Sunday, March 18, 2018

Office of the Readings for 2018

Happy Thelemic New Year, everyone! It's that time again, for the Office of the Readings.

The Thelemic dates that you may see written online are arrived at by counting the number of 22-year cycles since 1904 to obtain the upper case Roman numeral, and then counting the years of the current cycle to get the lower case one. Within each 22-year cycle, many Thelemites ascribe the Major Arcana trumps of the Tarot to the years in order starting with The Fool and ending with The Universe. So the year that we're about to enter into is V:iv, attributed to either The Emperor or The Star depending on whether or not you swap the Tarot attributions for Heh and Tzaddi.

This post will remain the top article here for the duration of the Thelemic Holy Days from March 20th to April 10th. The Rite of the Office of the Readings is performed for all of the readings beginning on March 20th.

This year I'm pleased to announce that like last year, this year's Office of the Readings will be presented at Leaping Laughter Oasis, the Minneapolis local body of Ordo Templi Orientis. This year we will be performing the Invocation of Horus on the evening of March 18th to keep it on the weekend, and the Prologue of the Unborn on the 19th will be followed by the New Moon Ritual for Pisces.


The Invocation of Horus
The Rite of the Office of the Readings


March 19

Liber VII, Prologue of the Unborn.

March 20 - Saturn/Earth, The Universe

Liber LXV, Cap I.
Liber VII, Cap II.

March 21 - Fire/Spirit, The Aeon

Liber LXV, Cap IV.
From "The Four Zoas" by William Blake.

March 22 - Sol, The Sun

Liber VII, Cap IV.
From "A Mithraic Ritual" Translated by GRS Mead.

March 23 - Pisces, The Moon

Liber VII, Cap VI.
From “Dark Night of the Soul”, Book II, Cap 8 by San Juan de la Cruz.

March 24 - Aries, The Emperor

Liber Tzaddi vel Hamus Hermeticus.
From the “Tao Te Ching” by Lao Tzu, Cap 37 and 39.

March 25 - Mars, The Tower

Liber VII, Cap I.
From Liber CDXVIII, The 16th Æthyr.

March 26 - Capricornus, The Devil

Liber A'ash.
Relevant to Liber A'ash is my solution to the mystery of the duck.
From Liber CXI, Cap 174-175.

March 27 - Sagittarius, Art

From “The Vision of the Universal Mercury” by G.H. Frater S.R.M.D.

March 28 - Scorpio, Death

From Liber Arcanorum.
From Liber CXI, Cap 192-194.

March 29 - Water, The Hanged Man

Liber LXV, Cap III.
"I. N. R. I." by Frater Achad.

March 30 - Libra, Adjustment

Liber Libræ.
Selections from “The Spiritual Guide” by San Miguel de Molinos.

March 31 - Jupiter, Fortune

Liber VII, Cap III.
From Liber CDXVIII, The 20th Æthyr.

April 1 - Virgo, The Hermit

Liber VII, Cap V.
"The Emerald Tablet of Hermes" by Hermes Trismegistus.

April 2 - Leo, Lust

Liber Stellae Rubeæ.
From “The Daughter of Fortitude” Received by Edward Kelly.

April 3 - Cancer, The Chariot

Liber Cheth vel Vallum Abiegni.
"Maha Prajnaparamita Hridaya Sutra" (The Heart Sutra, Buddhist text. Translation by the Kuan Um School of Zen).

April 4 - Gemini, The Lovers

Liber LXV, Cap II.
From Liber DCCCXXXVII, The Law of Liberty.

April 5 - Taurus, The Hierophant

Liber LXV, Cap V.
From “On Christ and Antichrist” by Hippolytus, Cap 2.

April 6 - Aquarius, The Star

From “The Thunder, Perfect Mind” (Gnostic text).

April 7 - Venus, The Empress

Liber VII, Cap VII.
From Liber CDXVIII, The 7th Æthyr.

April 8 - Luna, The Priestess

Liber AL, Cap I.
“Vajrasattva, Primordial Buddha of Diamond or Rainbow Light” From Songs and Meditations of the Tibetan Dhyani Buddhas.

April 9 - Mercury, The Magus

Liber AL, Cap II.
“Visvapani, The Bodhisattva and Spiritual Emanation of Amoghasiddhi” From Songs and Meditations of the Tibetan Dhyani Buddhas.

