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[P]
Witchcraft

By streetliar in Culture
Sun May 12, 2002 at 12:16:36 PM EST
Tags: Interviews (all tags)
Interviews

Seven or eight years ago, I spent 5 months in a small village in Equatorial Guinea with some biologists (who worked in some camp that prepared captured monkeys to be returned to the forest). I have always been interested in witchcraft and the occult, and this rural area I lived in was teeming with "rainmakers" and witch doctors. I interviewed a number of them, and frankly, they were all obvious phonies.

Apart from one old and ugly man. He was probably also a phony, but he was an interesting phony. For one, he never used his "magic". All the other witch doctors and rainmakers I had visited were always eager to do something for me, eager that I paid them. Their act would then consist of a killing of a chicken and a lot of mumbling, invariably without any effective result. But this old man neither wanted to make rain for me or contact my grandmother. The only thing that seemed out of the ordinary with him was that the villagers were all very deferential around him, and called him a great demon.

I interviewed all the witch doctors in the area for a while, and after 3 weeks, it was only this old man that I continued to interview. He told me interesting things about his "world" of witchcraft, and I will reproduce these conversations as best as I can here. I am working from memory, so I might make a few mistakes.


Let us forget, first of all, that there are no such things as witches or witchcraft. Please, nobody should argue that they do not exist. We all agree that they might or might not exist. We do not need proof that they do not exist. Rather I would like you to discuss what he said, working with the assumption that there might actually be things out there we do not understand.

The witch, the lion and the clay pot

The man said that he was a witch. Naturally, one of the first questions I asked him was how there can be witchcraft when science has not yet found any proof of witchcraft. I asked why there has been no documented case of magic on camera or film.

He told me to think about a baby that was born in a clay pot that was spinning around the village. As the baby grows, the pot is made bigger. He asked me if that baby can ever understand how the world outside the clay pot is. And if someone were to stop the clay pot from rolling, would that not seem like magic to the baby? If somebody dropped the clay pot into a river, would that not seem like magic?

Let me explain in modern terms: He spoke of a world like in the Matrix - there is a outside world outside of this world which we cannot see, because we are a subset of it. Or think of a computer program like pacman. If pacman was stuffed with lots of AI, do you think it could ever understand a 3D world? If we suddenly program pacman to have a gun, will that not seem like magic to pacman?

That made some kind of sense to me. So I asked him why there was no documented magic in the world. He looked at me and said; If there is a lion living in these bushes (he pointed to the semi-jungle outside), and we find it, we will kill it before it kills us. The lion would know this. So what do you think will happen if a child wanders into the jungle, and meets the lion? Do you think the lion will let the child come out to tell his father?

The way of the witch

Over the next weeks, the old man spoke to me about witchcraft. Frankly, I didn't really believe a lot of what he said. But one thing always kept me coming back. What if what he is saying is true?

I am going to explain witchcraft as he explained it to me, leaving away the dialog.

Everybody has got the inherent ability to do things that are physically impossible. There are no limits to what you can do, there are only limits to how much you can distance yourself from reality to be able to do it properly. Some people have got the talent, and are able to start off with very little training. Most people simply cannot do it, no matter how hard they try.

But everybody instinctively understands that this force exists, even though they ignore it and rationalize it away.

It isn't a force which you can tap into. Think of it like lifting your arm. You can do it without problems, because you just know how to do it. In exactly the same way, you can make a cup move across a distance into your hand, once you know how to do it. You have to understand instinctively how to do it. You cannot understand it rationally, because it is not part of our reality. It is like imagining a fourth dimension. You just cannot do it, because it is not part of our reality, even though it might exist.

You can learn how to do it with your heart. You need someone to teach you how to do it, and it is only very exceptional people who can do it without a tutor. But sometimes, you can do it when you are overcome with emotion. For example, pastors who apparently heal people do it by working themselves up (he said).

He repeated something we have all heard many times; it only works with faith. You have to believe in it, then do it without understanding it.

The dark side

Once you start to use these strengths, you can easily become possessed by demons. Demons are like virus apparently, and are simply your base instincts that become exposed to this power, and somehow confuse themselves. You rush to control and understand the power, and in doing so, lose yourself. You enter a reality that you cannot understand, and become something approaching mad. You have to then be guided back by someone who is in possession of the force.

(I would like to make a sidenote here: Possession by (and exorcism of) demons is not just a western thing, but also very common in Africa. Also, these exorcisms apparently work, because many people said that they knew people from whom who were exorcised.)

Demons can also manifest themselves in you when you are to three quarters in this reality, and still in control of your actions. In this case, you become what he called an "evil-man". You keep trying to hurt people, but often are not concentrated enough to use the powers you have.

Also, he said that there were some people who try to use the powers for bad things. He said that he could do so - that he could kill people at a distance. I asked him if there wasn't a god that prevented him from doing so. He said no, that it was his natural human impulse not to want to kill anybody.

(Another side-note: In that part of Africa, the concepts of  "thou shall not murder" etc, are not dictated by the gods, but by social customs (unlike in Christianity).)

I asked him why he didn't use his power to take over control of the world, and become a rich man. He said that he didn't have that much control over his powers, and that what he could do was limited. He said, however, that such things had happened in the past, but that it was very rare, and it took very special people to do it.

Becoming a witch

I wanted to become a witch. I asked him to teach me. He said that he would not, and could not do so. He said that if I wanted to learn, I should look for a teacher. I would find a teacher, but this teacher wouldn't be him.

I suppose that this advice is also valid for the rest of you; find your teacher.

Conclusion

I didn't really take the Q&A with this man seriously. I don't believe in witchcraft, but there are hundreds of millions of humans who do.

Witchcraft and occult is in every single society in the world. Maybe there is something to it.

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Poll
Do you believe in witchcraft?
o Yes 21%
o No 34%
o Only in "the force" 6%
o Only in "the matrix" 3%
o Hell, I studied at at Hogwarts 12%
o Not really, but you never know... 16%
o I'm not sure 6%

Votes: 182
Results | Other Polls

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o Also by streetliar


Display: Sort:
Witchcraft | 175 comments (150 topical, 25 editorial, 0 hidden)
Question: (4.00 / 9) (#3)
by nomoreh1b on Sat May 11, 2002 at 03:14:01 PM EST

If you didn't take this guy seriously, why did you ask him to teach you how to be a witch?

Who wouldn't (4.00 / 5) (#6)
by streetliar on Sat May 11, 2002 at 03:22:18 PM EST

The man was saying he was a witch. So I said, alright, show me how to do some magic. Who wouldn't do that?

I am interested in this stuff, because I think there are elements of truth. But all the same, I don't want any witch exists/no they don't arguments.

See the reply to the post above, as to why I decided to start with a disclaimer.

[ Parent ]

Someone who knew better? (none / 0) (#116)
by Elkor on Mon May 13, 2002 at 08:28:42 AM EST

1) He wasn't going to show you any magic.

2) He told you that you had be believe in it, first.

Why would he then teach you?

As for the other witchmen, did you consider that they were deliberately scamming you? Quite happily taking your money in exchange for some hocus pocus 'cause they knew they could get away with it?

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Precisely. (none / 0) (#163)
by Dialup on Thu May 16, 2002 at 04:05:54 PM EST

Coming from a world experience that in some ways roughly parallels the Witch in the example above, I can state with a fair amount of certainty that anyone who has a fair to middling grasp of What's Up is running a high-grade Bullshit Detector in the foreground.  

This sort of work and energy is largely perceptual- not necessarily your corporeal senses, either- it's not overly difficult to get an idea of the intent of an individual in a discussion- something "feels" right or wrong, or even slighlty fishy.

You either Know Magick Works, or you don't.  If you don't, you can't be "convinced" with emperical evidence, as you can't perceive it to begin with given the current state of your sensory apparati.  Every practitioner of the art that I've met has never needed to be convinced- they Just Know.  

It's a perceptual sense, after a fashion- you have it or you don't.  You can "wake it up" under circumstances that differe for every individual- and once it's "on", you have to figure out exactly what it is that's different, and how to use it.  You can't "prove" magic to a non-magician- their concept of proof involves a base observation, something "tangible".  They need to be "convinced".  They need "proof".  

You have eyes, but could you prove you had them if you were born blind?  Would you even understand the concept?  

[ Parent ]

Preassumption... (3.18 / 11) (#4)
by kevsan on Sat May 11, 2002 at 03:15:10 PM EST

Let us forget first of all that there are no such things as witches or witchcraft. Please, nobody should argue that they do not exist. We all know they do not exist. We do not need prove that they do not exist. Rather I will like you to discuss what he said, working with the assumption, that there might actually be things out there we do not understand.

I'm not sure you can make such an assumption about such a wide topic. The Wiccan/Pagan religion has been in operation for a little more than a few years, and there are many today who would claim that they are, in fact, witches or warlocks. I'm not sure that you can discuss this article and start it with such a broad generalization. However, even if you do believe this, you contradict yourself much later in the piece by opening discussion up to the possibility of witchcraft:

Witchcraft and occult is in every single society in the world. Maybe there is something to it.

If witchcraft and the occult permeate every society, how can we make the blanket preassumption that witchcraft does not exist? Your opinions on this issue need to be cleaned up extensively before I can, in good conscience, vote up such an article.

-K
Explanation (4.00 / 1) (#5)
by streetliar on Sat May 11, 2002 at 03:20:09 PM EST

It is very simple actually. I would have said that I believe in witches, because I half do. the problem is that everybody will then try to convince everybody else that there can in fact, be no witches. I don't want that argument, since it will obscure the main points.

I don't want to convince people there are witches. I don't want to convince people that there aren't either.

I am just relaying what this man thinks, and not my opinion.

[ Parent ]

I see... (none / 0) (#7)
by kevsan on Sat May 11, 2002 at 03:22:46 PM EST

In that case, I would recommend removing the "We all know that they do not exist" line from your story. Other than that, +1 from me.

-K
[ Parent ]
Ok [n/t] (none / 0) (#8)
by streetliar on Sat May 11, 2002 at 03:23:24 PM EST



[ Parent ]
"A few years" is right (3.33 / 3) (#24)
by Demiurge on Sat May 11, 2002 at 04:48:25 PM EST

Despite the delusions of modern pagans, their religion dates back to the 1950s. While it does have various elements of certain pagan religions of antiquity, it is in no real way a continuation of them.

