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A Flat Earth Reality Show

To answer the question you probably are about to ask, yes, there are apparently people in the world who believe that the Earth is flat. Some of them might be trolling, but apparently at least a few take it seriously. A clever Redditor recently came up with the idea that somebody should produce a reality show in which flat-earthers hunt for the edge of the world. We’d do it for the lulz, naturally.

A number of people online have decided that a TV studio should put their hands in their pockets and shell out to make a show about flat-earthers showing the rest of us where the edge of the world is. You’d probably just need to pay for a boat and camera rental.

The initial idea for finding the edge of the world was pitched on Wednesday by a redditor who is hopefully going places in the entertainment world. After 24 hours the idea already had around 65.7k upvotes – just think of the viewer numbers HBO.

To be fair, some flat-earthers do not believe a flat earth means it has an edge. Some argue there’s an infinite earth that carries on in all directions (like standing on a sphere, perhaps). Others think that it is impossible to reach ‘the edge’ because of an ice wall – like Game of Thrones.

Here’s the concept – take your teams to the top of the "ice wall" – you know, the glaciers in Antarctica. Then outfit them with all the gear they need and dogsleds (because dogsleds are funnier than snowmobiles). The first team to reach the other edge of the wall wins. The rest of us could watch as they embark on the 1200 mile trip across the continent… oh, wait, I mean the "ice wall." To be clear, that’s a pretty thick wall.

And, of course, the joke is on the winning team, who will arrive at the "edge" and find – more ocean! You know, because Antarctica is a continent and not the edge of some sort of crazy wall. For bonus points, make them navigate by compass so that when they reach the south pole it becomes clear that the only direction they can go is north. That would be funny, too.

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Against Lesbian Hands

Just as I referred back to the stupid controversy about Starbucks holiday cups from back in 2015 in my recent article on the Museum of the Bible, a new controversy was growing regarding this year’s design. Or, more specifically, Fox News was desperately trying to stir one up. And this time around, it might even be dumber than arguing that the cups should include "ancient symbols" of the Christian faith like snowmen and snowflakes – and to be clear, coming up with something dumber than that is a real achievement.

Part of this year’s design shows an image of holding hands at the top of the cup. The hands are shown attached to arms but not to bodies, which are entirely out of frame. Apparently some yahoos on the Internet have decided that the image depicts "lesbian hands," whatever that means, and are upset about it. Does a hand even have a sexual orientation?

But because it’s essentially its job, Fox News waded into this non-story in the ongoing Culture Wars. Pairing a Buzzfeed article that noted that the image was not explicitly heterosexual, not explicitly cisgendered, with a couple of tweets, Fox News’ website sold the whole mess as a report on a supposedly massive backlash against the coffee purveyor for trying to make baby Jesus gay.

Now, Fox News itself doesn’t go very far into actually proving that there is a right-wing avalanche of criticism here. It offers a couple of tweets and not much else. As far as Salon can tell, there’s not really more out there in the way of red-state rage. Matter of fact, look into the comments on that same Fox News post and you’ll see that many of the site’s readers see the whole matter as a massive serving of nothingburger, be they there to support or slam the right-wing outlet.

That Fox News tried so very hard to make this into a thing, however, says quite a lot about where it is and how desperately it misses its foremost fighter in the War on Christmas, Bill O’Reilly. He totally would have made something wonderful of this.

It’s actually good to see that hardly anybody is taking this seriously. For years I wondered if Poor Oppressed Christian outrage had a limit, and it looks like this could be it. But it’s also funny to see how desperate Fox News is to create a controversy based on nothing more than a couple of tweets. After losing its number one blowhard Bill O’Reilly to a sexual harrassment scandal earlier this year, the network is clearly floundering as it tries to drum up the old "War on Christmas" ratings.

I’m happy to see this whole idea spiraling down the drain to where it belongs. Nobody is trying to attack anyone by making an effort to be inclusive and inoffensive. Starbucks is a business, and they want to appeal to the largest possible demographic. The same is true of stores that put up "Happy Holidays" banners and the like. There’s nothing more sinister to it than that.

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Thoughts on Retro-Enchantment

The subject of retro-enchantment – that is, casting spells into the past in order to make changes – came up in the discussion of my post on the feasibility of time travel. In the chaos magick system, such as it is, the idea is treated seriously and a number of people claim to have done it successfully. I, on the other hand, have not. Or, more to the point, all of the experiments I have done trying to exploit this method explicitly have failed to work, or at least failed to work any better than rituals performed without any retro-enchantment component.

