Thursday, July 28, 2016

Mental Illness Versus Spirit Possession

In some of my previous posts, I've pointed out that the Roman Catholic Church has strict guidelines for performing exorcisms. Before a paranormal cause can even be considered, all normal causes such as mental illness must be ruled out. So how do they do they do that, since priests are not necessarily experts on mental health? That question was answered by this recent article from the Washington Post. It turns out the answer is fairly prosaic - they work with psychiatrists.

What's not so prosaic, though, is that the author of the article, psychiatrist Richard Gallagher, has seen a handful of cases that defy explanation and seem to point to some sort of paranormal agency. On that basis, he concludes that possession is a rare phenomenon, but it does exist. He probably would be the person to ask, too. In more than twenty years working with the church, he has probably reviewed more potential cases than almost anyone else.

For the past two-and-a-half decades and over several hundred consultations, I’ve helped clergy from multiple denominations and faiths to filter episodes of mental illness — which represent the overwhelming majority of cases — from, literally, the devil’s work. It’s an unlikely role for an academic physician, but I don’t see these two aspects of my career in conflict. The same habits that shape what I do as a professor and psychiatrist — open-mindedness, respect for evidence and compassion for suffering people — led me to aid in the work of discerning attacks by what I believe are evil spirits and, just as critically, differentiating these extremely rare events from medical conditions.

Is it possible to be a sophisticated psychiatrist and believe that evil spirits are, however seldom, assailing humans? Most of my scientific colleagues and friends say no, because of their frequent contact with patients who are deluded about demons, their general skepticism of the supernatural, and their commitment to employ only standard, peer-reviewed treatments that do not potentially mislead (a definite risk) or harm vulnerable patients. But careful observation of the evidence presented to me in my career has led me to believe that certain extremely uncommon cases can be explained no other way.

For the most part I agree with Gallagher based on my own experiences, though I do think that the church's theology is overly simplistic. Every spirit in the universe is not either a "demon" in league with Satan or an "angel" in league with God. The real world is far less Manichean than that. In my experience there are as many classes of spirits as there are people - though I expect the sort of spirit that would take over a person's body without their consent and not give it up probably could reasonably described as "evil," or at the very least, harmful and dangerous.

Monday, July 25, 2016

More Thoughts on Daily Magical Practice

I got a couple of questions this past week about daily magical practices, and while I've posted on that topic in the past, the most recent of those was back in 2008. My general opinions have not changed that much, and I still use pretty much the same practice sequence as I did back then.

Here are my previous two posts, one from 2006 and the other from 2008. The basic arrangement that I perform today is as follows:
  1. The banishing form of the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram.
  2. The invoking form of the Comselh Ananael Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram.
  3. The Elevenfold Seal from Liber V vel Reguli, substituting the name of my own Holy Guardian Angel for that of Aiwass.
  4. A brief invocation of my Holy Guardian Angel, which includes my prayer of intent: "Fill me with the Divine Light, set my True Will in motion, and bring me to the accomplishment of the Great Work, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness."
As you can see, it's not that different from what I was doing years ago. I've kept these practices because they work.

To elaborate a bit, points (1) and (2) create the operant field. I am convinced that this is absolutely vital to get the most out of your practices, and in fact started working on the operant model because it made such a big difference when I went from the banishing to the invoking Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram on a daily basis. You need to (1) clear out your sphere of consciousness with the banishing pentagram, and (2) call into that space the forces of the macrocosmic elements so that your magical intent can engage the external world on a daily basis.

As always, you should do the work in the way that works for you, and if you've tried the operant method and it just doesn't, so be it. But most of the people who have tried it find that it works better, so I highly recommend at least experimenting with it briefly to see for yourself. My explanation for why it works might not even be correct, but folks who disagree with certain aspects of my model still seem to find that the invoking Lesser Hexagram just works better.

Friday, July 22, 2016

The Holy Land Experience Estate Sale

Here's another cautionary tale about Christian theme parks. Last week, I covered the story of Heritage USA, a park in South Carolina that was once owned by Jim and Tammy Bakker. In the mid-1980's it was one of the most popular theme parks in the country, but it fell into disrepair after being struck by a major funding scandal and Hurricane Hugo in 1989.

