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Not “Mass Hysteria”

Well, that was quick. Just as I predicted, researchers examining the Cuban "sonic weapon" brain injuries have concluded that what is going on is absolutely not a case of mass psychogenic illness, or if you will, "mass hysteria." To be clear, there’s no evidence that any sonic weapon was employed to cause these injuries, but it is also clear that they have some sort of physical cause. That should have been obvious from the start, but skeptics just love to muddy the waters by insisting that anything they don’t understand is "psychological."

While the exact cause of these concussion-like symptoms remains unknown, these individuals appeared to have sustained injury to "widespread brain networks without an associated history of blunt head trauma," report clinicians from the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Brain Injury and Repair in Philadelphia, which was selected to coordinate evaluation, treatment, and rehabilitation of affected patients.

Importantly, note Randel L. Swanson II, DO, PhD, and colleagues, there is no evidence that the symptoms reported by US embassy personnel in Cuba can be attributed to mass psychogenic illness, as some skeptics have suggested. Mass psychogenic illness typically involves uniform symptoms that are of short duration and are often benign in nature, with no consistent physical exam findings. This is completely opposite of what is seen in the Cuba cohort, they note. Although not systematically excluded, viruses or chemical exposures are unlikely, they say.

"While there are many open questions that remain, we are collectively convinced that these individuals, as a group, sustained a neurological injury. So, the constellation of signs and symptoms and their response to rehabilitation mirrors what we see in patients with mild traumatic brain injury, both in the civilian population and in our military population," Swanson said in a JAMA podcast.

As a point, there are equally misguided folks in the magical community who do the same thing. There’s no clear consensus on the nature of spirits, for example, so some practitioners dismiss them as "psychological projections." But my point is that what’s going on with both spirits and the Cuba case is that we just don’t know for sure. If you automatically dismiss everything you don’t understand as "psychological," you are going to make a lot of mistakes evaluating any paranormal phenomenon – or even unusual ones.


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Calm Before the Stupid

Donald Trump may be a bad president for many people, but the one group that he has consistently delivered for is conspiracy theorists. I don’t mean the garden-variety "big business is colluding with the government to make money" kind of conspiracy theorists (those sorts of conspiracies happen all the time), but rather the complete and utterly batshit insane variety. More and more implausible allegations come to light every day. Is it fake news, or is it just flat-out stupid? I expect that you already know my answer to that question. I recently came across an article about a conspiracy theory floated last year called "The Storm." It was a sort of meta-conspiracy that set the bar quite high for future efforts.

Part “Pizzagate,” part New World Order, and part hyper-partisan wishful thinking by defenders of Donald Trump, “the Storm” is a sprawling meta-conspiracy, with actors ranging from Hillary Clinton to model Chrissy Teigen, in which everything you know about the current investigations into Russian meddling in the 2016 election and potential collusion with the Trump campaign is upside down.

Special counsel Robert Mueller, in this alternative universe, is in fact preparing to indict hundreds of Democrats (including Clinton, Barack Obama, and financier George Soros) and Hollywood celebrities for their roles in a massive worldwide pedophilia ring, operated by “globalists” who are conspiring to destroy Trump — and that the president himself is himself masterminding this “countercoup.”

“What we have come up with is a possible coup,” explained conspiracy theorist David Zublick in a late-November video, “not against Donald Trump, but by Donald Trump, working with Robert Mueller to bring down the Clintons, the Democrat Party, and the entire U.S. government involved in pedophilia and child sex trafficking.”

In just a few short weeks, the theory has grown from a handful of posts on fringe Internet chat forums to become the overwhelming obsession of nearly every conspiracy theorist in the business, notably Alex Jones and his Infowars operation, as well as social-media figures such as Liz Crokin. In addition to being a constant focus of discussion on Infowars, dozens of YouTube videos and thousands of Twitter posts exploring various facets of the conspiracy, and presenting the usual dubious “evidence” to “prove” it, have shown up on the Internet.

The origins of “The Storm” lie in Trump’s cryptic remarks on October 6, saying that a gathering of military leaders represented “the calm before the storm.” When asked what he meant, Trump responded: “You’ll see.”

I have to admit that I really don’t understand this mindset at all. First off, the obsession with the Clintons remains as ridiculous as it was back in the 1990’s, even though now Bill can never run for president again and Hillary’s poorly-managed presidential campaign was very likely her last. Second, I also find it bizarre that it’s not enough for right-wing kooks to just disagree with the political agenda of the Democratic Party like regular right-wingers do. Instead, for them the Democrats have to be involved in (imaginary) stuff that’s sick and evil.

But really, few politicians are evil at all in any metaphysical sense. It’s not that they’re good either, but rather that they pursue their own interests and the interests of their big donors, which are usually one in the same due to the size of those donations. It is completely reasonable to be skeptical of the Clintons because of how they ran the Democratic Leadership Council in the 1990’s – you know, something that they really did – and entirely unreasonable to be down on them because of "Pizzagate."

And I’ll repeat this one too, because I guess I need to keep saying it – they are no "Illuminati occultists" running the world. I think that whole idea comes from thinking that liberal politics and evil and occultism is evil, so obviously they must be one in the same. But there are barely any occultists anywhere. Even out of the couple thousand "witches" who tried to bind Donald Trump, you won’t find many real occultists. Most of them were self-described "activists" who were doing it as performance art based on "the archetype of the witch."

Even a "binding spell" approached that way is neither magick nor occultism, and it doesn’t conjure any paranormal forces at all. It may be empowering in some sense and garner some media attention, but that’s it. When you can’t even find a significant percentage of occultists among people who are willing to burn a candle against a president they hate, that says what everybody who has ever tried to make money selling occult books can tell you – statistically speaking, there are barely any occultists in the entire world.