It is true that if you look at a particular result and trace it back to its causes, you often can find some precipitating event that took place before you performed your ritual. Some take this to mean that either (A) the ritual effect went backwards in time, or (B) that the result was something that was going to happen anyway with or without the ritual. According to my quantum information model of magick, neither of these suppositions is precisely correct. I can illustrate how I think this works in practice using a simple thought experiment.

Basically this is the same idea as Schroedinger’s Cat, but I like cats so instead of a thought experiment in which a cat might or might not be killed, I’m going to go with two light bulbs. The experimental apparatus is designed as follows: inside a light-proof box, you assemble a quantum diode (a simple random number generator) and connect it to a red light bulb and a blue light bulb. For each trial, the quantum diode returns either 1 or 0 based the decay of a radioactive element inside it and calibrated to produce a perfect 50/50 probability differential. On a 1, the red bulb lights. On a 0 the blue bulb lights.

While their findings are disputed by capital-S Skeptics, the Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research (PEAR) laboratory showed that human intention could create a shift of between 0.1 percent and 0.5 percent, depending on the subject. So the first step in testing this red/blue light device would be to see if it shows a similar shift. If it does, you can proceed – and anyway, this is a thought experiment, so for purposes of argument I’m just assuming that it works and you can reliably show a shift of that magnitude.

Ideally you would want the best subject you can find, so let’s say that you can identify somebody who can do a 0.5. You conduct the test two ways. For the first set of trials, test the diode after you have your subject concentrate on the desired result. For the second set, test the diode before they concentrate on the desired result. Then you compare your data sets. According to my quantum information model of magick, these two sets should both show the same deviation from chance, my hypothetical 0.5. If they reliably differ, that’s a flaw in the model that would need to be corrected.


Like I mentioned in my comments on the time travel article, quantum systems exhibit a property called non-locality prior to observation. In effect, until a particle is observed and the "wavefunction collapse" happens (whether a physical or simply a mathematical event) it either does not occupy a fixed position at all or its position and momentum are disturbed by the observation in such a way that the result can only be predicted by statistical means. Until you open the box and see which bulb is lit, you don’t actually have a final result.

So it doesn’t matter when the diode is tested. What matters is when the result of the trial is determined. And it is my contention that this same mechanism can explain some retro-enchantment observations. When you cast into a situation – that is, a complex system of quantum events – the overall wavefunction doesn’t "collapse" until you arrive at a result. The result you want could ostensibly be caused by something else that happened before your ritual, but until your test is complete it remains in an indeterminate state.

Joseph Banks Rhine did some experiments like that using Zener cards back in the 1930’s and 1940’s at Duke University. What he found was that it didn’t matter when he shuffled a set of cards and placed them into an envelope. What mattered was when the cards were taken out and checked against his subjects’ predictions of their order. Rhine concluded that this meant psychic abilities were in some fashion unbound by time and space, but in my opinion the "wavefunction collapse" idea is a far more straightforward explanation of this observation, just like it is for magick.

A second effect that can explain other retro-enchantment observations has to do with timing. Ten years ago, one of the freeway bridges here in my home town of Minneapolis collapsed. Let’s say for the sake of argument that I was a magician who was angry at the bridge or something and cursed it to collapse the day before. Just to be clear, I did nothing of the sort. When investigators looked into the bridge collapse they found that the contractors who built it used smaller gusset plates to hold the bridge together than the design specified. The bridge collapsed because the plates couldn’t handle the weight of traffic over time and eventually cracked under stress.

So would my hypothetical spell have worked by going back in time to 1964, when the bridge was built, and convincing the contractors to cut corners on the gusset plates? Probably not. A more parsimonious explanation suggests that the bridge would have failed at some point, but the function of the spell would have been to shift probabilities so that the failure happened the next day. In fact, one of the easier things to do with magick is to make something that’s already fairly likely seemingly happen on cue. That does mean that if all I cared about was that the bridge failed at some point, I wouldn’t have needed to do a ritual. It would have happened anyway, probably in the relatively near future. But you do the ritual if you want it to happen within a specific timeframe.

As far as some of my own experimental results, as I mentioned above the times I have tried to make use of the retro-enchantment idea have not produced convincing results. The basic idea behind a number of these experiments was to see if retro-enchantment could be employed to produce an "instant" probability by doing all of the operation’s work in the past. So what you do is cast a spell with the specific charge that the spell will project into the past and begin working over, say, the previous month, and then resolve to a result in a very short period of time like, say, a day.

