Friday, September 30, 2011

Wait, Travolta is Immortal Too?

According to various disreputable sources the world is secretly run by a cabal of powerful individuals with access to advanced spiritual and magical technology, such as the Philosopher's Stone that confers immortality. Recently actor Nicolas Cage was outed as a member of this secret society when a photo from 1870 emerged that appears to depict him. Now a second member has been identified - actor John Travolta, seen here in this photograph from 1860. This picture from Metro shows Travolta's face next to that of the man in the photograph, and actually it's a better match than the one of Cage.

The seller is asking for $50,000 for the ruby glass ambrotype photograph, which he says could be proof that John Travolta has been 'reincarnated' (not into a new being but an identical body, presumably).

'I believe this is the photograph of a very young John Travolta taken around 1860,' said the eBay seller. 'Of course, time travel can't be ruled out as well.'

Travolta is a highly-placed member of the Church of Scientology, the religion founded by L. Ron Hubbard to protect his Dianetics system from the Food and Drug Administration and at the same time relieve its adherents of their life savings in the most efficient manner possible. However, the actor's presence in 1860 reveals deeper and darker connections. After all, there was no Church of Scientology in the 1860's, and if the group really had access to time travel they would have sent an agent back in time to murder the founders of Operation Clambake two decades ago. So perhaps he is in fact an operative secretly inserted by the ruling cabal into Hubbard's organization - you know, to keep an eye on things.

Thursday, September 29, 2011

Not A Christian Nation

The notion of the United States of America being founded as a "Christian Nation" is quite popular among certain groups of conservative Christians. One of the most recent manifestations of this is the DC40 project, an effort led by a group of Christians who follow the teachings of a philosophy called Christian Reconstructionism. They believe that Christians have a special duty to take control of government and all other social institutions and establish a legal framework based on the Bible - in effect, implementing a sort of Christian version of Islamic Sharia law. According to their rhetoric this sort of society would be remarkably close to the one that the Founding Fathers envisioned. They also believe that the constitution's establishment clause has been misinterpreted to create the idea of a "separation of church and state" that the founders never envisioned and which is antithetical to their original goals.

In fact, though, the use of "God" in America's various founding documents implies nothing of the sort, and before I became a Mason this was not a usage that I fully understood. While it is true that not all of the founding fathers were Masons, many including George Washington were. Others like Thomas Jefferson were not, but nonetheless shared the same Enlightenment view of spirituality that inspires the fraternity to this day. In Masonry, the term "God" is generic, representing whatever deity each individual Mason professes a belief in. This is one of the biggest problems conservative Christianity has with Masonry - the fact that even if you personally happen to be Christian, when you participate in a Masonic prayer you might be praying with Jews, Muslims, Pagans, Hindus, or for that matter Thelemites like myself, all conceptualizing "God" in their own particular ways.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011

Anti-Witchcraft Squad Proves Deadly

When I last wrote about Saudi Arabia's anti-witchcraft squad my tone was mostly humorous, suggesting that the organization could be the basis for a television pilot featuring mismatched buddy cops who happened to be in the business of hunting down sorcerers and breaking spells. At the end of the article, though, I noted that since "witchcraft" is a capital offense in Saudi Arabia part of the squad's job is to round up people who could be killed simply for practicing their spiritual beliefs. Last week this is precisely what happened, as a Sudanese man convicted of practicing sorcery in 2007 was executed despite protests from Amnesty International.

A Sudanese man convicted of sorcery was beheaded by sword on Sept. 20, in Medina, Saudi Arabia. The Saudi Gazette says the Interior Ministry issued a statement saying the African had “’Practiced witchcraft and sorcery,’ which are illegal under Shariah law.”

Abdul Hamid bin Hussein Mostafa al-Fakki, a migrant worker from Sudan, was arrested in 2005 in Medina on charges of witchcraft, by the Mutawa’een, the religious police known as the Committee for the Propagation of Virtue and Prevention of Vice. His trial was held in secret in 2007 and according to Bikyamasr al-Fakki was found guilty of “Producing a spell designed to lead to the reconciliation of his client’s divorced parents.”

