Friday, October 20, 2017

That's Not How Any Of This Works

"Evil for evil's sake" has to be just about the dumbest human motivation ever proposed. What's even dumber is when religious people insist that "obviously" this is what motivates anyone they disagree with. Like, say, people who make movies - you know, good movies as opposed to the wretched genre of "Christian film." According to Rodney Howard-Browne, a pastor who was involved with other evangelical leaders in a "laying on of hands" prayer ceremony for President Donald Trump, had this to say about - I guess - the entire Hollywood film industry.

“These people are full of the devil. These people can’t even be reasoned with,” Rodney Howard-Browne said in a sermon over the weekend. “They have already given their soul to the devil. Are you with me? These people go through seances, these people drink blood, these people sacrifice children.” In a clip posted online by Right Wing Watch, Howard-Browne added:

“They sacrifice children at the highest levels in Hollywood. They drink blood of young kids. This is a fact. That’s why the next thing to be exposed will be all the pedophilia that is going to come out of Hollywood and come out of Washington, D.C. The human sacrifice and the cannibalism has been going on for years.”

When someone told Howard-Browne that “they don’t do that,” he insisted that “it’s worse than what you think.” Howard-Browne then described the supposed satanic rituals that go on in Hollywood. “Many of the Hollywood actors that you go see on a screen, what you don’t know, they bring a witch, they do a big seance right there on the set and they worship devils and they allow devils to come into them before they take the part of what they’re going to act,” he said. “It’s a fact what I am telling you.”

Let's go down the list. In real occultism, "the devil" doesn't want to buy your soul so obviously you can't sell it. Some California New Agers do seances, so you probably could find a lot of people in the film industry who have at least attended one. But blood-drinking and human sacrifice? Sorry. Those are from horror movies, not real life. They also are pretty pointless for casting actual spells - you know, like the what most occultists really do.

Wednesday, October 18, 2017

The Church of Trump?

In my new satirical novel Trump Card, members of a laughably inept religious cult calling themselves the "Sons of Kek" make repeated failed attempts on my plucky teen heroine's life because she poses a threat to their beloved President Trump. But according to a man named Greg Piatek, his support for Donald Trump really does constitute a religious belief. Piatek is suing a New York City bar for religious discrimination after he was criticized for wearing a Make America Great Again baseball cap and eventually ejected from the establishment.

Piatek claims he spent his time at The Happiest Hour wearing the most controversial hat in the world, the red Make America Great Again baseball cap. According to him, he was called a “terrible person” by one bartender, that another the bartender ignored him, asking if the hat was a “joke” while serving him and yet another cut him off. Ultimately, he alleges, a bouncer kicked him out at the manager’s request. The management at The Happiest Hour denies every part of Piatek's story.

Now, Piatek has slapped the bar with a “discriminatory conduct” lawsuit alleging “anxiety and severe emotional distress,” according to the Gothamist. This he said-they-said legal kerfuffle has taken on religious proportions as the Trump supporter is claiming his reverence for the president — signaled by his red hat — should have the same legal protections as any religion.

"A religious belief can appear to every other member of the human race preposterous, yet still be entitled to protection,” say the legal briefs field on behalf of Piatek. As part of a claimed “protected class,” Piatek was "adhering to his closely held spiritual beliefs by adorning the hat in question,” says his attorney. According to him, the MAGA hat, emblazoned with a logo for a race the highest political office in the nation “transcends the political realm.” Eighty-sixing Piatek, the lawsuit claims, is little different than, say, denying service to a believer because they wore a veil, cross or yarmulke.

As mentioned, the manager of The Happiest Hour denies Piatek’s story, reasoning that he must have had a good time because of his tip noted on the receipts provided. Piatek, however, says the night at The Happiest Hour was “the most discriminatory, humiliating and 'Saddest Hour' of his life."His attorney says his client has "such a good heart that he’s going to tip no matter” the service or discriminatory treatment.

First off, the Constitution is pretty clear that political affiliations and religious beliefs are two entirely separate things. Second, even if Piatek's story is true, the missing piece is how he behaved in response to the bartenders not thinking much of his hat. It seems to me that if Piatek's political affiliation was why he was thrown out, why did the bartenders serve him at all? On the other hand, if he became belligerent or highly intoxicated, the managers of the bar had every right to throw him out.

This would also be true in a more unambiguous case involving religion. Let's say that a fire-and-brimstone preacher showed up at the bar and started arguing with patrons. The preacher in that case would obviously be motivated by religious beliefs, but those beliefs don't confer the right to act out and make other patrons uncomfortable. I have no idea whether Piatek did anything like that, but it's also not clear that any of it happened as Piatek claims.

To be clear, even though I'm about as far from a Trump supporter as you can get, I don't think it's cool for a business to refuse service to someone based only on their political beliefs. At the same time, though, I don't think it rises to the same level as religious discrimination or that it ever should.

Tuesday, October 17, 2017

Santa's Grave

The modern-day version of Santa Claus has a lot in common with the version of Jesus found in modern Christianity. Santa Claus was originally based on a real historical person, Saint Nicholas, a Turkish bishop who lived during the fourth century and was known for helping the sick and the poor. However, Santa Claus has accumulated so much additional baggage over the last few centuries that he would be unrecognizable to anyone who knew the real Saint Nicholas.