And if something is made true if enough people believe it, then Christianity wins out over paganism, I believe.

[ Parent ]
There's a distinction, though... (4.00 / 2) (#31)
by kevsan on Sat May 11, 2002 at 06:21:34 PM EST

Something isn't made true if enough people believe it. I'm simply saying that there has to be a logical method of thought in order to *prove* to the reader that witchcraft does not exist. It can't be a given in a logical discussion about witchcraft.

-K
[ Parent ]
The problem is.... (3.25 / 4) (#40)
by Demiurge on Sat May 11, 2002 at 07:25:24 PM EST

to thoroughly discredit wicca, you need to first define its central tenets, which is difficult to due, as Wicca is basically a jumbled mess of New Age kookiness and superstition.

[ Parent ]
This is not quite true (1.60 / 5) (#115)
by PenguinWrangler on Mon May 13, 2002 at 08:01:10 AM EST

It does go back earlier than the '50s. But not very long. Paganism, Druidry, Wicca, whathaveyou were all invented lock, stock and barrel from the ground up back in the 1920s, by people such as Crowley and Yeats. Basically, everything wiccan, pagan, druid was invented wholesale by a bunch of poets not long after the First World War. There are no ancient rituals handed down for centuries, well, not for another twenty-odd years in which case it will have been around for a century. Witchcraft? It's all complete bollocks.
"Information wants to be paid"
[ Parent ]
Druids (4.00 / 2) (#124)
by Kintanon on Mon May 13, 2002 at 11:22:41 AM EST

Basically, everything wiccan, pagan, druid was invented wholesale by a bunch of poets not long after the First World War. The fellows who stacked all of those rocks on top of each other in merry ol' England might disagree with you about whether Druids existed or not... Celtic wisemen were called Druids (Well, their linguistic equivelant) long before any of us co-opted the term for our own use. Kintanon

[ Parent ]
Crowley and witchcraft (none / 0) (#136)
by juahonen on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:16:12 PM EST

Today Crowley is associated more closely to Satanism than Wiccan. Some even believe he founded Satanism. But in fact Satanism and Wiccan adobted (most notably perhaps) Crowleys interpretation of Ritual Magick. He wrote a great deal of spiritual texts during his life.

Modern Wiccan beliefs and witchcraft own more to Margaret Murray (who was a historian) and Gerald Gardiner. Together they helped to rediscover the pre-Reformation witchcraft religion. This was the foundation for the modern Wiccan and perhaps to modern paganism too.



[ Parent ]
What is in a name? (3.12 / 8) (#22)
by Jevesus on Sat May 11, 2002 at 04:47:21 PM EST

It seems like the old man, and supposed witch, preferred to stamp things and occurances that he and others were not able to explain logically and reasonably as "magic". The examples of magic as perceived by different people and animals in the text conveys such a conclusion.
If you can't explain it, it's magic, that's the reasoning anyways.

- Jevesus
Quote (3.20 / 5) (#26)
by greenrd on Sat May 11, 2002 at 05:08:02 PM EST

"Sufficiently advanced science is indistinguishable from magic" -- Arthur C. Clarke, science fiction author.

True dat.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Right (4.66 / 3) (#37)
by Erbo on Sat May 11, 2002 at 07:14:21 PM EST

Sometimes the best working definition for "magic" is "knowledge I don't have yet." The Jargon File contains a definition of "magic" in line with this reasoning: "As yet unexplained, or too complicated to explain." Other terms like "deep magic" and "heavy wizardry" reinforce this reasoning.

I don't know that real magic exists, but I don't know that it doesn't, either. I just know that I don't seem to be able to work any :-).

Eric
--
Electric Minds - virtual community since 1996. http://www.electricminds.org
[ Parent ]

Jesus (2.50 / 6) (#42)
by medham on Sat May 11, 2002 at 09:30:00 PM EST

Where will we find a more vapid cliche-hoard than the collected writings of Clarke? Take your quote, reproduced no less than a hundred thousand times daily in the digital wastelands. Of course any arbitrarily advanced technology is immediately distinguishable from magic. You know why? Thought is a property of the physical world that is not restrained by it. A clash of civilizations with different levels of technology will not be rendered in magical terms, but in a mediated category between the immanent and the other. Magic is the imagination, and the imagination is shaped by the culture.

And, the thought behind Clarke's statement is clearly imperialist, much like the myth of the "cargo cults" used to justify all manner of South Seasian atrocities over the last fifty years.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

Bollocks (3.25 / 4) (#46)
by greenrd on Sat May 11, 2002 at 10:33:18 PM EST

Thought is a property of the physical world that is not restrained by it.

Actually I think it is. There is a limit to the speed of thought.

And, the thought behind Clarke's statement is clearly imperialist

No that's not clear at all. You can't derive an "ought" (like "we ought to subjugate people") from an "is" alone.

much like the myth of the "cargo cults" used to justify all manner of South Seasian atrocities over the last fifty years.

Cargo cults are not a myth.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Gem (3.75 / 4) (#48)
by medham on Sat May 11, 2002 at 10:47:10 PM EST

I just thought about FTL thought, not withstanding the various quantum microtubules theories of consciousness.

You should try to publish that "ought" and "is" business, as it's smart and original.

The word "cult" is what you have to substantiate, in "cargo cults," imperialist. I'll just wait for the transhumanist singularity, myself.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

So? (3.20 / 5) (#49)
by greenrd on Sat May 11, 2002 at 11:10:14 PM EST

I just thought about FTL thought

So? You only imagined it.

You should try to publish that "ought" and "is" business, as it's smart and original.

Sarcasm doesn't suit you.

The word "cult" is what you have to substantiate, in "cargo cults," imperialist. I'll just wait for the transhumanist singularity, myself.

Carry on with your intellectual masturbation, won't you.


"Capitalism is the absurd belief that the worst of men, for the worst of reasons, will somehow work for the benefit of us all." -- John Maynard Keynes
[ Parent ]

Witchcraft -> Science Evolution (3.53 / 13) (#23)
by F a l c o n on Sat May 11, 2002 at 04:47:37 PM EST

Let's not forget that most of what we know as science today once started out as witchcraft or some other kind of magic. Without Astrology, we'd hardly have Astronomy today. Without Alchemy, Chemistry probably wouldn't exist, and so on. It's easy to dismiss something just because you're seing an early stage. Nobody took windos 2.0 serious and people would've laughed had you suggested it would take over the world.
--
Back in Beta (too many new features added): BattleMaster
Easy argument (3.16 / 6) (#25)
by Jevesus on Sat May 11, 2002 at 04:56:15 PM EST

That's a low argument in my book. You're arguing people have been wrong before, and thus could very well be now. That argument itself is an argument to the opposite, that you at all had to resort to it to argue for.

- Jevesus
[ Parent ]
not at all (4.00 / 1) (#165)
by F a l c o n on Sat May 18, 2002 at 06:48:12 AM EST

The argument was not in the least based on people being wrong. My argument was that things grow, often out of small beginnings, or on the ruins of earlier things. It is easy to ridicule the small beginnings or the failed attempts, but one should realize that without them, that which built upon their foundations wouldn't have come into existence.
--
Back in Beta (too many new features added): BattleMaster
[ Parent ]
Eh (3.66 / 6) (#29)
by qpt on Sat May 11, 2002 at 05:52:30 PM EST

In both of your examples, the purpose of the original discipline proved to be impossible, but its methods were co-opted for something more useful.

Astrology in particular required its practitioners to make extensive observations of apparent stellar and planetary motion. I am not at all convinced that early chemistry relied on alchemy in any meaningful way, but some of the latter's observations and methods may have been used by the former.

Witchcraft, however, does not make any useful empirical observations. Witches just burn candles and prance naked in the woods. I do not see how anything of broader practicality could come from the application of those methods.

Domine Deus, creator coeli et terrae respice humilitatem nostram.
[ Parent ]

Research into Alchemy... (4.40 / 5) (#30)
by ragabr on Sat May 11, 2002 at 06:10:25 PM EST

all the well-known alchemists were using symbolism to describe change of self/consciousness. This is a commonly accepted position, with huge amounts of analysis behind it. A.E. Waite wrote huge amounts on it. It happened that their symbolism indeed corresponded to chemical principals and aided the development of Chemistry as a science. The main point is that Alchemy did not fail its goal in anyway whatsoever, but it is an interesting point that it did aid the development of science.

"As above, so below."

-------
And my tongue would be made of chocolate. Mmmmm. Chocolate.
-rusty
[ Parent ]
Simpleton (1.80 / 5) (#50)
by medham on Sat May 11, 2002 at 11:17:44 PM EST

I imagine that Kenneth Anger and Exiles-era Richards could have devised a more coherent (albeit bourbon-sodden) criticism than this, criticule, criticaster, punk-ass-mf'er.

For example, natura naturans and vivere ergo sum je ne sais quoi wissenschaftylich, I once saw a young woman use the Gespesnt-phanoms to magnificient erotic effect. The world itself has a poetic structure. Empirical observation is always subordinate to theory. You'll know when I summon Arioch.

The real 'medham' has userid 6831.
[ Parent ]

You are (none / 0) (#126)
by CodeWright on Mon May 13, 2002 at 11:38:14 AM EST

Mixing medham and streetlawyer. It is disconcerting.

Besides, I thought you normally channelled Mammon, not Arioch?

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
Well... (3.50 / 4) (#86)
by Pseudonym on Sun May 12, 2002 at 08:07:03 PM EST

Witches in this sense are the forerunners of modern medicine and psychiatry. It may well be that, for example, some of those who use various preparations may have inadvertantly discovered a useful drug.

Even some modern people burn candles and dance naked in the woods as a way to de-stress...



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Candles & stuff... (3.66 / 3) (#117)
by Elkor on Mon May 13, 2002 at 08:38:26 AM EST

Witches just burn candles and prance naked in the woods.

That's like saying Christians just burn candles and kneel on the ground mumbling to themselves.

They seem to think it works.

Just as there is more to Christianity than my broad generalization, there is more to Witchcraft than yours.

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
bunsen burners (5.00 / 1) (#148)
by speek on Mon May 13, 2002 at 04:55:20 PM EST

And scientists just flame-on bunsen burners and write ancient grecian symbols in notebooks...

