Friday, October 30, 2020

Assessing James Randi

James Randi, founder of the capital-S Skeptic movement, passed away this last week at the age of 92. Over the years I have posted various articles about the Skeptics, and while I consider they methods useful for debunking fraudulent "celebrity psychics," I also think that the movement - and especially Randi himself - took an unnecessarily adversarial position with respect to actual scientific research of the paranormal.

I have been asked on a couple of occasions about this, and why I had a problem with his attitude. I do try to test my magical techniques in as scientific a manner as I can and don't have a problem with the findings of mainstream science. But skepticism - real skepticism, not the movement variety - should be based on an honest consideration of the evidence. Randi's approach never seemed honest to me, especially his constant accusation of fraud when presented with evidence he found hard to dismiss out of hand.

On the occasion of Randi's death, I considered writing up a piece expressing my assessment of the man, his legacy, and my issues with his approach to the paranormal. But before I could do that, I came across this article from Boing Boing which expresses my thoughts at least as well as I would have. It even includes some material of which I was previously unaware.

Born Randall James Hamilton Zwinge in Toronto in 1928, Randi became a celebrated stage magician and escape artist who appeared in prestigious venues and on television shows, including Happy Days. His stage aesthetics and devices were often brilliant and original. Randi toured with rock icon Alice Cooper in 1973, designing a mock beheading-by-guillotine for the proto-metal star. When claiming the garland of skepticism in the early 1970s, the MacArthur-winning Randi announced his intention of exposing phony faith healers and grifter psychics.

Today, many people know Randi from the award-winning 2014 documentary An Honest Liar. But the laudatory and engaging profile tells its story in a fashion that skeptics traditionally decry: including only the magician's successful exposes (some of which were more questionable than the film allows) and obfuscating his darker and more lasting impact: making it more difficult for serious university-based and academically trained researchers to study ESP and mental anomalies, and to receive a fair hearing in the news media. Indeed, Randi ultimately cheapened an important debate over how or whether extra-physical mentality can be studied under scientifically rigorous conditions and evaluated by serious people.

In a typical example, The New York Times ran a 2015 piece about a wave of fraudulent and flawed psychology studies; its lead paragraph cited a precognition study by Cornell University psychologist Daryl J. Bem — without justifying why it was grouped with polluted research or even further referencing Bem's study in the article. (I wrote to the Times to object. The paper has used several of my letters and op-eds, often on controversial subjects — this time, crickets.)

The Bem study is interesting for two reasons. First, while critics have argued that Bem's "presentiment" findings must be the result of experimental error, they can never pinpoint what the problem with the methodology might be. To be fair, that doesn't mean there's couldn't be a problem with the methodology, only that it hasn't been identified. The second reason it's interesting is that a very similar methodology was used in studies constantly pointed to by researchers opposed to the idea of "free will."

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Scorpio Elixir Rite for 2020

Here is the video of last night's Scorpio Elixir Rite. The donation link is here.

Scorpio is associated with the Death card in the Tarot and its corresponding power is Necromancy. In this context it refers to working with the spirits of the dead, including "restless dead" such as ghosts and also ancestors who are no longer living.


Monday, October 26, 2020

Via Solis Scorpio Elixir Rite - Year Four (Streaming)

Today's Magick Monday post is a full script for the Scorpio Elixir Rite that we will be performing tomorrow, October 27th. Like the last few elixir rites, it will be streamed on Facebook Live at the Leaping Laughter OTO page. The page can be found here. I will be starting around 8 PM CDT, but barring any technical difficulties I will archive the video after the ritual so you can view it whenever you have time if you miss it live.

0. The Temple

The ritual space is set up with an altar table in the center. The bell chime, banishing dagger, and invoking wand are placed on the altar. In the center of the altar is placed a cup of wine for creating the elixir, within the Table of Art corresponding to Scorpio. The sign Scorpio is attributed to the power of “Necromancy." Note that this refers to work with the spirits of the dead, including ancestors, rather than magick involving dead things such as body parts and so forth. This ritual may be performed with one, two, or three officers, who may alternate taking the Officiant role and divide up the reading from Liber 963.The Via Solis Elixir Rites were written by Michele Montserrat in 2010 for the Comselh Ananael magical working group.

I. Opening

All stand surrounding the altar. Officiant inhales fully, placing the banishing dagger at his or her lips. The air is then expelled as the dagger is swept backwards.

Officiant: Bahlasti! Ompehda!

Officiant then performs the Lesser Banishing Ritual of the Pentagram. All rotate accordingly.

Officiant: We take refuge in Nuit, the blue-lidded daughter of sunset, the naked brilliance of the voluptuous night sky, as we issue the call to the awakened nature of all beings, for every man and every woman is a star.