It doesn't surprise me at all that al-Fakki was a migrant worker from Africa and therefore had little status in Saudi Arabian society, since for centuries witchcraft persecutions have usually fallen upon those with few resources to fight back against the authorities. I'm also very glad that I live in the United States, because if I lived in a country like Saudia Arabia I could probably be charged and maybe even executed just for writing blog entries discussing my ongoing magical work.

For the sake of religious freedom I hope that attitudes in Saudi Arabia surrounding alternative spiritual beliefs change, but I can't say that I'm holding my breath. After all, this is a country where a woman driving a car is considered a serious criminal offense. In light of that, what chance do magicians really have any time soon?

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

Crisis Apparitions

CNN has a piece up today on "Crisis Apparitions," one of the most common paranormal experiences. We've all heard stories about seeing visions of loved ones at the moment of their deaths, and in fact these sorts of ghost stories make up a pretty high percentage of the reported sightings. They certainly are much more common than tales of aggressive ghosts driving people from their homes, even though these more extreme tales tend to be the ones featured in movies and Discovery Channel paranormal series. Still, the CNN article includes a number of stories that are quite engrossing in their own right, and their greater frequency means that perhaps they can give us greater insight into the nature of paranormal experiences than the more occasional accounts of poltergeists or angry spirits.

"We don't know what to do with these stories. Some people say that they are proof that there's life after death," said Steve Volk, author of "Fringe-ology," a book on paranormal experiences such as telepathy, psychics and house hauntings.

Scientific research on crisis apparitions is scant, but theories abound.

One theory: A person in crisis -- someone who is critically ill or dying -- telepathically transmits an image of themselves to someone they have a close relationship with, but they're usually unaware they're sending a message.

Sometimes you just sense the presence of someone close to you, and it seemingly comes out of nowhere.

Others suggest crisis apparitions are guardian angels sent to comfort the grieving. Another theory says it's all a trick of the brain -- that people in mourning unconsciously produce apparitions to console themselves after losing a loved one.

Monday, September 26, 2011

The Four Classical Powers

I made a brief mention of using the four classical powers in elemental work over at Robert's place a couple of weeks back. I have found that many magicians, even some who make fairly extensive use of the classical elements in their work, are often unfamiliar with how the powers fit into the elemental schema used in modern magick. Much of the material in this article is adapted from John Opsopaus' Ancient Greek Esoteric Doctrine of the Elements, which I highly recommend that all modern ceremonialists familiarize themselves with in order to better understand how the elements relate to each other.

The doctrine of the elements began with the ancient Greeks, notably Empedocles and Aristotle. Empedocles proposed that four basic powers or qualities could be found in the natural world. These powers are Warm, Cool, Moist, and Dry. Warm and Cool are complementary powers, as are Moist and Dry. Aristotle went on to explain the nature of these powers in greater detail. The Warm power separates things, while the Cool power unites them. The Warm power also represents expansion and the Cool power represents contraction. The Dry power gives objects form and rigidity, while the Moist power is receptive and adaptive to its surroundings. Warm and Cool are considered active powers, whereas Moist and Dry are considered passive powers.

Friday, September 23, 2011

Florida Animal Sacrifices

My "magick using dead things" file just keeps getting bigger. Authorities in Florida are concerned over a growing number of animals that are turning up dead, apparently sacrificed in some sort of ritual context, over the course of the last year. The animals involved include goats and chickens, many of which have been found decapitated.

Just days ago, people in Port Saint Richie awoke to chicken feet tied with ribbons around their door knobs. Residents there speculated, "They're supposedly into Santeria or voo-doo."

Last Halloween, headless goats and chickens covered a Miami street, prompting neighbors to tell reporters, "It looks like witchcraft, some type of Santeria."

In Tampa several months back, a string of headless animals turned-up along the Bay at the eastern end of the Courtney Campbell Causeway. Coastal clean-up volunteers gasped at the discovery, calling it "gruesome."

June 23rd, a security guard found a cow's tongue in a box with 100 nails driven into it just outside the Hillsborough County Courthouse.

July 3rd, Sheriff's deputies found another box outside the Falkenburg Road Jail. This one held a white goat, two baby chicks, a rooster, and a dove -- all headless.

Back in July I covered those last two incidents here.