Oh, and occultists are mostly not rich either. If they were, they would be more willing to pay for things instead of pirating books because "all occult writers make tons of money." That’s a whole other misunderstanding of the way things are, and I think a good case can be made that it’s bolstered by the kooky worldview that rich, evil occultists are hiding around every corner trafficking children and performing (entirely ineffective, from their descriptions) rituals with high gross-out factors. Or fundamentalists who believe goofy things like if you just say the Lord’s Prayer backwards, the Devil will appear and give you a million dollars.

Oh, and if you still don’t believe me, read the last paragraph of the quoted section. October 6th of last year. In other words, all this "storm" nonsense was supposed to happen months ago. And none of it did. Even the article I am quoting here, "exposing" the whole thing, is a month old.


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Via Solis Aquarius Elixir Rite

Today’s Magick Monday post is a full script for the Aquarius Elixir Rite that we will be performing tomorrow, Tuesday February 13th, at Leaping Laughter Oasis, our local Twin Cities body of Ordo Templi Orientis. Going forward, we will be performing one of these per month, once for each of the twelve signs, in a ritual series called Via Solis (the way or path of the Sun). I will be posting the full scripts here on the preceding Mondays so people can take a look at them if they want to attend. Also, if you are in the Twin Cities (Minneapolis and Saint Paul, Minnesota) and would like to attend, let me or someone at the lodge know. This is a public ritual and all are welcome.

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 Aquarius.

The sign Aquarius is attributed to the power of "Astrology." Since astrological divination is a fairly mechanical process, it seems to me that in addition to being the proper spirit to call on in order to learn astrology or understand it better, the angel of Aquarius should also have a more active aspect. So what I am going to experiment with when we perform this ritual is to see if Aquarius has some degree of influence over astrological forces in general. That would have practically unlimited applications – if it works.

As just one example, there has been a lot of discussion back and forth here about magical strategies to neutralize negative aspects in natal charts, and I’m going to see if I can just use the power of Aquarius to accomplish something along those lines. It would be very convenient if, say, you could just call up Aquarius and say "neutralize XYZ in my natal chart" instead of working out a remedy involving a particular planet or element. Of course, I don’t know how well this will work, but that’s the whole point of experimentation.

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.

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.

II. The Magical Field

Officiant performs the Lesser Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram (Comselh Ananael or standard version). All rotate accordingly.

All: Now I begin to pray, thou child,
Holy thy name and undefiled.
Thy reign is come, thy will is done,
Here is the bread, here is the blood,
Bring me through midnight to the Sun.
Save me from evil and from good
That thy one crown of all the ten
Even now and here be mine.

Officiant: In my breast I carry the mark of the Living God.

All: I adore thee, thou light of the world. I adore thee thou Light of the Grail. I ask nothing from thee for I am become thee. I and thee are one in the perfection of the Mystery of Life.

Bell chime.

III. The Preliminary Invocation

Officiant: And before the throne there was a sea of glass, like crystal, and in the center and around the throne, four living creatures full of eyes in front and behind. Without stopping day or night they were saying…

All: Holy, holy, holy is the Lord God Almighty, who was, who is, and who is coming – IAO

All make the Sign of Apophis and Typhon.

Officiant: Holy art Thou, who art Universe,
Holy art Thou, who art in Nature formed,
Holy art Thou, the Vast and the Mighty,
Source of Darkness, Source of Light.

All make the Sign of Silence.

All: Lord all mighty and all powerful, hear our Prayers
Command thy holy Angels above the fixed stars
To be Assisting and Aiding of thy people
That we may command all spirits
Of the air, fire, water, earth, heaven and hell
So that they may tend to the glory of God and Man

Bell chime.

IV. Tuning the Space

Officiant performs the Greater Invoking Ritual of the Hexagram for Aquarius (Hexagram of Saturn in violet with ARARITA, symbol of Aquarius in slightly greenish yellow with HVYH). All rotate accordingly. Officiant(s) then read the unification statement from Liber 963, alternating the first twelve lines between them and reading the thirteenth together in unison.

1. O Thou Empress of Light and of Darkness, Thou pourer-forth of the stars of night! Yea, as I gaze upon Thy Countenance, mine eyes are as the eyes of a blind man smitten by a torch of burning fire.

2. O my God, Thou Mighty One, Thou Creator of all things, I renounce unto Thee the wine-cups of merriment, and the eyes of the wanton bearers, and all the lure of their soft limbs; so that I may be made drunk on the vine of Thy splendour, and be consumed in the unutterable joy of Thine everlasting rapture.

3. O Thou Eternal river of chaotic law, in whose depths lie locked the secrets of Creation; I swear to Thee by the primal waters of the Deep, to suck up the Firmament of Thy Chaos, and as a volcano to belch forth a Cosmos of coruscating suns.

4. O Thou Sovran Surging of wild felicity, whose love is as the overflowing of the seas, and who makest our bodies to laugh with beauty. I know Thee! O Thou outstrider of the sunset, who deckest the snow-capped mountains with red roses, and strewest white violets on the curling waves.

5. O Glory be to Thee, O God my God; for I behold Thee in the sparkling dew of the wild glades: Thou hast decked them out as for a great feast of rejoicing, so that they may gleam forth the Glory of Thy Name.

6. O Thou mighty God, make me as the sapphirine waves that cling to the shimmering limbs of the green rocks; I beseech Thee, O Thou great God! That I may chant in foaming music Thy Glory, and roll forth the eternal rapture of Thy Name: O Thou God, my God!