Now Turkish archaeologists claim that they have discovered the grave of Saint Nicholas, and plan on excavating the site in order to confirm the existence of his remains.

Turkish publication Daily Sabah reported Tuesday that an undisturbed gravesite discovered under a church in the Antalya province may belong to the saint. The head of the province’s monument authority said the gravesite was discovered as archaeologists performed digital surveys of the ground below St. Nicholas Church. St. Nicholas Church is in Antalya’s Demre district, which is known as the birthplace of Santa.

“We believe this shrine has not been damaged at all, but it is quite difficult to get to it as there are mosaics on the floor,” Cemil Karabayram said, according to the Daily Sabah. Each tile in the mosaics has to be scaled, one by one, and removed as a whole, Karabayram said. He said he is optimistic that St. Nicholas’ remains can be reached.

Newsweek reported that the claims conflict with previous narratives that placed the saint’s bones, known as his relics, in Italy. Catholics and Orthodox Christians believe that the Basilica di San Nicola, in Bari, Italy, is where his remains lie.

St. Nicholas was initially buried in 343 A.D. at a church in Demre, but his bones were taken during the Crusades in the 11th century, Newsweek said. The belief was that the relics were taken to Italy at that time. Turkish experts now believe that the bones stolen centuries ago actually belonged to an anonymous priest, the news magazine reported.

I personally believe that the modern story of Santa Claus is a lot like what happened with the story of Jesus. Some historians believe that no historical Jesus ever existed, but personally I think it's more likely that there was a historical person who led the sect established by John the Baptist when he was imprisoned by the Romans. It's not even unlikely that his name was Yeheshua, as it was a common Jewish name of the period.

However, I also think that the Jesus story in the Gospels was compounded with so many additional mythological elements that many of the events attributed to him probably never happened - just like how the real Saint Nicholas never lived at the North Pole, flew around in a sleigh, kept reindeer, or distributed presents around the world. He apparently did have a white beard and gave poor children gifts, but that's where the resemblance ends.

Monday, October 16, 2017

The Path of Initiation - The Three Veils

This article is Part Nineteen of a series. Part One can be found here, Part Two can be found here, Part Three can be found here, Part Four can be found here, Part Five can be found here, Part Six can be found here, Part Seven can be found here, Part Eight can be found here, Part Nine can be found here, Part Ten can be found here, Part Eleven can be found here, Part Twelve can be found here, Part Thirteen can be found here, Part Fourteen can be found here, Part Fifteen can be found here, Part Sixteen can be found here, Part Seventeen can be found here, and Part Eighteen can be found here.

Initiation into the Three Veils of Negative Existence is the final step on the path of initiation into the mysteries of Western Esotericism. This realization lies beyond all formal degrees and classifications, and the corresponding mystical vision is "The Supreme Attainment, or Vision of No Difference." The Three Veils also lie beyond the sephiroth, as they form the complement to the "positive existence" of the potential and manifest universe - that is, the force that we refer to as God prior to manifestation into any particular spiritual realm.

The Three Veils are called Ain, Ain Soph, and Ain Soph Aur. Ain means nothing, Ain Soph means limitlessness, and Ain Soph Aur means endless or limitless light. In Liber 777, the Three Veils have the key scale value of 0 and have few defined attributions. But this is because in a sense, they correspond to any and all attributions, even those outside what we generally consider our spiritual universe.

As with practical magick, aligning the macrocosmic and microcosmic components of the spiritual path is the key to experiencing effective illumination and visionary work. Hence, I use the operant field in these rites just like I do for practical workings. This allows you to integrate magical principles and forces into your life more quickly and effectively.

Always keep track of any changes you observe following illuminating and visionary experiences, and do your best to see if the changes you are seeing from your work are going in a positive direction. Stories of magicians "going insane" from failed operations are highly exaggerated - most often, nothing happens, and the danger lies in being convinced that something did happen and then acting from that perspective.

Friday, October 13, 2017

Twin Cities Book Festival This Saturday!

Cross-posted from my author website.

This Saturday, October 14th, I will be appearing with Moonfire Publishing at the Twin Cities Book Festival brought to you by Rain Taxi. Click the link for more information about the festival, including directions, maps of the site, and the event's programming schedule.

The festival will be held at the Minnesota State Fairgrounds and runs from 10 AM to 5 PM. Moonfire Publishing will be at table #205, with information about upcoming titles, current titles, submission guidelines, and more. If you are local to the Twin Cities area, or for that matter just passing through, I hope to see you there!

Wednesday, October 11, 2017

Ghost Girl at the Stanley Hotel?

Colorado's Stanley Hotel is famous for paranormal activity. In addition to many ghost sightings over the years, the hotel is also famous for inspiring the Stephen King novel The Shining. King and his wife stayed at the hotel at the very end of the season in 1974, and were the only guests in the place. That experience gave King the idea for the book. As with many other allegedly haunted sites, the Stanley Hotel hosts "spirit tours" in which guides recount various paranormal incidents while walking guests through a tour of the premises. It was on one of these tours that the the digital photo above was taken.