A little of the necessary background to understand why this is a good test – a magical result is essentially a probability shift P multiplied by time T. P * T essentially measures the "work" that a spell can do. Time is not a factor with pure probability results like lottery numbers that are not part of chaotic system with many degrees of freedom, but in real-life situations it is very important. The butterfly effect from chaos theory is what you need to keep in mind in these situations – a probability shift may initially be small, like PEAR’s 0.5 percent. But if that shift (A) is maintained and (B) hits the system you are trying to influence at a critical point, time will magnify it substantially.

My experiments comparing retro and standard enchantment involved (A) trying to cast into the path and use the previous month to build up an effect and (B) cast forward and give the operation a month to manifest. If retro-enchantment worked, you would expect to see similar results from both these methods – and you probably would use retro all the time because the result would be faster. But that isn’t what happened. The retro results for "previous month plus one day" were about the same as "one day," and the "one month" results were substantially better.

Now understand that I am not saying this doesn’t work. What I’m saying is that it hasn’t worked for me, and after spending a couple of years trying to work out a methodology that would hold up to testing I eventually gave up. There may be a trick to it that haven’t figured out, but so far what I’ve been able to do can more easily be explained by either a wavefunction collapse approach or a "ready to happen" approach, neither of which requires any retro-causation to work. If any of you have had worked out anything reliable in this area, I’d be interested in hearing it. Maybe there’s a trick out there that I might have missed.

A more plausible technique that was brought up in the discussion has to do with projecting into the past to modify beliefs and so forth, but that one’s easy. There’s nothing "retro" about it, because it’s basically just a form of "memory hacking." And again, to be clear, maybe "just" does this technique a disservice, because modifying your memories is potentially quite powerful. Stepping back into your memories is necessary to modify them because basically, that’s how your brain’s "search" mechanism works. As for the rest, scientists are working on a protocol using the drug propranolol to erase the traumatic components of memories. You administer the drug, have them recall the memory, and in many cases it works.

I suppose that if you want to work on editing your memories and frame it as some sort of retro-enchantment, you can if that’s what really motivates and inspires you to do the work. Personally I just rely on meditation tricks. For example, when I feel a thought start to arise but before it "grabs my attention," I can dismiss it by imagining myself cutting it down, swiping it aside, or switching my attention to some other thought or memory in that moment. This seems to do a similar thing over time – any traumatic components of the memory in question are reduced, and eventually the details fade away as well.

I guess my point is that for me, retro-enchantment is still something of an extraordinary claim. I have yet to see a case that can’t be explained by simpler mechanisms, and my explicit attempts to use it in particular ways have never worked even as well as straight conjurations. It may yet turn out that the wavefunction "collapse" is mediated by exotic particles moving backwards in time or something like that. So far I haven’t seen any evidence of such particles both existing and being related to the wavefunction, but it also is possible that laws of quantum physics like the uncertainty principle make those observations difficult if not impossible.

Whatever the case, it certainly is true that this is a cutting-edge area of magick that is ripe for exploration. Even if it turns out to not work, the data compiled from experiments on it is likely to prove useful to magicians like me who are in the process of trying to work out viable physical models for how magical processes influence the exterior world.

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Museum of the Bible Disappoints

Of course there’s a Museum of the Bible. I mean, compared to building a giant replica of Noah’s Ark, stockpiling a bunch of Biblical artifacts is easy, right? In fact, according to this article from The Washington Post, the Museum of the Bible in Washington D.C. does have an amazing collection of artifacts from Biblical history, such as one of two known copies of the first edition King James Bible and fragments from the Dead Sea Scrolls. However, it’s one thing to study the history of the Bible, and another to engage with and understand its teachings.

The “impact” floor is where the deeper shortfall becomes evident. The section offers high-tech exhibits on the Bible’s role in U.S. history, popular culture and the world at large. There’s a motion ride that flies you through Washington to explore biblical references around the city, spraying water at you for an extra thrill. (The tour guide winkingly noted that its designer worked on projects in Paris and Florida for a company beginning with the letter D.) As on the other floors, there is a baffling array of touch-screens and tablets, modern-day interactives and glossy timelines.

Yet while the exhibits dutifully touch on past conflicts involving the Bible (it was deployed in defense of and against slavery!) and play up its crowd-pleasing successes (verses from the book of Genesis helped to define human rights!), overall the museum eschews any difficult engagement with issues of the day. A timeline of the Bible in U.S. history conveniently ends in 1963; its role in our debates on sexuality, contraception and abortion are pointedly left undiscussed. Therein lies the problem. It is increasingly clear that Christianity in America has been reduced to more of a cultural identity than a way of life. Fine, perhaps, if you’re part of the growing minority of Americans who identify as nonreligious or in active opposition to Christian belief. Less so if you had hoped it might yet inspire moral behavior among its adherents.