In 2001, Christians decided to try again. That year marked the opening of Ken Ham's Creation Museum in Kentucky and The Holy Land Experience in Orlando, Florida. Ham should be well-known to regular readers here as the man behind Ark Encounter, a tourist attraction modeled on the Biblical description of Noah's Ark.

But The Holy Land Experience has not been nearly as successful as the Creation Museum. The park appears to be going out of business after racking up more than a million dollars in debt by 2014, the last year it filed with the IRS. The park is now holding an estate sale, selling off just about everything in the place.

In the market for a throne, a Roman gladiator's helmet or a near life-size Nativity scene? Then the Holy Land Experience in Orlando has a sale for you. The massive estate sale by the Christian theme park started Thursday and lasts through Saturday. The Holy Land Experience is selling scores of items, many of them Biblically themed, amid declining revenue and contributions.

IRS documents show that in 2014, the most recent year filings are available, The Holy Land Experience had anywhere from $1.9 million to $2.5 million in contributions. By contrast, it had $42 million in contributions in 2010. The theme park had a $1.3 million deficit in 2014.

It should be noted that even the Creation Museum saw a big decline in attendance after its first year, which I am of the opinion can be associated with "point-and-laugh" tourists who went just to see how terrible the science presented would be. But maybe there are more people out there than we generally realize who will patronize any establishment that depicts Jesus riding a dinosaur - you know, because really, what's cooler than that?

There's an old joke that I like to make - "What do you call Christian music that's good? Music." Even fifteen years ago, much of Evangelical Christianity worked hard to keep its followers in what was essentially a separate world that was all-Christianity-all-the-time. Maybe I'm reading too much into the failure of a single park, but it could be that people are becoming less willing to put up with an inferior product just because it bills itself as "Christian."

Thursday, July 21, 2016

Is Trump Voldemort?

Tonight Donald Trump will be giving his big speech at the Republican National Convention in Cleveland, accepting his party's presidential nomination. The convention is packed with his supporters, who booed Ted Cruz off the stage last night after the Texas senator refused to endorse Trump. But there's another group out there that is particularly down on The Donald's candidacy - Harry Potter fans.

Raw Story reports a new poll that shows readers of the Harry Potter series dislike Trump in direct proportion to the number of books in the series that they have read. While this could be a spurious correlation, the pollsters speculate that the effect may be based on readers seeing similarities between Trump and the villain of the books, Lord Voldemort.

A national poll of 1,142 American Harry Potter fans who read more and more books were less and less likely to support Trump by a factor of two to three points. So, a reader of all seven books lowered a respondent’s evaluation of Trump by 18 points.

“It may simply be too difficult for Harry Potter readers to ignore the similarities between Trump and the power-hungry Voldemort.” It’s in keeping with Harry Potter creator J.K. Rowling, who has written and tweeted about her contempt for Trump, saying he is a “fascist in all but name” and saying he’s actually worse than Voldemort.

Those aligned with Voldemort in the Harry Potter books supported Pure-blood supremacy wizards and opposed any who were born from non-wizards or muggles. While Voldemort did not propose building a wall around an all wizard town to keep out those who were not pure blood, he did support killing them.

It could also be that the biggest Potter fans simply love J. K. Rowling and are following her lead, as her opinion of Trump is well-known. Or it could be that people who have read more of the books are more likely to be avid readers who might be looking for more depth in a candidate than Trump has shown up until now. Or fantasy fiction readers might be more liberal in general. Or there could be any number of other relationships between variables that might only incidentally relate to this particular series.

But if the connection is genuine, those of us who don't support Trump should be sure to remember just how lame a super-villain Voldemort turned out to be. He tried to take over a high school - and failed. Even so, everyone in the Harry Potter universe was really, really scared of him. That means if Trump winds up losing big in November, the comparison will be a lot harder to deny.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016

Mike Pence's Vampire Daughter

What is it with Republican political candidates and vampires? Over a year ago, Augoeides was the first media outlet to courageously report on Jeb Bush's totally true and bizarre history with the undead. Then, yesterday, Republican vice-presidential nominee Mike Pence tweeted a seemingly innocuous photograph of his family. However, closer examination of the photo revealed that Pence's daughter cast no reflection in the mirror on the adjacent wall.

At first glance Mike Pence's photo of his family dinner at New York's Chili's seems to show The Donald's running mate enjoying some nachos with his wife and daughter. But on closer inspection something is not right. Pence's daughter Charlotte, 23, appears to have no reflection - raising the accusation that she was photoshopped in.