April 10 - Air, The Fool

Liber AL, Cap III.
From Liber CDXVIII, The 22nd Æthyr.

If you would like to perform this series and have questions, feel free to e-mail me here. All Office of the Readings posts may be viewed here. Our Office of the Readings series is based on this ritual series by the Companions of Monsalvat.

Consciousness Truthers

Could anything possibly be dumber than denying the existence of something that you directly experience every single day? I honestly sat here for a bit and gave it some thought, and you know what? I can't come up with anything. But there really are such folks as "consciousness deniers." That is, people who contend that your subjective sense of awareness doesn't really exist. I suppose you can define a world in which "real" and "objective" are synonyms, and since consciousness is by definition subjective it must be unreal, but that's really quite silly.

As the late Stephen Hawking demonstrated in his work on black holes, particles aren't even "objective" in the philosophical sense because their nature is not constant across all possible frames of reference. So that sets up a world in which nothing at all is "real" - and so, in another sense, everything might as well be. The particles making up a baseball bat may not be entirely objective, but they're real enough to hit you in the face. Likewise, your consciousness is real enough to be aware that getting hit in the face with that baseball bat hurts.

The Denial began in the twentieth century and continues today in a few pockets of philosophy and psychology and, now, information technology. It had two main causes: the rise of the behaviorist approach in psychology, and the naturalistic approach in philosophy. These were good things in their way, but they spiraled out of control and gave birth to the Great Silliness. I want to consider these main causes first, and then say something rather gloomy about a third, deeper, darker cause. But before that, I need to comment on what is being denied—consciousness, conscious experience, experience for short.

What is it? Anyone who has ever seen or heard or smelled anything knows what it is; anyone who has ever been in pain, or felt hungry or hot or cold or remorseful, dismayed, uncertain, or sleepy, or has suddenly remembered a missed appointment. All these things involve what are sometimes called “qualia”—that is to say, different types or qualities of conscious experience. What I am calling the Denial is the denial that anyone has ever really had any of these experiences. Perhaps it’s not surprising that most Deniers deny that they’re Deniers. “Of course, we agree that consciousness or experience exists,” they say—but when they say this they mean something that specifically excludes qualia.

Saturday, March 17, 2018

Oregon Judge Suspended

Fundamentalist Christians really have a hard time living with the rest of us. I suppose it's no surprise that they work so hard to build their own completely isolated communities in which nothing but explicitly Christian things are ever allowed to intrude. Patheos reported on Thursday that much like what happened to Roy Moore in Alabama, a conservative Christian judge in Oregon has been suspended for refusing to follow the law and perform (civil, it should be noted) same-sex marriages.

Judge Vance Day, the former chair of Oregon’s Republican Party and a conservative Christian who claims his religious beliefs don’t allow him to marry same-sex couples, has been suspended for three years without pay by the Oregon Supreme Court for his refusal to marry same-sex couples. Pacific Northwest News reports:

"The Oregon Supreme Court on Thursday took the unusual step of suspending a sitting state court judge — Vance Day of Salem — for three years. The high court found that Day, first appointed in 2011 to the bench in Marion County Circuit Court, committed 'willful misconduct' and made 'willful misstatements' to investigators to cover up the truth. Day acted with prejudice against same-sex couples by deciding he wouldn’t marry them and he instructed his staff to employ a scheme to avoid “public detection” of his plan, the Supreme Court said."

Previously, the Oregon Commission on Judicial Fitness and Disability issued a scathing report urging the state Supreme Court to remove Judge Vance Day from the bench. The 48-page report details what it described as a long list of ethical and even criminal missteps it found Day committed. Among the most egregious was the commission’s finding that Day refused to marry same-sex couples and told his office staff to lie about why.

The absolutely most confusing thing about all these stories to me is that we're not talking about religious marriage. We're talking about civil marriage. Nobody is out there forcing churches that don't approve of same-sex marriage to perform ceremonies - and let me tell you, if the government ever started doing anything like that, they'd get a lot of flack from even progressive me.

I suppose it has to do with the belief held by some conservative Christians (the poor oppressed variety, naturally) that there really is no separation of church and state in the Constitution, but that belief is just wrong. A conservative Christian judge who lets a same-sex couple sign a piece of paper meaning they're married in the eyes of the state is not committing a sin. Presumably, to his or her church the marriage is just invalid.