A cultural Christianity that reveres religious trappings and neglects their requirements is exactly the sort that props up figures such as Ten Commandments-toting, allegedly teen-molesting Senate candidate Roy Moore. (The Gospel of Luke warns that it’s better to be thrown into the sea with a millstone around one’s neck than to cause a child to stumble; the museum has a millstone replica Moore might want to investigate.) Cosmetic faith is the sort that displays charming engravings from Leviticus 19:34 — “The foreigner residing among you must be treated as your native-born. Love them as yourself” — while celebrating its achievements at Trump International Hotel.

Let me add a little more nuance to this. I don’t think it’s true that Christianity in general has been reduced to this, just the Poor Oppressed variety of fundamentalism. These folks are maybe twenty percent of the population, or about a quarter of all American Christians. They’re just really vocal about dumb stuff like Starbucks cups and reliably make the news. The most extreme example is the Westboro Baptist Church – twenty or so people, mostly relatives – which is smaller than the local Twin Cities body of Ordo Templi Orientis, but so awful that they grab a lot of eyeballs on social media. I mean, they expelled their own founder for not being extreme enough. It’s practically a comedy religion.

I’m going to put this one out there again, too – I don’t take the Revelation of Saint John literally, but if I did I would have to point out that the "falling away" of Christian who believe themselves virtuous and yet have no real comprehension of God totally applies to these folks, not the more liberal mainstream Christians that they disdain. They’ve turned their version of Christianity into a sect that glorifies wealth instead of helping the poor, and whose only real issues seem to be hatred of homosexuality and abortion. It should be clear to anyone who actually reads the Bible that the first tenet there is entirely contradictory to the teachings of Jesus, and the other two are by no means the most important issues with which a Christian should be concerned.

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Time Travel is Possible

Now, to be fair, possible doesn’t mean easy, but still. The energy requirements are so far beyond what our civilization can produce that they’re hard to imagine, but the point is that the laws of physics don’t explicitly prevent it from happening. According to astrophysicist Ethan Siegal, what you need is a pair of entangled wormholes and a way to accelerate one end to the speed of light. Then someone in the future could pass through the wormhole and arrive in the past. The only issue is that it’s a one-way trip, at least through the wormhole.

Time travel has been the holy grail of science for centuries but it could finally be within our grasp. There is just one problem, we might not be able to return to the present from the past.

Astrophysicist Ethan Siegel has outlined in his blog Starts With a Bang how the theoretical rules of physics might allow a way to use wormholes to travel back in time. A wormhole which is still at one end and as fast as the speed of light at the other could provide the basis for humans to step back into another era. This will not be easy, and considering how many people get confused when the clocks go forward or back the chances of successfully pulling off the creation of time travelling wormholes could be tough.

Siegal said: ‘If, 40 years ago, someone had created such a pair of entangled wormholes and sent them off on this journey, it would be possible to step into one of them today, in 2017, and wind up back in time at the mouth of the other one back in 1978. ‘The only issue is that you yourself couldn’t also have been at that location back in 1978; you needed to be with the other end of the wormhole, or traveling through space to try and catch up with.’

As far as returning to the present, that actually is so easy (relative to going through everything that you would have to do to create and accelerate time-entangled wormholes, of course) it doesn’t even get a mention in the article. We already know how to do that, and it’s a mainstay of every introduction to relativity theory. You just go really, really fast. That’s how the "twins paradox" works. The fast-moving twin who doesn’t age isn’t rendered ageless, he or she experiences dilated time – in effect, the same thing as jumping forward in time.

So if you jump into the past via a wormhole, it’s entirely possible for you to get back. Just fly through space at very close to the speed of light and make a really big loop that starts and ends at the earth. When you finish your journey, hardly any time will have passed for you but many years will have passed on earth and you will have traveled in time in the other direction.

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New SubGenius Documentary in the Works

Inquiring minds have been asking the question for years – is the Church of the SubGenius a joke disguised as a religion, or a religion disguised as a joke? More importantly, might it be both? Dangerous Minds reports that the makers of a new documentary claim that for the first time, their film will tell the true story of how J. R. "Bob" Dobbs and the church came to be – that is, if they can raise enough money on Kickstarter to pay for post-production.