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

Not just symbols (2.00 / 1) (#154)
by Happy Monkey on Tue May 14, 2002 at 05:57:18 PM EST

That would be grecian formulae.
___
Length 17, Width 3
[ Parent ]
Testing magic (3.33 / 6) (#27)
by Seth Finkelstein on Sat May 11, 2002 at 05:30:52 PM EST

It's an OK story, but there are a couple of holes and rehashed themes. There's a mixed-up retelling of some typical ideas:

  1. Magic is science we don't understand (the baby in the clay pot)
  2. Magic is the mind changing the nature of reality
  3. Magic is spirits which won't let themselves be observed (the lion analogy)

My simple question: Do something. If the guy can kill a man, but doesn't, would he object to killing a deer? Anything. Some sort of demo. If he can't do a demo of any kind, then how does his power "exist" in any meangingful sense?
-- Seth Finkelstein

You want a demo? (3.80 / 5) (#32)
by juahonen on Sat May 11, 2002 at 06:35:28 PM EST

Demonstrations are given to convince people. Demos of new games exist just to attract attention. People demonstrate their skills for reason, to get a job, a girl, something. Only children fall into the "I don't believe you can" crap.

The old man probably doesn't give a fuck wether or not you believe he has some powers you don't. And what would he gain by demonstrating? Nothing! If you can't believe before, you most certainly can't believe it after the demonstration.



[ Parent ]
Would you do a demo to pick up a cool $1.0 million (2.00 / 1) (#35)
by Space Monkey on Sat May 11, 2002 at 07:01:45 PM EST

Just curious.

Sometimes it is necessary to sacrifice freedom for safety," as Benjamin Franklin once said.
[ Parent ]
Money for Demo (3.66 / 3) (#58)
by Korimyr the Rat on Sun May 12, 2002 at 05:03:33 AM EST

It'd take a lot more than that.

You'd need guaranteed, verifiable, and credible media exposure, as well as enough money to be able to afford professional security for the rest of your life.

Power like that would attract a lot of people who aren't inclined to take "no" for an answer, as well as hundreds of thousands of mentally unbalanced people trying to learn from you, religious fundamentalists trying to firebomb you for publicizing the work of Satan, and probably a couple of people who'd like to dissect you.

--
"Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein
Founding Member of 'Retarded Monkeys Against the Restriction of Weapons Privileges'
[ Parent ]

Did I touch a nerve, Kalani? [nt] (none / 0) (#114)
by Korimyr the Rat on Mon May 13, 2002 at 05:56:38 AM EST



--
"Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein
Founding Member of 'Retarded Monkeys Against the Restriction of Weapons Privileges'
[ Parent ]
It's not about YOU (4.50 / 2) (#74)
by localroger on Sun May 12, 2002 at 04:28:56 PM EST

As streetliar related, the old man claims to not have very strong control over his magic. This is typical, as nearly all magical systems teach that magic is mediated by external beings with consciousnesses other than your own, and a lot of them demand a certain attitude of respect and get pissed off if they think you are trying to exploit them. N.B. It doesn't matter if these "beings" are all in your head if your beliefs tend to cause them to act this way.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Demos and claims (3.00 / 1) (#156)
by Macrobat on Tue May 14, 2002 at 09:04:31 PM EST

Demonstrations are given to convince people. Demos of new games exist just to attract attention. People demonstrate their skills for reason, to get a job, a girl, something. Only children fall into the "I don't believe you can" crap.

So? Claims are made to convince people, too. People make claims about their skills to get a job, impress women/men, secure their place in society, whatever. Only children fall for claims without asking for some evidence.

The old man probably doesn't give a fuck wether or not you believe he has some powers you don't. And what would he gain by demonstrating? Nothing! If you can't believe before, you most certainly can't believe it after the demonstration.

Exactly. I'll bet he cares whether the people in his social circle believe, though. And if they already believe, why go through the bother of proving it?

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
[ Parent ]

Claims and social circles (none / 0) (#160)
by juahonen on Wed May 15, 2002 at 12:37:55 PM EST

If I go to the president and say "Hey, you have to prove you have power in this country", would you think he or anyone else near him would bother to prove the president has power. It is clear, like you said, the man had established his place in his society and thus needs no (further) demonstrations to his position. It may be he has demonstrated his capabilities during his youth when people did not believe in his shamanic powers.

But to a stranger, neither the man nor the president need to demonstrate anything.



[ Parent ]
Presidential power (3.00 / 1) (#162)
by Macrobat on Thu May 16, 2002 at 11:27:10 AM EST

Well, comparing George W. to a witch doctor wasn't my original aim, but how does this help your case? The president has no special powers that aren't granted by law--he can't heal the sick by touch, foretell the future, or levitate (although Reagan did have a house astrologer, as I recall). And it's not like GW had to prove himself as a diplomat or domestic politician either--he was governor for one term (a post he would have been unlikely to get if he hadn't inherited connections from his dad), ran a couple of businesses (with no particular distinction, unlike fellow Texan, nutcase Ross Perot), and had absolutely no international diplomatic experience.

His ascention to power just goes to show that a lack of critical thinking isn't limited to tribal societies.

"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
[ Parent ]

Their "powers" are different (none / 0) (#164)
by juahonen on Thu May 16, 2002 at 04:57:49 PM EST

W certainly can't lay on hands, but there are other, political powers granted to the president. Or do you deny the president doesn't have any influence, or that his influence is only due to rational thinking which everyone can follow and agree to! The powers are different, but viewing presidential powers from inside the system is something else than viewing shamanic powers from hearsay.



[ Parent ]
Yeah--that's what I said (nt) (none / 0) (#166)
by Macrobat on Sun May 19, 2002 at 03:13:27 PM EST


"Hardly used" will not fetch a better price for your brain.
[ Parent ]

a demo? (3.75 / 4) (#47)
by rohrbach on Sat May 11, 2002 at 10:35:45 PM EST

<demo>If the guy can kill a man, but doesn't, would he object to killing a deer? Anything. Some sort of demo.</demo>

are you sure you're referring to the old man from the article, or did you mix this up with demanding a demonstration of elite military forces?

i strongly dislike people killing animals just "for demo", and i'm sure that i'm not alone with this attitude.

--
Give a tool to a fool, and it might become a weapon.
[ Parent ]

I could not stop reading (FP) (2.50 / 4) (#28)
by cem on Sat May 11, 2002 at 05:44:56 PM EST




Young Tarzan: I'll be the best ape ever!
Witch doctor (3.62 / 8) (#34)
by StephenThompson on Sat May 11, 2002 at 06:51:38 PM EST

I met a witchdoctor selling his wares on a corner in Malawi. He dressed like a western doctor, only had no shoes. He sold potions, tinctures and herbs for curing just about everything including malaria. He also sold jackal dung, which will 'make you invisible to you enemies'. All serious too. Actually some of his stuff like for bad stomach probably work great. Not that I was going to give it a try...

And ? (4.75 / 4) (#45)
by mami on Sat May 11, 2002 at 10:21:21 PM EST

That has nothing to do with witchcraft. It's someone who makes a living selling his potions of traditional medications. What's the big deal? A little bit of jackal dung against your phobias is almost as effective as 10 hours psychotherapy with a dubious therapist, if you ask me. Though sugar pills work really best, even better than jackal dung.

[ Parent ]
OT: Copycat account. (1.00 / 7) (#38)
by regeya on Sat May 11, 2002 at 07:15:07 PM EST

IIRC (and I should, since I pissed off a number of people doing it) Rusty & Co. don't take kindly to copycat accounts.

[ yokelpunk | kuro5hin diary ]

wicca (2.63 / 11) (#39)
by zephc on Sat May 11, 2002 at 07:19:41 PM EST

wicca: fat lesbians dancing around a bonfire

/flameoff

Witchcraft: sure, it can be a religion (usually a term given to any religion with a shaman position) but is "magic" really possible?  Not bloody likely.  Just because you want something to be true doesn't make it so.  Also just because something has been around for a long time doesnt mean that their 'sacred ways' are true, just old, and haven't gone under a lot of revision

Placebo effect (4.50 / 2) (#84)
by Pseudonym on Sun May 12, 2002 at 07:57:49 PM EST

Just because you want something to be true doesn't make it so.

That depends what the "something" is.

Consider the cases where so-called "faith healing", something which streetliar's witchdoctor mentioned, actually works. Being open-minded for a moment: it might be faith, it might be a god or two, or it might be the placebo effect. Being my usual not-so-open-minded self, I'd have to say it's probably entirely placebo. That, however, doesn't matter to the faith healer. Why does it matter, so long as it works?

It matters to you and me, of course. We're curious people. That's the thing about placebo, though: when you start questioning why it works, it stops working.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Placebo (2.66 / 3) (#99)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:26:18 AM EST

Being my usual not-so-open-minded self, I'd have to say it's probably entirely placebo

You say this as if the placebo effect was something that was completely understood by medical science and not a placeholder word for an utterly mysterious effect.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

That's true (3.00 / 1) (#153)
by Pseudonym on Mon May 13, 2002 at 09:10:28 PM EST

I think you read that into what I said. I know that "the placebo effect" is the medical scientist's equivalent of the "god of the gaps".

However, I meant it in a more informal way. The effect (or a similar effect) can be seen in everyday life and just about every book in the "self help" section of your book shop.

Basically, you can boil it down to this: Doing something, even if that something has no effect other than psychological, is better than doing nothing. Take, for example, a witch who casts a spell to repair a relationship with someone else. Whether or not the spell actually does anything, it will still help put the caster in the right frame of mind, give them more confidence and so on. It's still a positive influence.



sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f(q{sub f{($f)=@_;print"$f(q{$f});";}f});
[ Parent ]
Not how but why... (4.71 / 7) (#41)
by gnovos on Sat May 11, 2002 at 08:17:08 PM EST

I have read a lot on this subject, and one of the most interesting aspects of these cultures is that "magic" is often used to answer not the "how" of phenomenon, but the "why".  It's all well and good for science to say that a man died as a result of malnutirtion, heart disease, a retro-virus, etc.  But these are all just explainations of "how" he died.  What these people want to know is the bigger question of "why".  Why this man?  Why at this time and in this place?  Scientists have no answer for this, in fact, they would say that looking for such an answer is futile.  Magic, on the other hand, exist just for this purpose.  Why did this man die?  Maybe becuase of a curse on his family placed by a rival witch, maybe the gods disliked his choice in hair care products, maybe he built his house on a taboo site.  Magic will always exist until science can find an answer for "why".

