Monday, April 26, 2010

"Boobquake" Narrowly Misses Taiwan

As a followup to last Tuesday's post, Monday April 26th has arrived and brought with it a 6.5-magnitude earthquake that struck off the southeast coast of Taiwan. In response to the claim of an Iranian cleric that "immodesty" causes earthquakes, thousands of women had agreed to wear revealing clothing today in order to scientifically test this seemingly ludicrous hypothesis.

The 6.5-magnitude quake hit at 10:59 a.m. (0259 GMT), 195 miles (295 kilometers) off the southern Taiwan city of Taitung at a depth of 6.2 miles (10 kilometers), the U.S. Geological Survey said. The agency's initial report had put the quake's magnitude at 6.9.

Fortunately the quake struck far enough offshore that while its effects were felt on the island, no injuries or property damage have been reported. The quake also does not appear to have triggered a tsunami, another piece of good news.

In Taipei, buildings swayed for up to 20 seconds when the quake hit, but police said there were no reports of casualties or damage anywhere on the island. No tsunami alert was issued.

In northern Keelung county, 18 miles (30 kilometers) northeast of Taipei, the tremor caused little new damage at the site of a massive landslide, police said. On Sunday, a hillside collapsed onto a three-lane highway following several days of rain, burying three cars.

The article also notes that had the quake been larger and closer to shore the result could have been much worse.

Earthquakes frequently rattle Taiwan but most are minor and cause little or no damage.

However, a 7.6-magnitude earthquake in central Taiwan in 1999 killed more than 2,300 people.

So you never know, perhaps "immodesty" is more dangerous than any reasonable person had previously thought - or maybe it's just a big coincidence and the whole thing is absolutely ridiculous. As with most scientific puzzles, further research is probably necessary.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Immodesty Causes Earthquakes?

According to a senior Iranian cleric seismologists have it all wrong. Earthquakes aren't caused by tectonic plates sliding along fault lines or anything godless and scientific like that. They're caused by immodest women!

Amid all the recent speculation over what only feels like an unusual number of earthquakes around the world, an Iranian cleric has offered a novel explanation for the source of seismic activity: promiscuous women. Unless Iranians "take refuge in religion" and "adapt our lives to Islam's moral codes," they can expect to be "buried under the rubble," said Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi, a senior cleric, during Friday prayers in Tehran. As usual, these moral responsibilities are projected onto women's bodies: "Many women who do not dress modestly ... lead young men astray, corrupt their chastity and spread adultery in society, which increases earthquakes," he said.

Fellow magicians, do you know what this means? All we have to do to win a magical war with Iran is drop a bunch of female paratroopers over there and have them walk along the country's many fault lines in short skirts. The entire nation will be leveled in days!

Icelandic volcanic eruption

Actually this isn't a photo of an earthquake but rather the recent volcanic eruption in Iceland, included for sheer awesomeness. But maybe immodest women cause volcanic eruptions as well. Granted, Iceland's climate is rather cool for skimpy clothing, but we can't let logic get in the way of throwing ridiculous accusations around. After all, Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi certainly didn't.

UPDATE: In the Facebook discussion of this article, I was informed that on Monday, April 26th thousands of women all over the world are planning on wearing revealing clothing in an effort to destroy either the planet or Hojatoleslam Kazem Sedighi. The campaign appears to have gone viral, and more than 30,000 women have joined in on Facebook. Isn't science marvelous?

Monday, April 19, 2010

It's Only a Model...

...but I'm going to post it anyway!

The recent crop of articles about magical models seems to be as good a context as any in which to get back to some serious magical theorizing on this blog and further discuss my operant model of magick. Obviously I don't think there's anything wrong with developing a model of how magick works since I've gone ahead and developed one, but at the same time I've also seen a lot of silliness arise when magicians mistake their particular maps for the territory. Keep in mind that this last statement is not an attack on anyone in particular and the silliness I'm talking about is not limited to online discussions, but includes personal interactions and occasionally published works as well.

Most of the problems with magical models arise because of their univalence - magick is "only spirits" or "only energy" or "only information," those being the three main models that I've see discussed within our network of blogs. The key to working with a model is that it needs to be treated like a working hypothesis in the physical sciences, in that the model must fit the data and not the other way around. This can be difficult even in the physical sciences where data is much more definitive than that found in the magical arts, as Thomas Kuhn noted in The Structure of Scientific Revolutions, so as magicians it is even more important that we avoid becoming too attached to our preferred hypotheses.