The Church of the SubGenius’ annus mirabilis, 1998, may have come and gone (or it may be yet to come, as some of the faithful believe), but it’s never been easier to hear the word of “Bob.” OSI 74 carries on the Church’s TV ministry. Evangelical radio programs such as Hour of Slack, Puzzling Evidence, and Ask Dr. Hal no longer splutter from our computer speakers in a pitiable dribble of RealAudio 1.0, but burst forth in full stereo at 64 Kbps, a mighty firehose of Slack. The classic SubGenius recruitment movie Arise!, which used to cost 20 whole dollars, is now just as free as an ISKCON book with Ganesha on the cover. And The Book of the SubGenius is still in print.

But a documentary in the works promises to do something new for the Church, namely, to situate its founding and founders in real, actual historical time. Slacking Towards Bethlehem: J.R. “Bob” Dobbs and the Church of the SubGenius will tell the story of Rev. Ivan Stang and Dr. Philo Drummond meeting in mid-Seventies Texas as young weirdos. The pair “quickly forged a friendship over a shared love of comic books, Captain Beefheart and UFO paperbacks,” in the words of the movie’s press release, before starting a religion that won converts in R. Crumb, Robert Anton Wilson, DEVO, Frank Zappa and Negativland. Directing is Austin filmmaker Sandy K. Boone, whose late husband, David Boone, directed the 1980 cult film Invasion of the Aluminum People, which might be “an allegorical testimony for the Church of the SubGenius.”

The Church of the SubGenius was always dedicated to the virtue of Crass Consumerism, so it’s no surprise to see a Kickstarter appeal to raise money for the film. And whatever else you want to say about the SubGenius movement, it has never failed to be deeply, deeply weird. The world could use more of that, especially these days. Which is to say, we all would appreciate a lot more slack. The article includes a link to the Kickstarter for the film, in case you would like to contribute and receive your very own bizarre backer reward.

I hope to see this get funded, because no matter what the truth is it sounds like it will be a lot of fun to watch. I’ll be sure to update my readers here if and when it becomes available.

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Witchcraft Accusations Prompt Zimbabwe Coup

While the situation in the African nation of Zimbabwe appears to be up in the air for now, news outlets are reporting today on what appears to be a military coup in progress against Robert Mugabe, who has been president of the country since 1987 after serving as prime minister from 1980-1987. Many years ago Mugabe played an instrumental role in Zimbabwe’s struggle against colonial rule, but he has also been criticized as an authoritarian dictator who has become wealthy while taking advantage of his people.

Where this story falls into Augoeides territory is that the coup appears to have been precipitated by Mugabe’s dismissal of Vice President Emmerson Mnangagwa, who Mugabe accused of witchcraft last week.

Addressing supporters at the headquarters of his Zanu-PF party in Harare, 93-year-old Mugabe accused Emmerson Mnangagwa of consulting witchdoctors and prophets as part of a campaign to secure the presidency. Mnangagwa, who was sacked by Mugabe on Monday and expelled from the ruling Zanu-PF party on Wednesday, said he had fled Zimbabwe because of death threats and was safe.

"My sudden departure was caused by incessant threats on my person, life and family by those who have attempted before through various forms of elimination including poisoning," he said in a statement on Wednesday. The head of the influential war veterans association, Chris Mutsvangwa, said that Mnangagwa, 75, would travel to Johannesburg in neighbouring South Africa "very soon".

Mugabe’s critics claim that the charges against Mnangagwa are trumped up, and that Mugabe dismissed him so that he could install his wife, Grace Mugabe, as his successor. This created divisions within Zimbabwe’s ruling party, and those divisions appear to be fueling the coup.

Mugabe told supporters he had dismissed Mnangagwa for disloyalty and disrespect, as well as using witchcraft to take power. The move exacerbated divisions in the ZANU-PF party, where the youth faction is firmly on Grace Mugabe’s side, while the older veterans of the struggle against white rule look to Mnangagwa. At one point last month, Grace Mugabe even warned that supporters of Mnangagwa were planning their own coup.

Mnangagwa, who fled to neighboring South Africa, has strong support with the military, and Chiwenga, the army chief, threatened Monday to “step in” to stop the purge of Mnangagwa’s supporters. The military was once a key pillar of Mugabe’s rule. The party’s website later reported that Mnangagwa was back in the country and would be taking over leadership of the party.

Political commentator Maxwell Saungweme said by phone that the military will probably try to pressure Mugabe to step down in favor of Mnangagwa as acting president.

