Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Oregon Bigfoot Spooks Residents?

The Pacific Northwest is known to be the traditional home of the Sasquatch. Recently strange noises coming from the forest have spooked residents living on an Oregon Indian reservation in the Blue Mountains. Some have suggested that the unusual sounds that do not seem to be those of other local animals may be made by the mysterious creature.

Apparently the bizarre sounds are coming from north of the Wildhorse Resort and Casino near an old community center. The sounds started last month, and many people believe that the Bigfoot in Oregon is actually a youngster that was separated form its mother.

Of course as with most reports of Sasquatch there are plenty of people who do not believe it. The chances are, this could be the sounds of some other type of animal, or it could be a hoax. There have been enough people searching for Bigfoot over the past decades that if this creature exists it should have been found by now.

Oregon is no stranger to Bigfoot sightings. The embedded video records a sighting near Bend in the Christmas Valley. The video looks genuine, in that it really seems to me that people filming it were recording what they saw rather than acting. However, the outline of the supposed Bigfoot gives it away - this is most likely a person in a costume hoaxing the folks making the video. Pause the video on the still of the creature and note how short the arms look. One of the hardest things to fake with a costume is arms with ape-like rather than human-like proportions. A person in a gorilla suit looks almost exactly like the figure that appears in the video, as real apes have much longer arms relative to their height.

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

Bad Monsignor

Misconduct among high-profile religious leaders has become common enough these days but this one takes the cake. Monsignor Kevin Wallin of Connecticut was arrested at the beginning of this month on drug charges. Wallin is accused of dealing methamphetamine worth more than $300,000 during the last six months of 2012. His drug operation also apparently included the purchase of a sex toy and adult video shop through which he laundered the proceeds. While the Bible in fact says nothing about drugs or drug use, it should be pretty clear that becoming a major drug kingpin is not exactly considered Christian behavior.

Last July, Drug Enforcement Administration agents in New York told agents in the New Haven office that there was an unidentified Connecticut-based drug trafficker distributing methamphetamine in the region. Two months later, an informant told the DEA that the trafficker was Wallin, according to an affidavit by agent Jay Salvatore in New Haven.

The Connecticut Statewide Narcotics Task Force was also investigating Wallin. Authorities said an undercover officer with the state task force bought methamphetamine from Wallin six times from Sept. 20 to Jan. 2, paying more than $3,400 in total for 23 grams of the drug.

The article notes that Wallin resigned from his parish in 2011, claiming "personal and health problems," and his case has drawn comparisons to that of Walter White, the fictional chemistry teacher on the popular television series Breaking Bad who turns to cooking methamphetamine after being diagnosed with cancer. One wonders if a similar health scare might have prompted Wallin's abrupt entry into the world of high-profile drug dealing after years as a devoted priest, or if his addiction to the drug dates back further and led directly to the problems he cited at his resignation.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Fake Illuminati Exposed!

Salon has an article up today about "Illuminati symbolism" in popular music, and how essentially it's just a big publicity stunt on the part of stars who exploit conspiracy theorists to generate more press for their songs and albums. From a cynical standpoint this makes a lot of sense - the "Illuminati symbols" that show up in music videos are so well-known at this point that they've gone from esoteric to obvious, but they nonetheless generate breathless condemnation by crackpots obsessed with the group's supposed ongoing plan for world domination. But here's a clue - if you're really part of a secret conspiracy, I imagine that the worst thing you could possibly do is broadcast to the entire Internet a video that pretty much announces, "Hey everybody, check out my secret conspiracy!"

The fear of the entity known as the Illuminati is neither unique — Bey and Jay join Lady Gaga, Rihanna, Ke$ha, Kanye West, and practically every prominent banker and politician on Earth is under conspiracy theorists’ microscope — nor novel. The original Bavarian Illuminati, a short-lived Enlightenment group devoted to overthrowing the local government, would likely have been forgotten, said “Occult America” author Mitch Horowitz, had Scottish physicist John Robison not speciously alleged in 1797 that the group had infiltrated the Freemasons and instigated the French Revolution.