Indiana Gov Mike Pence sent Twitter into a meltdown on Saturday when he tweeted a picture of himself and his family having dinner at Chili's - but something is not right She is sitting next to her father in a white dress, but even her frizzy hair can't been seen in the mirror.

Shocked observers have take to social media - with many joking that Pence's daughter is a vampire. Sebastian Murdock wrote on Twitter: 'Sir I don't mean to be rude but your daughter might be a vampire just sayin.'

Another shocked user added: 'Where is the reflection of the woman in white? Does Chili's cause people to become vampires?!' One surprised viewer said: 'The woman has no reflection. Explain.'

By treating these vampire accusations as "jokes" the media clearly shows itself to be in league with the undead, casually dismissing this disturbing evidence of their very real presence. And accusations of photoshopping are thrown around by skeptics whenever they encounter a picture they can't easily explain away, regardless of what it depicts. The evidence is clear. Mike Pence doesn't just pal around with vampires, one of them is a member of his family.

I cannot stress enough how serious this is, folks. Can we really allow a creature of the night to get anywhere near the White House or the Naval Observatory or the Undisclosed Location or wherever it is they stash the Vice-President these days? Who know what horrors such a development could unleash? For those of you who refused to support Jeb Bush because of his vampire-palling ways, the choice is clear.

You cannot support the Trump-Pence ticket. Vote third-party if you must, but keep American government vampire-free!

Monday, July 18, 2016

Thoughts on the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram

A reader contacted me about two weeks ago asking some questions about the Lesser Ritual of the Hexagram. Apparently one of the external sites I link to has a version of the ritual that differs from the version that I use, and that version has a couple of changes that I don't personally like. So since the Lesser Hexagram plays an important role in the operant magical system, I really should have put up a post on it years ago so I could link to my a page of my own and avoid any confusion.

But I suppose there's no time like the present, right?

This article is not as detailed as my presentation on the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram, which was written for a Pagan Pride audience that I assumed would include a lot of novice practitioners who might never have even performed a ceremonial ritual. If you are such a practitioner, I recommend that you review my Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram presentation before delving into this one. My suggestions for breathing, visualization, vibration, and so forth apply to this ritual as well, and should be understood before moving beyond the Lesser Pentagram.

To recap, it should be understood that "Lesser" does not mean "uninteresting" and "Greater" does not mean "awesome" in the parlance of the Thelemic magical system. "Lesser" means preliminary or general, as the Lesser rituals are used to set up your magical space for performing any sort of ritual whatsoever. Greater means specific, and as such the Greater rituals follow the Lesser rituals and serve to "tune the space" to the corresponding element, planet, or sign for your operation.

The current Golden Dawn system also includes a ritual called the "Supreme Ritual of the Pentagram," which is akin to a Greater Ritual of the Pentagram for Malkuth, in which each of the four elemental pentagrams is traced at the appropriate quarter with the corresponding godname. In terms of the Thelemic rituals, it is most similar to Liber V vel Regulu.

Friday, July 15, 2016

Ten Years of Augoeides

Looking over some of my older posts this last weekend, I realized that I missed marking an important milestone. As of last month, I've been blogging here at Augoeides for ten years, since June of 2006. Back then I had no idea it would keep going for as long as it has, or that it would generate any interest at all. I just wanted to share what I knew about how magick works and snark on news stories that touched on spirituality and the paranormal.

During the last decade, I've traditionally published three books and written a couple more that I hope to be able to make available one of these days. I also have contributed to two excellent anthologies and released one self-published eBook. If you're interested in picking any of those up, you can find the links to order them on the right sidebar. And if you hate Amazon, which is completely understandable, there are even alternatives.

Augoeides is completely free, and after experimenting with hosting Google ads years ago, I vowed I would never do it again. So the only income this site generates is indirect, through book sales, and if you like the site and want to support it that's how to do it. Being a published author has taught me that I truly hate doing marketing and promotion work, so this is one of the few times you'll hear me make anything resembling a sales pitch.

If you haven't done so already, I invite you to check out my author web site. It's down on the right sidebar along with the rest of my blogroll, but it's easy to miss. I don't post as often there and usually everything I put up has to do with new book releases and so forth. But I'm thinking about increasing the posting over there as well, talking specifically about writing and my writing process.