Thursday, September 22, 2011

Moon Bible Being Auctioned

If you happen to be both a spiritual book collector and a space enthusiast like me, and also have a lot of extra money to spend, the perfect item for your collection is being auctioned tonight in New Hampshire. It's a King James Bible rendered onto microfilm that was brought to the Moon and safely returned during the Apollo space program. From a magical perspective that makes it one of the few holy texts in the world to have traversed the path from Malkuth to Yesod and back again.

A rare Bible that's been to the moon and back will have a new owner Thursday night - the complete King James version, framed in gold leaf, is under the hammer at an auction house in New Hampshire.

But whoever takes it home won't be able to leaf through it. It's a piece of microfilm, with the text of 1,245 pages shrunken down to the size of a postage stamp.

"It's the whole King James (Bible) on there. It's really cool," says Bobby Livingston, vice president of sales and marketing at RR Auction, which is handling the sale.

The Bible was taken into space three times before it reached the lunar surface, he said - first on Apollo 12, when it was stored in the wrong part of the spaceship and orbited the moon, but didn't land on it, then on the ill-fated Apollo 13, which had an explosion on board that forced it to turn back, and finally on Apollo 14.

If this Bible were in the form of a book that could be paged through it would be especially amazing, but given the expense of shooting something that weighs even a pound or so into space the microfilmed version was really the only way to go. I also find the series of mishaps surrounding this particular Bible interesting from a magical perspective. It's almost as if some spiritual force didn't want it to find its way to the Moon, but what to make of that I have no idea. Perhaps the flow of Mezla was simply more difficult to overcome than anyone expected.

Wednesday, September 21, 2011

The Anatomy of the Mind

I presented a version of this article last week at my Masonic Lodge, Braden #168 in St. Paul, Minnesota. The version published here has been edited to remove specific references to the Masonic degrees, but most of the material remains intact. Readers of this blog should find my basic thesis relatively familiar, as I have written on this topic several times before - notably here and here.

Presentation: Modern neuroscience has reached some interesting conclusions regarding the workings of the mind, especially over the course of the last decade. One of the most important of these is that the psychoanalytic model, in which an “unconscious mind” directs our thoughts and actions, is probably completely wrong. There are brain functions that can be considered “unconscious,” but those functions lack the sort of coherence that would put them even remotely on par with our normal conscious awareness. Similarly, dreaming is not some “gateway to the unconscious” but rather a consolidation process in which memories are sorted and recombined.

The basic anatomy of the mind can be thought of as three distinct systems that work together. The first of these is the declarative mind, or thinking system. This is the portion of the mind that operates according to the general laws of reason and which processes information in the form of thoughts. When somebody asks you what you are thinking about, your answer is what your thinking system is currently processing. The second of these systems is the emotive or feeling system. This is the portion of the mind that produces emotional states. When someone asks you how you are feeling, what you are describing is the current state of your feeling system, whether you’re happy, sad, bored, frustrated, and so forth. These first two systems can be thought of as the “conscious” mind, in that you are always aware of what you are thinking and how you are feeling.

The third system is the conditioning system, which operates according to the principles of behaviorism. The conditioning system is essentially like a machine – its function is to repeat behaviors that have been positively reinforced. Because the conditioning system has no goals and does not think, the behaviors that it prompts can prove problematic. Often, when you do something and are left thinking “why on earth did I do that?” the usual answer to that question is that the behavior was reinforced at some point in the past. This system operates unconsciously, but to call it an “unconscious mind” is a mistake. It does not think in any declarative sense, and lacks the overall internal coherence that we generally associate with the concept of “mind.”

Taken together these three systems constitute what I sometimes think of as the “golden triangle” of consciousness. What we experience as a coherent mind arises from the interaction between them, and they can work together or they can get in each others’ way. If you ever have been in a situation where you have needed to do something difficult or uncomfortable but which nonetheless needs to be done you know how the feeling system can conflict with the thinking system. On the other hand, when you’re in a situation where what you need to do is also rewarding and fun you know how it feels when they work together.

Tuesday, September 20, 2011

Nicolas Cage: Immortal?