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
Why as well (3.50 / 2) (#56)
by cyberdruid on Sun May 12, 2002 at 04:28:33 AM EST

I think your theory is fundamentally flawed.

The how of "Malnutrition" surely hints to the why. Perhaps he had an unhealthy diet? Perhaps there were not enough food in the village? The question of why can, of course, be asked again - "Why were there not enough food?" Because the draught destroyed the crops. "Why was the weather bad this year?" Because of the pseudo-randomness and inherent unstability in the parametric dependency of weather phenomena. If this process fails to reach a satisfying answer, where there are no more questions, so be it. The same thing can happen with the magic answer: "Why did the gods not like his choice in hair care products?", etc.

Science will certainly not give the same answer to "why" that magic would give, but it will be no less satisfying, if reason is the paradigm within which you were raised. An answer to "why" does not have to include a reference to the wishes and desires of people or gods (but it might, as is often the case in the social sciences). The lack of such references does not make it a less valid answer.

It feels to me as what you are really saying is that "Magic will always exist until science can find an answer to 'why', without including elements of randomness or unjustice, since such answers can be very unsettling if you live under the assumption that the universe is fair, ordered and with purpose." If this assumption is wrong, however, science will never give such an answer. And this is where philosophy comes in. I feel that it is best in the long run to seek the truth, even if it proves to be uncomforting. Happiness and peace of mind is not dependent on such external factors anyway. In seeking the "true truth" instead of the "comforting truth", you try to avoid inherently bad (IMHO) stuff, like witch burnings, human sacrifices and refusal to receive organ donations, to name but a random pick.

On a side note, I feel that magic rituals may serve another purpose. It seems that such rituals perpetuate important knowledge of how we work, socially. Knowledge of how to make a person identify strongly with the tribe. Knowledge of how to deal with sexual conditioning and the sexual debut. Knowledge of how to deal with life and death. The rituals of the major religions have these elements as well, but it seems as if they have gotten more bleak and less effective over time (hence, for example, the great problem with sexuality in the catholic culture).

Or maybe it's just my fever talking...

[ Parent ]

Different point (none / 0) (#59)
by gnovos on Sun May 12, 2002 at 05:28:43 AM EST

Well, while valid, that wasn't the point I was trying to make.  Sure, you could argue down the road that "why" person A is malnourished is that he isn't eating well enough, but that's not the "why" most witch-doctors are looking to answer.  They are looking to answer "Why him?"  Why is he singled out to be malnourished when there are millions of people who are not?  If you say it's due to the socioeconomic conditions in which he lives in, then the witch doctor is there to answer, "Why was he born into such conditions and not some other place?"  There is no answer to "Why me?", except in the world of magic.

A Haiku: "fuck you fuck you fuck/you fuck you fuck you fuck you/fuck you fuck you snow" - JChen
[ Parent ]
Still not convinced (4.00 / 1) (#65)
by cyberdruid on Sun May 12, 2002 at 09:29:53 AM EST

To me, this is exactly the "trying to answer without including randomness", that I mentioned. "Why me?" can either be answered with the scientific "The world is not fair. You were affected at random. You don't have power over these things" or it can be answered with something like "His bad karma from a previous life made the gods punish him." Both are answers.

[ Parent ]
That's sorta the idea (5.00 / 3) (#73)
by dennis on Sun May 12, 2002 at 02:04:06 PM EST

The magical viewpoint (or at least some magical viewpoints) doesn't believe in randomness. One of my anthropology professors told us about an incident during his fieldwork where a house on stilts collapsed on someone sitting under it. The natives looked for the witch who caused it. The professor said, "Look, the stilts were rotting, anyone could see that the house was going to collapse." The natives said, "Of course, we know that. But why did it collapse when Joe was under it?"

[ Parent ]
Zues says (2.00 / 2) (#100)
by Rhinobird on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:27:15 AM EST

Zues commands all to use only real Grecian formula...
"If Mr. Edison had thought more about what he was doing, he wouldn't sweat as much." --Nikola Tesla
[ Parent ]
uuugh ? (3.71 / 7) (#44)
by mami on Sat May 11, 2002 at 10:08:56 PM EST

Since when do the people in Equatorial Guinea need "rain makers"? :-)

You live up to your nick ... err, no, I guess the witch doctor was successful with you, as you said so eloquently 'You enter a reality that you cannot understand, and become something approaching mad?'.

And on you go: 'You have to then be guided back by someone who is in possession of the force.'

Ok, let it be me. Are you with back now?


Ignorance doesn't get you off the hook, you know (4.00 / 2) (#53)
by streetliar on Sun May 12, 2002 at 02:14:22 AM EST

No personaly attack here, but equitorial Africa has got two seasons -  rainy season and a dry season. In the dry season, there is absolutely no rain. In the rainy season there is steady rain.

Rainmakers do not just make rain, they also stop rain. For example, when somebody is having some child naming ceremony or so, it isn't good to have rain on that day, so they go to the rainmaker.

[ Parent ]

ahem... (none / 0) (#66)
by mami on Sun May 12, 2002 at 10:10:00 AM EST

right, I am ignorant. Let me ask you in which language you conducted your "interviews". I happen to have met a couple of traditional healers myself in countries close to Equatorial Guinea. Very few spoke anything else than their dialects. So, did you have translators or have you been sold to some phony "witch doctors"? I hope you didn't have to pay "white people's prices". :-)

[ Parent ]
ok... (none / 0) (#67)
by mami on Sun May 12, 2002 at 10:12:28 AM EST

I just read your last comment above, which answers my questions. Still a couple of month of exposure doesn't give you enough "insight".

[ Parent ]
Psionics (3.66 / 3) (#51)
by bobothy on Sun May 12, 2002 at 12:46:49 AM EST

Take a look at
http://www.fourmilab.ch/rpkp

It has a lot of information on a field of science known as psionics, which is a kind of modern day witchcraft.

Now before you start with the flaming, look at the site, read the articles, and do the experiments.

If you goto  http://www.fourmilab.ch/rpkp/experiments, there are a few experiments involving java applets that download random numbers from a server with a nuclear decay device attached. You can actually manipulate the applets by using thought alone. I can't explain it, but the effect has been documented by numerous research agencys, and even the CIA.

Skeptical (4.33 / 3) (#52)
by Neolith on Sun May 12, 2002 at 01:42:53 AM EST

Well, if this is legit, I think Matthew R. Watkins ought to mosey on over to http://www.randi.org and win a million bucks.  Think of the science he could do with that kind of money!  

[ Parent ]
Inquirer (3.00 / 4) (#98)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:24:13 AM EST

Actually, Robert Anton Wilson has been documenting for years that Randi is a bit of a fucker on this apparent "bet" and there is decent reason to believe that he will always wriggle out of paying.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]
That's bogus (none / 0) (#174)
by Neolith on Thu Jun 06, 2002 at 04:56:08 PM EST

Man, I'm sorry I noticed this a month after the fact.  There is no way that Randi could welch out of the bet.  The 'rules' of the contest are drafted and agreed upon by all parties at the onset.  Once this protocol is agreed to, the money is held by in escrow.  If the protocol is satisfied, there is no way Randi can prevent anyone from collecting the money.

Now, if the contestant agrees to a protocol, and then either violates it (Look over there!  *bends spoon with thumb*) or doesn't satisfy it (Sure, the spoon isn't bent, but I felt its energy start to waver there for a second) they don't get the money.  Period.

[ Parent ]

Psionics (4.00 / 4) (#57)
by Korimyr the Rat on Sun May 12, 2002 at 04:53:14 AM EST

I've worked with some of the people who are trying to study psionics, mostly in a workshop kind of research.

 There's a few companies that sell devices that are supposed to enhance psychic ability, allow you to travel time, or drastically streamling the functioning of your kidneys to allow you to access a more pure consciousness (I am not kidding on this last point). The entire field is rife with fraud, quackery, and utter bullshit.

 However, I have participated in some sloppy and drastically underfunded experiments with interesting results, especially with the use of magnets and electromagnets in conjunction with classic "psychic" training and visualization techniques.

 Unfortunately, the sloppy nature of the experiments led to nearly all the results being anecdotal. Same with all the phenomena from my childhood.

http://members.aol.com/psion425/Psijournal.html is a good training manual/exercise book for developing psionic ability, for those who are interested.

--
"Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein
Founding Member of 'Retarded Monkeys Against the Restriction of Weapons Privileges'
[ Parent ]

Agreed. (3.20 / 5) (#61)
by bobothy on Sun May 12, 2002 at 05:36:17 AM EST

The field of psionics, and indeed everything related to psychic phenomina, is dominated by Con artists, Fruitloops, Teenagers who just want to be cool, fakes, and lots of baggage from millenia of myths and legends.

At first I was pretty skeptical about the whole deal, but if you filter out all the bullshit, there is a lot of well documented, and easily reproducable evidence to suggest it is in fact real. The only major limitation is the taboo most scientists have over admitting anything like it could possibly exist. If it could get support of a major, well known physicist (Such as Hawkings?), then it might one day become a legimite branch of science.

[ Parent ]

Psionics (4.00 / 1) (#93)
by booyeah451 on Mon May 13, 2002 at 01:28:23 AM EST

I agree with your point about everything related to psychic phenomenon is mostly dominated by frauds and crazy people. I would like some more information about the "well documented, and easily reproducable [sic] evidence to suggest it is in fact real."

[ Parent ]
Info (none / 0) (#158)
by bobothy on Wed May 15, 2002 at 01:22:00 AM EST

The link in the initial post has a fair bit of information, as well as experiments you can do RIGHT NOW on your computer.  You could also just look on google for "psionics" or "PsychoKinesis". Just try and avoid the fluffy sites.

[ Parent ]
Daryl Bem (3.00 / 1) (#112)
by wwight on Mon May 13, 2002 at 04:21:51 AM EST

Daryl Bem, a professor of social psychology at Cornell, is one of the few well known scientists to have conducted rigorous analysis of so-called psi phenomena. He is pretty famous in the field of social psychology. Just about every psych 101 student learns about Bem's self-perception theory. Take a look at some of his articles. Some of his results are very provocative, but I wouldn't call them conclusive.