So this is absolutely the right thing for the state of Oregon to be doing. Day can't force everybody else to follow his religion - that's expressly prohibited by constitutional law. If he can't do his job because of his beliefs that's his choice, but he doesn't have a right to keep the job when he is unwilling to fulfill its required duties.

Friday, March 16, 2018

Scientology TV

As many of you probably know, in 1946 L. Ron Hubbard and Jack Parsons performed a magical operation inspired by the (fictional) Moonchild ritual from Aleister Crowley's novel of the same name. Meanwhile, Crowley himself would write to Karl Germer regarding said operation that "Apparently Parsons or Hubbard or somebody is producing a moonchild. I get fairly frantic when I contemplate the idiocy of these louts." As I see it, Crowley was right to be concerned, because as things worked out what the ritual eventually gave birth to was the Church of Scientology. That's a powerful argument right there that it should never be performed again.

Scientology is one of the world's biggest and most famous cults. They're most well-known for hoovering up every spare bit of cash their members come across, going after any and all ex-members who dare to criticize their organization with a vengeance, and threatening to sue people right and left. I might even get a cease-and-desist letter for calling the group a cult on this blog. But I don't use the term lightly. Any new religious movement that requires the investment of the amount of money that Scientology does, and/or harasses members who try to leave like Scientology does, really does deserve that epithet.

Anyway, for those of you who were anxiously waiting for Scientology to get with the times and create its own television network (and, yeah, that's basically nobody), you're in luck. The Church of Scientology is in fact starting its own television network on DIRECTV AppleTV, Roku, FireTV, iTunes, and Google Play. But a number of critics have pointed out that starting up a television network now might not be the best thing for the church to be doing.

Given the organization's decades-long controversies, perhaps there's no great time for it to expand it media platform. But right now does feel particularly odd. For starters, the February mass murder in Parkland, Florida brought a deluge of attention to another niche broadcaster — NRATV — and a wave of threatened boycotts against its platform, Amazon. On Twitter Monday morning, users were already expressing surprise at DirectTV, and saying how to contact the network directly. Then there's the increased scrutiny the organization has faced in recent years, thanks in no small part to its high profile defectors. In 2015, filmmaker Alex Gibney's documentary series "Going Clear" made a splash on HBO, and garnered three Emmy awards. The same year, "King of Queens" star Leah Remini released the bestselling "Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology." She followed up with her own documentary series to "give a voice to victims of the Church of Scientology despite public attempts to discredit them."

Thursday, March 15, 2018

Psychic Animals Here to Stay

A few years ago, World Cup Soccer went wild for "psychic animals" that seemed to possess the ability to predict the outcomes of matches. The animals would be offered two bowls or containers of food, one bearing the flag of each country. Then the one they selected would be deemed the winner - and a few of those animals proved quite accurate. This year, a Russian cat named Achilles has been selected ahead of the 2018 World Cup tournament as its official "animal psychic."

Achilles, a white-furred deaf cat who lives at the Hermitage Museum in St. Petersburg, Russia, has been selected to predict the 2018 FIFA World Cup winners.

The male clairvoyant cat was also picked as the official oracle to forecast the traditional pre-match predictions for last year’s Confederations Cup, where he correctly predicted three of the four-match outcomes, reported Russian News Agency Tass.

Hermitage cats press secretary, Maria Khaltunen, claims the feline was chosen for the role because he demonstrated "capabilities for choice, analysis and unusual behavior.” In addition, Achilles is deaf, which means he will not be easily distracted by surrounding noises.

For the 2017 Confederations Cup, the white cat was made to choose between two bowls of food, each with a different country’s flag. “This decision has been made, the papers have been signed,” Khaltunen told the state-run RIA Novosti news agency on Monday.

According to Khaltunen, Achilles will receive a fan identification card (otherwise known as a fan passport). He will also go down in history as the only animal to have attained the prestigious documentation. "Animals are not given [Fan IDs,] as there are questions concerning photos," Khaltunen said.

Now here's where this gets interesting. The main skeptic claim about psychic animals is that what's really is going on is that hundreds of people have animals doing this, and simply by chance some of them will turn out to be right. Over time, this creates a sort of "sifting process" where the only animals left in the pool by the end of the tournament are the ones that chose correctly. So the most successful animals are not psychic, just lucky.