In my opinion both Spirit-Only and Energy-Only have problems with different sets of data. Spirit-Only fails to explain intuitive magick - that is, making a change in the physical world by simply willing that change to occur. I can do this myself and I assume that Spirit-Only practitioners can do it too, so I would be very interested in hearing how the Spirit-Only model explains this phenomenon. Similarly, the Energy-Only model has difficulty explaining why many magicians, including myself, get better results when working with spirits than they do when operating under their own power, so to speak. Even if a spirit is represented as a source of additional energy it's still a spirit and it still exists.

I find the Information-Only model basically sound as far as formulating and communicating magical intent, but under that model what are you supposed to be communicating with? I've long worked with the idea of transmitting information from my own consciousness into a quantum field linked to the target of a spell, which strikes me as one possible explanation. However, I was assured in a previous discussion on this blog by Patrick Dunn, the author of two books on the information model, that this is not what he's talking about. In this recent article he mentions "ultimate consciousness" but it seems to me that if discarnate consciousness can exist at all there's no reason to discount the notion that that the universe could be filled with many discarnate intelligences (such as spirits) rather than just one big one.

As Jason Miller comments in his own article on the subject, "when did we start accepting the idea of Energy OR Spirits rather than Energy AND Spirits?" The obvious solution to the problems with these univalent models is to combine various aspects of those models into a composite that fits the current data - and then keep in mind that the result is still only a model that must remain subject to revision on the basis of new empirical observations.

(UPDATE: While I was writing this post Jason posted a new article making most of the same points that I do above. In this we appear to be on the same page as far as I can tell.)

As those of you who have been reading this blog for awhile probably recall, the operant equation that I posted here awhile back deals only with the individual magician or magicians and therefore doesn't address working with spirits. It's based on Peter Carroll's magical equations first published in Liber Kaos with several significant revisions and may be summarized thus:

M = S * (G * L * E * (1 - A) * (1 - R))

M is the Magical Effect of the overall operation, measured as a whole number. 10 would be a probability of 10 to 1, 100 would be a probability of 100 to 1, and so forth. This probability value is added to the natural probability of the spell's intended outcome in order to determine how likely the spell is to succeed.

S is the Strength of the individual magician, measured as a whole number in the same manner as M. S represents the highest probability shift that an individual magician can produce when casting a spell perfectly. This value varies from one individual to another at any given point in time.

G is Gnosis as in Carroll's equations, measured as a value ranging from 0 to 1.

E is the Energetic State of the subtle body. This can be thought of as Qi or Prana, and also as the overall firing rate across the brain and nervous system.

L is the Link to the spell's target as in Carroll's equations, measured as a value ranging from 0 to 1. For a spell targeting the magician him or herself this value is always 1.

A is Attachment, measured from 0 to 1. This replaces Carroll's "Awareness." You don't need to forget a spell in order for it to work, but you also can't obsess and become attached to its outcome if you want it to work effectively.

R is Resistance, measured from 0 to 1. I don't buy Carroll's "psychic censor" hypothesis so I think of resistance differently than he does. Doubts in one's magical abilities can produce resistance, as can mixed emotions about the objective of the spell. Also, as in the information model, a poorly formulated intent generates a lot of resistance.

When dealing with a group of magicians you can calculate M for each magician in the group and add the probability values together to get the combined Magical Effect, keeping in mind that group work usually lowers the Gnosis value somewhat because of the inherent complexities involved in coordinating the various participants.

In my experience when working with spirits a similar effect occurs, in that every spirit has the capacity to create a Magical Effect of a particular degree. If a spirit is called upon to accomplish a task within its sphere of influence the spirit's M-value can be added to that of the summoning magician. Spirits don't seem to have to worry about the consciousness-based factors of the equation, though the quality of the magical Link is always a factor in any ritual directed at an external target. This means that for a spirit the equation can be simplified to M = S * L. Resistance for spirits seems to be 0 within their sphere of influence and 1 outside it, at least from my perspective as a magician.

While the operant model explains my own observations and probability tests as far as magical rituals are concerned, I'm actually rather curious to find out how well this lines up with other magicians' experiences. So if you have experimental data that you think refutes or supports some portion of my model go ahead and post it. Also, if you can answer some of the questions I pose above about the spirit, energy, or information models, or feel that I'm mischaracterizing some aspect of one or more of them, go ahead and let me know.

Just remember - it's only a model!

Tuesday, April 13, 2010

Churchless Tiger Woods Loses Masters

Back when news of Tiger Woods' numerous affairs first broke, I posted an article about the disbanding of the "First Church of Tiger Woods," an apparently serious religious organization dedicated to the worship of a guy who hits a ball with a stick really well.