This photograph recently listed on eBay has been making the rounds through the blogosphere. According to Jack Mord, a dealer in antique images, the photograph is of actor Nicolas Cage, and constitutes proof that Cage is some sort of immortal undead creature. Of course, Mord is asking a million dollars for the otherwise old but ordinary photo, so how objective could he possibly be?

The eBay listing for the photo reads: 'Original c.1870 carte de visite [a type of small photograph] showing a man who looks exactly like Nick Cage.

'Personally, I believe it’s him and that he is some sort of walking undead / vampire... who quickens / reinvents himself once every 75 years or so.

'150 years from now, he might be a politician, the leader of a cult, or a talk show host.'

Morgan, meanwhile, weighed in yesterday with his own theory that rather than being a vampire, Cage is in fact an alchemist who has discovered some magical means of prolonging his life. Supporting Morgan's contention over Mord's is Cage's role as an ageless wizard in The Sorcerer's Apprentice and his producer role on The Dresden Files television series. And in fact, he very well could have been winking at the audience all the way through Vampire's Kiss - because, remember, in that film he didn't play an actual vampire, but rather a man suffering from some sort of vampire delusion.

Unfortunately for Jack Mord's million dollar payout, a close look at the face in the photo next to a picture of Cage reveals that while the two men have similar appearances they are not the same person. In the picture above from Metro, look where Cage's chin falls relative to that of the man in the antique photo. Adjusted so that their eyes are at the same level and their faces are of similar widths, you can see that Cage's face is much more oblong. Also, note the downward turn of the man in the antique photo's left ear. Both of Cage's ears lie flat against the sides of his head.

So the resemblance is most likely just a coincidence. It's also possible that this man might be a distant relative of Cage's, but sadly there's no way that he's an immortal.

Monday, September 19, 2011

Amish Men Arrested Over Safety Triangles

Religious groups like the Amish that aschew modern technology have always fascinated me, at least in part because I'm such a technophile myself and the worldview seems so foreign to me. Recently a group of Amish men in Kentucky were arrested because they refused to place orange safety triangles on their buggies, and then refused to pay the subsequent fines. The men claimed that the triangles violate their religious beliefs.

A judge sentenced them to between three and 10 days in jail by Graves District Court, Kentucky for non-payment of fines on religious grounds.

The men said paying the fines would amount to complying with a law they believe violates their beliefs against wearing bright colours or trusting in manmade symbols for their safety.

The sentences varied depending on individual fines and court costs, which ranged from $148 to more than $600.

In respect of the their religious beliefs, the jail ordered dark-coloured jumpsuits rather than the usual orange versions.

As you can see from the photograph above, Amish buggies are practically invisible on the road after dark without the reflective triangles, so it's easy to see why traffic laws require them. Even if these men aren't concerned about their own safety there are still other motorists to consider. And while they may not make use of modern technology in their personal lives, whenever they use a modern paved road they certainly are taking advantage of the better pavement that can be laid using current machines.

What I find confusing about the Amish worldview is that they don't live without any technology at all, but rather pick and choose based on what happened to be current in the late nineteenth century. Amish clothing is based on what would have been considered "plain" during that same period, but at least for men changing styles have meant that at times similar clothing has been considered the height of fashion. I personally own a white collarless shirt that when paired with a black jacket looks more fancy than wearing a brightly colored tie, not less. However, in many Amish communities it would be a completely acceptable outfit.

At any rate, I hope that some resolution to this situation can be found that will take into account these men's religious beliefs and still protect motorists from running into buggies after dark. Maybe large white reflectors? Those at least would not incorporate bright colors.

Wednesday, September 14, 2011

The World's Worst Noah's Ark

Take a look at the picture above. What is it? Part of a grain silo? A smokestack? Some kind of holding tank? Unless you guessed "Noah's Ark," you're flat-out wrong. A while back I reported on Johan Huibers, a Dutch man who has built an enormous replica of the Ark using the dimensions and instructions found in the Bible. This Ark, on the other hand, was cobbled together by a Chinese welder and turned out looking considerably less impressive.

Kho Jian, a metalworker from Louhe in Henan province, central China, is designing and building the craft using re-salvaged and converted oil tanks.

The 'Noah's Ark' will come at a cost of £20,000, and will be fitted with a range of mod-cons including a kitchen and bathrooms.

