Saturday, October 31, 2009

Just In Time For Halloween

Every year on Halloween conservative Christians publish their views on the danger of celebrating what they consider a Satanic holiday. Their basic argument is pretty straightforward - Halloween is a pagan holiday that was never co-opted by Christianity the way Christmas and Easter were, and the univalence of Christian theology means that anyone following a religion that is not Christian such as paganism is worshiping devils and demons.

While I and billions of Buddhists, Hindus, and Muslims all over the world disagree with that perspective, Christians who adhere to it are entitled to their beliefs. Every once in awhile, though, one of them puts forth something that's so over-the-top it makes me wonder what sort of world they imagine themselves to be living in.

An example is this article by Kimberly Daniels. It starts out with the basic argument laid out above, like most articles of its type.

The word "holiday" means "holy day." But there is nothing holy about Halloween. The root word of Halloween is "hallow," which means "holy, consecrated and set apart for service." If this holiday is hallowed, whose service is it set apart for? The answer to that question is very easy—Lucifer's!

However, it quickly begins to drift away from a mainstream theological perspective.

Lucifer is a part of the demonic godhead. Remember, everything God has, the devil has a counterfeit. Halloween is a counterfeit holy day that is dedicated to celebrating the demonic trinity of : the Luciferian Spirit (the false father); the Antichrist Spirit (the false holy spirit); and the Spirit of Belial (the false son).

This is essentially Manicheanism, the root of the Albigensian Heresy that was stamped out during the Middle Ages. It actually originated in Zoroastrianism, which according to Christian theology is just as demonic as any other non-Christian religion.

This next bit made me laugh out loud.

During this period demons are assigned against those who participate in the rituals and festivities. These demons are automatically drawn to the fetishes that open doors for them to come into the lives of human beings. For example, most of the candy sold during this season has been dedicated and prayed over by witches.

I do not buy candy during the Halloween season. Curses are sent through the tricks and treats of the innocent whether they get it by going door to door or by purchasing it from the local grocery store. The demons cannot tell the difference.

I've heard of seasonal employment during the Christmas season, but if this is really going on us magicians must be missing out on all those jobs praying over candy assembly lines during the Halloween season. Does anybody know what they pay? I wouldn't mind picking up some extra cash every fall. Or maybe the author has no idea what she's talking about.

Gathering around bonfires is a common practice in pagan worship. As I remember, the bonfires that I attended during homecoming week when I was in high school were always in the fall. I am amazed at how we ignorantly participate in pagan, occult rituals.

Because never in history have Christians gathered around bonfires, I suppose. The "purity" argument that is put forth by denominations like the Jehovah's Witnesses has never made any sense to me - for example, you can't celebrate birthdays because at some point in history pagans did it too.

The word "occult" means "secret." The danger of Halloween is not in the scary things we see but in the secret, wicked, cruel activities that go on behind the scenes. These activities include:

* Sex with demons
* Orgies between animals and humans
* Animal and human sacrifices
* Sacrificing babies to shed innocent blood
* Rape and molestation of adults, children and babies
* Revel nights
* Conjuring of demons and casting of spells
* Release of "time-released" curses against the innocent and the ignorant.

Another abomination that goes on behind the scenes of Halloween is necromancy, or communication with the dead. Séances and contacting spirit guides are very popular on Halloween, so there is a lot of darkness lurking in the air.

I will grant that I've cast spells on Halloween and communicated with spirits. As for the rest, though, I would love to know where all of this is supposed to be going on. As with the accounts of "Satanic Ritual Abuse" from the early nineties, if any significant number of people were engaging in acts like child sacrifice there would be this little thing called "evidence" that would show up.

If Christians believe that it is sinful to celebrate what they consider a pagan holiday, as I said in the introduction they are welcome to that belief and probably shouldn't celebrate Halloween. On the other hand, it's pretty ridiculous to assert that anyone who does celebrate it must be engaging in or at least supporting depraved criminal activities that any reasonable person would condemn.

Monday, October 26, 2009

"The Secret" Proves Deadly

By now most of you have probably already read about the case of two people who died during a sweat lodge ceremony in Sedona, Arizona at the beginning of this month. Police have announced that they will be investigating the deaths as homicides and are inquiring into whether or not the sponsor of the event, self-help author James Arthur Ray, had any idea of what he was doing in putting together the sweat lodge ceremony.