I say "apparently serious" because while there's no evidence that the group's website was tongue-in-cheek, I have a hard time believing that anyone could be so stupid as to be involved in such a "church" - and bear in mind I was raised by football fanatics so I've had plenty of exposure to really dedicated sports fans over the course of my life.

While it was operational the Church proposed that its members perform prayers for Tiger Woods - that is, cast spells on his behalf. So as I commented in the original article, the public disbanding of the Church provided the perfect opportunity to start compiling data regarding those spells' effectiveness:

From a practical magical perspective this gives us a perfect situation for empirical research. If these people have really been praying for Tiger Woods all this time, could those prayers have been improving his golf game to paranormal levels? A public announcement like this gives us a clean before and after delineation for our experimental and control samples and golfing statistics are meticulously kept. So we'll be able to see if Woods continues to play as well over the course of the next couple of years without magical support and back up whatever conclusion emerges with hard data.

Our first data point is now in. Tiger Woods returned to golf last week for the Masters tournament and lost to longtime rival Phil Mickelson. NBC Sports commentator Mike Celizic writes:

I’m not saying Tiger is through. That would be absurd. He’s obviously a great golfer, but at the moment, he’s no longer clearly the greatest golfer on the planet.

That title would probably go to Phil Mickelson, who played as perfect a tournament as you could play, collecting his third green jacket in impressive fashion.

Lefty used to be the guy who would always find a way to blow a major. Now Tiger’s doing the things his biggest rival used to do in the big ones: the drive hooked or sliced into the woods, the missed two-footer, the skulled chip shot, the brain cramp at the critical moment.

Referring back to my original article, I noted that there is some empirical evidence that while the Church was in operation Woods' rivals played a little worse than usual against him in tournaments:

As evidence of a possible paranormal influence, take a look at this paper by Jennifer Brown of UC Berkeley. Her data shows that other elite golfers play worse when playing in tournaments with Woods. While Brown puts forth a psychological explanation for the phenomenon, this is also exactly the sort of data you would expect to see surrounding a player who is receiving magical assistance. If somebody casts a spell on you with the intent of enabling you to win some sort of game or contest, not only will you generally do better but your opponents will also do worse than usual.

If last week's Masters was any indication that effect appears to have vanished. Woods still looked good for the most part and finished fourth overall, which would be great for anyone other than the presumed "greatest golfer on the planet." Magick or no magick he's still an outstanding athlete and that's unlikely to change. It's interesting, though, that with the Church gone his remarkable luck seems to have returned to normal and Mickelson's game appears to have improved enough to beat him.

You can call it psychology, you can call it "mystique," but to this ritual magician the effects look just like those of a broken spell. Perhaps the disbanding of his Church has hurt Woods more than he knows.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Office of the Readings for 2010

It's that time of year again! This post will remain the top article here for the duration of the Thelemic High Holy Days, from March 20th to April 10th. The Rite of the Office of the Readings is performed for all of the readings following The Invocation of Horus on March 20th. It may also be used with The Prologue of the Unborn on March 19th at your own discretion. We've done it both ways over the years.


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


March 19th - The Prologue of the Unborn
March 20th - Saturn/Earth, The Universe
March 21st - Fire/Spirit, The Aeon
March 22nd - Sol, The Sun
March 23rd - Pisces, The Moon
March 24th - Aries, The Emperor
March 25th - Mars, The Tower
March 26th - Capricornus, The Devil
March 27th - Sagittarius, Art
March 28th - Scorpio, Death
March 29th - Water, The Hanged Man
March 30th - Libra, Adjustment
March 31st - Jupiter, Fortune
April 1st - Virgo, The Hermit
April 2nd - Leo, Lust
April 3rd - Cancer, The Chariot
April 4th - Gemini, The Lovers
April 5th - Taurus, The Hierophant
April 6th - Aquarius, The Star
April 7th - Venus, The Empress
April 8th - Luna, The Priestess
April 9th - Mercury, The Magus
April 10th - Air, The Fool

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 also be viewed here. Our Office of the Readings series is based on this ritual by the Companions of Monsalvat.

Where in the World is Satan?

Gabriele Amorth is at it again. A few weeks back the Vatican's chief exorcist declared that Satan was living in the Vatican. Now he's claiming that the archfiend has found a new home - at the New York Times! Amorth sees the influence of the devil in the newspaper's coverage of the latest sexual abuse scandals surrounding the Roman Catholic Church.

Father Gabriele Amorth specifically singled out the New York Times—which has reported on one such scandal in Milwaukee where then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict XVI, appeared to permit a priest with a long history of abuse accusations to retain his office—as pursuing an agenda "prompted by the Devil."