[ Parent ]
Scientific Legitimacy (5.00 / 2) (#128)
by CodeWright on Mon May 13, 2002 at 12:14:37 PM EST

Does not come at the beck and call of the rich or famous. It can only be won through publishing experimental results which other people can duplicate in their own labs. It doesn't matter two figs what Dr.Madcaps says if his experiments can't be repeated.

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
There's a reason the experiments are 'sloppy' (3.33 / 3) (#85)
by Demiurge on Sun May 12, 2002 at 08:02:50 PM EST

It's because whenever "psionics" is put up to a rigorous, double-blind, scientific test, it fails miserably.

[ Parent ]
This is not true (4.14 / 7) (#97)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:23:02 AM EST

There are actually quite a number of rigorous tests in the literature, which are documented on the fermilab site above.

I'd also note that "double-blind" is a term from medical science and can't possibly be relevant in this context. Ironically, you appear to be using terms like "double-blind" and "empirical" in this thread as if they were magical incantations, with the power to get rid of people and ideas that frighten you. Could I suggest "abracadabra" and "hoochie-mama" as additions to your repetoire?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Sweet, delicious irony. [nt] (none / 0) (#113)
by Korimyr the Rat on Mon May 13, 2002 at 05:50:42 AM EST



--
"Specialization is for insects." Robert Heinlein
Founding Member of 'Retarded Monkeys Against the Restriction of Weapons Privileges'
[ Parent ]
double-blind (4.00 / 2) (#120)
by aaron on Mon May 13, 2002 at 10:30:04 AM EST

I'd also note that "double-blind" is a term from medical science and can't possibly be relevant in this context.

Hardly.  Read the documentation of tests performed with 'psychics', 'dowsers', etc by CSICOP, Randi, and others.  Such tests are usually double-blinded, and properly so.  The term refers to the knowledge of the tester and the test subject, and has nothing to do with what is actually being tested.

[ Parent ]

what on earth do you mean? (3.33 / 3) (#121)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 10:49:07 AM EST

Are you claiming that Randi typically does not know whether he is testing a claimed psychic or a control? Are you claiming that people volunteering for CSICOP scrutiny are not aware of whether they are the claimed psychic or the control? This would have to be the case for these to be genuine double-blind tests (the CSICOP tests on dowsers were not double-blind in any rigourous sense, though CSICOP claimed that they were; incantations again).

In any case, I was not discussing the general subject of "dowsing, psychics, etc, anything that James Randi doesn't like". I was referring to the Fermilab experiments, which aren't and couldn't be double blinded. I'd be grateful for a detailed explanation of why the phrase "double blind" is being used outside its normal context here, other than as a means of attempting to intimidate people who believe in the power of science to prevent them from looking at a taboo object.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

example (3.00 / 1) (#125)
by aaron on Mon May 13, 2002 at 11:33:28 AM EST

Are you claiming that Randi typically does not know whether he is testing a claimed psychic or a control?

That would be one type of a double-blind test, but not the kind I'm referring to here.  http://skepdic.com/control.html has a good example of double-blinding in this context (see paragraph 7).

I was referring to the Fermilab experiments

Sorry, I'd just woken up when I posted before, and didn't realize you were referring to such a constrained context.  I was looking at it in the context of the parent comment's mention of 'psionics' in general.

[ Parent ]

Some more info (5.00 / 5) (#62)
by streetliar on Sun May 12, 2002 at 06:00:11 AM EST

For people who are interested in the trip itself, and the surroundings, rather than the witchcraft, here are a few more details:

A friend of mine had people visiting him who were working in Africa. They invited us both to go there for a holiday, so we went in summer.

These people are biologists, and other people who are interested in animals. Thex are a foundation which prepare animals to be returned to the jungle, in this case, it was monkeys. Often, villagers catch monkeys and sell them by the side of the road in cages to tourists and indegenous people. Often you will see trailers and tankers with monkeys chained to a ledge on the underside passing by.

These foundation goes around asking people to give the monkeys to them to be returned. They do not pay you for monkeys, because if they did, people would just capture monkeys and give them up to them for money. Often people just bring monkeys back, because they are such terrible and messy housepets.

The camp takes in the monkeys, puts them in cages with other monkeys of their kind for a few months. This is because the monkeys have often been alone for many years and are aggressive to other monkeys when they first arrive. After they get acustomed to other monkeys, they get released into the jungle together.

Afterwards, the biologists monitor their activities, tag them, etc. But it isn't really a research thing, it more like a society for prevention of cruelty to monkeys.

Well, we stayed there for the summer, and it was quite an experience. For example, to bath, you go outside in 20°C (which is freezing cold), with a bucket. You then stand in some plastic sheet covered outside bathroom, and pur water from this bucket on yourself.

Or a few times, we got our range rovers stuck in mud, and everybody had to go in and start heaving at the car while it is spinning the wheels and splashing mud at us.

The camp is at the edge of a small town with about 10000 people, but very near real tropical jungle. Lots of monkeys and birds, but I didn't see nay bigger animals.

This witch doctor lived in a mud house (all the houses in the village were mud). The house is made of some reddish mud supported by bamboo sticks on the inside, and thatched with palmtree leaves thatch. The walls are a patchwork of cracks, but that doesn't seem to affect the stability of the house.

Inside, the house is dark, and there is a kerosine lantern burning (no electricity). At the back of the house, outside the house, there are a bundle of logs in some kind of cooking hearth. Inside, it smells of kerosine, dried fish, various plants, and goat. A strong smell, but not particularly bad smelling.

The man is sitting crouched, on a ledge that is part of the wall. The wall is mud, and the floor beside the wall on the inside is somehow raised, so there is a wide mud ledge. The man sits there on a cloth rug, and various masks hang on the wall.

I sit on a chair which is made of rubber coated wires, and woven with a mat at the seat. My translator sits beside my on a small wooden stool made of the branches of wine palm trees. Those stools are very interesing, because they make use of the curved edge of the branches to produce a very comfortable sit. They are also woven to be very very stable, because I say women sitting on them to pound yam (which exerts a lot of pressure on the sit).

The old man spoke in pidgen english, so I understood most of what he said. Once in a while, my translator had to explain some concepts to me that the man couldn't bring across properly. I had trouble understanding my tranlstor sometimes though, because of his accent.

20 C cold? (none / 0) (#106)
by scruffyMark on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:05:53 AM EST

20 Celcius is a moderate room temperature, surely? Perhaps you were in Africa so long you adjusted to the hotter temperatures...

[ Parent ]
Magick won't make you happy (none / 0) (#140)
by Steeltoe on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:28:38 PM EST

In fact, you'll find the groups doing magick some of the darkest and moodiest people on the face of this planet (self-appointed "victims and outcasts", though very interesting and open people). This is because they focus so much on themselves, the more you focus on yourself, the more sad you typically get.

It's all very interesting, but so fundamentally limited. Was the man you interviewed happy? (Sounds like he had a clue). Now, THAT's the biggest magic-trick in my book. Everything else is just a power-game along with most other activity and doer-ship, which eventually corrupts.

When you can do magic, do you think you will you be happy then? =)

Often, people are better off without even more power to destroy their lives.
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]

What is happiness? (none / 0) (#144)
by juahonen on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:57:38 PM EST

Each and everyone of us defines happiness in a different way. There is no general measure for happiness. I don't believe any single definite thing is the source of happiness. Likewise there's no single source for sadness. They are both mixed in the events of everyday life. Happiness is more an occasion than a product.



[ Parent ]
This is happiness: ;-) (5.00 / 1) (#173)
by Steeltoe on Mon Jun 03, 2002 at 04:34:01 PM EST

You are. Whenever you think of eating soft-ice, you feel something. You don't get happy from eating soft-ice, the happiness arises before you eat it. When you eat it, it leaves you empty and drained, kind of disappointed. We cannot attain happiness from exterior objects. We are the source of happiness.

I agree with you, it's very difficult to define happiness. It comes in so many forms: contentment, joy, play, laughter, even tears, etc. KNOW that it is you. You are happiness, and you will become more happy. Just start smiling, the world is a big joke.
Explore the Art of Living

[ Parent ]

Basics of Magic (4.83 / 24) (#68)
by localroger on Sun May 12, 2002 at 10:22:34 AM EST

This story is a typical introduction to magic, witchcraft, sorcery, or whatever you want to call it. Just about every human society has developed similar techniques, which share certain broad guidelines. Whether these techniques "work" (in the sense of really influencing the world, or accurately describing the forces they control) is beside the point; they appear to work so strongly and so consistently that the practices are nearly universal.

The old man does several things typical of real (e.g. serious, as opposed to shyster) practitioners:

For one, he never used his "magic".

Not that you saw, at least. A better statement might be that he never used his magic frivolously. Just as you wouldn't fire up a nuclear reactor to run a train set, someone who takes their "power" seriously (especially if it's linked to their religion) is not likely to use it to set up geegaws for the tourists. Also, some traditions forbid practitioners from directly using their power to make money.

He spoke of a world like in the Matrix - there is a outside world outside of this world which we cannot see, because we are a subset of it.

Actually, the reference to The Matrix is pretty exact, since that movie is based on a Gnostic belief system which probably had magical elements before it was all suppressed by the Council of Nicea. Some systems of magic do not teach that there is "another" world but that this one is infested with intelligent entities that can be contacted. The upshot of either system is that magic is mediated by intelligent beings whose aid you enlist.

Once you start to use these strengths, you can easily become possessed by demons.

Not all of the invisible beings mentioned in the previous paragraph are friendly. All magic systems of any complexity incorporate protective systems to keep the bad ones from making your life hell.

Magic-naive people have a certain immunity to the depradations of malevolent entities, so the theory goes, because we are not as open to them; when you begin practicing magic, you become open both to the forces you want to use and to those that want to have a little fun at your expense. Just what those bad forces can do varies with what the magic is trying to accomplish. Many beginning Wiccans report an epidemic of little lost things (as in the socks that disappear in the dryer). I've also met one or two people who seem to have been driven stark flaming mad by obsessions involving their practice. It's an occupational hazard which certainly exists whether the magic itself is "real" or not, for whatever reason.

I wanted to become a witch. I asked him to teach me. He said that he would not, and could not do so.