At the same time, I'm happy to report that I'm still having fun doing this, and I expect that Augoeides will be around for the foreseeable future. If nothing else, the goal of putting up 15-20 posts a month forces me to write at least every couple of days. That's a good discipline, because the more you write, the better you get. At present I've put up almost 1500 posts here, and will probably pass that mark in a couple of months.

So today, with Augoeides ten years and a little over one month old, I would like to take a minute to thank everyone who has supported and enjoyed this site over the years. I hope that you've been able to learn from the magical techniques I've shared, and I also hope that you've been informed and amused by my sometimes unique take on the news of the day.

The world is a weirder and more magical place than our conventional cultural narrative likes to assert, and I very much enjoy being able to shed some light into some its more obscure corners.

Thursday, July 14, 2016

Fear the Pokémon Demons!

There are a lot of legitimate reasons to be down on the new Pokémon Go video game. Besides the most basic objection, that I'm not ten years old, this article from Reuters discusses how the game opens the door to all sorts of new marketing tactics that I want nothing to do with. Always remember, if a complex online service is free, you and your data will inevitably become the product.

But as usual, fundamentalist Christians take the cake on coming up with the most ridiculous possible objections to anything other people might find fun. This time around, evangelist Rick Wiles is busy going on about how the various Pokémon creatures are actual demons, and therefore the game is a tool of the devil. He also floats the bizarre idea that players will start murdering people in order to catch more creatures, which makes absolutely no sense in terms of how the game works.

“The enemy, Satan, is targeting churches with virtual, digital, cyber-demons,” Wiles said, before adding: “I believe this thing is a magnet for demonic powers.”

Wiles went on to claim that “Pokémon masters” may soon start “telling people to kill people in those buildings” in order to catch more Pokémon, comparing the use of the App to Philando Castile’s girlfriend use of Facebook Live to live stream the aftermath of Castile’s shooting by a police officer, which he said might have been staged.

This conversation led “Trunews” cohost Edward Szall to read a fake quote from the creator of Pokémon allegedly endorsing Satanism.

“They’re spawning demons inside your church,” Wiles said. “They’re targeting your church with demonic activity.” He then again warned that “this technology will be used by the enemies of the cross to target, locate and execute Christians.”

Apparently the quote in question comes from this article, which is from yet another fake news website. The absence of critical thinking skills with these folks never ceases to amaze me. They constantly are falling for the dumbest fake stories without doing any fact checking at all. But beyond that, the whole idea that anything fun has to be evil tells me a lot about how sad Rick Wiles' life must be.

Or maybe the whole thing is just a show for his even sadder audience. I'll be waiting to see if, a few years from now, Wiles is caught driving around town in a van with darkened windows desperately trying to capture his first Pikachu. Then he'll go on his show and cry about "how he has sinned" by trying to "catch 'em all." If we're lucky, the scandal will destroy the idiot's ministry, because he sure is a dumbass.

Wednesday, July 13, 2016

What's Left of Heritage USA

A blinded alligator cries to heaven from the ruins of the park

This story was posted on the Internet last year, but it seems to me that it might be a cautionary tale for Ken Ham's beloved Ark Encounter. In the mid-1980's, a Christian amusement park called Heritage USA in South Carolina became a very popular tourist attraction. The park was owned by Jim and Tammy Bakker, who at the time were wealthy and powerful televangelists. These days, Jim is busy selling potato soup to survivalists and doomsday preppers - but I digress.

In 1986, Jim and Tammy Faye Bakker's Heritage USA was the third most-visited amusement park in the US, behind only Disney World and Disneyland. Now the park that once entertained millions of guests is falling to pieces, and looks more like the scene from a post-apocalyptic movie than a place for family fun.

Heritage USA opened in Fort Mill, SC, in 1978, and by the mid-eighties drew in six million visitors each year. The park was perhaps best-known for "Jerry's Slide," a 163-foot water slide that Falwell slid down in his suit, resulting in one of the most famous photographs of the televangelist. But those water slides and fairy tale castle were, in part, responsible for Falwell's downfall. After scandals regarding Falwell's fundraising efforts to build the park's never-completed hotel and the IRS's revocation of its tax-exempt status, Heritage USA was hit by another, more physical blow. Hurricane Hugo wreaked havoc on the park's buildings in 1989, and Heritage closed for good shortly afterward.