"There is no doubt about it," Amorth told CNA. "Because he is a marvelous Pope and worthy successor to John Paul II, it is clear that the devil wants to 'grab hold' of him." He went on to explain that "the devil wants the death of the Church because she is the mother of all the saints."

Perhaps Amorth drove Satan out of the Vatican using his exorcist powers and regrets where the devil has taken up residence, seeing as now that Satan has left Rome he's out there generating lots of bad press. Naturally the New York Times stands by their reporting and is denying any Satanic involvement - but of course that's what the devil would say.

As defenders of the Church continue to castigate the Times and other media outlets for their coverage, the American paper of record is standing pat. A spokeswoman for the Times told Politico's Michael Calderone that its "stories were based on meticulous reporting and documents," adding, "We stand by that reporting."

So where will Satan turn up next? I suppose we'll have to wait for Amorth's next pronouncement to find out. In the meantime, keep an eye out for fire, brimstone, pitchforks, horns, and of course anyone who dares to criticize the Pope.

Friday, April 2, 2010

A Bad Month for Indian Holy Men

March 2010 proved to be a bad month for holy men in India. At the beginning of the month one of these gurus was arrested and charged with running a brothel in Delhi. I guess being a holy man wasn't paying well enough or something, and sure enough, the brothel was bringing in the cash.

Media predicts that Shiv Myra Dwivedi earned $10 million [£6.5 million] from the racket, but local media reports said his earning could have reached more than ten times that figure. Shiv Myra Dwivedi alias Ram Murat Dwivedi alias Rajiv Ranjan Dwivedi called himself Ichchadhari Sant Swami Bhimanand Ji Maharaj 'Chitrakoot waale' and claimed to be a disciple of Sai Baba.

Police said Mr. Dwivedi, who boasts a religious following of more than 100,000, was arrested with another alleged pimp and seven prostitutes, including one British Airways and another Indian airlines flight attendant. According to sources, two of them are air-hostesses, one an Masters of Business Administration student and the fourth an aspiring Bollywood actress. The girls are aged between 22 and 25 years. The accused supplied sex workers in Delhi. This included clients who flew down to Delhi and stayed in five star hotels.

Indian police are also looking for a prominent astrologer named Siddesh who is charged with kidnapping and raping an underage girl. This goes to show how dangerous perceived spiritual authority can be in the hands of a truly psychopathic individual.

“It is only since a year that we know Siddesh . We did not suspect him. He often took my daughter to Mastamma Devi temple at Jogimatti,” said the girl’s father. The traumatised girl who is undergoing treatment at the district hospital told Deccan Herald that after her father dropped her at the school, she came out to buy a pencil from a shop, when she was pulled into an auto, gagged and taken to some place.

“Siddesh, who was there said he would marry me. They made me wear a red sari, bangles and perform pooja. There were four more men along with Siddesh. I did not know any of them. They gave me some sedative and raped me.”

Now running a brothel constitutes a criminal enterprise in most parts of the world and rape is just plain heinous and awful, so I think it should be clear that there's nothing holy about the spiritual leaders involved first two cases. This last one, though, strikes me as a different matter entirely.

At the end of March another holy man, Nithyananda Swami, resigned as the head of his spiritual center following the release of a videotape showing him "frolicking" with two women.

Video footage allegedly showing Nithyananda Swami - head of Dhyanapeetam, or 'knowledge centre' - frolicking with two women angered hundreds of devotees so much that they tried to ransack his centre outside the southern city of Bangalore this month.

The 32-year-old has denied any links to the women and said the tapes were doctored, but the police are investigating whether he has 'outraged religious feelings' and have asked people to come forward with evidence.

Now if the women were somehow coerced that would be one thing, but the information in the article suggests nothing of the sort. I'm continually disappointed by people of many religious traditions around the world who seem to have the idea that sexuality is incompatible with spiritual realization. In fact, in my experience it's the other way around - denying part of your fundamental nature is to divide consciousness rather than exalt it. This strikes me as the pathway to spiritual failure, not enlightenment or metanoia or whatever term your tradition uses for spiritual realization. I know that I would rather have a guru who has a positive attitude toward his or her sexuality rather than one who considers it debased or evil.

UPDATE: A month after stepping down as the head of his spiritual center, Nithyananda Swami has been arrested and presumably charged with the aforementioned "outraging religious feelings." I'm guessing there are at least a few American religious figures caught in scandals over the last several years who are very glad we don't have that particular law here in the States.