Mugabe is known for leveling witchcraft charges against his political opponents, and Mnangagwa is not the first high-ranking member of the government to be dismissed because of them. So it’s likely that the charges are made up. But if they’re not, this is a good place to point out that magick sometimes works in mysterious or unexpected ways.

Let’s say that Mnangagwa did a spell to make him president, without any particular limitations. One way for the spell to work would be for this exact situation to unfold, provided that when the dust clears Mnangagwa really does come out on top. A success is always a success, regardless of how it manifests.

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Roy Moore Needs to Go Away

Back in September I covered “Ten Commandments Judge” Roy Moore’s

return

to Alabama politics. At the time he was favored to win the Republican primary against sitting senator Luther Strange. Moore did win the primary, and was heavily favored to win the election – that is, until allegations of sexual abuse from his past came to light. He may yet win because Alabama is such a conservative state, but many Republicans are now calling on him to withdraw from the race in light of these allegations.

The thing is, though, that as I’ve pointed out here on Augoeides and as

this Slate article

explains, Moore was

always

unfit for public office. He’s been removed from office twice for refusing to abide by decisions of the courts, believes that the Bible should be the rule and guide to law, and that Muslims – or really, anybody who isn’t Christian – should not be allowed to hold public office. He’s the same sort of religious extremist that he accuses fundamentalist Muslims of being, and to be clear, I would be just as opposed to a Muslim who believed that the Koran trumped the Constitution as I am to Moore.

Indeed, Moore has campaigned for this Senate seat on the theory that the Bible overrides federal law: “The Judeo-Christian God reigned over both the church and the state in this country, and … both owed allegiance to that God,” he has said. He thinks that “Christianity should be favored by the state” in America and that Muslims who are democratically elected to office should not be allowed to serve. He has called Islam a “false religion” and asserts that the “rule of law” demands that NFL players stand for the national anthem.

James Dobson, an emblematic Moore supporter on the Christian right, describes the disgraced justice as “a tireless champion of religious liberty, standing down those who want nothing less than to rid our nation of its Judeo-Christian foundations.” Today, that “tireless champion” of family values stands accused of, among other horrific acts, offering a 14-year-old girl alcohol and asking her to touch his penis. That it took this alleged breach for the Republican Party to maybe lose faith in him speaks to its broken constitutional values.

As Washington Post columnist Jennifer Rubin put it, even before Moore’s accusers came forward, his and Arpaio’s place in the Republican Party firmament risked “making contempt for courts into a mainstay of the GOP ideology.”

One of the oddities that has emerged from the allegations against Moore is an aspect of fundamentalist Christian culture that I was previously unaware of. Apparently, not only do they home-school their kids to keep them away from the “godlessness” of the modern world,

they encourage

their young teenage daughters to “court” much older men. That’s apparently what Moore was doing when he was “dating” teenage girls when he was a district attorney in his thirties. Frankly, I find that creepy as hell, even regardless of the abuse allegations. People did marry at fifteen or sixteen in Biblical times, but that was back when the average life expectancy was only forty years or so.

It should be obvious that it’s a lot different today with people routinely living into their eighties, and wives and daughters no longer considered the property of their father and then their husband. I can’t really fathom why it would be remotely reasonable to roll the clock back on that, but apparently it makes sense to these folks because from their perspective it’s “God’s law.” Suffice it to say that the customs of a civilization from thousands of years ago are not a good fit for the modern world, nor should they be.


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Considerations for Conjuring

Since it’s Magick Monday and I’m not in the middle of an ongoing series, I thought I would sum up some of the ideas from today’s discussion in the comments regarding figuring out the best way to work on a particular magical problem. One of the issues with the state of modern magick is that there are all sorts of methods available that were considered secret even a hundred years ago, and as a result the modern magician is faced with a completely different problem than the magician of old. Instead of having to track down a bunch of secret lore in order to do magick at all, the modern magician has just about every possible method to choose from.

The whole obsession with secrecy has held magick back for centuries. In the physical sciences, we have long since had a shared base of knowledge that continually evolves towards a more accurate representation of the universe with every new experiment. Magick, on the other hand, is still at the level of a proto-science at best, with all sorts of competing models and methods and no real agreement on what works the best for accomplishing particular objectives. I remain confident that such a schema will eventually emerge from magical culture as a whole, but so far we’re just not there yet.

