magician, but "quantum" doesn't make it paranormal. Quantum simply refers to scale in this context, without implying anything else.

And just as a point, it's a bit annoying that there's so much nonsense and misinformation out there about quantum physics and the paranormal that I have to keep going over this, but it's really important because so many people don't seem to understand the concepts clearly.

Sunday, September 18, 2016

Goat Yoga?

So perhaps this is the real reason fundamentalist Christians think yoga, even when stripped of all vestiges of Asian religion, is evil - because it's better with goats. It always has confused me that non-sectarian yoga is still considered problematic by certain Christians, because without any of the Asian religious trappings, it's just stretching. And if God hates stretching, there are a lot of other things the truly devout would have to eliminate from their lives. Like, say, movement.

But now it all makes sense. Christ is the lamb of God, and the Bible tells us that Jesus will come to separate the sheep from the goats. It should be clear that anyone who engages in goat yoga has taken a side, and it's not the side of Christ. The goat is Capricornus, who is, of course, the devil of the Tarot - Levi's rendering of Baphomet. So if goats like participating in yoga classes, what's the message? Clearly the devil loves it, which means that by definition God must hate it. Or something like that.

Goat yoga is the brainchild of Oregon resident Lainey Morse, who recently started holding yoga classes at her goat farm. The goats enthusiastically joined in, and it now looks like goat yoga could be a hit. But that's the whole point of evil, right? It's fun, so it's tempting - and therefore it leads all who participate into damnation. And probably the goats as well. You know, if you happen to buy that sort of thing.

But here's a better idea. How about we end this whole "war on stretching" nonsense, and focus on issues that really affect people's lives? That way, anybody who disapproves of yoga can just not do it without making a fuss, and those who want to do it can - including those who would rather do their yoga with goats.

Saturday, September 17, 2016

It's Finally Available!

When people discuss anything technical with me about the Sigillum Dei Aemeth, the conversation usually comes around to, "and there's this fantastic book on it by Colin Campbell, but unfortunately it's a pricey limited edition that has been out of print for years." But that's not true anymore. Colin D. Campbell's The Magic Seal of Dr. John Dee is finally available in paperback from Weiser Antiquarian Books.

Back when the original limited edition came out, Campbell did a presentation of his findings at the National OTO Convention. I make it a rule to attend all of those conventions, and if there's an Enochian presentation I always am sure to check it out. Reading over the description, I was expecting to hear the usual speculative interpretation of how this or that might be some sort of error or inconsistency in Dee's work, which usually are not very illuminating.

This presentation was different, though. The scholarship was actually solid, and for perhaps the first time in my life, I came away from one of these presentations with the impression that Campbell was on to something. There really are some inconsistencies in the traditional arrangement of the Sigillum that most magicians use today. Whether the inconsistencies are mistakes or deliberate on Dee's part remains an open question, but there is nothing it the diaries that explains the differences.

I'm not going to re-hash the entire argument because it would take a while, but suffice it to say if that sort of thing interests you, you should go out and pick up a copy now that you can buy one for a reasonable price. The book walks you through the entire process of crafting the design of the Sigillum Dei Aemeth, and even if you don't accept Campbell's analysis, it is totally worth it just for that exposition.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Atheists Aren't That Weird

Towards the end of the Republican primary race, Ohio Governor John Kasich basically looked like the last normal person standing. Largely, this was because of the contrast between him and the other two remaining candidates - Donald Trump, who needs no explanation, and Ted Cruz, a flat-out Christian Reconstructionist theocrat. Kasich, though, is apparently not nearly as reasonable as that comparison made him seem.

Last week, while stumping for Chris Sununu, a New Hampshire Republican, Kasich couldn't help running his mouth when he noticed the Harry Potter series on the shelf at a bookstore. For some reason that was never explained, he wondered aloud about Daniel Radcliffe's religion, or more to the point the actor's lack thereof. Radcliffe identies as an atheist, which Kasich seemed to have difficulty comprehending.

John Kasich’s reputation as the “normal” Republican comes, in large part, from a lack of serious media scrutiny. But over the weekend, one intrepid reporter, Allie Morris of the Concord Monitor, captured a telling Kasich moment as the Ohio governor stumped for Chris Sununu, a Republican running for governor of New Hampshire.

“Inside a bookstore he didn’t much discuss Sununu’s candidacy,” Morris wrote. “Instead he looked at the latest Harry Potter book and pondered why British actor Daniel Radcliffe is an atheist.”

Morris continued:

“You know that Daniel Radcliffe has declared himself an atheist?” Kasich said to no one in particular. “I’m serious. What a weird thing. Why would a guy who has had all that success just, I mean, what the hell is wrong with him?”