A search warrant was executed Wednesday at the James Ray International offices in Carlsbad, California, the sheriff said. Authorities were attempting to determine whether documents exist on how to construct sweat lodges and on their proper use, as well as documents showing whether participants were advised of the risks of sweat lodges either before or during the program.

One of the things that I did not realize when I first heard the story is that James Arthur Ray is one of the more prominant individuals teaching the spiritual method that Rhonda Byrne wrote about in "The Secret," a modern interpretation of the New Thought Movement of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that has recently been embraced as part of New Age theology. New Thought postulates that the universe is made of thought, and as a result you attract positive situations to yourself by thinking positive thoughts and attract negative situations to yourself by thinking negative thoughts. Physics never even enters into the equation.

I've criticized "The Secret" a number of times on this blog, and this case is a perfect example of everything that's wrong with it - what negative thoughts was Ray thinking that killed two of his students and has landed him in the middle of a murder investigation? If the model of the universe proposed by "The Secret" is correct he must have drawn this experience to himself and clearly should not be teaching others because he has not even mastered his own mind. On the other hand, if the postulates that make up "The Secret" are wrong Ray shouldn't be teaching either because the subject matter is bunk.

I'll say it one more time in the hopes of moving my comments further up in the search engine listings. "The Secret" is based on a fundamental misunderstanding of magick. Reality isn't made of thought, reality is made of energy. Thought is less substantial than energy. There's a reason that it's easier to light a fire with a lighter than it is with a thought, even for experienced magical practitioners. That doesn't mean thought is useless for manipulating the physical world, but rather that it is limited in its effectiveness.

My friend Frater Barrabbas posted an article on his blog earlier this month about practical magick. I'll repeat an excerpt from my comment on that article here because it explains the basic truth that "The Secret" completely glosses over.

The laws of probability make the role of mundane action in practical magical operations abundantly clear. To use the lottery example at the beginning of the article, it is possible for a lottery spell to be successful even if the magician doesn't buy a ticket - he or she could, say, happen upon a winning ticket lying on the sidewalk while out for a stroll. It's just that such a thing is very unlikely, much more so than picking a jackpot winning number. If your magical powers are such that you can produce a probability shift of 100 to 1 against or even 1000 to 1 against there's really no point in bothering unless you shift the odds into a more reasonable range by buying a ticket. Similarly, you can do a spell for a better job and there's a possibility that you will just happen to be out at a party or something one evening and meet the right person, but again your odds are a lot better if you send out resumes and go through the usual job-hunting steps in addition to casting a spell.

The key to understanding this is that magick is not all-powerful, despite the fallacious arguments of skeptics that imply if you can do anything paranormal it automatically implies that you can do everything paranormal. In my experience, there is a limit to the probability shift that any given magician can produce and the key to successful practical magick is to take enough mundane actions that your goal falls within that probability range.

The positive visualization advocated by "The Secret" can be useful, but many of the teachers who talk about the method treat it as all-powerful. The idea that any bad circumstance you experience must have been drawn to you by your own negative thinking is a wonderful exercise in victim-blaming that I encourage James Arthur Ray and others to clarify, especially in light of the "circumstances" that Ray apparently "drew to himself" in conducting this deadly sweat lodge ceremony.

My guess is that in this case "The Secret" will prove to be the root of negligence on the part of Ray and his staff. After all, if the universe is made of thought and ruled by good intentions as long as none of the people working on the sweat lodge ceremony wanted anyone to be killed nobody would be, even if serious errors were made in the lodge's construction. Unfortunately for the victims the universe is made of energy, heat is energy, and energy is a lot more tangible than thought.

UPDATE: Just to clarify, in this article I'm using the term "energy" to mean tangible, physical energy - in this particular case heat. I'm not talking about "psychic energy" or "magical energy," which I agree are terms that get thrown around pretty freely among magicians and often don't correspond to anything physical. I think the last sentence makes that pretty clear, but at least a couple of readers seem to have gotten the impression that I was saying "thought is less substantial than psychic energy." Obviously, that's a meaningless statement without some way to physically quantify "psychic energy."

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

So I Have This Novel...