It will also use technology that is employed for space travel in order to keep it watertight - while also providing doors and windows.

'He believes we are heading for a world flood and he wants his own ark to save himself and his family,' said Kho, who aims to have the finished craft ready for delivery soon.

'He even wants wheels on it so he can tow it around and never has to risk being away from his ark for when the disaster comes.'

Here's the part I really don't understand. This thing is supposed to be 30 feet long and judging from the door in the image maybe 8-10 feet around. That's not very much space. 20,000 British pounds is about $30,000, and let me tell you, for that amount of money you can buy a used houseboat complete with trailer that's both bigger and a lot more comfortable. I know, because I was pricing them out last spring. So what's the point? If you want a boat and you have that much money sitting around, just buy a boat.

At the very least we can take comfort in the fact that China is nowhere near closing their Ark technology gap with the West.

Tuesday, September 13, 2011

The World's Most Famous Satanist?

For anyone out there still wondering whether or not Tyler Durden of Fight Club fame is a Luciferian figure, actor Brad Pitt spilled the beans at a recent press conference. Discussing his latest film, Pitt explained that he owes his success to a pact with the devil! Here's the actual quote:

"I related it more to my upbringing, I grew up in a very Christian environment -- a very healthy environment and a loving a family -- but there were parameters that I didn't understand, that I questioned it, and it took me until my adult years until I could really try new things... That was satanism, it works really well, I made a pact and the movie came out, so... No, you're really dealing with certain things as you grow up and you've got to try things on for yourself and really figure out what works for you and what doesn't. I just relate to that time, it's a very personal time, it's a comfort system and you cut the tether and find yourself very on your own with nothing to hold on to."

Now, as you can see Pitt quickly implied that he was joking, but come on, that's exactly what a real Satanist would do! Also, note that his serious answer, about finding what works for you and not worrying about having anything to hold on to, is pretty much straight-up Luciferian philosophy.

Satanist or not, Pitt is right about one thing - he's a huge star, so whatever he's doing indeed "works really well."

Monday, September 12, 2011

Another Damn Vampire

When I declared it to be shark-jumping season in vampire land it seems that I wasn't kidding. Three weeks ago a young man who claimed to be a 500-year-old vampire was arrested in Texas for attacking a woman and attempting to drink her blood. Now another vampire attack has been reported in Florida just in time, I suppose, for the True Blood season finale.

Milton Ellis, 69, told police in St. Petersburg, Florida, that he and Josephine Smith, 22, met on the street and went to the porch of a vacant restaurant to get out of the rain. He said he fell asleep in his motorized wheelchair and woke up to find Smith on top of him.

Ellis told authorities that she said, "I'm a vampire. I am going to eat you" and then began to bite him.

According to a police affidavit, Ellis was bitten on his arm and lips, leaving him bloody before he was able to escape and call police. He was later treated with stitches at a local hospital and released.

After arriving at the scene, police said they found Smith bloody and half-naked nearby, but that she had no memory of what happened and did not identify herself as a vampire, St. Petersburg Police spokesman Mike Puetz said.

I suppose it goes without saying that both the Texas man and this Florida woman are likely suffering from serious mental problems. Because they totally aren't vampires, at least not the sort who are centuries old and burn up in the sun. Some people who suffer from certain types of anemia do crave blood and sometimes describe themselves as vampires, but Dracula and the entire modern vampire genre it spawned are fiction only vaguely based on the original European vampire mythos. There's nothing undead about either of these two troubled individuals, and I hope that they can get some psychiatric help before they injure anyone else.

Friday, September 9, 2011

Now THAT'S Saturn!

Check out this awesome picture of Saturn taken by NASA's Cassini space probe. That's not CGI, it's what the planet Saturn really looks like from that particular angle, with the sun behind it illuminating the surrounding rings.

Taken by NASA's Cassini robotic orbiter, the shot was captured from the dark side of Saturn as the Sun's bright rays illuminated every piece of dust and debris circling the planet. Cassini has offered astronomers a never-before-seen look at Saturn and revealed more information about the planet than any craft before it. The craft has taken so many pictures of the ringed wonder that they were recently made into a short flyby film that looks like it was created by George Lucas rather than a robotic space explorer.