7. O Thou wanton cup-bearer of madness, whose mouth is as the joy of a thousand thousand masterful kisses; intoxicate me on Thy loveliness, so that the silver of Thy merriment may revel as a moon-white pearl upon my tongue.

8. O Thou God of the Nothingness of All Things! Thou who art neither the Crown of the flaming storm; nor the opalescence of the Abyss: O Thou who art not a nymph in the foam of the sea; nor a whirling devil in the sand of the desert! I deny Thee by the powers of mine understanding; Bear me in the unity of Thy might, and pour me forth from out the cup of Thine all-pervading Nothingness; for Thou art all and none of these in the fullness of Thy Not-Being.

9. Ah! but I rejoice in Thee, O Thou my God; Thou silken web of emerald bewitchment; Thou berylline mist of marshy meers; Thou flame-spangled fleece of seething gold: Yea, I rejoice in Thee, Thou pearly dew of the setting moon; O Thou dark purple storm-cloud of contending kisses! I rejoice, yea, I shout with gladness! till all my laughter, like enchaunted waters, is blown as an iris-web of bubbles from the lips of the deep, in the Glory and Splendour of Thy Name.

10. O my God, order me justly and be merciful unto me, as I humble myself before Thee; for all my thoughts are as a dust-clad serpent wind at noon that danceth through the ashen grass of law.

11. O woe unto me, my God, woe unto me; for all my song is as the dirge of the sea that moans about a corpse, lapping most mournfully against the dead shore in the darkness. Yet in the sob of the wind do I hear Thy name, that quickeneth the cold lips of death to life.

12. O what art Thou, O God my God, Thou teeming desert of the abundance of night? O Thou river of unquench’d thirst! Thou tongueless one who lickest up the dust of death and casteth it forth as the rolling ocean of life! O how can I possess the still depths of Thy darkness, and yet in Thine embrace fall asleep as a child in a bower of lilies?

13. O Thou Unity of all things: as the sun that rolleth through the twelve mansions of the skies, so art Thou, O God my God. I cannot slay Thee, for Thou art everywhere; lo! though I lick up the Boundless Light, the Boundless, and the Not, there still shall I find Thee, Thou Unity of Unities, Thou Oneness, O Thou perfect Nothingness of Bliss!

V. The Conjuration

Officiant: Oh Glorious and Mighty CAMBRIEL, You who command and rule over the spirits of DELI, Behold me, and in the name of the same your God, the stabilizing and aerial HVYH, Attend and Appear before us in this circle of art! Full powers and wonders of the Sign of Aquarius do we rightly desire! Enlighten our understanding, encourage our hearts, and manifest unto us now as we partake of your spiritual realm.

All: So mote it be.

All vibrate the name CAMBRIEL repeatedly until the presence of the angel is perceived by Officiant. Officiant rings Bell Chime to stop the chant. The following section then alternates between OFFICIANT(S) and ALL.

You are holy and your name is holy. You are exalted and your name is exalted. You are mighty and your name is mighty. You are strong and your name is strong. You are honored and your name is honored. You are true and your name is true. You are ancient and your name is ancient. You are blessed and your name is blessed. You are chosen and your name is chosen. You are great and your name is great. You are praised and your name is praised. You are power and your name is power.

Officiant: Gloria Patri et Matri et Filius et Filia et spiritui sancto interno et spiritui sancto externo ut erat est erit in saeculo saeculorum sex in uno per nomen septem in uno…


VI. Charging Elixir

Officiant: O stabilizing and aerial HVYH. To thee we present this talisman of our magickal will! We ask thee, Oh Exalted One, to receive this body of our rite into the light of thy presence. As we proceed in making this Elixir of Aquarius, charging it with the creative energies of DELI, we shall achieve a true alchemical ferment, mighty in Yetzirah and vitalized by thy blessing. In partaking of this Mystery, let there be unto us vitality of soul, increase of sight, true gnosis, and complete manifestation of the wonders of thy Sphere!

All make one clockwise circumambulation, visualizing a wall of violet light whirling rapidly in the same direction about the circle. When finished, the wall of light is allowed to fade. Beginning with Officiant and proceeding clockwise, the cup is passed to each participant. Each holds cup at heart level and says:

Creature of Wine who art established in the Sphere of Aquarius: by the vital force of my breath I enliven thee to perfect this work of Holy Magick in the realm of DELI.

Each participant then breathes into the wine and passes cup clockwise. When finished, the cup is replaced and all circumambulate the altar 3 times. Officiant then raises power, visualizing a continuous spiral of violet light ascending from the ground at feet, whirling clockwise around body and ascending until it disappears above head. Officiant holds this visualization, and then vibrates the permutation of the divine name once: HVYH

Each participant in turn, clockwise around circle, does the same as above. Note that this is power raised WITHIN YOURSELF. The power raised is NOT being projected into the elixir cup at this point. When finished, all join hands and vibrate once more: HVYH

All now extend hands toward elixir cup. THIS is where the power is projected into the elixir cup. Visualize beams of violet light emanating from both hands and entering into the cup. When the cup feels “full,” Officiant ends visualization, folding hands on breast left over right. All do likewise. Finally, Officiant traces the symbol of Aquarius in a horizontal plane while vibrating once more: HVYH

All make one complete circumambulation of the circle. Battery: 1. Officiant raises cup.

Officiant: Behold the Elixir of Aquarius! For all and for each it is prepared! Let each and all receive its magick virtue!

Officiant(s) drink first, followed by all participants. Each person takes a drink and visualizes or speaks their intent, either to themselves or out loud. The cup should not be entirely drained. When all are finished, Battery: 1.