So basically, it wasn't just fundraising scandals that doomed the park. Essentially, God smote it. You never know, he might actually have something against science-deniers and prosperity gospel freaks. Remember back in 2010, when God went on a bit of a smiting binge? One of his targets was "touchdown Jesus," a 62-foot tall statue depicting Jesus with his arms raised to the heavens. Could there be something to that whole "graven image" prohibition after all?

There's already a fake news story floating around (see what I did there?) claiming that Ark Encounter was destroyed in a flood. Which it would be if a flood ever happened, because Ham's ark isn't actually seaworthy but rather just a big boat-shaped building. The story has been able to get so much traction because the fact is, it would be just plain hilarious if it really happened - maybe even hilarious enough for God to go ahead and do it.

Monday, July 11, 2016

Hacking The Middle Pillar

Many years ago now, before I started using the Elevenfold Seal (the First Gesture from Liber V vel Reguli) as part of my daily practices, like a lot of other magicians I practiced the Middle Pillar technique. I say "technique" and not "ritual" because I didn't learn the version used by the modern Golden Dawn orders, but rather interpolated my own based on Israel Regardie's general arrangement and Aleister Crowley's Liber 777.

This is pretty easy to do, because the basic idea behind the technique is simple. The Middle Pillar Ritual proper mostly consists of aligning the sephirothic names of God found on the middle pillar of the Tree of Life with the corresponding points on your body by vibrating the name while you hold your attention at the proper point. So right there, you actually have most of what you need to do what I did. You can make this more elaborate, too, by adding the sephiroth from the Pillar of Mercy and Pillar of Severity.

So when I recently went to look over online versions of the actual ritual, there were a few parts that I found surprising and, frankly, a little weird. I mentioned the Middle Pillar Ritual in the Elemental Work posts, but unlike the other rituals I decided not to link to the "official" version from those articles. If you really are looking for that, one of the places you can find it is here, but I also want to point out some of the differences between my version and the way that the ritual is often taught.

I will add the usual caveat here: if your practice is getting you good results, there's no reason to for you to change anything. My suggestions are based on my own experiments and may not be for everyone. However, if you are just learning this technique, I invite you to try out my suggestions along with the official version and see which seems to produce the best results. In the end, the final rule of magick is that if it works it works, regardless of how pretty a particular pattern might be.

Sunday, July 10, 2016

A Qigong Sleep Spell?

I don't usually post videos this long here on Augoeides, but I found this one particularly fascinating. It shows footage of a Japanese Qigong master putting animals to sleep using the power of energy work. As a student of Qigong, I'm aware of techniques that you can use to make other people tired or help them wake up. But this seems to be a whole other level.

A caveat - this is from a television program, so hypothetically it could have been staged. Generally speaking, I'm not one to jump to the conclusion that anything on television is automatically a hoax, and I haven't found any evidence or testimony that these demonstrations were faked. So I'm assuming that the footage is genuine, with allowances for editing and such.

Most of what I was doing while watching the footage was trying to figure out exactly what the Qigong master was doing so I could see about imitating it. He's using his cupped projecting hand, and appears to be alternating slow "down" motions with quicker side-to-side motions with his arm slightly bent at the elbow.

In addition to this, I assume he's doing proper Qigong breathing along with a visualization something like the macrocosmic orbit, which extends from the core of the body to the "bubbling well" points on the palms of the hands and feet. The hand motions make me guess that what he is trying to do is increase the amount of Earth energy in the animals' subtle bodies relative to Heaven energy.

According to what I have been taught, Qi comes in two forms - Heaven and Earth. Earth moves from the feet upwards and Heaven moves from head downward. Earth is calm, placid, and sedate, whereas Heaven is active, alert, and in extreme cases on edge. The "down" motions could amplify Earth, whereas the side-to-side motions could disperse Heaven to keep it from descending as fully through the body.

Theoretically, that could put an animal or a person to sleep, but I expect that it would take a lot of practice to get to the point where I would be able to do it this reliably. At the same time, that's what practice is for, right?

Saturday, July 9, 2016

Lizard People Meet!