In Qabalistic magick Saturn is related to Binah, which encompasses both the vision of wonder and the vision of sorrow. It's considered both an astrological malefic and the lord of initiation. And in this picture you can see all that, and so much more. This is going to become my magical image of choice for years to come.

The Cassini probe was launched in 1997 and took a further 7 years to reach Saturn's orbit. The total cost of its overarching objective of studying the ringed planet stands at a staggering $3.26 billion. However, the wealth of information it has wrought — including amazing pictures like the one above, and recordings of massive lightning storms on the planet — have already made it one of the best investments in space exploration. Hopefully Juno — which began a 5-year trek to Jupiter just last month — will bring us some equally stunning shots of Saturn's neighbor.

Let's just say that I'm really looking forward to seeing those photos of Jupiter, as they promise to be similarly remarkable.

Thursday, September 8, 2011

Ghana's "Witch Camps" Disbanding

On the issue of witchcraft persecutions many parts of Africa are still struggling to pull themselves into the 21st Century. One of these is the nation of Ghana, which for years has operated what are essentially concentration camps for accused witches. Most of the unfortunates who have been sent to the camps are simply the same poor or elderly women on whom suspicion generally falls across Africa, India, and other parts of the world in which such accusations are common. In a positive development, the government of Ghana is finally taking steps to disband these camps and release the prisoners housed there.

Government will soon disband all witches camps in the country. That’s according to Chief Psychiatrist Dr. Akwasi Osei.

He says the practice of confining elderly women who are banned from their communities to such camps infringes on their human rights.

His comments come on the heels of similar calls by Deputy Women and Children’s Affairs Minister Hawa Gariba.

The minister, who toured the Nyani “Witches” camp near Yendi in the Northern Region recently, described the camps as a national disaster.

Chief Psychiatrist Dr. Akwasi Osei told Joy News a national conference will be convened next week to address the issue.

Friday, September 2, 2011

Vampires at Sea

In my last post about vampires I commented that their trend is due to reverse any time now. Here's more proof - a vampire cruise! Talk about cashing in on the fad! Cruises are expensive, but apparently there's enough demand out there to organize such an excursion. I thought I remembered something about vampires and running water, but maybe that only applies to fresh water. After all, Dracula traveled by sea to England in Bram Stoker's famous novel.

Hundreds of vampire enthusiasts will sail Alaska's fabled Inside Passage in a summer 2012 cruise tailored to their interests that combines gazing at glaciers with a late-night costume ball, organizers said on Thursday.

The "Vamps at Sea" cruise is scheduled for late June, which is a time of near-constant daylight in the far north.

"They've got curtains and they can block everything out -- so it can be as dark as we want it," said organizer Linda Wolf, president of Los Angeles-based agency Cruises Cruises Cruises Inc, who is herself a fan of the vampire genre.

Is it just me, or does this sound like the worst possible time for vampires to be on a ship? Near-total daylight? You would think they'd want to do it the other way around, traveling in the winter when there's near-total darkness. After all, vampires are impervious to cold.

Still, the Vamps at Sea cruise promises to be special, said Buckwheat Donahue, executive director of the convention and visitors bureau in Skagway, a historic gold rush town that is on most cruise itineraries.

"This is going to be fun," Donahue said. "I can't imagine what people are going to be dressed like coming off the boat."

The group will sail on a Holland America ship, the Zuiderdam, and will hit the usual ports of call such as Juneau, Glacier Bay and Ketchikan.

But there will be other special features, including a late-night costume ball, a scavenger hunt and a vampire talent show, Wolf said. There is also a literary angle to the cruise, with vampire-genre authors scheduled to speak, including a relative of the late "Dracula" writer Bram Stoker, according to the cruise website.

As an author, let me just say that the concept of a vampire named "Buckwheat" is both silly and awesome in so many ways. I may have to use that in a story at some point. As far as the cruise goes, some of the events sound interesting to me as I am a fan of the literary vampire genre, but doing them in the company of a bunch of people who are running around in goofy goth makeup and constantly asking if they can bite my neck makes the whole thing sound like a lot less fun than it might be otherwise.