Tuesday, June 26, 2007

The Afterlife Gamble

So James Randi has decided to only allow "media psychics" (read: complete frauds) to compete in his million dollar paranormal challenge. What's an enterprising paranormal researcher to do? Why, set up your own paranormal challenge with the local bookie! A British paranormal investigator has bet 100 pounds at odds of 10,000 to 1 against that he will be able to prove the existence of an afterlife within the next year.

Paranormal's £1m Afterlife Gamble

This is a much better deal than Randi's actual challenge. Randi's rules pretty much guaranteed that anyone trying to win the challenge would have to spend several hundred dollars on expenses, if not more, and with the current value of the British pound the payoff is almost double.

Now let's see if he can actually do it.

Monday, June 25, 2007

"Secret" Criticism Gaining Prominence

Criticism of "The Secret" has hit the mainstream media. There's really nothing new here that Slate hasn't covered in their series, but it appears that now the Associated Press is taking interest. AP feeds a number of major media outlets, unlike Slate which has more limited exposure.

Critics of 'The Secret' Bemoan Claims

Yes, even if you see it on a DVD, just wishing for something doesn't make it automatically happen. This is even true for trained ritual magicians, let alone folks who just watch a DVD or read a book. Positive thinking is helpful and can improve your life, but it has its limits just like everything else.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Fraudulent Magician Busted

Beware of any professional magician who claims that you are under a curse that can only be lifted if you pay them a bunch of money. Actual curses cast by effective magicians are so rare that they might as well be nonexistent, and just about anyone who believes that they are under "psychic attack" has serious psychological problems. Nevertheless, con artists are quick to take advantage of these mentally ill individuals, at least those of them with money.

'Mrs. Grace' Sees Her Future in Jail

This "psychic" admitted defrauding clients of large sums of money claiming that she needed it in order to lift "destructive curses." Here's one area in which I agree with the Randi foundation - fraudulent magicians give all of us a bad name and should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. One of the things that amazes me is the sheer amount of money some of these folks make even though they're complete frauds.

Prosecutors say the fortuneteller's clients included a 57-year-old Poolesville woman who gave Uwanawich more than $160,000 in cash and property over the course of a year. Their relationship began at a shopping mall, when Uwanawich approached the woman, who was depressed, and handed her a flier promoting her psychic powers.

I mean, does this really work? Should I hang out at malls and hand people flyers advertising that I can cast real spells and then quit my day job? Unlike the phonies, I can actually make stuff happen. Or is Aleister Crowley right when he comments in De Thaumaturgia that "man is so built that he will credit false miracles, and regard true miracles as false" and I'm therefore just out of luck? It certainly is true that I don't know of any genuine magicians who make a living at it, let alone a living like this woman did before she got caught.

Monday, June 18, 2007

Young Earth Creationists Starting to Implode

I don't have issues with Christians the way some occultists do. I was raised liberal Lutheran and didn't really study magick in order to rebel but instead to go further in terms of spiritual understanding than the Lutheran Church seemed to allow. I have met a number of Christians who are sincere and accomplished spiritual practitioners who are serious about living their beliefs, and I see this variety of Christianity as a valid spiritual path - but I do take issue with those who refuse to accept scientific discoveries that conflict with their dogma. To quote Liber Librae,

The sin which is unpardonable is knowingly and willfully to reject truth, to fear knowledge lest that knowledge pander not to thy prejudices.

I'm talking about Young Earth Creationists here - Christians who believe that the world was created in six literal 24-hour days about 6000 years ago. A belief in some form of "intelligent design" does not necessarily contradict current science (if, for example, you posit that apparently random events are actually part of some divine plan) but there is such overwhelming evidence that the world is more than 6000 years old that I find it hard to take the Young Earth adherents seriously.

Apparently there's trouble brewing in Creationist paradise. An Australian Creationist group is suing the American group that just opened its "Creation Museum" in Kentucky that depicts, among other things, dinosaurs and humans interacting. The lawsuit is unfortunately familiar - it's about money and group leadership.