“The Illuminati can be understood as the most radical edge of the marriage of avant-garde religious views and political views that sometimes found expression within Freemasonry,” said Horowitz. The movement, as redefined ex post facto to include practically every threatening and new development in American life, went on to resurface in rumors from the anti-Masonry fervor of the 1830s to the election of a Catholic president in 1960 to (did you need to ask?) the Obama presidency. Though the political goals of the Illuminati in Bavaria were locally minded, the avant-garde aspect lives on. Horowitz listed certain motifs: “skulls, serpents, eyes and pyramids, pentagrams. These were from a religious culture that had vanished after the Dark Ages; they’re alluring, dangerous, sinister.”

Thursday, January 24, 2013

Religious Freedom Isn't Free

Huffington Post has an article up today about a new poll that provides some insight into the roots of the Poor Oppressed Christian phenomenon that I've been covering here on Augoeides for awhile now. The poll identifies a double standard at the heart of the "poor oppressed" ideology, in that a significant subset of respondents were very concerned about protecting religious freedoms while at the same time expressing a strong desire that Judeo-Christian beliefs dominate American culture. This leads me to conclude that the reason these folks whine is that simple logic is not working out very well for them.

While these Christians are particularly concerned that religious freedoms are being eroded in this country, "they also want Judeo-Christians to dominate the culture," said Kinnamon. "They cannot have it both ways," he said. "This does not mean putting Judeo-Christian values aside, but it will require a renegotiation of those values in the public square as America increasingly becomes a multi-faith nation."

Religious freedom has become an increasingly important political issue within the last year, as Republican candidates hammered President Obama for a contraception mandate that many conservatives feel tramples on the religious freedom of employers who must cover birth control in their health plans.

The poll of 1,008 adults showed that 29 percent of respondents were "very" concerned that religious liberties are under threat, and 22 percent "somewhat" concerned. Evangelicals were the religious group most likely to be concerned, at 71 percent. Asked for their opinion as to why religious freedom is threatened, 97 percent of evangelicals agreed that "some groups have actively tried to move society away from traditional Christian values."

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Google+ Enochian Magick Community

If you're interested in Enochian resources and discussions and spend time on Google+ I hereby invite you to join my new Enochian Magick community. The community can be found here. It's public so anyone can join, and I am in the process of putting together a solid collection of Enochian links and materials for reference and discussion.

I've been doing more on Google+ lately because Facebook is becoming both more annoying and less useful. With the introduction of the "promote" feature, one of the key advantages of promoting books or blog posts or whatever over there is now gone. In order to make money off this new feature - which actually sends a post to your whole friends list for a fee - they have by necessity had to limit the reach of free postings to a small subset of your full list. The biggest advantage of Facebook used to be that you could easily reach tons of people for free, and apparently now that's gone. The annoyance factor is more subjective, but let's just say I'm not all that interested in what my friends have for dinner or what games they play.

Google+, at least for now, has a couple of advantages in terms of reaching people. First of all, the level of traffic there is simply not as high so whatever you post is more likely to be noticed, and second of all, as far as I know there are no limits to how many people you can reach. Now that all may change soon enough, especially if Google decides they want to try and cash in on circles just like Facebook does with friend lists. But from what I've seen there's been a substantial backlash to "paid promote," and if Google can avoid that trap I suspect that it stands to gain a lot more active members.

At any rate, there are a couple of Enochian groups over on Facebook, one of which has more than 800 members. However, on Google+ I discovered that the largest occult community there was a general forum with 60 members. Furthermore, there was no Enochian magick community to speak of! Since such a thing clearly will not do I created one, and have built up a membership of 40 after only a couple days of invites. I know that doesn't sound like a lot, but remember, the largest occult group on there had a membership of 60. If things keep going like they're going Enochian Magick could be the biggest in a matter of a week or so.

Thursday, January 17, 2013

Resurrection Fail

Raising the dead would involve powerful magick indeed if we are to grant that it's even possible with someone who is truly deceased. While resurrection is one of the miracles attributed to Jesus, the truth is that even if the story of Lazarus happened as written determining the point of death was a tricky thing two thousand years ago. Modern medical technology allows us to revive people who would have been considered dead as recently as a few decades ago, but even today people very rarely wake up in morgues after being declared dead by doctors. This brings us to today's story of a Detroit man so distraught by his father's death that he hoped for a miraculous resurrection. When Clarence Bright passed away at the age of 93, his son sprang into action and took custody of the man's body.