Officiant: (indicating the cup, which should still contain some of the elixir) Glorious and Mighty CAMBRIEL, we make this offering unto you, that it may nourish and fortify you as you attend to your appointed tasks. Be the ferment of our spiritual alchemy mighty in the crucible of our souls!

All: So mote it be!

VII. Closing

Officiant: O thou CAMBRIEL, Praise and honor be unto thee for the Splendor of thine office and the majesty of thy being. And the blessing of thy God and Mine, the stabilizing and aerial HVYH. Because thou hast diligently answered unto our demands, and hast been very ready and willing to come at our call, we do here license thee to depart unto thy proper place; without causing harm or danger unto man or beast. Depart, then, I say, and be thou very ready to come at our call, being duly exorcised and conjured by these sacred rites of magick. We charge thee to withdraw peaceably and quietly, and that the peace of the Almighty, Eternal, True, and Living God be ever continued between us. AMEN.

All: So mote it be!

Officiant: May Life, Light, Love, and Liberty be extended universally to all under the regency of the one law of Thelema. May all attain the Stone of the Wise, the Summum Bonum, True Wisdom and Perfect Happiness.

All: 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!

Officiant(s) perform the Qabalistic Cross.

Officiant: I now declare this temple duly closed.

Bell Chime. The rite is at an end.


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More Fun With Yoga Demons

I’ve written a number of times here on Augoeides about the hatred for yoga among some fundamentalist Christians. They tend to be the kind of Christians who insist on living in their own little bubbles consisting of Christian television, Christian movies, Christian music, and so forth. So according to their sad ideology, anything that’s not explicitly Christian is depraved and evil. Yoga does not fit that bill, even though I have come across so-called "Christian Yoga" practitioners who rename the postures and open with Christian prayers. Recently a Christian blogger warned that yoga – apparently, no matter how you do it – creates a "demonic trance" and is just like playing with a Ouija board.

A Christian blogger is warning those who follow his faith that practicing yoga is like playing with a Ouija board.

“You may perform the moves without consciously seeking the demonic trance they were designed to help you attain, but it would seem you are playing, quite literally, with fire,” Matt Walsh wrote for the Daily Wire.

He repeatedly called yoga a pagan practice. “I don’t think all yoga practitioners go to Hell,” he wrote. “But neither do I see how a pagan ritual could ever help someone get to Heaven, and maybe that’s reason enough to leave it alone.”

I’m going to say this again, because I keep saying it and nobody seems to listen – there is such a thing as non-sectarian yoga. A lot of people practice it. While some yoga classes do include elements like simple Hindu prayers that a strict Christian could reasonably object to participating in, without any of that yoga is just stretching. There’s nothing "demonic" or even Hindu about the postures themselves. As I also have mentioned in previous posts, modern "exercise yoga" is not even entirely Indian. It is a mixture of Hatha Yoga, which simply consists of holding the postures for sustained periods of time, and European calisthenic exercises. The Europeans who practiced the latter were almost certainly Christian.

Sadly for those of you looking forward to getting your demonic trance on at the local Ashtanga studio, Walsh is full of it. Even for those of us who like working with spirits, there’s nothing about yoga that’s going to help us connect with them. It’s good exercise, but that’s about it.


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That’s Really Too Bad

It sounds like the African nation of Zambia won’t be conducting cutting-edge paranormal research any time soon. In response to rumors that the government was considering investigating witchcraft – that is, magick – as a science, its chief spokesperson issued a strong denial on the grounds that Zambia is officially defined as a "Christian nation" in its 1996 constitution. As I see it, this is one more case where having a state religion is just a terrible idea. Western academic institutions are highly biased against paranormal research on entirely different grounds, so little of it goes on here. But in Africa, it could be a more plausible area for study if not for all the religious prejudice.

The Zambian government on Tuesday denied media reports that it intends to consider research on witchcraft as a science. Witchcraft or witchery broadly means the practice of and belief in magical skills and abilities exercised by solitary practitioners and groups. Witchcraft often occupies a religious divinatory or medicinal role, and is often present within societies and groups whose cultural framework includes a magical world view.

Chief Government Spokesperson, Kampamba Mulenga, said such reports were blatant falsehoods. Mulenga said: "We are aware that there is a group of people that is spreading malicious statements through various media platforms, bent on destroying government’s image." According to her, the government could not start advocating for witchcraft practices as the country was a declared Christian nation. She added: "Christianity and witchcraft are poles apart and cannot co-exist."

In other words, as long as Zambia is a "Christian Nation," no paranormal research will ever be conducted. That’s too bad, because paranormal research touches on all sorts of areas that I remain convinced will become important areas for study in the future. At the very least, consciousness studies has taken off as a discipline over the last decade or so, and one wonders if that would fall under "witchcraft" as well according to the Zambian government. After all, consciousness is the key to working with every magical system I’ve ever come across, and I highly doubt that the African form of witchcraft is any different.

It should also be pointed out that this is exactly the kind of nation that the Poor Oppressed Christians are fighting for here in the United States. As they are "oppressed" by the mere existence of people who don’t share their beliefs, any paranormal research in a "Christian America" would be right out. I might not even be allowed to discuss it publicly in a forum like this blog. And as I see it, that simply is unacceptable.


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Flat Earther Fails to Launch

Is there anything more ridiculous these days than a flat-earther? I’m not sure, but I think the answer might very well be "no." People have known since ancient times that the Earth is round. It simply is not true that we’ve only known the Earth was round since the Middle Ages. If you live on any coast, anywhere, you can easily observe this for yourself just like the ancient Greeks did. Just watch a ship as it disappears over the horizon. You’ll see that the bottom of the ship disappears first, because the Earth is curved.