Museum Group Sued by Fellow Creationists

It's kind of interesting to note how Young Earth Creationism has evolved (and yes, that's deliberate irony). The original creation date of 6006 BC was arrived at in the Middle Ages by combining the Genesis account with the statement in the Book of Daniel that "a day is to God as a thousand years are to man." Of course, that's silly because it places the creation of humans at around 1000 BC and we have recorded history older than that. So the 6000 number was kept for unknown reasons and it changed from 6006 BC to 6000 years ago, with the creation itself happening in six 24-hour days.

It's unclear why 6000 years is still so important to the more recent version, since if the creation actually happened in six 24-hour days the reference in Daniel becomes irrelevant. If you're a hardcore Young Earther, It probably would make more sense to drop the creation back to around the creation date from Egyptian mythology, 10,000 BC. Then you actually have a "great flood" at the end of the last Ice Age to correspond with the story of Noah, though it appears to have been confined to the Mediterranean basin.

We'll have to see how this all plays out. Maybe the Flying Spaghetti Monster will get in on the action soon.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Trepanation: A Spiritual Technology?

Trepanation is the proper term for the practice of drilling a hole in your skull. I came across this interesting blog article discussing the practice and its history.

An Illustrated History of Trepanation

Does this procedure fall under the heading of spiritual technology? One of the signs of accomplishment in the Tibetan practice of P'howa (used to transfer consciousness at the moment of death) is supposed to be an indentation forming in the skull at the point of the crown chackra, and in fact I have experienced this myself. Furthermore, some trepanned skulls have been found in India with holes made in points corresponding to the crown or third eye chackras, suggesting that the process may have been used with the intention of augmenting some sort of spiritual or psychic ability.

Nowadays trepanation enthusiasts claim that if a hole is made in the skull the volume of blood flowing through the brain can increase because it is no longer constricted by the rigid skull. They claim that this makes them more creative and intelligent, though of course the cynic in me suggests that if these people were dumb enough to drill holes in their heads their intelligence really had nowhere to go but up.

Questions you don't want to ask a Tibetan P'howa master: "Lama, can I improve my practice by using a power drill?"


A couple in India have been charged with cheating thousands of people who believed that they could perform effective magical spells. The couple apparently charged substantial fees for spellcasting and their notoriety spread mostly by word of mouth.

`Black magic' Woman, Husband Held For Cheating

Interestingly, though, the article does not really explain how these individuals actually cheated their clients, implying that anyone casting spells for money is automatically a fake. While this is true more often than not, if the spells really worked one would expect the casters' fame to spread by word of mouth without deceptive advertising - which is exactly what seems to have happened in this case.

Maybe they were getting good enough at making things happen that someone important was starting to get worried. You can never be sure.

Reverend Billy Graham Confused About Paganism

I probably would have just ignored this one if it came out of the mouth of a Dominionist, but unfortunately it was written by one of America's foremost Christian ministers, the Reverend Billy Graham, when asked about a group that practices some unspecified form of paganism.

Only God Can Fill Pagans' Emptiness

Here's the troubling quotation:

I have often asked myself why people such as this turn their backs on Christianity and embrace something that is almost the exact opposite.

I would expect Reverend Graham to state that pagans are following a false religion because Jesus teaches that he is the one way to God. Graham is a Southern Baptist and that's his theology. What I find troubling is that he characterizes paganism as "almost the exact opposite" of Christianity. It's a sensational comment that belongs in a tabloid article, not a piece written by a serious clergyman.

"Almost the exact opposite" of Christianity would be something like heavy-metal Satanism, which I have a hard time believing is practiced by anyone as an actual spiritual path. The "almost" leaves some wiggle room, but in fact a number of magicians have commented that paganism as practiced today is almost exactly like liberal Christianity with a different set of deities in place of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit. The Threefold Law and Golden Rule, for example, are remarkably similar concepts.