But when you pick an "official" psychic animal ahead of time, that whole dynamic changes. Since one of the basic tenets of probability theory is that each subsequent pick in cases like this should be entirely independent of past picks. So if this is all due to chance, the odds that Achilles will be able to pick successful matches again should be pretty low. If he's successful this time around as well, I would say that warrants further paranormal investigation.

Rupert Sheldrake has provided some evidence of rudimentary psychic abilities in animals, and has proposed his morphic resonance hypothesis to explain it. If Achilles can repeat his performance this year, with all the experimental variables declared ahead of time, it means that at the very least what is going on is probably not sheer luck.

Tuesday, March 13, 2018

Mastering the Thirty Aires

This week I'm skipping my usual magick post, but I have a good reason. I'm focusing on putting the final touches on my manuscript for Mastering the Thirty Aires so I can hopefully get it off to Pendraig by the end of this week. That doesn't mean it will be out right away or anything like that - the editing and book production process generally takes months to get through. But it's a big step that I've been working on getting to for a long time now. It turn out out to be harder to write than the last two put together.

Mastering the Thirty Aires approaches the system of the Aires or Aethyrs from the original Dee perspective - as a system of political magick designed to influence the general affairs of the various portions of the world. It also touches on more modern practices like "rising on the planes" and so forth, but more from the perspective of giving you the information you need to do the work yourself rather than delving into detailed analysis that you can find in many other books. As with the first two installments in the series, it will include a detailed ritual template that you can use to construct your rituals without a bunch of guesswork. Also, it will touch on some of the basics of zodiacal magick in the context of the Enochian system of the Aires.

So I'm really looking forward to making this new book available, and completing my trilogy of Enochian books. I know that some of you have been waiting a long time for this to be released, and I hope that you will all find it worth the wait.

Thursday, March 8, 2018

Haunted Alexa

I have never been a fan of voice interfaces. For all that they let you talk to your computer like on Star Trek or something, there are all sorts of issues that science fiction never really addresses. Let's say you're using a voice interface to run your phone or your smart glasses or really any other piece of tech in public. I don't know about you, but I'm not even remotely interested in having everybody around me know my business. In a group of people it often is weirdly disruptive, too, because everybody around you is trying to figure out who you're talking to and often get irritated when they realize you're talking to literally nobody in the room. There's a reason that the term "glasshole" was invented not long after the beta release of Google Glass - somebody who sits there and talks incessantly to their smart glasses.

Amazon's Alexa is a similar technology. I suppose it's more private to talk to a home speaker than it is to your glasses or your phone when you're out in public, but the thing still has to pay attention to every single thing you say in order to work. Does anybody really believe Amazon isn't logging all that data and selling it to advertisers so they can harrass you with better targeted ads? The other problem with these "Internet-of-things" systems is that they can be hacked or get viruses. Or maybe even paranormal infestations, which is what brings this story into Augoeides territory. Alexa has apparently been randomly laughing at people - a creepy laugh, not a funny one - and nobody knows why.

As Amazon Echo Dot owner Gavin Hightower was heading to bed the other week, he encountered a disturbing Alexa bug. For no apparent reason, the device uttered a “very loud and creepy laugh.” “There’s a good chance I’m getting murdered tonight,” Hightower tweeted after the incident.

Hightower isn’t alone: Numerous Echo device owners have reported their Alexas laughing spontaneously, unprovoked by their wake word (“Alexa”) or any other command. For other users, it’s more than just laughter. Some report their Alexa devices failing to fulfill their spoken requests, performing random other actions instead, and then capping it off with a guffaw.

Now granted, it's probably a bug or some new virus. It almost certainly isn't "skynet" or any of that intelligent AI nonsense - we're still many years away from making anything like that work, and just for reference about the same number of years away that people were saying we were twenty years ago. It also is true that if you were going to sit down and build a virus that would infect the Alexa network, this would be a pretty funny to do, especially if it only sends out the laughs intermittantly enough that the problem is hard to track down and debug. On the other hand, if you could do something like this by conjuring a spirit, wouldn't that be extra-fun?

Amazon has announced today that they have apparently fixed the problem by updating the software. But what if they really just had a wizard come in and do a big exorcism over their whole data center? Integrating magick with technology is usually fairly difficult, but it also is true that as Internet services become more centralized the number of targets you have to hit to get an effect goes down by a lot. If you can make it work, the applications are endless.