Given that, I’m still not sure whether Mike Hughes is a serious flat-earther or just taking advantage of stupid people. For a while now, Hughes has been raising money online from flat-earthers to launch his own rocket. The rocket is powered by steam, which has limited effectiveness as a propellant, and can reach about five hundred miles per hour and sustain that speed for a short period of time. Hughes claims that this is part of a plan to eventually reach outer space, but given the technology he’s using it’s hard to see how that’s going to happen. Especially since, after many delays, his attempted launch completely failed.

In fairness to Mike Hughes, he knows how to build a rocket. He built them for many years under the precepts of classical physics, when he was still a relatively conventional daredevil, which is to say, one who believed the Earth is round. But Saturday marked Hughes’ third aborted launch since he declared himself a flat Earther last year and announced a multipart plan to fly to space by the end of 2018 so he could prove astronauts have been lying about the shape of the planet.

The Washington Post, like many news outlets, covered Hughes’ plan. In retrospect, there was never any chance he’d pull it off. Hughes blamed technical difficulties – possibly a bad O-ring – for his steam-powered rocket’s failure to ignite this weekend in the Mojave Desert. But even if it had, and even if he managed to subsequently rocket-pack himself into space by the end of the year, his mission would have ended at worst in death, and at best in disappointment as he realized what ancient Greeks and schoolchildren already know: The world is round; it has always been round; Mike Hughes will never see its edges.

It began last year, as the daredevil struggled to raise money for a follow-up to his last successful homemade rocket launch in 2012. He gave an interview to a flat Earth group about his newfound skepticism in the planet’s shape, and subsequently raised thousands of dollars from a community that believes we all live, basically, on a big Frisbee. The money was enough for Hughes to build a rocket. The slogan on that rocket, “RESEARCH FLAT EARTH” drew attention not only from this newspaper but from the Associated Press, Fox News, the Guardian, the Australian Broadcasting Corporation . . . truly from every corner of the Earth, pun intended.

Even if Hughes is serious, it’s hard to see how a steam-powered rocket could "prove" much of anything. Unlike conventional rocket fuel, steam carries no additional chemical energy along with it so it doesn’t burn. It has to be heated using some internal system and shot out the back. If Hughes had a massive power source available to him like a compact nuclear reactor, he might be able to get a steam-based rocket to work just because nuclear reactors can reach such incredibly high temperatures. But an earlier article mentioned that the rocket as designed could maybe reach 2000-some feet.

In perspective, that’s not even as high as the world’s tallest building, the Burj Khalifa in Dubai. A rocket that can’t even fly as high as the world’s tallest elevator is not particularly impressive, and at that height there’s really nothing to see as far as "space" is concerned. For a lot less money, Hughes could fly to Dubai and just ride the elevator up. From the top of the building, he’d be able to make better observations of the horizon for as long as he wants. Better still, he could make observations during the flight there. Commercial airliners fly at about 35,000 feet, many times the height that Hughes rocket could possibly reach.

Don’t get me wrong, flying through the air in a rocket, even a steam-powered one, is pretty darn cool and would probably be a lot of fun. It just is never going to prove anything about the shape of the Earth, flat or otherwise.


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Custom Spirit Boxes!

If you are interested in claiming perks for backing the upcoming Enochian and Goetic Online Master Classes, you only have a couple of days left. And now, a last minute perk has been added to the campaign – a custom spirit box by occult artist Mani C. Price! Here’s what she has to say about these remarkable talismanic boxes:

"There are a variety of spirit boxes I do. They are a type of high-end talisman. They are created to house spirits and have a physical anchor on this plane. When you want to contact someone or resolve an issue immediately, a spirit box will do just that. When you go to open it, you are ‘putting the spirit to work for you.’ You make a request and send the spirit to work. Communication becomes smoother and faster. These spirit boxes can be treated as traveling miniature altars. I have one client who is a performer and she takes her box everywhere."

"…These are solid pieces of wood made to be heirlooms. They will last a lifetime. I’ve done mahogany, purpleheart, maple, ash, cherry and birch thus far. I start with a simple wood burning ritual around the main sigil. Then I start painting on the sides of the boxes.These images are usually related to aspects of the spirit the box is meant to work with. For example, a box for Venus may be covered with depictions of sex and lust, while a box for Jupiter has more images of money and kingship. In the end you have a masterpiece in its own right that you can do with as you please."

"…Clients are given instructions on offerings, prayers, rites and general upkeep to maintain that connection. Items pertaining to the spirit can also put inside the box such as oils, herbs, stones, or dirt (like from a bank to attract money). Animal products such a teeth, claws, feathers, or bones can also be incorporated."

If you are interested in claiming this or any of the other perks associated with the campaign, click right here to check it out. Remember, the campaign is ending in a couple of days, so act now if you’ve been putting it off. You’ll be supporting a great series of classes with some truly outstanding magical teachers – you know, like me!


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Magical Powers are Descriptive, Not Prescriptive

I talk a lot about the magical powers and visions from Liber 777 as the basis for the magical operations posted here for the elemental, planetary, and zodiacal work. Reading over the powers, you can see pretty clearly that they are derived from the attributions of the corresponding Tarot trumps. For example, the power for Leo is given as "the power of training wild beasts," which is a pretty good description of the Strength card in the Rider-Waite Tarot. I went a little metaphoric there in my description of the Leo operation, and surmised that this was a power that could be used to alter conditioned responses in general – and I will say that my first experiment along those lines worked quite well.

So as far as I can tell, the powers given are descriptive rather than prescriptive. In other words, they are examples of what can be done rather than lists of what has to be done. Leo is the fixed sign of Fire and is ruled by the Sun. Neither of those is particularly related to "training wild beasts," but they are valid attributions for the sign. If you find yourself with a really strong election for a Leo operation, that means you could call on the angel of the sign to do both fiery things and solar things in addition to Leo things. An example would be a case where you have a good Leo election, but the Sun is afflicted in the operation’s chart. In such a case, the angel of Leo would be a better choice than the angel of the Sun for a solar operation.