Bright’s body was allegedly taken from a mausoleum at a local cemetery, where it was stored because weather conditions forced his Jan. 12 funeral to be canceled. When cemetery workers attempted to bury him on Monday, they said, they found a van driving away with the body still inside the casket. Though a search of the elder son’s house on Monday yielded no evidence, police found both the van and the casket at a gas station the next day, which led to them finding the body inside a freezer in his basement. “In the interview with the son, he was very, very, very distraught,” said Lieutenant Harold Rochon, according to the Associated Press. “In an interview of the son, he is very religious, and he was hoping his father would be resurrected. He was hoping for a miracle.”

From both a technical and magical perspective the son's actions were suboptimal at best. Granted, the odds of a miraculous awakening are miniscule in the best of circumstances, but putting the body in a freezer pretty much seals the deal. Simply, people who wake up after being declared dead are in fact still alive. If a human body is actually frozen solid there's no way to revive the individual because the water in the cells forms into crystals and irreparably damages them. So far, even bodies that have been carefully frozen in a controlled manner for cryonic preservation have never been successfully revived, and if you're hoping for a magical effect to work you want to take steps that increase the probability of your desired outcome, not eliminate it entirely.

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Morgan's Secret Chiefs as Masters of the Universe

The phrase "Masters of the Universe" as a term for the cabal of wealthiest Wall Street investment bankers originated in Tom Wolfe's famous novel The Bonfire of the Vanities. A new experiment performed by British news outlet The Observer has now shown that the Secret Chiefs of Morgan's magical order - that is, cats - may be such "Masters of the Universe" in their own right. A British Secret Chief by the name of Orlando has stunned a group of three professional stockbrokers by beating their picks using little more than a toy mouse. Clearly, this Secret Chief is mighty.

The Observer portfolio challenge pitted professionals Justin Urquhart Stewart of wealth managers Seven Investment Management, Paul Kavanagh of stockbrokers Killick & Co, and Schroders fund manager Andy Brough against students from John Warner School in Hoddesdon, Hertfordshire – and Orlando. Each team invested a notional £5,000 in five companies from the FTSE All-Share index at the start of the year. After every three months, they could exchange any stocks, replacing them with others from the index.

By the end of September the professionals had generated £497 of profit compared with £292 managed by Orlando. But an unexpected turnaround in the final quarter has resulted in the cat's portfolio increasing by an average of 4.2% to end the year at £5,542.60, compared with the professionals' £5,176.60. While the professionals used their decades of investment knowledge and traditional stock-picking methods, the cat selected stocks by throwing his favourite toy mouse on a grid of numbers allocated to different companies.

For the first time, we now have empirical proof that these Secret Chiefs possess powers of divination unheard of by mere human beings. Who knows what else their exalted and realized minds might comprehend. Revolutionary magical techniques? Mystical methods that promise enlightenment in a single afternoon? The very destiny of the entire human race and the true meaning of life? See, they can't tell you - it's a secret. Also, even if it were not so, translating such profound revelations from a series of meows would represent a daunting project for even the most advanced initiate.

Tuesday, January 15, 2013

Satanists for Scott

Florida Governor Rick Scott won a close election in the Republican wave of 2010, and over the course of the last two years his poll numbers have dropped substantially. However, his popularity appears to be on the rise among Satanists. Members of a group called The Satanic Temple are planning a rally for Scott on January 25th in support of SB 98, a bill signed by Scott that allows students to present "inspirational messages" at public school events. While some have argued that bill violates the separation of church and state, it does not discriminate in favor of any religious group - meaning that Satanists can now use it to spread their message just as easily as Christians can.

The bill sparked controversy among groups like Americans United for Separation of Church and State, who said it was wrong to subject students to coercive prayer. But according to Lucien Greaves, the spokesman for The Satanic Temple, Scott showed courage in signing the bill that now allows all religious groups to spread their message.

“This is not a hoax,” said Greaves, who also goes by “Overlord”. “This is for real.” He said more than 100 members of his group, clad in black robes, will attend. “We feel it will be a great satanic coming out,” Greaves said. Asked if he thought Scott, a staunch Christian conservative, had intended for groups like his to take advantage of the new law, Greaves replied: “We take him at his word. It promotes religious freedom of all types.”