It is true that Radcliffe gave an interview in 2009, at age 19, when he said, “I’m an atheist, but I’m very relaxed about it. I don’t preach my atheism, but I have a huge amount of respect for people like Richard Dawkins who do.” Further research revealed that Radcliffe was not kidding about the “relaxed” part, as he has hardly ever spoken publicly about his unbelief in a deity.

Thursday, September 15, 2016

And Which God Would That Be?

I don't cover a lot of political stories here on Augoeides because my personal politics are kind of a mixed bag. But one principle that I have adhered to for decades is an absolute refusal to vote for any candidate who supports dismantling the separation of church and state. Some of that is self-interest, as I have no interest in seeing my beliefs marginalized or even criminalized. I also think it's the right way to do secularism, as opposed to how it's done in countries like France where public displays of religious symbols are entirely banned.

Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump, though, is now sounding like he's having none of that. As reported by Huffington Post, Trump has now concluded several of his speeches with the phrase "We will be one people, under one God, saluting one American flag.” Except that we never will be, because not all Americans worship the same God and this is entirely by design, going all the way back to the founding fathers. That is, unless Trump can enact policies that in some way eliminate the separation of church and state.

Broad overtures to notions of the U.S. as a “Christian nation” built on “Judeo-Christian” values are hardly uncommon in American politics. But a presidential candidate vowing to unite all Americans under “one God” can hardly be viewed as inclusive. Trump’s campaign even capitalized the “One God” phrasing in his prepared remarks for his Pensacola rally. “By his very nature, Trump is always dividing and excluding. That’s what he does, and that’s what this statement does,” Alan Wolfe, director of Boston College’s Boisi Center for Religion and American Public Life, told The Huffington Post.

Trump’s language appears to conflict with the freedom of religion enshrined in the First Amendment, which holds that people in the U.S. have the right to practice whichever religion they choose, or none whatsoever. Many Americans subscribe to polytheistic theologies and may worship many Gods. Followers of monotheistic religions also have differing views about the supreme being they worship. And let’s not forget the growing ranks of religious “nones,” including atheists, agnostics and others who don’t consider themselves members of a traditional religious affiliation.

Monday, September 12, 2016

Regarding Magical Models - Part Three

This is Part Three in a series. Part One can be found here, and Part Two can be found here.

Before going further with the exposition of magical models, today I am going to take a step back and talk a bit about some basic ideas from quantum physics. So first off, I need to repeat the disclaimer from last week: quantum physics does not in any way prove the existence of magical or paranormal phenomena. While I believe that these concepts are important for generating a working model of magical phenomena, it is also true that quantum physics would work just fine in a universe entirely devoid of anything conventionally described as paranormal.

Quantum physics was originally developed to explain how particles and waves seem to behave like two sides of the same nature. For example, under some circumstances an electron will seem to behave like what you would expect from a negatively charged particle, but under other circumstances it will show interference patterns more appropriate to a wavelike nature. The classic experiment illustrating this is called the double-slit experiment, and was one of the earliest indicators that particles behaved like something other than tiny balls of matter.

The experiment itself is simple. You set up an electron source and a target, with a barrier placed between them. The barrier is constructed with two slits, one to either side. You fire electrons from the source through the barrier, and expect to see two distinct bars on the target representing where the electrons strike. But that isn't what you get. Instead, you see a wavelike interference pattern, more akin to what you would see if you were projecting waves of light through the apparatus.

So you get two electron detectors, and place one at each slit. This will tell you which slit each electron passed through. It works just fine - except that when you turn the detectors on, suddenly the electrons start behaving like particles and the interference pattern disappears. This effect is often described by breathless paranormal enthusiasts as "reality doesn't exist unless you're looking at it!" But that's the entirely wrong interpretation. The wave nature is just as "real" as the particle nature is.

Friday, September 9, 2016

Icelandic Elf Stone Restored

In Iceland, elves are taken seriously. When construction workers clearing a landslide inadvertantly covered up a sacred "elf stone" last year, local believe that the elves became angry and caused a series of misfortunes in the area. In order to placate the elves, the stone was unearthed and given a thorough cleaning, just for good measure.

After the landslide was cleared, and the elven stone covered up, the road flooded, once again doing damage, and when the construction company returned to the site, one of their men was injured during the clean-up. After that, pieces of the industrial repair equipment began to malfunction, and a writer who came to report on the scene fell into a mud pool. All of these mishaps were soon blamed on angry elves that wanted their lady stone returned to its natural splendor.