The key here is that as long as you keep your attributions straight, you can call on all of the angels of the elements, planets, and signs to do far more than what is given for their specified powers. It goes both ways, too. In the Leo example, you could call on the angel of Fire or the angel of the Sun (both of whom happen to be Michael for practical operations) to do Leo things, such as working with conditioning. The angel of Taurus, "the secret of physical strength," can also be called on for things related to Venus and Earth, and both the angel of Earth and the angel of Venus can do things related to Taurus. And so forth. Keeping all that in mind helps when you are trying to get the best possible election for your operation.

Even within the signs themselves, there is more variation than what the powers describe. Astrology is a subject that is massively documented in terms of what all of the signs represent, and most of those attributions are also valid. For example, the sign that originally prompted this discussion was Capricorn, which is attributed to "The Witches’ Sabbath so-called" and "The Evil Eye." The former is the only case in Liber 777 where we see something described as "so-called," which implies this is some sort of blind, or gloss – which, by the way, are pretty rare in published magical texts. The latter is a specific kind of curse case by line of sight.

Taking a look at Liber A’ash vel Capricorni Pneumatici, and keeping in mind that "The Witches’ Sabbath" was not a real operation but rather something that sprang from the imaginations of church inquisitors, this appears to be another case of Aleister Crowley using a euphemism for sex magick. So it is similar to the chapter in Magick: Book Four on "the bloody sacrifice," in which Crowley apparently found it quite amusing that he could write all he wanted about "sacrificing children," but if he said anything about sex magick the censors would consider the book obscene – when it should be obvious to any reasonable person that real human sacrifice is far more obscene than anything sexual.

But even given all that, Capricorn can be used for a lot more than sex magick and cursing. Ruling over "The Evil Eye" means that Capricorn can also be used to protect against curses of this type, just like Mars and Saturn can be used both offensively and defensively. Beyond that, here is what an astrology site has to say about Capricorns.

Chief among the traits of a Capricorn is their fierce drive for success. Capricorns are strong-minded and mature, and they are always on their A-game. They are competitive and love a challenge, and love when a solid structure is put into place. Ruled by taskmaster Saturn, a Capricorn is incredibly disciplined and will always ensure that a project, no matter how big or small, is seen through to its completion. Capricorn is the sign of the slow and steady Mountain Goat. As the ruler of the zodiac’s tenth house, Capricorns can be highly career-focused.

Suppose that you have a project at work that is encountering all sorts of problems. Capricorn would be perfect for blowing through those obstacles and keeping everything on track. That objective has little to do with the powers from Liber 777, but the attribution fits perfectly based on Capricorn’s astrological properties. And this is just one example. If you take a look at the astrology, you can find all sorts of things attributed to the signs and planets. Most of the time, anything related to those attributions is likely to work.

Now I do recommend learning the "official" powers from Liber 777 to start off, because they provide clearer guidance than the vast collections of traits that you will find if you start digging into the astrology. Also, they help you learn the attributions of the Tarot according to Crowley’s arrangement because the list of powers is so closely derived from the imagery on the cards. But as you get to know them better and better, you will become the magical equivalent of a musician who knows how to "jam." You start by learning the science, and that will eventually get you to the point where you can make the art.


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Mass Hysteria is Paranormal

"Mass hysteria" is the skeptic’s go-to explanation for anything they don’t understand. According to its proponents, mass hysteria arises unexpectedly, is poorly understood, and is a relatively rare phenomenon. It is supposedly "mental" or "psychological," and yet it can apparently produce significant physical changes within the human body. In short, it is pretty much the same thing as "mind over matter" or "faith healing" in reverse – as generally speaking, it tends to cause illness rather than cure it.

The cause of mass hysteria is said to be "the mind," but to be clear, the same exact thing can be said about psychic phenomena. So I contend that mass hysteria is essentially a paranormal explanation. It’s just a paranormal explanation that skeptics happen to like. Slate has an article up today arguing that the alleged "sonic attacks" that affected U.S. embassy workers in Cuba back in 2016 were the result of this phenomena. But I think the author of it has failed to consider all of the ramifications of his conclusion.

A few weeks after the 2016 presidential election of Donald Trump, several people working for the U.S. Embassy in Cuba fell mysteriously ill. Some lost their hearing. Some had headaches and a pain in one ear. Others reported feeling dizzy or nauseous, having trouble focusing, or feeling fatigued. Later, some would have a hard time concentrating, remembering things, sleeping, and even walking. These symptoms were “medically confirmed,” as the State Department’s medical director Charles Rosenfarb put it, and brain scans were said to show abnormalities in the victims’ white matter, which transfers information between brain regions. The illnesses were believed by the government to be “health attacks,” carried out by a foreign power, though as Todd Brown, assistant director at the Bureau of Diplomatic Security, told the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, “investigative attempts and expert analysis failed to identify the cause or perpetrator.”

Nonetheless, investigators concluded the illnesses, which ultimately affected 24 people, were likely the result of a “sonic device.” This conclusion seems to be primarily due to the fact that some diplomats reported hearing a high-pitched noise in their homes and hotel rooms. Despite a lack evidence for such a weapon, or any known way it could affect white matter, the sonic weapon theory proved irresistible for both media outlets and for Cuba hawks like Sens. Marco Rubio and Bob Menendez, both of whom immediately transformed the sonic weapon into a handy political weapon. In the months following the “attacks,” new diplomats arriving in the country were warned of this sonic danger. Embassy employees were played a recording of what was thought to be the sound so they knew what to listen for. Soon, people at the Canadian Embassy in Cuba began reporting symptoms similar to what the Americans had experienced, as did a few tourists there. A husband and wife at the U.S. Embassy in Uzbekistan became ill as well. Whatever it was, it seemed to be spreading.