Both Paganism and Christianity essentially teach that you should treat the people around you well, act with integrity, and make spiritual values a priority in your life. So do most other religions. While there is some disagreement on the exact details of those spiritual values, it seems to me that to characterize paganism as the "almost opposite" of Christianity is to imply that Paganism teaches its adherents to treat people around them poorly and act without integrity.

That's a smear job, not genuine theological criticism, and it's a shame to see it coming from someone who should know better.

Sunday, June 10, 2007

Devout or Just Stupid?

This one made me laugh out loud. The original story was pretty familiar - another case of a supposedly devout Christian protesting kids reading the Harry Potter books. The original article stated that a British teaching assistant refused to let a child in her class read one of the Harry Potter books, was disciplined by the school, and resigned from her position. I considered adding the story as an update to my last Harry Potter entry, but decided that there wasn't much too it besides the usual self-righteous censorship.

Well, I was wrong. The assistant turned around and sued the school for religious discrimination, claiming that it was unreasonable for the school to discipline her because of her beliefs. And what were those belief, you ask? Why, she was frightened of the spells in the Harry Potter book!

Teaching Assistant Quits in Fear of Potter Spell

Yup, that's right kids. As a practicing ritual magician all I have to do is wave my wand and vibrate AVADA KEDAVRA in order to kill you! In fact, here's my entire Grimoire detailing the extent of my arcane and esoteric skill and knowledge. Fear my awesome power!

You know, I'm not sure what I find more pathetic about this story - that this idiot actually believed that Harry Potter had anything to do with real magick, or that her motivation had nothing to do with faith or morality and everything to do with cowardice. Wouldn't an actual devout Christian believe that her God is powerful enough to keep her safe from a ten year old mumbling imaginary curses? Or even real curses?

But hey, at least she provided me with a laugh.

UPDATE: (June 12th) The legal tribunal hearing the case didn't take very long to rule against this idiot.

'I don't do witchcraft' teacher loses tribunal

I'm still surprised that she believed she had any chance whatsoever of winning, given that the Wicca religion has absolutely nothing to do with the Harry Potter series and that if the Potter books were found to be discriminatory the same logic would apply to the entire fantasy genre. C.S. Lewis has spells in his books, too, and just like in the Potter books, they aren't real spells.

Monday, June 4, 2007

Thelemic Ritual for the Deceased

Recent events prompted me to put together this ritual designed to impart the soul of an individual with the power and impetus to accomplish their will following the death of their physical body. Thelema has a very open attitude toward death that is expressed in the Gnostic Mass, that the experience of the world beyond death corresponds to the individual will rather than any universal process or experience. Some souls may choose to reincarnate, others may choose to be reabsorbed into the infinite, while others may choose to remain at peace, in contemplation, or with their chosen and preferred. About the only dogmatic concept of the afterlife in Thelema is The Book of the Law's complete rejection of a "hell realm" or any sort of "dread hereafter."

Nonetheless, when an individual dies their will may not be purified or developed sufficiently for them to sort out how to proceed once their body no longer functions. This is especially true of someone who is not a spiritual practitioner. The process of death is confusing enough that without some significant practice it may seem less like an opportunity for the expression of will and more like a fearful ordeal. This ritual is designed to strengthen the will of the deceased so that they can not only pass through the confusion of death but traverse the spiritual realms in accordance with their True Will.

This ritual is a work in progress. It could probably be improved by adding in some sort of part for an audience to play so that it could serve a social as well as a magical function. So far, it is designed as a ritual for a single magician casting on behalf of the deceased. I'm also still thinking over the closing - I don't think that the banishing should be repeated so it currently ends with the dedication. I might want to add one more step in there to "seal off" the rite without banishing the energy. Credit is due to Aleister Crowley for the Star Ruby, Star Sapphire, and the selections from the Gnostic Mass, and to Sam Webster, who wrote the Dedication and whose work inspired the Refuge and Awakening sections.