So here’s the question – how do you determine the right approach to solving a problem with magick? I can’t say that I have the entire answer, but there are some basic principles that I have been able to work out by experimentation over the years. The first of these is that practical magick works by adjusting probabilities in the physical world. I don’t personally believe in "supernatural" forces, but as I see it that belief is a bit of a tautology. Everything that exists is natural, so by definition "supernatural" makes little sense when discussing anything real.

That being said, I do believe that those probability adjustments rise to the level of paranormal, since such probability shifts are unusual and don’t follow the "normal" order of things. Some of that is because in the overall scheme of things there are really hardly any magicians or occultists out there. I expect that magical probability shifts would become more "normal" if more people practiced magick, but to be fair that really is just a guess. It may be that most magically talented people already do it, and it’s the talent itself that’s rare.


In order to accomplish something with magick you have to do two things. First, you need to take every mundane step you possibly can towards your goal, because everything you can do to increase your likelihood of success means that the magick doesn’t need to work as hard. If you’re looking for work, you need to send out resumes, talk to recruiters, and do whatever you can towards the goal of being hired in the sort of job you want. At the same time, if you use magick, you will increase your likelihood of success above and beyond what you would be able to do with mundane actions alone.

That means a big part of magick has to do with learning how the system works and basically hacking it. At the same time, though, the magick goes where mundane actions can’t, and with the way our society is set up it is difficult to really "get ahead" on mundane actions alone. Everybody is doing those – well, maybe no everybody, but enough people for there to be serious competition everywhere. Magick is important because if you have the necessary talent to do it well and develop that talent, you’ll have an edge that most people lack.

And yes, talent in magick is a thing. That’s because the ability to do practical or operant magick – like any other human skill – is a combination of talent and training. If you have enough talent and do the work, you can get somewhere. Without the talent, it’s much harder. People like the idea of Malcolm Gladwell’s "10,000 hour rule" because it implies that anybody who puts in the work can get results, but if you read the research Gladwell is citing more closely, the real rule for performing at an elite level is 10,000 hours PLUS a high level of talent. One can’t substitute for the other.

I mention that because there’s this New Age idea floating around the occult community that "anybody can do magick" if they put in the work. It’s true that a lot of people can, and those who decide they want to learn the discipline often surprise themselves when they see it work. But there are also people out there who seem to have a lot of difficulty making the practical stuff work. Mysticism is a little different – it’s more subjective, and getting results there depends less on any sort of physical talent. I think everybody should meditate, talent or no. I think if that was something we all did, most people would see results and the world would be a better place.

At any rate, some of the considerations for doing magical work are as follows. First, I invite you to check out this article and then this one. They concern my take on Peter Carroll’s magical equations that were first published in Liber Kaos. I’m not going to reiterate those articles, so just read them.

There are some differences in how Carroll and I interpret the various components that make up magical operations, and while there’s really nothing "scientific" about his equations or mine, they still are a good starting point for understanding how this whole complex process works from a general perspective. The equations can be applied to any practical operation, since they return a probability shift value. Mysticism is different – what you need to measure is "shift in consciousness" which unfortunately remains a highly subjective measure.

When you’re trying to figure out the best way to approach a magical problem and aren’t sure, the best tool you have at your disposal is divination. Do a Tarot reading or some kind of divinatory technique to determine how your first guess at approaching the operation will go. You can also try readings for a couple of other approaches and see which matches the best result. Then go with that. I don’t think that you necessarily have to do a divination every time you do an operation, but if you aren’t sure how to proceed it’s a big help.

In my experience it’s always better to call on spirits than just rely on your own power. If M is your power as a magician, and S is the power of a spirit, the probability shift P always seems to follow the rule that P(M + S) > P(M). The degree to which this holds across all operations is one reason I am convinced that spirits are external entities. If they were psychological projections and/or manifestations of your personal psychic powers, you should instead expect P(M + S) = P(M). But as far as I can tell, the former is how it works in the real world.

Keep in mind that the magical link – that is, the link to your target, is crucial. If you don’t have a good link, it’s hard for a magical effect to get through to its target. One way to get around this is to create an intelligent servitor or call on an intelligent spirit and use a two-phase charge. Phase one of the charge is for the servitor or spirit to locate the target, and phase two is to influence said target. Make sure you are good enough at making servitors that what you create can function intelligently, and/or that you are working with an intelligent spirit when applying this method. Less intelligent entities often have trouble executing this sort of charge.