There is increasing recognition that these epidemics of hysteria, which usually mirror prominent social concerns, present real individual and public health problems. With no details, no motive, and no plausible explanation for what kind of weapon this might be, doubts began to surface. The FBI investigated and reportedly found there had been no such attack (though it suggested maybe it was a “viral” weapon). Sen. Jeff Flake also cast doubts on the sonic version of events. A handful of skeptical stories began to appear amid the more alarming ones, suggesting this might be what in the past was known as, “mass hysteria,” but which is now referred to as “mass psychogenic illness,” or a “collective stress response.” (These include things like the twitching girls in Le Roy, New York, in 2011; the 600 paralyzed girls in Mexico in 2007; and the Belgian Coca-Cola scare of 1999, which affected 100 students with more than 900 others reporting a related symptom, and costing the company somewhere between $103 million and $250 million.)

To be clear, I’m not necessarily arguing that these "attacks" were really the result of a "sonic weapon." That part of the story does seem to fit the mass hysteria narrative with respect to individuals who later reported minor symptoms. Somebody came up with a hypothetical mechanism, and the story stuck. Once you start telling people to look out for something, their minds will focus on it and that can create effects akin to hypnotic suggestions. But the twitching girls case from 2011, the paralyzed girls case from 2007, and the Coca-Cola scare from 1999 mentioned in the article all differ from the "sonic attack" case in one key way – no physical injury, abnormality, or disorder was ever found among the sufferers. Doctors resorted to a psychological explanation when all of their tests failed to turn up anything.

That isn’t true in the "sonic attack" case. There’s evidence that brain scans of the early sufferers showed brain changes similar to those caused by concussions. In true skeptic fashion, the author of the article puts "medically confirmed" in scare quotes and claims that "brain scans were said to show" rather than "brain scans showed." That’s likely because the existence of physical damage is an inconvenient fact that gets in the way of his mass hysteria hand-waving. Skeptics constantly accuse paranormal researchers of fraud, or of cherry-picking data. But this is exactly what they do when trying to make their "mass hysteria" arguments stick. They assume that because the data doesn’t support their conclusion, it must be in error or fraudulently obtained. It’s possible that some error was made when conducting the scans, but it’s not very "skeptical" to make that assumption with no evidence at all.

Back in 1994, the case of Gloria Ramirez was being discussed in the news. Skeptics were on top of the story, explaining that the case was "obviously" the result of mass hysteria. This ignored the fact that one of the sufferers affected in the case developed hepatitis, pancreatitis, and avascular necrosis, a condition in which bone tissue is starved of blood and begins to die. While some of the hospital workers who developed minor symptoms may have been suffering from psychological effects brought on by stress, it strikes me as extremely dubious that a psychological mechanism alone could cause health problems of that magnitude. In 1995, chemists from Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory analyzed the case and came up with a plausible mechanism by which Ramirez’ body could have produced a toxin that sickened at least some of the affected workers. Still, as of 2012 the skeptic website Skeptoid was still insisting that mass hysteria could be to blame.

What I don’t see skeptics pointing out when they bring this up is that if mass hysteria does have the power to cause serious illnesses with easily measured physical effects, it means that all sorts of other things that skeptics don’t like must also work. Faith healing, for example, is supposed to work the same way. But because skeptics don’t like faith healing, they argue that form of mass hysteria is fraudulent because it can’t produce lasting physical effects. But since they’re allegedly the same mechanism, it stands to reason that either both can, or neither can. You don’t get to have it both ways just because of personal bias. In fact, it’s dangerous to suggest "mass hysteria" as a mechanism for any significant physical health issue, because it might impede doctors from delivering needed medical care – just like faith healing can lead people to rely on it for cures rather than seeking proper medical attention.

I think it’s most likely that the chemical explanation is correct in the Ramirez case, and that some sort of physical effect or condition caused the injuries to at least the first victims in the "sonic attack" case. It should stand to reason that just because the initial explanation was probably wrong, on the grounds that such a "sonic weapon" has never been identified and it’s not clear how one would work, that doesn’t mean that no other physical explanation is possible. Also, just because some of the sufferers don’t have any physical injuries and may be suffering from real mass hysteria, that doesn’t mean that this is also true of the initial victims. Real skepticism would tease that out, and likely conclude that both physical and psychological effects are at play whenever solid physical evidence of illness or injury surfaces.

Paranormal effects are rare, hard to study, and have mechanisms that are poorly understood by conventional science. I would suggest that mass hysteria, particularly as employed by skeptics, fits this definition precisely, just like magick, ghosts, psychic powers, you name it. In all those cases I don’t think we’re dealing with anything "supernatural" – that is, beyond the bounds of what science can ever study. More likely, as our ability to make measurements of factors like mind and consciousness increases, scientific explanations will emerge for all of these weird phenomena. It might take a long time, though.


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Against Linguistic Quibbles

I’ve written a number of articles here about the relationship between linguistics and magick. More to the point, I’ve written that I think any such relationship is entirely based on personal thinking styles and cannot be generalized in any meaningful sense. In other words, linguistics can’t tell us much about magick at all except in the context of your own personal work – and only then if you happen to be a linguistic thinker, which not all people are. Since I’m not a linguistic thinker, this has been obvious to me since childhood. But apparently, there are a lot of folks out there who believe otherwise.