The temple setup is very simple. An altar should be placed in front of the magician, upon which is placed a photograph of the deceased. Other implements and tools may be present as the magician deems appropriate. The ritual should be performed on the first Saturday following the death of the individual for whom the ritual is being performed. The plural forms (we, us, etc.) used in the ritual refer to the magician and the deceased.

  1. The magician begins by joining hands at heart level and stating the Death collect from the Gnostic Mass.

    Term of all that liveth, whose name is inscrutable, be favorable unto us in thine hour. So mote it be.

  2. The magician performs the banishing Star Ruby.
  3. Refuge is taken in Nuit, Hadit, and Heru-Ra-Ha.

    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 - AUMGN.

    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 - AUMGN.

    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 own awakened natures with those of all beings everywhere and everywhen, dissolving all obstacles and healing all suffering - AUMGN.

  4. Will is then awakened.

    For pure will, unassuaged of purpose and delivered from the lust of result, is in every way perfect. All is pure and present and has always been so, for existence is pure joy, all the sorrows are but as shadows, they pass and are done, but there is that which remains. To this realization we commit ourselves - pure and total presence. So mote it be.

  5. The magician performs the invoking Star Sapphire.
  6. The Greater Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram for Saturn is performed. The godname used should correspond to the spiritual tradition followed by the deceased - Babalon for a Thelemite, YHVH Elohim for a Judeo-Christian, and so forth. Corresponding names from many traditions can be found in Liber 777 and it is not usually difficult to determine the proper godform governing death and the afterlife in most religious traditions.
  7. The magician then performs this slightly modified form of the End collect from the Gnostic Mass upon the photograph.

    Unto (the deceased's name) from whose eyes the veil of life hath fallen, may (he/she) be granted the accomplishment of (his/her) will, whether (he/she) wills absorption in the infinite, or to be with (his/her) chosen and preferred, or to be in contemplation, or to be at peace, or to attempt the labor and heroism of incarnation on this planet or another, or in any star, or aught else, may (he/she) be granted the accomplishment of (his/her) will, yea, the accomplishment of (his/her) will - AUMGN AUMGN AUGMN. So mote it be.

    The magician then touches the photograph and visualizes energy flowing to the soul of the deceased, strengthening the will and providing a vector of motion in harmony with its individual nature.
  8. The ritual is closed with the Dedication of Merit.

    May the benefit of this act and all acts be dedicated unto the complete liberation and supreme enlightenment of all beings everywhere pervading space and time - so mote it be. May the benefits of practice, ours and others, come to fruition ultimately and immediately and we remain in a state of presence - AH.
So far, the ritual has been performed once and felt quite effective, keeping in mind that any sort of empirical validation is rather difficult to obtain when casting spells for those who have passed on.

Liber A'ash and the Duck: Mystery Solved!

The 1996 Weiser edition of Commentaries on the Holy Books contains a commentary on Aleister Crowley's Liber A'ash written by Charles Stansfield Jones, also known as Frater Achad. Line 21 of the text reads:

These animals are sacred unto me; the goat, and the duck, and the ass, and the gazelle, the man, the woman and the child.

Jones arrives at interpretations for most of these, but writes:

"duck". I don't know why, unless on account of symbology connected with its eggs.

To this, Crowley replies "Nor do I."

Thanks to the wonders of modern science, I can now reveal the secret that eluded Crowley. It's actually quite simple.

Liber A'ash is essentially a piece of "phallic mysticism" in that it is written regarding the practice of sex magick with an emphasis on the "Gnarled Oak of God," the phallus. Well, as it turns out the duck has an enormous phallus! In fact, biologists have recently discovered that not only is the duck one of the few birds to have any sort of phallus, but a duck phallus can be as long as its entire body, as shown in the image above.

So did Aleister Crowley correctly predict what would become a current scientific discovery many years after his death? This aspect of duck reproduction was not well-understood by anyone in 1947 when Crowley died, let alone when Liber A'ash was written. If nothing else, it certainly makes you wonder. What else could Crowley turn out to be right about?