Officiant: We take refuge in Hadit, the secret flame that burns in every heart of man and in the core of every star, as we issue the call to our own awakened natures, arousing the coiled serpent about to spring.


Officiant: We take refuge in Heru-Ra-Ha, who wields the wand of double power, the wand of the force of Coph Nia, but whose left hand is empty for he has crushed an universe and naught remains, as we unite our awakened natures with those of all beings everywhere and everywhen, dissolving all obstacles and healing all suffering.


Officiant: For pure will, unassuaged of purpose, delivered from the lust of result, is every way perfect.

All: All is pure and present are and has always been so, for existence is pure joy; all the sorrows are but as shadows; they pass and done; but there is that which remains. To this realization we commit ourselves – pure and total presence. So mote it be.

Bell Chime

Wednesday, October 21, 2020

Ritual Night Talk for October 20th

Here is the video of last night's Ritual Night Talk on magical weapons. The link to Liber Armorum is here and the donation link is here.

Most systems of Western magick recommend using various magical weapons, usually related to the classical elements. In this talk I go through Aleister Crowley's Liber Armorum in which he describes his take on these elemental weapons for A.'. A.'. magicians. I also discuss my own set of tools, and the similarities and differences between them and what Crowley recommends.


Tuesday, October 20, 2020

The Nuclear Option?

I recently came across this article about a paranormal investigation team in New Zealand dealing with a haunted house. So far, pretty routine - at least in the paranormal world. The article discusses details of the haunting and reports of paranormal activity in the house. It also has skeptics weigh in with their take on possible mundane explanation for the activity. But it was a quote from investigator Karen Williams that really caught my attention.

Williams, a practitioner of Wicca and a British Traditional Witch, said spirits often didn't want to move on.

"A ghost is a person who is no longer a corporeal being, they don't have a body anymore, but they're still the same person that they were before. "They have free will. If they're in a place, they might not want to move. You have to be persuasive."

Williams said she would be using the "nuclear option" to remove the spirits. "This is where my Wiccan training comes in. There's a ritual I like to use which is called the lesser banishing ritual of the pentagram, it's a very powerful banishing ritual."

Williams shared some details of the ritual with the Herald. The ceremony would be conducted using the Hebrew language and would call on the "divine light" to help cleanse the house.

Willams' comments about ghosts are generally accurate, but hopefully she was being tongue-in-cheek about the LBRP being the "nuclear option." It's the first and simplest ritual that ceremonial magicians learn. It also doesn't banish a space, even though there are people out there who teach that it does - and with a serious haunting that might be an issue down the line.

Friday, October 16, 2020

Her Fiance Ghosted Her

Back in 2018 I covered the story of Amethyst Realm, a British woman who claimed to be engaged to a ghost. But recently things changed, and the engagement is now off. Realm - who has the exact sort of name you would expect of someone who would get engaged to a ghost in the first place - explained that her ghostly fiance kept disappearing on her and went out partying. How ghosts party is anybody's guess, but as I keep saying spirits are basically just like people so there must be some spiritual equivalent.

A British woman who claims she got “engaged” to a ghost has now called off the wedding because he “kept disappearing” and started “partying” too much.

“We’ve called the wedding off,” Amethyst Realm, 32, said on UK TV show “This Morning.” “He just completely changed.”

Realm said she fell in love with a “sexy” spirit named Ray during a trip to Australia in 2018 — and even consummated the relationship on the flight back home.

The paranormal Casanova later popped the question on their nine-month anniversary, and things were going well until a recent vacation to Thailand, she said.

“I think maybe he fell in with a bad crowd when we were on holiday. He just started becoming really inconsiderate,” Realm said in the out-of-this-world interview.

Now I will say that I find it annoying when skeptics accuse anybody reporting paranormal experiences as fakers who are trying to get on television or whatever. But it is maybe a little too convenient that she got herself in the news announcing she was engaged to a ghost and then got on television announcing that the engagement ended. She also accused her fiance of "doing drugs," which I'm not going to accept as a thing ghosts do without evidence or at least a coherent explanation of how that's supposed to work.

Wednesday, October 14, 2020

Ritual Night Talk for October 13th

Here is the video of last night's Ritual Night Talk, with more information on pathworking and testing spirits.

I had a couple of questions come up over the last week related to my talk on pathworking, so this week I went into more detail on that topic along with more on testing spirits and/or entities that you might encounter while doing this sort of work.


Tuesday, October 13, 2020

So Obama Conjured That Fly?

So I'm posting about Mike Pence's effing fly again. Yeah, there were more important takeaways from the Vice Presidential Debate. I just had to share potato soup pusher Jim Bakker's take on what was really a pretty innocuous event. Flies are all over the place, and they do land on politicians every so often. But according to Bakker, the fly was sent by "Obama’s demonic witch doctor army," which combines racism, religious bigotry, and rank stupidity in a single sentence.