There are protocols for this in many systems. This is partly to keep naive and vulnerable people from getting in over their heads, and partly to keep powerful secrets in the hands of the elite. Also, by requiring you to find a teacher by some byzantine quest, a situation is set up in which the magical system itself can select who is worthy of being taught it.

All magic involves a few basic principles:

  • A symbolic system. It doesn't really matter what the symbols are, as long as they can be used as a primitive language to communicate with unseen forces.
  • An altered state of consciousness. This may be attained by meditation, chanting, taking drugs, sex, pain (the Aztecs were quite gruesome in this direction), or anything else that takes you out of the World of Form into, well, someplace else.
  • Ritual. Directed activity involving the symbolic system, within the altered state of consciousness, to state and emphasize what the magician is trying to do.
Magic can be an elaborate affair involving a sacred space, tools, robes (or nudity), etc.; or it can happen entirely in your head. As a friend of mine recently pointed out, a lot of sales training is actually secularized magic; you psych yourself into an unnaturally positive state, mentally create a reality in which your result has already been accomplished, and affirm that reality to yourself at every opportunity. That's magic. And while the self-help books that package these techniques don't bother to offer protective elements, you need them; I know several salesmen who have drifted so far into the salesdroid worldview that I'm not sure they will ever emerge from it. That is a kind of madness, one of the risks of meddling with what you don't really understand.

If you want to learn magic, there is no shortage of sources online and at new-age / metaphysical book shops; the overwhelming thing will be deciding which of the zillions of varieties to try. Syncretic magical systems like that of the ancient Egyptians teach that it doesn't really matter which system you use, as they all can be made to work; however, you should be sensitive to whether the system you are trying to use is working, and if it isn't or isn't comfortable, be ready to move to another.

The most important thing is not to fall into the trap of thinking that any description of the world -- including that provided by science -- is the only one that is valid. Magic has been around for tens of thousands of years; science has only been around for a few hundred. Science can do great things, but it cannot ultimately tell you whether there really is a spoon.

I can haz blog!

Interesting comment (4.83 / 6) (#75)
by Kalani on Sun May 12, 2002 at 04:35:09 PM EST

I grew up in Sedona, AZ. If you've never heard of the place, it's quite full of "new age" folks of all colors. Just observing the things that they do is enough to provide some interesting insight into this sort of ad-hoc mystic understanding of the world (and that's exactly what it is, I believe, not any kind of profound insight into the underlying features of reality, but a crude system of thought from which the real world can be derived).

In any case, I don't mean to detract from your comment here. You've pointed out some important features of belief systems and such (Science without understanding is also such a system -- many kids with stereos or game consoles ascribe false magical properties to these devices, but the mysticism is only an indication of their ignorance). Have you ever read The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind? It was written by the late Dr. Julian Jaynes, who I believe was primarily a linguist. He analyzed the nature of consciousness in terms of evolving human language (and some rudimentary models of brain function). One of the interesting assertions that he makes is that language comes before changes in consciousness (so that as the symbolic system becomes more complex and internally consistent, the states of minds of its practitioners approach the mode of consciousness with which we are familiar today). He has some very interesting things to say about rituals and "alterations of consciousness" (drugs and trances and so on) as well.

Also, there's a fairly famous essay by the late Dr. Richard Feynman (I know I keep pointing you toward his work) called Cargo Cult Science. It's a simple description of how Science can be misused, misinterpreted, misunderstood, and so on. He also explains (as he often does) what it means to be scientific and that it is more important that your system of thought encourages you to be so thorough in your analysis that you prevent yourself from fooling yourself.

You could probably write a very long article about all of this. :)

-----
"Nothing says 'final boss' like a giant brain in a tube."
-- Udderdude on flipcode.com
[ Parent ]
The Scientific Myth of Magic (5.00 / 5) (#77)
by localroger on Sun May 12, 2002 at 05:05:57 PM EST

Have you ever read The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind?

Yes, fascinating book; I don't agree with a lot of Jaynes' conclusions but it's the kind of thought-provoking exercise in speculation I wish more people with his talent would attempt. I've seen this Feynman piece before; alas, it is not one of his more insightful, since it propagates the typical myth scientists hold about magic and spiritualism.

For several years I was intimately involved with a small community of New Age folks, because I was running a small side business selling them gemstones. (This being New Orleans, located on an alluvial river plain, the only way you get a piece of rock of a particular type is to travel or buy it from someone.) My clientele ran the gamut from Wiccans to Native Americans of both the genuine and wannabe type and people practicing various brands of meditation, psionics, and so on.

The most widespread myth among scientific believers/debunkers is that these systems do not practice the Scientific Method. This is like saying that Science does not practice the Scientific Method because it produces frauds like Cyril Burt and "cold fusion." Any apparently useful gig will attract con men. But if you read very much material in this line at all, you will find a running theme is that you should try something, and if it doesn't work you try something else. This contrasts sharply with the attitudes of the world's dominant monotheistic religions, which teach that you should only try their methods and they will damn well work for you, or else.

Over and over, books about magic and spiritualism will tell you that you cannot evaluate their validity by listening to what worked for someone else, including the author; you must try the exercises yourself. You usually also read that belief is not necessary. If a system is going to work for you at all, it will work if you make an effort, even if doing so makes you feel stupid. (In fact, doing something even though it makes you feel stupid creates a powerful altered state of consciousness, which some people deliberately cultivate because it can be useful.)

My experience with these things is that nothing ever happened that couldn't be explained "rationally," but that things happened fairly often that were so unlikely and convenient as to beggar description. The old man's explanation about the cat in the brush is as good as any; another way I cast it is that if the Universe is a computer like the Matrix, and magic bends the rules, it must probably bend around some rule-checking structures which must be avoided. At least that's what I figure on Tuesdays and Thursdays, when I believe in this shit. On Mondays, Wednesdays, and Fridays I'm a strict materialist. Since it's a weekend, I'm feeling agnostic :-)

For an illo of how a truly skeptical metaphysical type person thinks, the ultimate source is Robert Anton Wilson, and his seminal work on the subject is Cosmic Trigger". Wilson is a challenging author who deliberately peppers his work with absurdities to keep you thinking about what he has written, but he also puts across the weird subjectivity of the mystical experience better than any writer I know. I particularly love the tale of how, after he co-wrote Illuminatus! he started tripping over clues that the Illuminati were real.

You could probably write a very long article about all of this. :)

If that's a hint, it will have to wait until I get back from another romp through the fabulous Delta, and finish Paleotech #03 whose source materials have been sitting in my bookmark file for two weeks now.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

I think you're preaching to the choir ... (4.50 / 2) (#78)
by Kalani on Sun May 12, 2002 at 05:28:17 PM EST

The point that Feynman makes in that piece and the point that I was trying to make in my comment was restated by you in the parent comment. It is not important that you call your work "Science," but it is important that your experiment and deduction is valid. Nothing else is important. If you want to come up with some theory to make prediction much simpler for yourself, that's great. For instance, given some aqueous chemical equilibrium reaction you could document exactly what the ratio of compound A to compound B is under certain conditions, and then when it comes time for you to analyze some situation in which those same compounds are in equilibrium in the same conditions, you can look up whatever aspect of the equilibrium you need to assume, and go on your way. If you come up with a system of thought by which all aspects of the equilibrium are related by all of the conditions which can vary, that's also useful (not strictly necessary -- but so useful that today we assume that it is necessary). So we agree that the importance is in the event, and in validating the idea that the event will happen. Predictive theories are just a nice way of consolidating all of that knowledge (which we all ought to validate ourselves, as much as possible).

The point is that the label you give something is unimportant. You can call it Science or Voodoo or "New Age" or whatever the hell you want, but if the belief system makes predictions which don't actually happen or which are statistically untenable, then it's an invalid belief system (at least in that single aspect -- it may be valid in other ways but that's not really the issue here). Science (or the modern beliefs that are attached to the name "Science") also has those problems. Theories of physics are not all completely consistent on every scale, and many predictions are only testable on a very small scale (or with very small numbers of interacting particles and so on). The point is to find the system of thought which approximates reality most closely. So when we do have something that predicts phenomena in reality more precisely than one which is offered to us (Voodoo or Crystal worship or other such nonsense), it is necessary to choose the more accurate one -- provided that we are interested in an accurate predictive theory.

I'll leave out all of the arguments over seeing order in randomness. I don't think that they're really necessary and anybody who's got an understanding of probability can determine for themselves whether a repeating pattern is likely ordered or random.

I'll take a look at the author you mentioned. I think that Jaynes's book is a good example of where a theory can overreach available evidence, but it is a very beautiful theory. Maybe neurologists will one day confirm or deny his ideas (at least insomuchas conscious thought is directed by regular language expressions generated by the right hemisphere and transmitted to the left for execution).

I look forward to your Paleotech article. I've actually been considering writing something also (a bit more fundamental: on early systems of thought that led to our modern analytical systems).

-----
"Nothing says 'final boss' like a giant brain in a tube."
-- Udderdude on flipcode.com
[ Parent ]
OK, points taken (5.00 / 2) (#80)
by localroger on Sun May 12, 2002 at 05:58:25 PM EST

You're right that a lot of New Agers prefer the explanation that is more beautiful to the one that works well. This is even true when it's the Tarot itself telling them for years they should not consult it before getting out of bed every morning, much less preferring the explanation that involves angels to the one that involves condensation.

On the other hand...

I'll leave out all of the arguments over seeing order in randomness. I don't think that they're really necessary and anybody who's got an understanding of probability can determine for themselves whether a repeating pattern is likely ordered or random.

I spent ten years haunting casinos learning that most people certainly can't determine whether a pattern is ordered or random. In particular people are very reluctant to accept that statistically valid but individually unlikely events are really occurring randomly, even when the trials are in a form that can be conveniently analyzed such as spins of the Roulette wheel. When the trials are all mixed up in the chaos of everyday life, it requires a faith in materialism far deeper than that held by most religious people in their own beliefs to resist jumping to a lot of unwarranted conclusions.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

On randomness ... (4.50 / 2) (#81)
by Kalani on Sun May 12, 2002 at 06:07:44 PM EST

I spent ten years haunting casinos learning that most people certainly can't determine whether a pattern is ordered or random. In particular people are very reluctant to accept that statistically valid but individually unlikely events are really occurring randomly, even when the trials are in a form that can be conveniently analyzed such as spins of the Roulette wheel. When the trials are all mixed up in the chaos of everyday life, it requires a faith in materialism far deeper than that held by most religious people in their own beliefs to resist jumping to a lot of unwarranted conclusions.