On the question of anchoring a magical operation on yourself versus anchoring it on a talisman, a talisman has its own source of spiritual power and will not drain yours over time. The trade-off is that a talisman can produce about 80% of the probability shift of a spell anchored on yourself. This number is again from my own probability testing, and I invite you to do your own experiments and try to refute my findings if you think it’s off. So the shift is less overall, but talismans have other advantages.

The disadvantage of anchoring everything to yourself is that your power, M, gets divided up among all the operation you have running that aren’t anchored on external targets or talismans. So if you already have four operations running, the best shift you’re likely to be able to do with a non-anchored operation is P(M)/5. A talisman is still 80% of that, but it doesn’t "count" against your total going forward because it has an independent anchor. You can get around that a little by using spirits, such that if you use a new spirit on that fifth operation, you wind up with P(M)/5 + P(S). A portion of your power combines with that of each spirit, but each spirit still is only working on a single charge.

Servitors are kind of a special case. They start out at the 80% mark like talismans, but if you design them correctly they can accumulate power from the environment and become stronger. You can call on a spirit to help you make a servitor (Virgo – power of parthenogenesis) and that will make it start out stronger than it otherwise would and grow from that point. Once the servitor is created it should have its own source of energy that is not anchored on you so it can grow independently. You can also mix and match – like, say, bind a servitor to a talisman. Creativity in magick can go a long way.

As far as multiple servitors and entities working on a single problem go, that is a completely valid approach too – much like Gordon White’s idea of "shoaling" published on Rune Soup and in The Chaos Protocols. Each servitor is independent with its own source of power, and each external spirit is a being in its own right. You can charge a whole bunch of servitors and entities to work on a particular problem, but make sure that the portion of the charge given to each external spirit falls within its sphere of influence or your spell might not work.

I think I’m going to wrap this up here for now, but feel free to ask addition questions in the comments. There’s a lot more I could go into here, and there are only so many hours in the day.

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It’s a Miracle!

When I complain about faith healers here at Augoeides, it usually has to do with people who insist that faith healing cannot be done in conjunction with conventional medical treatment. Faith healing – that is, magical healing – can and does work, but just like with any other spell, the mundane steps that you take towards your goal such as conventional medical care help to bring the likelihood of a successful cure within the probability range that the spell can create. So with anything life-threatening, arguing that conventional care somehow undermines magical care is especially dangerous.

But

this article

is not one of those cases. Pastor Mboro of South Africa, a popular celebrity preacher who does faith healing, used his powers to cure a man’s erectile dysfunction on his television program. The man and his wife immediately had sex, which prompted the television station to refuse to show the episode – even though the sex was blurred out. Mboro is planning a march on the station to protest the decision.

He told Sunday World: ‘Thabisile came to church a while ago and complained that although she was blessed with three children and recently got a promotion at work, she was sex-starved because her husband suffered from erectile dysfunction. I went there and entered their bedroom and asked them to put their hands on their private parts. After that I prayed for them and the husband immediately regained his erection.’

Grateful wife Thabisile said: ‘My husband got his erection back and when he came back from outside to call the crew to film our testimony, we were already busy having sex. We just couldn’t wait as it had been long since we had sex. I apologised to the pastor for doing that because that was embarrassing.’

Pastor Mboro has blurred out the sex for his TV show and claims the testimony of the couple is no more pornographic than other programs on the station. ‘Every weekend we watch movies which have episodes where people are shown having sex. Here there is no sex but they can’t show it. They have not shown two of my shows as a result of this dispute.’

Now you can point out that a lot of erectile dysfunction can be psychological, which makes it a prime target for faith healing, and I won’t disagree with you. Just from this incident, it’s hard to say (pun intended) whether Pastor Mboro really has highly effective paranormal healing powers. Mboro has

come up

on Augoeides before, and his previous statements make him sound like a complete fake, or at the very least highly prone to exaggeration.

But at the same time, my first rule of magick is that if it works it works, and that’s apparently what happened here – to the chagrin of the television station in question. I also think that it’s good to see a Christian pastor doing something that is basically sex-positive, as opposed to the anti-sex fire-and-brimstone stuff that usually makes the news, even if it is an over-the-top self-promoter like Mboro.

As far the television station goes, I don’t know how explicit South African television is, and I’m sure that there probably are various standards that they try to adhere to with obscenity laws and so forth. I can see American authorities being squeamish about this sort of thing as well, even though it seems to me with the actual sex blurred out, there really isn’t much to see compared with what is shown on a lot of other programs.

So I think the television station should go ahead and air the episode with the offending portion blurred out, as Mboro is demanding – that is, unless there’s a compelling reason under South African law that prohibits them from doing it.


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