The Mausling family of Aurora, Colorado, participated in a “spirit tour” at the 108-year-old Stanley Hotel in Estes Park last month. After returning home, they noticed a photo taken by John “Jay” Mausling that seemed to show a young girl walking down the stairs.

John Mausling and his wife, Jessica Martinez-Mausling, told HuffPost via email that there were no young girls in their 11-member party or on the tour. “At first we tried to be logical and think we somehow missed her so we asked our kids, their girlfriends and our friend if they remembered seeing a little girl,” they wrote. “Nobody did. We do not remember seeing anything on the stairs when we took the picture.”

Ben Hansen, former FBI agent and host of “Fact or Faked: Paranormal Files,” said a careful analysis of the photo turned up no obvious signs of trickery. “I really like this photo,” Hansen said. “Assuming that it’s not doctored, it ranks up there as one of the best photos of possible paranormal evidence I’ve seen. If it is faked, I’ve got to hand it to them for their level of detail and creativity because there’s usually enough easy signs to suggest hoaxing.”

So is this a ghost? My first thought is that it looks like some sort of artifact from a bad cell phone camera. There's blurring all over the photo, which suggests something like that might be what happened. However, it also is true that the girl looks a lot more blurry than anyone else in the picture. That could be because she was moving when the picture was taken, but according to witnesses there was no girl on the stairs at that time. If those witness accounts are accurate, we could be looking at something paranormal.

I will say that the picture doesn't look faked, but my guess is that there was someone coming up the stairs right when the picture was taken that the witnesses just don't remember. Memory is less reliable than we like to think. For that matter, it could have been a grown woman who just looks like a girl because of the blurring - so anybody asked if there was a girl present would honestly reply that there was not. Still, I could be wrong, and if I am this is one of the best paranormal photos that I've seen.

Tuesday, October 10, 2017

Calendar Truthers?

I can't believe that I never came across this idea sooner. The ominously named "Phantom Time Hypothesis" has been around since 1991, and yet it never once showed up on my fringe history radar. The idea is this - adjustments to our calendar during the Middle Ages resulted in the disappearance of 297 years, which means that the "real" year is 1720. That's pretty convenient for all those fundamentalists who thought the world would end in 2000 and were proved completely wrong, isn't it? I expect that we'll start hearing from those neo-Millerite idiots again soon if this idea gets enough coverage.

According to Illig’s hypothesis, Pope Sylvester II, the Holy Roman Emperor Otto III, and Constantine VII changed the dating system to place Otto III’s reign comfortably at the millennial year 1000, a more meaningful time than, say, 999 (although “Party like it’s 999” still holds the record for the most requested Gregorian chant in history).

Altering existing documents, creating fraudulent historical events (even people, such as the Holy Roman Emperor Charlemagne who, it is claimed, was simply a King Arthur-type myth), and tampering with physical evidence, this cabal inserted 297 years into our dating system. Two hundred ninety-seven years that don’t exist.

To back up his hypothesis, Illig said an inadequate system on dating medieval artifacts, and historians relying on written (and if Illig is correct, forged) documents, make the years 614 and 911 a bit dodgy. Mathematical errors between the Julian the Gregorian calendars further complicate matters, making a 297-year gap possible. Illig also claimed the fact that there was Roman architecture in 10th Century Western Europe shows the Roman Empire is more modern that what is currently thought.

Illig is not alone in this. University professor Dr Hans-Ulrich Niemitz published the paper “Did the Early Middle Ages Really Exist?” in 1995 in which he claims, “NO, the early Middle Ages did not exist.” “Between Antiquity (1 AD) and the Renaissance (1500 AD) historians count approximately 300 years too many in their chronology,” Niemitz wrote. “In other words: the Roman emperor Augustus really lived 1700 years ago instead of the conventionally assumed 2000 years.”

Like Illig, Niemitz discusses the discrepancies between the Julian and Gregorian calendars to prove his point, but also brings up the fact that, per accepted history, Byzantium and the Islamic realms were warring at this time. But Niemitz asserts, “nothing can be said about this period, because no historical sources exist for the supposed reform in this period."

Just as a point, regardless of how plausible this idea might be, I do appreciate the proper use of "hypothesis" here. It drives me nuts when writers of popular articles replace it with "theory" to match the vernacular, since a "theory" is a totally different thing in the sciences.

At any rate, it's certainly not inconceivable that several powerful leaders could have gotten together in the Middle Ages and decided to change the calendar dates. But the thing is, let me just add the phrase "in Europe" to that last statement from Niemitz. Because we have all sorts of records from around the world that show those 297 years did happen, even if record-keeping in Europe during the period in question was poor. Also, the timing of eclipses and the like does not show a bizarre 297-year gap - and it would. While there are discrepancies between the Julian and Gregorian calendars, there's nothing anywhere near that magnitude.

William Miller would have loved it. His 1843 doomsday prediction could still happen - you know, because according to the Phantom Time Hypothesis it still is more than 120 years away!