Most available evidence suggests that language is descriptive, not prescriptive. This has been pretty well-established by science, as what is called the "strong version" of linguistic relativity has been pretty much disproved at this point. The words and sounds we use to communicate do not carry inherent meaning apart from usage, and the best studies showing the influence of language on thought has found only weak effects. One example of this that I posted on a while back is Jules Davidoff’s study on the Himba people of Africa, whose language does not include separate terms for the colors blue and black. Davidoff discovered that, on average, Himba children had more trouble distinguishing between black and dark navy blue than English-speaking children.

A BBC documentary took that study and used it to argue that ancient people "couldn’t see" the color blue. Which is just stupid. On top of that, the documentary was incredibly poorly done – somehow in scripting the show, the Himba’s single term for blue and black got turned into a single term for blue and green, and the producers included some misleading graphics to "demonstrate" the effect. Which wasn’t even the effect Davidoff observed. This got turned into the Business Insider article that I skewered in my piece by simply quoting Davidoff presenting his own work. And to be clear, Davidoff’s study of linguistic relativity is the best one out there. The others are worse.

But popular culture loves the idea, and I don’t really understand why. Like I mentioned in one of my previous posts, the film What the Bleep Do We Know? put forth the contention that the Incans literally could not see Pizarro’s ships until a "Shaman" (no, there were no Laplanders in Mesoamerica) pointed them out – because they had never seen ships before! That’s a particularly dumb version of "the ancients were idiots." The human mind just doesn’t work that way, and it never has. More recently, the film Arrival at the very least implies that learning a language without past, present, or future tenses lets you see into the future.

It should be obvious that there’s no language in the universe, regardless of its structure, that will suddenly make you psychic. I haven’t read the original short story that Arrival was based on, but apparently the implication made by the film is not nearly as strong as in the original work. So Hollywood decided that people would like the film if it emphasized that idea. Maybe it’s popular for the same reason as the "one weird trick" notion. "All I have to do is think the right series of words, and suddenly my magick will work." I hate to break it anybody who doesn’t realize it yet, but magick is not that easy. You have to really engage and work with your mind to get results, not slide a few symbols around until you get it "right."

The latest of these linguistic quibbles I found online is regarding the words "daemon" and "demon." The poster was taking issue with people who say that "demon is the Christianized version of daemon, which originally meant ‘spirit’ but now means ‘evil spirit.’" Now that is technically a mistake. "Demon" and "Daemon" are pronounced the same and etymologically are the same word. But the Christians did change the definition. Originally, demon/daemon did mean spirit. Christians decided that celestial spirits should be called "angels" instead, kept "demon" for chthonic spirits, and that the former were good and the latter were evil.

So even though it’s wrong that "demon" and "daemon" were originally distinct etymologically, the only real annoyance that makes any sense is if somebody is throwing that bit of fake linguistics around trying to sound clever. The meaning is basically correct. In Christianity, "demon" now means "evil spirit" and angel means "good spirit." Words change with usage. I can talk about what I consider errors in the Christian cosmology – grimoire demons are chthonic spirits and grimoire angels are celestial spirits, since good and evil are relative terms rather than metaphysical principles – but the words used are only important when explaining this to other people. They carry no special meaning of their own.

Another example from years back was the debate over evocation and invocation. It is true that until the Golden Dawn came along the terms were close to synonymous. They both meant "to call up spirits." Invocation just had a second definition referring to prayer that evocation lacked. But the Golden Dawn decided that "evocation" meant to call a spirit into an external structure or object, and "invocation" meant to call a spirit into yourself. These days, that’s the terminology that most modern magicians, including myself, use.

Those definitions are only about a hundred and twenty years old, but so what? We need technical terminology to discuss magick, and they work better than anything else I can come up with. There is a difference between calling a spirit into your sphere of awareness versus calling into a containment structure or an object like a talisman. You will see "invoke" and "evoke" used interchangeably in the old grimoires since they used to mean the same thing, so for example you could "invoke" a spirit into a crystal. But as long as you understand that, you should be good to go. Personally I think that it’s helpful to make the distinction, and words change with usage. The older definitions are not "more correct" than modern ones in any meaningful sense.

Another example of this is the debate over "Goetia." As Jake Stratton-Kent pointed out in Geosophia, the ancient Greek definition of the term had nothing to do with grimoires like the Lemegeton, also known in modern parlance as "The Goetia." But where I think people get into trouble is when they try to argue that the use of the same term means that you should "really" approach the Lemegeton using your best approximation of ancient Greek methods rather than the methods given in the text. That’s silly. It’s pretty obvious to me that "Goetia" was applied to "working with demons" by Europeans who were looking at Greek texts without really understanding them. So they took a Greek word that refered to a particular method of working with underworld spirits and decided to use it for "working with demons."

Again, words change with usage, and they change over time. It’s likely that the ancient Greek methods had little to do with the later grimoire methods. The fact that grimoire magicians co-opted the ancient Greek term to mean something entirely different does not imply any sort of continuity between the two practices. Whether or not the Greek methods work for grimoire spirits is another question entirely – it’s still real magick, just a totally different style than what the authors of the grimoires intended – but my point is that the word doesn’t have anything to do with it. If anybody tells you that you’re doing magick wrong because you don’t use the ancient Greek methods for Lemegeton operations is operating under a flawed set of assumptions.

I think it’s about time we admitted that the semiotic features of language are not all that important for magical operations. You can do totally effective magical work without worrying about the pedigree of the words you use, or the meanings that they had hundreds and even thousands of years ago. The key is just to make sure that anyone you’re talking with understands your terminology in order to avoid confusion. That’s the only time it’s going to make much of a difference.


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