While some Icelanders believe in the actual physical existence of elves, even those who don’t seem to recognize the importance of the mythology to the country’s culture still take elf problems somewhat seriously. Thus, the Iceland Road Administration agreed to uncover the rock, which they did, even giving it a good power washing to make it sing. Hopefully, the elves are happy with the cleaning.

Since the stone was only recently restored, it remains to be seen if the elves are now happy and good fortune will return to the region. I don't personally know if I believe in the existence of physical flesh and blood elves, but land spirits have long been part of Scandinavian culture and tradition. It seems to me that such entities would be perfectly capable of causing all kinds of mischief.

Thursday, September 8, 2016

Look at that Parking Lot!

When Ken Ham opened his Creation Museum, it drew far more people than expected the first year. After that, attendance dropped off dramatically. My personal theory is that many of those visitors were of the "point and laugh" variety, only there to see how awful the place really was. Once they saw it, they had no reason to go back.

Ham clearly hoped that his new Ark Encounter attraction would post similar numbers its first year, but so far it looks as if few people are actually visiting. This is my personal theory again, but there's not really that much "point and laugh" potential in a replica of Noah's Ark. It's not like it's a giant diarama of Jesus riding a dinosaur or something.

Ken Ham loves to boast about the people from all over the world visiting the Ark Encounter in Williamtown, Kentucky. However, there is very little evidence people are actually visiting.

It’s been estimated that the park needs somewhere around 5,600 visitors per day to meet their 2 million visitor goal they set and promised to the town. On opening weekend, they didn’t seem to average more than 5,000 a day and it seems it’s only getting worse.

New drone footage, posted to Facebook says it was taken on August 28, a Sunday at noon, so what should be a very busy theme park day. The footage shows the entire Ark Encounter parking lot and there are only a few dozen cars there.

Ham spent an enormous amount of money building this thing, and a number of folks have already pointed out that if he had given that much money to charities instead, it could have helped a whole lot of people. Helping people, though, doesn't seem to be what the Creation Museum is about at all.

Instead, it's a giant temple to ignorance, not just of science but of scripture too. Ham claims to be a Biblical literalist, but then argues that the interpretation-heavy and not-at-all-literalist Ussher chronology represents the only possible timeline for the Genesis narrative - even though, among other things, it predicted the world would end sixteen years ago.

There's an old joke that a boat is hole in the water into which one throws money. Apparently, the same principle can be true even when your boat is a hole in the ground.

Tuesday, September 6, 2016

Regarding Magical Models - Part Two

So no, it isn't Monday. Think of this as a "Magick Tuesday" post due to the holiday weekend. Part One of this article can be found here, and I recommend that you read it over before moving on to this one.

The second part of this article starts off with a great big disclaimer. What follows is based on some of the latest discoveries in physics, but it is highly speculative. Much of it depends on theoretical measuring instruments that we do not current have, and many of my conclusions may not stand up to experiments that we eventually will perform if we ever figure out how to build them.

I find it utterly ridiculous when people assume that slapping the moniker "quantum" onto something makes it paranormal. It doesn't. The fact that quantum physics allows for a greater degree of uncertainty than Newtoning mechanics does not in any way "prove" the existence of the paranormal. One of the worst offenders in this regard from recent years was the film What The Bleep Do We Know!?, a pile of New Age twaddle dressed up with a bunch of quotes from scientists that in most cases were taken entirely out of context.

At the same time, though, if we operate under the assumption that magick can affect the physical world, it cannot be avoided that in order to do so it must in some way affect particles at the quantum level. More specifically, it behaves as if it affects fields of particles at the quantum level, in some way that is poorly understood by current physics. As I alluded to in the opening paragraph, I think this lack of understanding is the result of having no reliable instruments that can measure the effect itself, and it is profoundly difficult to investigate anything that cannot be measured using the formal scientific method.

So here's another big caveat. If magick cannot really affect the physical world, the rest of this section is a bunch of pointless speculation, and the experiences that I have had using magick to do exactly that are merely the results of coincidence and self-delusion on my part. In effect, if you are an adherent of Model 1, Microcosmic Psychological, none of this will mean anything to you or even be particularly relevant to your practice. For adherents of the other models, though, I consider much of it essential, and look forward to the day when it becomes more amenable to empirical experimentation.

Sunday, September 4, 2016

Not Religious Freedom

When Indiana passed its state-level version of the Religious Freedom Restoration Act into law, opponents of the act argued that it could have all sorts of unintended consequences. They managed to have the law amended in such a way that it did not allow discrimination, but beyond that the law was left as is. Now an Indiana woman is arguing before the court that the her "religious freedom" includes her right to beat her child.