Yes, you read that right.

My novel Arcana was recently picked up by Pendraig Publishing. No word yet on the release date, but the book was just listed today on the Pendraig web site along with a brief summary of the story:

Balzador was once a mighty Demon, but after opposing his master Coronzon he found himself exiled on Earth inhabiting a human body. Only one way remains for him to return home - binding together the world's magick and joining in a war against the Archons, sworn enemies of the Demons, that would upset the cosmic balance of power. Standing in his way is the Guild, a magical order founded during the European Renaissance that holds the secrets of practical magick he desperately needs to complete his task.

After a terrible magical accident the Guild is divided and distracted. Guild initiate Michael Niemand and A.'.A.'. initiate Samantha Davis must unite the members of their respective magical orders against Balzador's machinations if any of them hope to survive. Complicating their task further, the government magick office has taken an interest in the Demon and the Guild and seeks to use both for its own purposes. As Balzador's plans unfold, the two magicians struggle to stop the binding spell and find a way to destroy the immortal Demon. But will their efforts prove too late?

It's not a technical treatise on ritual magick, but it is a fun adventure story with a lot of magical elements. I've also slipped in bits and pieces of the operant magical model so that everything in the story lines up with my hypotheses on the nature of real magick, though as a work of fiction there is of course some exaggeration of magical powers for dramatic effect.

So I'm about to become a published author, and it only took me twenty years or so. I'm hoping that most of my regular readers will be interested in checking the book out once it's released.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Not Christian Enough

According to an article posted over on Raw Story, a Baptist church in North Carolina will be hosting a book burning of works that they deem "Satanic." While this is certainly not the first time a conservative Christian church has burned books, what makes this event noteworthy is that rather than published magical texts or copies of Harry Potter novels the books slated to be burned include the Bible and works of less conservative but nonetheless prominent Christians who have been deemed "heretics" by the church.

Church leaders deem Good News for Modern Man, the Evidence Bible, the New International Version Bible, the Green Bible and the Message Bible, as well as at least seven other versions of the Bible as "Satan's Bibles," according to the website. Attendees will also set fire to "Satan's popular books" such as the work of "heretics" including the Pope, Mother Teresa, Billy Graham and Rick Warren.

"I believe the King James version is God's preserved, inspired, inerrant and infallible word of God," Pastor Marc Grizzard told a local news station of his 14-member parish.

There is a belief among a some conservative Christian congregations that the King James Bible is the only accurate English translation of scripture, which is a belief that is remarkable in its ignorance to anyone who has studied the Bible in the original language. The King James was translated from the Latin vulgate, itself a rather inaccurate translation of the Hebrew and Greek found in the original text, and as a result is full of errors that the more modern translations have tried to correct. These modern translations have sometimes provoked controversy but I've never heard of a church going to far as to burn them.

Fortunately the nuttiness of this congregation doesn't seem to be widespread. Our local Twin Cities OTO body has more than 14 members, and Christianity is a much more mainstream spiritual system than Thelema. In fact, one wonders if this group might be drifiting into cult territory given its extreme beliefs and miniscule numbers. It reminds me of how Jehovah's Witnesses refuse to partake in any celebration or holiday that was ever celebrated at some point in history by pagans, which is, well, all of them. My question is how strong can this group's beliefs possibly be if they're afraid that the wrong Bible translation will give them heretic cooties?

Grizzard's parish website explains that the Bible is the "final authority concerning all matters of faith and practice," for Amazing Grace Baptist Church. In the Parish doctrinal statement, Grizzard expounds that "the Scriptures shall be interpreted according to their normal grammatical-historical meaning, and all issues of interpretation and meaning shall be determined by the preacher."

Which is just plain funny, given that the King James contains a number of translation errors that fly in the face of "grammatical-historical meaning." I guess by "historical" what they really mean is the seventeenth century rather than the period in which the texts were actually written. And if indeed all issues of interpretation and meaning are being determined by this particular preacher with no room for discussion or disagreement among the congregation that just makes the group sound even more cultish to me.

The event also seeks to destroy "Satan's music" which includes every genre from country,rap and rock to "soft and easy" and "Southern Gospel" and" contemporary Christian."