Yes I remember your articles on gambling and such, they were very interesting to me.

Understanding probability and the likely meaning in statistical data requires an analytical approach. Many people struggle against real analytical systems of thought, I think, because they require so much strictness and so much heavy processing. It may be some other reason, but that's the best that I can come up with in my mere 20 years of life.

This is all getting back to our previous discussion on how problems ought to be deconstructed to their little atomic elements to understand how the simple interactions give way to the high level phenomena that we observe (or the high level code in the software you write).

Thanks for your comments here. It would be pretty interesting to see an article/essay that attempts to pull all of this philosophy together (from the principles of Scientific analysis to those of engineering new things).

I look forward to your future submissions. :)

-----
"Nothing says 'final boss' like a giant brain in a tube."
-- Udderdude on flipcode.com
[ Parent ]
Voodoo is nonsense? (3.80 / 5) (#96)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:20:21 AM EST

. So when we do have something that predicts phenomena in reality more precisely than one which is offered to us (Voodoo or Crystal worship or other such nonsense)

Voodoo predicts phenomena in the reality of a poor rural Haitian community with surprising accuracy. What scientific theory predicts the events which take place in the experience of a believer at a Voodoo ceremony better than one which includes loas, etc?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Sorry, I may not have expressed myself very well (3.00 / 2) (#102)
by Kalani on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:39:33 AM EST

What scientific theory predicts the events which take place in the experience of a believer at a Voodoo ceremony better than one which includes loas, etc?

By "Voodoo" what I really meant was "some belief system that makes inaccurate or false predictions." If you want to use Voodoo to describe a sociological phenomenon (or a set of such phenomena), then I suppose that it's very accurate, since its practitioners behave in ways predicted by it because they believe in it. However, that doesn't really have anything to do with the point that I was making. My point was simply that predictive theories ought to reflect reality as closely as possible (and if Voodoo makes claims about the nature of the physical world, it's got a lot of competition with highly accurate theories).

OK?

-----
"Nothing says 'final boss' like a giant brain in a tube."
-- Udderdude on flipcode.com
[ Parent ]
Not really OK (3.80 / 5) (#107)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:10:05 AM EST

By "Voodoo" what I really meant was "some belief system that makes inaccurate or false predictions."

I hope that in time you realise that this is an extremely rude way to refer to somebody else's religion. It also rather begs the whole question.

and if Voodoo makes claims about the nature of the physical world, it's got a lot of competition with highly accurate theories

What highly accurate theory accounts for the deaths of people cursed by voodoo priests?

Before you answer, please note that "placebo" is not a theory, and nor is "psychosomatic".

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

You don't deal well with politeness, do you? (2.33 / 3) (#109)
by Kalani on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:40:37 AM EST

I hope that in time you realise that this is an extremely rude way to refer to somebody else's religion.

OK I'm an insensitive jerk. Now back to the real subject ...

What highly accurate theory accounts for the deaths of people cursed by voodoo priests? Before you answer, please note that "placebo" is not a theory, and nor is "psychosomatic".

The theory is biology (and probably to some extent neurology and psychology). To be more precise, the theory is the set of principles that underly the science of living systems. That's the most accurate way to describe living systems that I'm aware of (especially in that its predictions hold in more than just a tiny subset of conditions in a single country). It may be impractical to predict the things that you've described, but in theory it is possible. If there is a simpler set of principles that can predict the behavior of these people you've described (and it's consistent and reasonably accurate) then I'm sure that it will be adopted by whomever needs to use such things. Hopefully it would eventually be brought into the more fundamental system that describes living systems.

This is all off the topic of my original post though. Is there anything you'd like to say on my original topic or would you just like to talk about Voodoo?

-----
"Nothing says 'final boss' like a giant brain in a tube."
-- Udderdude on flipcode.com
[ Parent ]
No; fuck off (3.00 / 7) (#110)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:49:55 AM EST

This is all off the topic of my original post though

Strangely enough, you are not the centre of the universe, and the fact that you were making ignorant comments about Voodoo in a thread on witchcraft merited response. Since you appear to be hiding behind some mythical Platonic Form of the science of biology, and not talking about the actual science as it is practised in the world, you are correct to assume I am not interested in discussing the matter with you.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

I used to think that you were a reasonable guy (1.33 / 3) (#111)
by Kalani on Mon May 13, 2002 at 04:03:02 AM EST

Strangely enough, you are not the centre of the universe, and the fact that you were making ignorant comments about Voodoo in a thread on witchcraft merited response.

I'm sorry if you think that I'm being arrogant, but I like to keep debates over any particular issue from sliding into other issues. I didn't want to discuss particulars of Voodoo and I'm under no obligation to discuss those things with you. If it makes you feel any better I'll have a discussion with my anthropologist friend on the subject of Voodoo some other time.

Also if you go back and read my posts, you'll see that my derision of Voodoo had more to do with its large-scale applicability than any localized applicability. It may very well predict the behavior of several thousand people (or whatever the number is), but if it fails utterly beyond that, then it's a curiosity demanding deeper analysis but not a globally accurate fundamental system of thought.

Since you appear to be hiding behind some mythical Platonic Form of the science of biology, and not talking about the actual science as it is practised in the world, you are correct to assume I am not interested in discussing the matter with you.

Again, the point is that Biology is the system that we would ideally like to bring such complicated phenomena into. That isn't to say that current theory is comprehensive enough to explain the apparant physical control that exists between certain Voodoo practitioners (although it might be, I'm not a biologist -- I suppose I ought to ask the biologists in my family if they're familiar with this phenomena).

Anyway, don't take it personally my friend. I still love you. :)

-----
"Nothing says 'final boss' like a giant brain in a tube."
-- Udderdude on flipcode.com
[ Parent ]
who cares? (2.00 / 3) (#130)
by CodeWright on Mon May 13, 2002 at 12:29:17 PM EST

Honestly, a "true believer" of any religion probably believes that the believers of any other religion are, at best, misguided, and, at worst, diabolical fiends.

In either case, it's almost a foregone conclusion that the adherents of one will regard the adherents of another as totally cuckoo and react with rude disbelief.

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
What crap (3.25 / 4) (#133)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 01:08:15 PM EST

Honestly, a "true believer" of any religion probably believes that the believers of any other religion are, at best, misguided, and, at worst, diabolical fiends.

I hope that Pope John Paul II can be counted as a "true believer" of the Roman Catholic Church, or indeed that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks can be counted a true beliver in Orthodox Judaism. Neither of these men believes anything so insulting about the other.

In either case, it's almost a foregone conclusion that the adherents of one will regard the adherents of another as totally cuckoo and react with rude disbelief.

You seem to believe this with a faith in the face of the empirical evidence which is both touching and slightly ludicrous. I often think of GK Chesterton's wise words "When a man ceases to believe in God, he does not believe in nothing; he believes in anything".

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

What poppycock (none / 0) (#142)
by CodeWright on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:42:24 PM EST

I hope that Pope John Paul II can be counted as a "true believer" of the Roman Catholic Church, or indeed that Rabbi Jonathan Sacks can be counted a true beliver in Orthodox Judaism. Neither of these men believes anything so insulting about the other.
I quite certain that they regard each other "at best, as misguided". Catholic dogma and Jewish rabbinical teachings are orthogonal to one another -- they cannot both be true.
You seem to believe this with a faith in the face of the empirical evidence which is both touching and slightly ludicrous. I often think of GK Chesterton's wise words "When a man ceases to believe in God, he does not believe in nothing; he believes in anything".
You don't even seem to be sure where you are going with that one; it certainly has nothing to do with my comment. I'll give you a B- for effort.

--
"Humanity's combination of reckless stupidity and disrespect for the mistakes of others is, I think, what makes us great." --Parent ]
And to perhaps make my point more concisely ... (3.50 / 2) (#79)
by Kalani on Sun May 12, 2002 at 05:44:33 PM EST

For several years I was intimately involved with a small community of New Age folks, because I was running a small side business selling them gemstones. ... My clientele ran the gamut from Wiccans to Native Americans of both the genuine and wannabe type and people practicing various brands of meditation, psionics, and so on.

The most widespread myth among scientific believers/debunkers is that these systems do not practice the Scientific Method.


I'd just like to emphasize, for the purpose of making my original point clear, I also have been intimately involved with such communities. I grew up in one (probably one of the most famous for outrageous beliefs, especially if you ever watch Dateline NBC). They do sometimes observe real phenomena, and they can demonstrate a rational analysis of that phenomena. Where the mysticism comes in is when they ascribe unnatural properties to the phenomena, or where, given a high degree of uncertainty or ignorance of some thing, they choose one out of an infinite number of exotic explanations for the thing. I believe that this is simply a case of a set of people idealizing theory above the observable behavior of nature. It is, to them, simple and elegant and beautiful to believe that spirits "channel" themselves through crystals to communicate with us mortals, rather than to believe that the crystals are simple an ordered arrangement of atoms or molecules in a near perfect three-dimensional lattice. But they can keep the inaccurate theories. I am personally only interested in how things are, and I am willing to dismiss the constructs that got me to the point of new understanding if they are not sufficient to describe new things.

That's all.

-----
"Nothing says 'final boss' like a giant brain in a tube."
-- Udderdude on flipcode.com
[ Parent ]
The magical myth of monotheistic religions... (none / 0) (#143)
by Skywise on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:52:00 PM EST

"This contrasts sharply with the attitudes of the world's dominant monotheistic religions, which teach that you should only try their methods and they will damn well work for you, or else."

Not true.  There are basic creeds that you must adhere too, but that's merely a divining rod.  (IE If you're not going to believe that Jesus was the Son of God, you can't be a Catholic.)  Everything else is mostly up to debate, even within the clergy.  Just look at the current fight within the Catholic church about pedophilia, homosexuality, and the desire to allows priests to be sexual...

In fact, what you state "Try something, and if it doesn't work try something else"... is true of the monotheistic religions as well.  The difference is that those with strong organizations require that the changes be rigorously worked out before being codified into spiritual law.  To make sure the loopholes have been worked out (or appropriately worked in).  Duh.