Kin Park Thaing, an Indianapolis resident, is hoping to use the state's Religious Freedom Restoration Act (RFRA) as a defense to charges of child abuse. She was charged with battery and neglect of a dependent after her seven-year-old son’s teacher discovered 36 deep welts and bruises on his body in February. She hit him with a plastic hanger, saying she acted on her religious beliefs to punish him.

The Indiana RFRA, signed into law by vice-presidential hopeful Gov. Mike Pence just last year, generated enormous national controversy. Most of the outrage was based on the fact that it was aimed at allowing discrimination against LGBT people. At the same time, though, the county prosecutor warned that RFRA could be used in cases like these. This week he explained, "We predicted this was exactly was going to happen, is individuals would assert their religious freedom to justify what is clearly criminal conduct.”

In July, Thaing’s attorney asked the court to dismiss her case, citing RFRA as one reason. The judge denied her request and the case will go to trial in October.

This was obviously the right decision on the part of the judge, since I don't think anyone really wants to argue that child abuse can be protected on religious freedom groups. Protecting children from abuse should clearly qualify as an example of a "compelling government interest" under the law and therefore not be subject to the RFRA.

However, it is notable that nothing in the act explicitly states that it cannot be applied to criminal cases. That would seem to be a logical fix that the Indiana legislature should make to prevent these sorts of situations from coming up in the future.

Friday, September 2, 2016

No Aliens Yet

Back in May of 2015, scientists detected a signal that appeared to originate from space. The signal came from the direction of a sunlike star, prompting speculation that it may have been sent by an alien civilization. During the last year, SETI trained radio telescopes on the area of the sky from which the signal came, but found nothing. At the same time, Russian astronomers were busy analyzing the signal, and have determined that it most likely came from a military satellite rather than deep space.

Subsequent processing and analysis of the signal revealed its most probable terrestrial origin," astronomer Yulia Sotnikova wrote in an update published today (Aug. 31) by the Special Astrophysical Observatory of the Russian Academy of Sciences. "It can be said with confidence that no sought-for signal has been detected yet."

The May 2015 signal may have been caused by a Russian military satellite. Such a spacecraft was responsible for a similar detection during the Soviet period, Alexander Ipatov, director of the Institute of Applied Astronomy at the Russian Academy of Sciences, told the Russian news agency TASS.

False alarms like this one are all part of the process of hunting for extraterrestrial life. Researchers find something interesting, and then they — and their colleagues around the world — try to figure out what it means, said Seth Shostak, senior astronomer with the SETI (Search for Extraterrestrial Intelligence) Institute in Mountain View, California, who was not part of the detection team.

And that's exactly the point. It is practically a given that intelligent life must exist somewhere else in the universe, no matter how unusual a planet Earth turns out to be. We've only been generating strong radio signals for a hundred years or so, which is no time at all in galactic terms. The question is not whether intelligent life is out there, but whether it is close enough that signals can even reach us.

Thursday, September 1, 2016

Chemtrails Classes Canceled

Here in Minneapolis, we have a lot of community education classes. Just about anybody can sign up to teach anything, within reason. Every so often I consider trying to put together some sort of magick class and see if there's any interest, but I'm not sure whether or not it would be approved since paranormal stuff is controversial. on the other hand, I do see things like meditation classes, so maybe there would be a way to write it up so that it would be accepted.

So somebody managed to sneak classes on "chemtrails" into the fall schedule. For anybody who doesn't know, chemtrails are a conspiracy theory put forth by people who don't understand that contrails - the streams of exhaust produced by jet engines - are sometimes visible and sometimes not, depending on weather conditions. The idea is that when they are visible, it's because the planes are spraying mysterious chemicals into the atmosphere. Depending upon who you're hearing it from, those chemicals could be for anything ranging from climate engineering to mind control.

Once the course was brought to the attention of the community education folks, it was canceled because basically the whole "chemtrails" thing is nonsense. It might as well have been a class on playing the banjo with Bigfoot. But mysteriously, nobody had any idea how they got approved in the first place.

Likely not included in the planned class was this: In a study last week, 77 scientists looked into the conspiracy theory. Seventy-six of them said there’s no evidence of it, Smithsonian reported. The identity of the holdout isn’t known. But he/she won’t be teaching a class at Jefferson.

How did the classes get scheduled in the first place? The adult education office reported that they don’t know. The hiring coordinator who was in charge of finding staff to teach the class resigned over the summer.

In a letter to those who objected to the class, MCE said it was unable to insure a balanced presentation around the topic, so it decided to cancel the classes.