Granted, in my opinion most "contemporary Christian" music is not particularly good because it would be mainstream if anyone outside the evangelical community wanted to listen to it, but it honestly amazes me that any Christian would have a problem with Gospel music. Generally speaking, Gospel tunes are songs that for the most part simply praise God and Jesus rather than advocate any specific theological position that could be attacked as "heretical."

In the end this group appears to be so obsessed with being the right kind of Christians that any religious practice or interpretation that differs from theirs, even trivially, is wrong enough that it must be destroyed. That's not a healthy attitude for Christians to have, or for that matter anyone else.

UPDATE: If the members of this church think the New International Version Bible is evil, this will likely make their heads explode. It's an illustrated version of the Book of Genesis by underground comic artist Robert Crumb, who true to form includes all of the explicit parts - and in the text of Genesis there are a lot of them. It would be pretty amusing to send all 14 members of this church copies of it and get their reactions.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Political Magick in Australia?

Are dark magicians at work influencing the Federal Parliament of Australia? Pastor Daniel Nalliah thinks so, and is organizing what he calls a "prayer offensive" to combat these unnamed sorcerers. That is, he's casting a counterspell - as I've mentioned numerous times on this blog, any prayer directed toward a specific goal is exactly the same thing as casting a magical spell. What evidence does Nalliah have? Why, the discovery of a "black mass altar!"

The discovery of a "black mass altar" at Mount Ainslie in Canberra by a group of school students had inspired him to organise a prayer gathering at the area on Saturday.

"The type of altar discovered on Mount Ainslie pointed to a black mass and the work of dark forces wanting to cast spells on Australia and federal parliament," Mr Nalliah said.

"These days people don't think the devil is real but we have seen the bad effects of the spiritual being known as Satan and we believe there is a spiritual fight over the nation of Australia being fought in the heavens."

Asked what evidence of Satan there was in parliament, Mr Nalliah said: "The number of politicians who have serious marriage problems."

I would be interested to see what the divorce rate is for politicians compared to the general population in Australia. Something like half of all marriages end in divorce and I suspect being married to a politician is especially stressful, so I'm guessing that the rate would have to become pretty outrageous before it crossed into paranormal territory. I also find it pretty amusing how Nalliah leaps from the discovery of an altar to the apparently obvious conclusion (to him) that it was being used to cast spells on Parliament. Actually, the most popular spells tend to be for love, money, or revenge rather than the passage of some particular bill or referendum, so my guess is that if this altar was in fact set up by a working magician and not a bunch of kids fooling around those are the most likely spells that would have been cast.

This whole altar incident brings to mind a story I heard years ago. Back in the mid-1990's I did some work with a small magical group here in the Twin Cities for about a year or so. One of the members had a pretty remarkable imagination, to the point where just about any story he told had to be taken with a grain (or maybe a bucket) of salt. He once told me a story about being out in one of the parks down by the Mississippi River after dark and coming upon a "Satanic Altar." He destroyed the altar by smashing it to bits, but as he did so a black hand reached up out of the altar and tried to grab him. He got away from the apparition, but not before it managed to grab his hand. He then proceeded to show off a cut on his hand as "proof" that he had been attacked by a Satanic entity.

While I've seen enough weird things over the years that I've been practicing magick to know that such a story is not absolutely impossible, there are a number of factors that make me doubt its veracity. One of the current members of my magical working group was there that night, and he tells me that while he felt some sort of hostile presence, he did not see any apparitions or other measurable paranormal activity and the whole incident with the altar supposedly happened while the person who claimed to have experienced it was off in the woods by himself. Furthermore, since many of the pagan groups in town do public rituals in that particular park, the altar was much more likely to have been put there by a pagan than by a Satanist. Finally, the "black hand" is pretty over-the-top and I've never seen anything quite like it when working a ritual.

My guess is that what really happened is that for some reason the atmosphere in the park felt weird that night. It might have been a spiritual presence, but it also might not even have been paranormal - high-tension power lines run through the park and if the load was high that night the electromagnetic field might have been perceptible. My friend probably did find some sort of altar, freaked out, smashed it, and in the process cut his hand - he said that he destroyed the altar by smashing it with a walking stick, which would make a hand injury well within the realm of possibility. Maybe he even saw a shadow that looked like a hand and then put the whole thing together into a gripping yarn. I'm serious, in the old days this guy would have probably been a bard or something. He really could tell a good story.

