It’s been real Tumblr.
Between writing a piece for the as-yet-to-be-announce /r/occult publication, my gaming hobbies, the wife, cats, eating, sleeping, and the gym, I find that I have left this Tumblr venture go a bit neglected.
I don’t know what’s worse:
Listening to some asshat recount a “weird dream” in an attempt to illustrate how complex a person they are or having them show off all their stupid fucking tattoos while implying their elementary grasp of symbolism is a mark of an intellectual giant.
Skeptical Inquiry: Why You Should Read It.
Skeptics get a bad name in the occult community and I find this to be a shame. True, some of them are not into “free inquiry” as much they proclaim when it comes to their critique of anomalous phenomena. Some are actually downright hostile (I’m looking you Harris, Dawkins, and Hitchens, dog rest his corporeal remains) and turn science into another “ism” that sows divisiveness and misunderstanding between people. Don’t even get me started on James Randi (whom I commend for courageously outing himself in 2010 at the ripe old age 81) and his ridiculous “challenge”.
But I assure you, outside these evangelicals of different strip, professional skeptics are actually valuable, thoughtful, and intelligent people seeking the same thing we are: the truth. As I’ve state before, a lot of what plagues occultism is what I call “Wooly-Headed Nonsense”. To give an example, I recently left r/paranormal over at Reddit because the shit being posted was the kind of dreck found in the back-alleys of the Internet in low-rent forums and the classic pages of utter, unsubstantiated bullshit like Obi-Wan’s UFO-free Ghost Page or The Shadowlands (which seems to believe - from a design perspective - that it’s still 1997). In these places, a creaking floorboard at 2 AM is evidence of a shadowy negative entity intent on harm and where superstitious nonsense about Ouija boards, mirrors, and ghosts following you home from lonely rural cemeteries are the rules of thumb.
Don’t get me wrong. I read utter tripe like this because I love a good mystery and a spooky yarn as much as the next occult weirdo. But where I seem to diverge from the rest of the weirdo community is that my faculties for critical thinking and accompanying bullshit detector are not left at the door. Allow me two more examples both of which are the kind of shit that flies in r/paranormal.
In the first example, a user authoritatively chimed in on a post about the dangers of Oujia boards claiming his involvement in Christian mysticism as his credentials. Fair enough, I can see how his faith would inform his interpretation. However, he followed that with an account of a 7 foot tall red-eyed demon-shadow assaulting his house with hoard of equally shadowy imps while his family coward inside and he successfully combated them with wards, prayers, and spiritual guardians. Just about every response was from some rube swallowing the tale wholesale and offering condolences and encouragement.
The second tale is from some self-proclaimed “expert” offering to answer questions for people about their paranormal experiences. Instead of parsing out the logic in some of these claims, suggesting that the claimant re-examine or attempt to corroborate the facts of their story, he engaged in diatribes about some half-assed metaphysics of his own invention that placed spirit entities of various categories of being. A repeated anomalous event wasn’t coincidence or misidentified natural phenomena. It was a mid-level dark ghost, greater shade, or some other ignorant shit culled from an obscure pen&paper RPG rulebook. Once again, no one called him out on his claims or even questioned the proceedings.
What does this have to do with Skeptical Inquiry? Because it’s a great tool for combating this sort of pernicious garbage. It reveals the most damning evidence about the most idiotic stories and myths that surround these topics and makes room for real and rational exploration of them. It’s best described as stepping outside from a room of people sampling and pontificating on the smell of their own farts. Everyone is so involved and enthusiastic about the proceedings that they don’t realize they’re just talking shit.
You have to understand that skepticism - like science - is not a metaphysical framework that posits the nature of man and his place in the universe. It’s a simple technique to discern the probable from the improbable. A true skeptic (or scientist, for that matter) will never make a claim towards an absolute but simply state, free of bias, what the present evidence concludes. Any “skeptic” who goes around trying to sell a brand of consensus reality is just as much a bullshitter as the next door-to-door soul solicitor.
Seriously. Go pick up a copy. It’s good stuff.
Books to Avoid II: Your Magickal Diary
In Victorian times, every good gentleman kept extensive leather-bound journals which you would write in for hours and display in your London townhouse. This is before you would even make a start on the pile of inane letters you had to write to gentlemen in similar situations.
Read more: http://runesoup.com/2010/06/shoaling-making-sigil-magic-more-awesome-since-2010/#ixzz1vcHCic00
Magickal diaries are lame.
There, I said it.
Most traditions of magickal practice insist that the aspirant keep a magickal record of all his/her rituals, ideas, theological framework, and correspondences in such pain-staking detail (moon phase, weather, state of mind, day, hour, month, year, materials, presence of an erection, availability of a zebra costume, etc.) that it’s tediousness all but extinguishes the initial spark of interest that attracts people to Ye Arte Magickal by turning the allure of achieving their desires into a banal homework exercise.
Like Gordon over at Runesoup stated, this sacred cow of occultism is nothing more than a hold-over from the era of well-to-do Victorian eccentrics with too much time on their hands. The insistence that a meticulously kept record of magickal activity will eventually reveal the “science” (in the sense of using repeatability for verification of result ala the scientific method) behind this gobbledygook just doesn’t pan out in my own experience and I have a short stack of half-full notebooks to prove it. Often, the end product is an overly ornate carbon copy of a Wicca 101 spellbook (complete with an invocation of Lilith that leaves out her history of eating babies and fucking men to death) or chicken-scratched lunacy about the Qabalistic correspondences of every third word in the Bible.
A lot of my beef with occult 101 handbooks stems from this blind adherence to out-moded traditions. Every book will give warnings about the dreaded “Magus-itis” (that is, believing you are an all-powerful witch or wizard because you bought a couple of books and some candles) or vague threats about the potentiality of insanity. Then they will tell you to spend inordinate amounts of time locked in your head writing down every bat-shit idea that decides to drop in and take a dump on the floor. The usage of the term “practical magick” becomes ironic when these books then bog the student down with time-intensive exercises and theories that offer little in the way of verifiable results. For those who disbelieve this statement, try the preliminary exercises from any Wicca 101 book and see if you end up with anything more than 30 minutes wasted and a nagging sense of being conned out of $20+.
By all means, keep the grimoires, sacred texts, and tables of correspondences. But ditch the diary. The illiterate shamans and rootworkers of today and yesterday made due without them and I’m sure you can too.
Anonymous asked: What are some books you would recommend?
Honestly, all the information required to learn the basics of occultism are now running wild and free on the Internet so I rarely give recommendations for books. But for the sake of an answer, here are the few gems I recommend.
Liber Kaos by PJ Carroll. Forget Liber Null and Psychonaut, this is without a doubt the best expository text on the chaos magick current and practical sorcery in general I have ever read.
SSOTBM by Ramsey Dukes. A book of theory, but it presents a more lucid methodology to rationalizing magickal thinking rather than saying “It’s all subjective!” and looking like some flakey twit.
Prometheus Rising by Robert Anton Wilson. While I adore RAW, a lot of his books have this whimsical and absurdist tone that gets cloying after awhile. Prometheus was not one of those books. I actually got giddy reading about some of the ideas and exercises.
By the way, don’t waste your money. All of these books can easily be found online for free. But you don’t have to take my word for it.