Personally, I've wondered for years why minority religious groups haven't taken greater advantage of laws such as these. In terms of generating attention, mainstream Christianity is at a serious disadvantage in a school context. Nobody's going to remember the kid who gets up and gives thanks to Christ at some event, but the kid who leads off with "Hail Satan" is going to be talked about for years to come. It will be interesting to see if The Satanic Temple is serious about taking advantage of the law to increase the visibility of its beliefs.

Friday, January 11, 2013

Divine Footwear

The Lord works in mysterious ways, according to self-proclaimed prophet Cindy Jacobs. Or, more to the point, incredibly insignificant ones. In a recent television appearance, Jacobs explained that God would provide for them through miracles. But rather than talking about anything traditionally miraculous like parting of the Red Sea or raising the dead, she apparently was talking about footwear. And tires. And spaghetti. That is, she seems to be the prophet of a deity that operates through the intermediary of consumer goods.

“I have seen God multiply food more than one time when I was cooking… And I remember spooning out spaghetti or whatever, just praying in the spirit over that, and God just made more and more and more. You know, I’ve seen oil multiply as I was praying for the sick. I’ve seen bottles of oil just fill up about a cup a time of oil. But the point is we were promised supernatural provisions.”

“Remember when we drove our car… one one set of tires, how many miles was it?” Jacobs asked her husband and fellow prophet, Mike, after the commercial break. “Way, way beyond what could ever happen with one set of tires.”

She continued: “I mean, I remember one time that I had a pair of shoes that I wore and wore and wore and wore and it just — for years, these shoes did not wear out. And I wore them years and years and years.”

“So, you know, sometimes God is saying little epiphanies to us, little things to us, but we don’t know how to listen to his voice.”

Thursday, January 10, 2013

Yoga and Meditation in the Military

The United States Military is trying out a new program called Mental Fitness Training, which integrates yoga, meditation, and breathing exercises in an effort to cultivate mindfulness among active service members and manage stress. Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder in the military has reached epidemic proportions, particularly among soldiers who spend multiple tours of duty in occupied areas and war zones. Meditation appears to be one of the few methods that can help ward off this condition. By acclimatizing the brain to calmer states, it should be possible to limit the damage caused by artificially high adrenaline levels maintained over a significant period of time. Research has shown that meditation evens out the "fight-or-flight" response in the limbic cortex, so there's reason to think that it might be just the thing to help keep our soldiers more mentally healthy and address rising suicide rates that most experts link to PTSD.

The suicide rate of active service members has skyrocketed in the last few years. In 2012, the U.S. military averaged one suicide every single day, with service members were — shockingly — more likely to commit suicide than be killed on the battlefield.

Meanwhile, there is already a disturbing pattern of aggressive Christian proselytizing and accusations of government-sponsored prayer in major military institutions, including at West Point and the US Air Force Academy, which some say is more divisive than healing. A Yale Divinity School study voiced “concern that the overwhelmingly evangelical tone of general Protestant worship encouraged religious divisions rather than fostering understanding among basic cadets.”

On the other hand, new programs like the Mind Fitness Training program are, in part, a non-religious response to these soaring suicide rates and the recognition that, for active service members, mental health and well being is just as important as physical training.

Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Science for Fundamentalists

Many Christians of the Poor Oppressed variety home-school their children to keep them away from dangerous ideas such as those found in actual science. It's not that there's necessarily a conflict between science and religious belief in general, but rather between scientific explanations of phenomena and literalist beliefs that attribute the activity of natural processes to supernatural forces. The simplest conclusion to draw from this should be that where literalism conflicts with science it is almost certainly incorrect, but many fundamentalists are far too attached to their beliefs to admit that this might be the case. Likewise, many of them who home-school act as if they can shield their children from real science for long enough somehow the contradictions inherent in their religious beliefs will go unnoticed. The mass exodus of children raised in such households from literalist churches provides ongoing evidence that this approach is misguided at best.

The above image was recently circulated on the Internet as actual material from a textbook for Christian home-schoolers. After some research I was able to determine that it is in fact a parody, but I decided it was too funny not to post anyway. The scary thing is that while it's a bit over-the-top, at the same time it's not inconceivable that it could have been part of a real textbook. This next image was circulated back in August, and apparently is genuine.

Tuesday, January 8, 2013

Miami Animal Sacrifices?