So where am I going with this? Well, one of the things that I think magicians need to cultivate is a skeptical attitude toward claims of this sort. It's counter-productive to dismiss them out of hand like the hardcore skeptics do, but at the same time blindly accepting them as true is also problematic. Daniel Nalliah has clearly not learned his lesson here - he jumps from a fact (an altar was found) to an essentially unrelated conclusion (spells are being cast on Parliament). This the same logical fallacy that Scott Adams epitomized in one of his Dilbert books as "My car won't start. I'm certain that the spark plugs have been stolen by rogue clowns." I mean, it's possible, but is it likely?

Thursday, October 8, 2009

Even More Soccer Magick

So has the World Cup soccer scene become more involved with magick in recent years, or has it always been that way and tabloid media outlets are finally catching on? That's the first question raised by the latest tale of magick-for-hire from the footballing world.

Portugal star Cristiano Ronaldo is at the centre of a sordid battle between sorcerers with one trying to ruin him on behalf of a spurned lover and another to save him, reports said Wednesday.

"A rich foreign woman who was betrayed" has paid a Spaniard nicknamed Pepe to "end Ronaldo's career," Correio da Manha daily said.

Ronaldo, who is often photographed with a beautiful young woman on his arm, is currently carrying an ankle injury, and the sorcerer Pepe is claiming credit for it.

Pepe was pictured holding a black wax doll and a photo of the Real Madrid forward with his name scrawled across it.

Ronaldo's ankle injury is not believed to be serious, but as it apparently happened after the curse was cast this magician might have some real ability. Complicating the situation further, a friend of the football star has apparently hired a second magician to keep him safe from harm.

The daily 24 Horas, which carried the same story, said another "fetisher" called Fernando Nogueira, known as the "sorcerer Fafe" was contacted on Tuesday by "someone very close" to Ronaldo "to counter the black magic of this so-called Spanish sorcerer."

Fafe, while casting doubt on the powers of his rival, told the paper he had "burnt candles next to a photo of Ronaldo to put an end to what is being done, if it is true."

So do we have an actual magical war on our hands that is getting some media coverage? I will say that I'm curious to see what the outcome will be. Any real magician should be able to state his or her intentions publicly and then watch as the intended events come to pass. Any claims made after the fact are immediately suspect without an accurate and verifiable record of the original spell, its statement of intent, and when it was cast.

Today's revelation accuses socialite Paris Hilton of hiring Pepe to cast the curse. Of course, she's one of those people that the tabloids have accused of just about everything else as well.

The witchcraft expert has revealed that he was hired by a woman who was “deceived” by the Portuguese man-o’-sex. Given his penchant for ladies of ill repute, this piece of information doesn’t exactly round things down, but Pepe also describes his client as “very famous, rich and not European”. Therefore, the Spanish press infer that the prime suspect is Paris Hilton, who has publicly admitted that Ronaldo was “too gay” for her.

Pepe says he charged €15,000 to inflict C-Ron’s recent injury via a voodoo doll, but he will charge a lot more to “finish his career”. The sorcerer says he has already cast a spell to end the winger’s playing days, and he would not break it even if “Ronaldo’s crying mother knelt before him.”

Could this get any more ridiculous? Given the nature of tabloids, I suppose that's a question I shouldn't be asking. I mean, so far nobody is claiming that Bat Boy is involved...

Tuesday, October 6, 2009

Paranormal Research Update

As of yesterday the EMF detector is ordered and on its way. Amidst all the other stuff that I'm working on in my seemingly non-existent free time I'm looking forward to getting the device set up so I can test my evocations for electromagmetic field variations. My plan is to try out a series of different evocation methods and see which ones, if any, result in spirits that are capable of spiking the electromagnetic field inside the triangle and/or Sigillum Dei Aemeth. It opens up a lot of possibilities for research and hopefully I can inspire others to try it out themselves - the larger the sample size, the more accurate the research. Out of curiosity, I wrote about using an EMF detector in conjunction with magical rituals last month and a few folks seemed interested. Has anybody tried it out yet?