...but so alone

So you're a poor, lonely reptilian humanoid, trapped on a world ruled over by others of your kind just trying to get through the day. Wouldn't it be wonderful if you could find a lizard person just like yourself, or even a human slave, to share the trials and frustrations of navigating this unfamiliar planet? Well, now you can! Lizard People Meet is the first dating website specifically designed for shape-shifting reptilian humanoids!

Sure, you've stolen of hundreds of humans hearts. But isn't it time to let someone steal yours? With Lizard People Meet, you can connect with Lizard People from all over the galaxy right from the comfort of the home you recently invaded. Just whip out your comically over-sized genitalia, and start falling in love.

Unfortunately the site doesn't look all that useful, since while you can select items from the dropdown on the front page, it doesn't seem like it actually allows you to search profiles - or do anything else, for that matter. Or maybe I can't get the site to work right because I lack the appropriate lizard marker in my DNA. As a point, there's not much overlap between sorcerers and reptilians, despite what fundamentalist Christians who like David Icke will tell you.

The couple of "sample profiles" are funny, but it looks like that's about all there is. I always knew that Dick Cheney was in it with the aliens, and they have proof! Otherwise, you can buy t-shirts and "register," though it's not clear whether you can actually sign up or if it just puts you on another marketing email list or something. Also, the "script" link looks like a treatment for B-movie or something, so perhaps that's what these folks are trying to promote.

Anyway, this gave me a good laugh. The site is amusing and pretty well-done. Maybe one of these days the conspiracy folks will figure out that the whole "lizard people" thing is little more than a big joke - you know, just like David Icke.

Friday, July 8, 2016

Free Will, Presentiment, and an fMRI Bug

Over the course of the last decade, a number of neuroscientists have come to the conclusion that "free will" is in fact an illusion, and that all human behavior is fundamentally deterministic. As evidence, they cite studies showing that brain scans can predict the decisions individuals make moments before those individuals become aware of their decisions. They have even developed a model built around this notion, called passive frame theory. According to this model, consciousness does not make decisions, but simply observes the results of autonomous processes.

But there's a big problem with this model and the studies on which it is based. Other studies have identified a phenomenon called presentiment, which appears to show that the brains of subjects who are randomly shown photographs that are either neutral or designed to provoke strong emotional responses react to each photograph a moment before it is displayed. This may not be evidence of some sort of psychic awareness, but it does call the studies on which passive frame is built into question.

Simply, you can't conclude that a free choice has not occurred if the brain can somehow perceive future information. Likewise, if a problem with the scanner is making it look like the brain can react to the future when it really cannot, the same issue is probably affecting the free will studies. When confronted with the presentiment results, most skeptics will immediately jump to the conclusion that something must be wrong with the scanner. But the free will studies have not received the same scrutiny.

Normally I find skeptics far too dismissive of possible paranormal results, but based on some recent findings I'm going to agree with them this time around, believe it or not. A recent review of fMRI data from the last fifteen years has turned up a bug in the software that runs the machines, and those bugs could easily have produced data collection errors in both the free will and the presentiment studies.

This is especially true because both sets of studies rely on tracking neural firing at a very high resolution, where any inaccuracy could significantly skew the results. Generally speaking, all it would take is a shift of a tenth of a second or so in the scans to produce results for both studies that conform to common-sense intuition. That is, they would show that the conscious mind is making decisions as they happen, and that it is not seeing into the future.

Thursday, July 7, 2016

Ark Encounter Finally Opens

So in the end, Ken Ham did it. He pushed junk bonds, got state tax incentives and then lost them, and delayed the project numerous times as the funding kept coming up short. But today Ark Encounter, Ham's full-size replica of Noah's Ark, finally opens next door to his Creation Museum in Kentucky, drawing both supporters and protesters.

The Young Earth Creationist and founder and president of Answers In Genesis has become one of the most powerful and polarising religious leaders in America’s Bible Belt. And his life-size Ark Encounter in Kentucky is a monolithic physical reminder of that. As Thursday’s opening day looms, a renewed wave of protest and support for Ham’s Ark Encounter project has built.

Atheist group Tri-State Freethinkers is planning to hold a protest against outside the Ark Encounter on opening day. It tried to place billboards on the highway approaching Ark Encounter, calling it the “Genocide and Incest Park”, but was rebuffed by billboard companies, Christian news website Christian Today reported.