It's generally well-known that Miami, Florida is home to a substantial population that practices Afro-Caribbean religions such as Santeria and Voudon. One of the issues involved when living in such an area is that occasionally the remains of animal sacrifices are discovered. This last weekend, the remains of a goat and several chickens were found in a bag floating near a South Beach luxury condominium complex. Investigators suspect that the animals were sacrificed as part of a religious ritual.

"I was looking in the water, and I see this blue bag and it looked like a leg of a goat coming out and some feathers," Floridian condo security guard Karim Mora, who made the grisly discovery, told NBC6. “So right there, I knew what it was."

The Miami Beach Police department declined to investigate because the apparent sacrifice didn't appear to target an individual, spokesman Bobby Hernandez told the Miami Herald. "Unfortunately, this kind of thing does happen around here with all of the different cultures," he said.

CBS Miami reports that after examining the carcasses, animal abuse activist Richard Couto of the Animal Recovery Mission suggested the animals may have been been killed in a rite for Santeria or Palo Mayombe, an even more obscure religion with Cuban origins. Police officer Nelson Reyes, who teaches a law enforcement course in Afro-Caribbean religious practices, suggested it might have been related to Haitian Voodoo.

Friday, January 4, 2013

Demonic Butt Babies?

One of the few things conservative Christians dislike almost as much as gays is the concept of comprehensive sex education, for reasons that have been completely discredited by actual scientific research. Comprehensive sex education does not make children grow into more promiscuous adults, and the abstinence-only programs said conservatives usually support have been found to be substantially less effective by most objective measures. In my opinion, based on the data a strong case can be made that most opposition to comprehensive sex education simply stems from the belief that sex is icky. Full stop.

On a related topic, one of the more confusing aspects of conservative Christian ideology is its utter hatred of homosexuality. While I understand that it's a violation of Old Testament law and depending upon the reading of the text may have been condemned by the Apostle Paul, there are plenty of things that violate Jewish law and drew Paul's ire that are mostly ignored by modern Christians, even conservative ones. Jesus said nothing about same-sex relationships, and one would think that if the issue was indeed so vitally important the founder of the faith might have at least offered an opinion. Again, one is easily led to conclude that the whole objection is once more rooted in ickiness. Full stop.

Leave it to Joseph Sciambra to set me right.

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Not What You Think It Means

According to Welsh Reverend Felix Aubel, witchcraft and satanism are "thriving" in Wales. His choice of words is particularly amusing, because apparently by "thriving" he really means "practically nonexistent."

A church minister claims witchcraft is thriving across his rural parishes. Rev Felix Aubel says he has come across the use of effigies and the “evil eye” during his career in the countryside. He has spoken out after figures in the 2011 census revealed 83 witches and 93 satanists are living in Wales.

Rev Aubel, minister of five Congregational chapels in Carmarthenshire, said there was an “unusual connection” between Christianity and witchcraft in some circles. And he revealed he once had to call out an exorcist when a witch placed a curse on one of his parishioners after making an evil effigy of them.

He said: “This is not a joke and I would warn people not to get involved in the occult. I have been told that a coven of witches still meet locally. There is also a witch living in a nearby village who advertises her services in the local paper.”

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Spirituality and Mental Illness

A new British study claiming to show a link between spirituality and mental illness has been circulating on the Internet today. I've inquired into links between mental illness and magical practice in the past, and reached the conclusion that there appears to be no causal link. It wouldn't necessarily surprise me to find that a higher percentage of people with psychological problems might be drawn to magical practice, but in every case I've observed the problems in question predated the practice. At first I thought that this study might contain some useful information to that effect, but as it turns out the study's conclusions are quite tenuous and require further research and analysis to be of much use.

Of the participants, 35% described themselves as "religious", meaning they attended a church, mosque, synagogue or temple. The vast majority of this group (86%) were Christian. A further 19% claimed to have spiritual beliefs or experiences without following a specific religion, while 46% were neither religious nor spiritual. More than nine out of 10 were white British, with an average age of 46.

Of the different groups, spiritual people were 50% more likely to have a generalised anxiety disorder and 72% more likely to suffer from a phobia. They also had a 77% higher chance of being dependent on drugs and were 37% more at risk of neurotic disorder. Spirituality was also associated with a 40% greater likelihood of receiving treatment with psychotropic drugs.

Individuals of religious faith and those with none experienced equal levels of mental problems, the study found. But there were fewer problems with drugs or alcohol among the faithful.