“My Chrisitan discernment tells me that that was no ordinary fly,” said Bakker in an online video. “It was a spy sent by Obama’s demonic witch doctor army to distract Pence because he was soundly beating Harris.” However, Bakker, who was jailed in the ‘80s for corruption, is infamous for making ridiculous statements. Last month he accused Joe Biden supporters of backing Satanism.

“A lot of people that are voting this week… the next few weeks… they’re voting for their faith, and their faith is Satan worship… So if they vote their faith, we need a lot of Christians to vote more so,” said Bakker in a video posted to Twitter. However, the fly became an online celebrity overnight. Several memes sprung up to commemorate the fly’s debate appearance. The Biden campaign got in on the fun by selling branded fly swatters.

“Within minutes of the debate wrapping up Wednesday, the Biden campaign tweeted a photo of Joe Biden with a fly swatter and a caption that said, ‘Pitch in $5 to help this campaign fly,’” said CNN. And unlike Bakker, most viewers stated that Harris won the debate.

Idiots like Bakker are one of the reasons that we see so much polarization in American politics. People on the other side of the political aisle from him can't just be people who he disagrees with, they have to be "Satan worshippers" with "demonic armies." The fact is that there aren't enough Satanists (or even occultisist of all stripes) in the entire country to swing a single state Democratic, let alone make up the entire Democratic electorate.

Saturday, October 10, 2020

Sex in Church

This isn't your usual boring church service! A Louisiana Catholic priest was recently arrested for filming himself having sex with two women on the altar of his church. They were apparently shooting some sort of adult film right there in the sanctuary. Religious-themed porn is a popular genre, but if you're going to make it you need to observe some precautions.

The priest, identified by as the Rev. Travis Clark, was busted after a passerby saw the lights on later than usual on Sept. 30 and peeked inside Saints Peter and Paul Roman Catholic Church in Pearl River.

The unidentified witness saw the half-naked priest having sex with the two women, who were dressed in corsets and high-heeled boots. The altar was also adorned with stage lighting, several sex toys, and a cellphone mounted on a tripod that was recording the act.

The witness took video footage of the unholy trinity, then called police. Cops arrested Clark, along with his two altar servers, and booked them on obscenity charges.

The women reportedly told cops they were at the church to film “roleplay” with the priest. Cops determined everything that went on that night was consensual, but arrested the trio on the obscenity charges because they were in view of the public.

Now I do want to point out something that anybody who has seen Kevin Smith's Zack and Miri Make a Porno should know - no matter where you are, if you're shooting porn you need to cover the windows. Full stop. Since passersby were able to observe the action, this clearly was not done and these folks were arrested for their carelessness.

I mean, this sounds like a good time and all, but I doubt that winding up in jail was the ending any of them were hoping for.

Friday, October 9, 2020

Mike Pence - Evil Wizard?

The 2020 Vice Presidential Debate between Kamala Harris and Mike Pence was held the evening before last. There's plenty of analysis and commentary out there with respect to the issues discussed by the candidates, and the effectiveness of the format and moderation. But of course this is Augoeides, so I'm posting about the effing fly.

About two thirds of the way through the debate, a housefly landed on Pence's head and just sat there for a couple minutes. His hair is white, so the black fly was really obvious. Where this enters into paranormal territory is that apparently there's an old superstition that flies like to land on evil wizards. I have no idea whether or not this is true, but it's funny, so I'm going with it.

According to conventional Christian theology, you aren't supposed to pray for specific things. You're supposed to be humble and have faith, and trust that God has your best interests in mind. The classical example of this is the Lord's Prayer, which is what Jesus demonstrated for his disciples when they explicitly asked him how to pray. But this message has gotten pretty distorted in some modern Christian circles.

What I'm talking about is a practice called "imprecatory prayer," which is engaged in to obtain specific material results. Some of these intents clearly fall into what is generally considered "evil," like this guy who claims that his prayers were responsible for Ruth Bader Ginsberg's recent death. I'm not even going to quote from that - you can go and check out the link for yourself if you want.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Ritual Night Talk for October 6th

Here is the video of last night's Ritual Night Talk, on spirit communication and pathworking.

There are many different methods that can be employed for spirit communication. In general, they involve the activation of and connection with your psychic senses, however that manifests for you personally. Some practitioners argue that eyes-open scrying in a crystal or mirror is superior to more modern "active imagination" methods, but I am not convinced on that. You always need to test the information you get from spirits no matter what method you use, and I cover some simple techniques to do that in this video. I also segue into pathworking, whick is generally done using those same "active imagination" techniques.