Also, last weekend was Pagan Pride here in the Twin Cities. My wife had a table there selling books and she wound up speaking with someone from a local paranormal research group. She was relaying some of my ideas about using magick in conjunction with paranormal investigation methods and it sounds like the group might be interested in trying some of it out. I'll keep you all posted and let you know if anything pans out, and if so what the results turn out to be. I have a number of ideas that I would like to test out, ranging from evaluating the effectiveness of clearing out haunted places using banishing rituals to facilitating spirit manifestations using ceremonial evocation techniques.

If the banishing rituals in particular work the way that I hope they will, it will give paranormal investigators one more tool to help homeowners who just want to get rid of hauntings. It's something of a given in the paranormal field that blessing a house doesn't work very well, and even if it does work the effects are temporary. On the other hand, I have a magician friend who claims to have cleared out a haunted house using ceremonial methods and apparently the ghost went away and never came back after one ritual. I'm planning on doing more rigorous testing because I know that data is not the plural of anecdote, but if the story is generally accurate it at least sounds like a promising area for further investigation.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

One More News Roundup

Here are a few more stories from the last week. I'll be back with more original magick articles soon, but for now, enjoy!

At a recent speech in Prague a spider seems to have taken a liking to the Pope. Spiders bother a lot of people, but the Pope took it in stride and barely reacted. Clearly he's been keeping up on his meditation.

A large arachnid appeared on the pope's white robes as he addressed politicians and diplomats in Prague on Saturday afternoon. The pope didn't seem to notice at first — but journalists following the speech on a large screen flinched as the spider inched toward Benedict's neck.

It disappeared from view for a moment, but then could be seen crawling up the right side of the 82-year-old pontiff's face.

When it reached his ear, Benedict gave it a swat. But it didn't go away — it reappeared on the pope's left shoulder and scampered down his robe.

If you're looking for paranormal activity in Britain, paranormal researcher Lionel Fanthorpe has assembled the perfect guide to places with weird activity of various sorts, from ghosts to UFO's. His website can be found here.

These facts emerge in a study by paranormal researcher and priest Lionel Fanthorpe, who has identified the spookiest places in Britain over the past 25 years. Big cats, the ghost of Dick Turpin and aliens all crop up in his research based on unexplained incidents reported to the police and leading paranormal organisations.

Apparently in Connecticut the psychic trade has gotten violent - or maybe not. A psychic who reported being attacked by rivals has been charged by police with lying about the attack. It sounds like they need a good psychic to get to the bottom of what really happened. Oh, wait...

A Connecticut psychic who said she was assaulted in an attack she believed was arranged by rival psychics has been charged with lying about the incident. Greenwich police arrested 35-year-old Janet Lee of Norwalk on Saturday on charges including falsely reporting an incident.

Lee, who promotes herself the "foremost psychic in New England," called police on July 11 to report that a man had beaten her outside her Greenwich office. She said she believed rival psychics in town who had left her threatening phone messages were responsible, but she did not know their names.

In his new book former Bush speechwriter Mark Latimer has alleged that the Bush administration opposed giving J.K. Rowling the Presidential Medal of Freedom on the grounds that the Harry Potter books encouraged witchcraft.

Latimer writes that administration officials objected to giving author J.K. Rowling the Presidential Medal of Freedom because her writing “encouraged witchcraft” (p. 201):

"This was the same sort of narrow thinking that led people in the White House to actually object to giving the author J.K. Rowling a presidential medal because the Harry Potter books encouraged withcraft."

While I was never a fan of the Bush administration and find the hand-wringing over Harry Potter ridiculous, I'm nonetheless left wondering if this is what really happened or if it's just another piece of insider gossip. The Presidential Medal of Freedom is awarded to individuals who have contributed to:

1) the security or national interests of the United States, 2) world peace, or 3) cultural or other significant public or private endeavors.

Given that description, I find it hard to imagine how J.K. Rowling would qualify with or without the "witchcraft" angle. Her main claim to fame is that she's sold a lot of books, and after all I don't see anyone proposing a Presidental Medal of Freedom for Dan Brown even though The Da Vinci Code outsold all of the Harry Potter novels.

I plan on getting back to regular blogging soon and for that matter getting the archives uploaded. There's no new publishing news this week, but I'll keep you all posted on that as well as soon as I know more.