Ham believes evolution is a fraud, the world is only 6000 years old and was created in six days, the Book of Genesis is historical fact, homosexuality is a sin, and, yes, Noah really did march animals onto an ark to save them from a great flood. Ham’s ark is built according to the dimensions given in the Bible.

I'm going to repeat this because I love harping on it. Ham's interpretation of the Book of Genesis does not match the literal text. It's based on a messy piece of scriptural interpretation called the Ussher Chronology that doesn't even line up with the Genesis narrative. So if Ham is a literalist Christian, he's just wrong, period. His assertion that to be a real Christian you have to believe everything that he does is ridiculous in that regard.

Maybe it's silly to keep bringing that up, since a world that's 6000 or 10,000 years old, or even in that ballpark, is pretty much impossible based on all available scientific evidence. But the fact that Ham can't even keep his theology straight continues to amuse me long after it probably should. The bottom line is that he's a hypocrite just like many fundamentalists, reading the Bible as literal when it supports what they want to believe and otherwise interpreting the text to match.

Monday, July 4, 2016

The Elemental Work - Fire

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

This article is the fourth entry in my Elemental Work series, covering the element of Fire. The basic symbol set of the Western Magical Tradition consists of the elements, planets, and signs of the zodiac, and realistically an effective magician should be familiar with how to work with all of them. This is the final entry of the series, wrapping it up with the element of Fire. As an aside, it seems appropriate to be posting this on Independence Day, which is celebrated with fireworks here in the United States.

The elemental schema used in the Thelemic and Golden Dawn systems involves five elements, adding Spirit to the classical arrangement. I will probably put together a ritual for Spirit at some point, but as there are only four traditional elemental Kings, the ritual will be significantly different in a number of respects from these four traditional operations. In effect, it will constitute its own ritual form, rather than partaking of the one used here.

If you've already read through the last three posts, you will probably find parts of this one repetitive. That's intentional, as I want each of these posts to be able to stand on its own without reference to the others. Incidentally, this has been one of the biggest challenges for me with respect to my Enochian books. I want each book to stand on its own, but at the same time I want to make sure that I re-hash as little as I can get away with.

According to the ancient Greek system, each element arises from the interaction of the Powers, which many modern magicians do not work with or even know about. The four powers are Warm/Cool and Moist/Dry. The Warm power separates things, while the Cool power merges them together. The Moist power breaks down structure, while the Dry power reinforces it.

I will not be going into a full discourse on the Powers and how they relate to the elements, but if you would like to delve deeper into the symbolism I recommend that you check out The Ancient Greek Esoteric Doctrine of the Elements by John Opsopaus. The links from that main page will allow you to explore these aspects of the classical elements, along with a lot of other related symbolism.

Friday, July 1, 2016

Not the Loch Ness Monster

Longtime readers of this blog know that I've been pushing my hypothesis (note: not "theory") regarding the identity of the Loch Ness Monster for years. I think that the monster is a sturgeon, based on a number of recent pieces of evidence. Monster hunter Steve Feltham, who I covered about a year ago, likewise believes that the monster is a fish, but he has a different candidate in mind - the Wels Catfish, a large fish that was introduced into the loch as a sport fish during the Victorian era.

This last week, it seemed as if the discovery of a mysterious set of remains on the shore of the loch might shatter both of those explanations. They appeared to be those of a dinosaur-like creature that clearly was no fish. But the discovery turned out to be not quite what anyone expected.

An animal rescue charity posted the images on its Facebook page saying that a dog walker had found the remains next to Loch Ness.

People across the globe were this morning mourning the apparent loss of the once-mythical beast.

Some, however, have called into question the veracity of the image saying it is strange that the skeletal remains still had the internal organs intact.

Surely they would have been eaten/rotted away with the rest of the flesh?

Help2Rehome Scotland later poured water on all and any theories saying it was actually set out for a TV show.

So the catfish versus sturgeon debate is still alive and well. While the Wels Catfish is a good candidate on the grounds that it is known to live in the loch and sturgeons are not, a number of the photos I have seen suggest a longer fish. The Wels Catfish grows to about nine feet, whereas the European Sea Sturgeon can grow to more than twice that long. At the same time, European Sea Sturgeons are critically endangered, while Wels Catfish are relatively common.

So until somebody comes across a real specimen as opposed to a fake one, the debate will go on over the monster's identity.