Yeah, Wiccan and Native American religions are "more open" than the Catholic church.  But so was Christianity in its early days, and still is open in various spin off churches.  That's because Wiccans and Native Americans no longer have an organization to answer to.  But put a full organization behind any of them and bam.  You've got a repressive system because the organization requires segregations of the haves and have-nots.


[ Parent ]

Religious organizations (none / 0) (#145)
by juahonen on Mon May 13, 2002 at 04:20:02 PM EST

That's because Wiccans and Native Americans no longer have an organization to answer to. But put a full organization behind any of them and bam

They never have had an "organization to answer to," only their gods (and perhaps fellow believers). The covenants were so scattered and had inadequate information delivery systems to form such organizations. Before Christianity took over in Europe there were no need for such organizations, because of the Pagan beliefs. But you're right when you say things would turn different if there was such an organization.

Still today you hardly could put a organization behind all Wiccans. Most of them don't even believe in the same things, despite of the Pagan origins of their beliefs. There is one doctrine however: Love is the Law, Love under Will, but I don't believe that would help you make an organization to represent Wiccans -- or make them answer to the organization.



[ Parent ]
Right. (4.00 / 1) (#146)
by Skywise on Mon May 13, 2002 at 04:36:54 PM EST

But organizations are only as big as the scope of your knowledge/view.

Even if there's only 2 people dictating the religious laws of a tribe of 50 persons, they control the knowledge and therefore can turn the religion into a closed system that can't be argued with.

If the tribes were migratory then you could probably find similar variants of your "religion" and jump-ship to the other tribe if you didn't like the way things were going.  But that was a rare occurrence, and that also meant destroying your family which had a much stronger bond.

Reality/Science plays a strong role here.  If your 2 religious leaders are oppressing your tribe of 50 through intimidation, knowledge plays a strong role in swaying public opinion to turn the other 47 with you and against the other 2.

[ Parent ]

psychologist or psychiatrist in schizophrenia (4.00 / 1) (#131)
by glitchvern on Mon May 13, 2002 at 12:37:57 PM EST

It was written by the late Dr. Julian Jaynes, who I believe was primarily a linguist.

I believe he was a psychologist or psychiatrist specializing in schizophrenia which if you read the book with that in mind you can kind of see or so I've been told. I've never actually read it. Supose to be very interesting though.

Programmers are like Mogwai, they hate bright light, direct sunlight is rumoured to kill them.
[ Parent ]
Jaynes (5.00 / 1) (#141)
by cr8dle2grave on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:39:59 PM EST

You are correct, Jaynes was psychiatrist who primarily studied schizophenia and his clinical study of schizophenia was the departure point for the theory he posits in _The Origin of Consciousness in the Breakdown of the Bicameral Mind_. Jaynes' book is one those that while being fundamentally flawed in many respects should still be read as it is filled with interesting insights and novel ways of thinking about a problem. My recollection of Jaynes' thesis is somewhat fuzzy as I read the book nearly a decade ago, but as I remember it:

  • Schizophrenics hear voices commanding them to do things.
  • Hypothesis: The schizophenic condition may represent what was at an earlier point of human evolution the normative state of the human brain.
  • At some point around 12,000 B.C.E. a minor change in human metabolism occured resulting in the rise of non-auditory communication between the right and left hemispheres of the brain.
  • Supporting evidence: Jaynes supposes the "universal" occurance of large statues with big eyes represent an externalization of the interior commanding voice. Additionally, he speculates that the minor metabolic alteration anticipated by his theory could habe been the result of catastophic enviromental shifts which occured around 12,000 B.C.E.

As I said before Jaynes' theory has significant flaws. His reliance upon a world wide metabolic shift in the human population is dubious at best. It could not have been propogated genetically as many human populations remained isolated from one another dating back to at least 45,000 B.C.E (and Jaynes' theory is dependant on the shift happening at a latter date). Such a shift might have arisen due to climatic or dietary changes, but in such case we should find peoples who have the schizophrenic condition in places where climate or diet closely resemble ancient populations. No such bio-chemical evidence has ever been discovered. Also, the study of schizophenia has revealed that while the neurological condition we know as schizophrenia occurs with regularity in all cultures, the symptomology of schizophrenia varies significantly. Schizophrenics in industrialized cultures manifest symptoms such as voices and other delusional phenomenom, whereas schizophrenics in pre-industrialized cultures manifest symptoms classified as shizophenia catatonia, which is almost unknown in industrialized cultures.

---
Unity of mankind means: No escape for anyone anywhere. - Milan Kundera


[ Parent ]
mostly agree (3.00 / 1) (#76)
by bukvich on Sun May 12, 2002 at 04:55:39 PM EST

> I've also met one or two people who seem to have
> been driven stark flaming mad by obsessions
> involving their practice

Kind of difficult to untangle the causality arrow here, eh?

Have you been by the Saint Roch cemetery after dark?

B.

[ Parent ]

Insane bullshit (2.85 / 7) (#83)
by Demiurge on Sun May 12, 2002 at 07:49:42 PM EST

Sorry, but that's the only way to put it.

I especially love your bit about how you can only experience magic if you believe in it. How convenient, you've got a perfect excuse for all the skeptics.

There is absolutely no empirical evidence for "magic", and there will almost certainly never will be, because the conmen and fools who adhere to the believe it exists come up with elaborate rationals as to why they can't pass tests.

Whether the old man was actually deluded into thinking he could actually perform magic, or was just pulling a trick on the naive westerner, the reason he refused to produce proof was because he couldn't, not because of some mystic mumbo-jumbo.

Sadly, I'd think that most of the posters on K5 who would believe such nonsense probably find the idea of transubstantiation ridiculous, too bad they can't apply just a little bit of skeptical thinking to their own deluded beliefs.

[ Parent ]
Don't hold back, let us know how you REALLY feel (5.00 / 6) (#87)
by localroger on Sun May 12, 2002 at 08:55:27 PM EST

I especially love your bit about how you can only experience magic if you believe in it.

I did not make such a statement, and in fact said exactly the opposite in a followup.

Contrary to the assertions of people like yourself and even the beliefs of more open-minded folks like Kalani, the reason people believe in this stuff isn't that they have been deluded by shysters. Much as I like James P. Hogan's writing, he is just simply wrong on this, as are Isaac Asimov and James Randi all the others who have advanced the idea.

The reason people are drawn to these practices is because, at a fundamental level, they appear to work. It's not a matter of "wanting" them to work; the evidence seems compelling when you are in the middle of the situation. When you aren't, it's ridiculous. Even people in the middle of the situation, who feel the compulsion, realize that; but the compulsion exists anyway.

I would much rather see people practicing magic than going to the casino. The two activities are very closely related. Each derives from a compelling subjective impression that the situation is not what physics, mathematics, and consensus reality say it is.

I don't have to ask if you did the exercises. You assumed they were ridiculous. (It doesn't matter whose; I suggest the penniomancy experiment Robert Anton Wilson suggests in Cosmic Trigger.) Unfortunately, until you have done them and experienced for yourself what the people in these situations are experiencing, you are talking out of your ass. The human condition is much weirder than you realize, and you can count yourself unimaginably lucky if you die without ever finding out just how weird it can get.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

Completely, absolutely wrong (3.80 / 5) (#90)
by Demiurge on Sun May 12, 2002 at 10:27:14 PM EST

As a matter of fact, this subject has held great interest for me for quite some time, so I have attempted the various 'tests' and 'exercises' proposed by various believers, and they, of course, did not work.

I have also performed a number of experiments based on actual science. For example, Young's double slit experiment. Every single time I performed the experiment, and every single time anyone does, I or they will experience the same results. Everytime anyone on earth attempts to measure gravity, they will get a value of (about) 9.8 meters per second per second. I can recreate Foucault's famous pendulum experiments, and have supreme confidence that my results will be the same every time.

The defining characteristic of "magic" is that it CAN'T be proved empirically, proponents would like to take it on faith that they're right. Which is not only ridiculous, but dangerous.

[ Parent ]
You have actually found your path (4.80 / 5) (#91)
by localroger on Sun May 12, 2002 at 11:18:38 PM EST

I have attempted the various 'tests' and 'exercises' proposed by various believers, and they, of course, did not work.

Well, barring the "of course" (since this contradicts what happens for nearly everyone else) the magical tradition would say that you go with what works -- which, for you, isn't magic. That is actually a pretty unusual thing.

I can recreate Foucault's famous pendulum experiments, and have supreme confidence that my results will be the same every time.

As I said, you can count yourself extremely lucky if you die without ever having this confidence handed back to you on a platter, along with your own heart and liver. This has happened to me (figuratively speaking), several times. Then again I'm 38; how old are you?

The defining characteristic of "magic" is that it CAN'T be proved empirically, proponents would like to take it on faith that they're right.

While a lot of people have faith in magic, the people whose magic is really *impressive* in the actual personal sense of what happens when you are there, generally don't. The author's old man seems to fall in this category, as he hedges all his bets; he isn't scamming the author, he is simply doing the same thing I do when I pull the MWF/TT joke. It's a protective mechanism. People who really have seen reality bend don't want it bent unless it's necessary. It's one of those things that sounds like a fun thrill ride until you actually find yourself there.

You can do magic by accident, and you can also magically suppress magic by accident. I have known people who are "probability vortices," around whom nothing seems to work out as planned, and I have known others who are "grounding rods" around whom nothing metaphysical seems to ever happen. And yes, I've been in the room when the two came together. The grounder seems to prevail, which is not surprising given that the "ground rules" seem as if they are supposed to be a built-in and inviolate part of the universe. The grounders always leave thinking they know everything, and everyone else leaves laughing at them -- sometimes a bit hollowly.

It doesn't really matter what you believe about the universe. It does what it does; you do what you do. The vast majority of humans do not feel the way you do, and a large minority of them are not really as stupid as you think. Go with what works, Demiurge. But be prepared when it stops working.

I can haz blog!
[ Parent ]

An example: (4.00 / 3) (#103)
by Demiurge on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:48:47 AM EST

Let's take your "probability vortices". If they exist, then why has no one done a double-blind experiment, written up a paper on their incredible findings, and published it in the New England Journal of Medicine, or Nature?

No doubt, you'll explain such lack of evidence away by stating that all these scientists and skeptics must be "grounding rods".

[ Parent ]
That's possible.... (5.00 / 1) (#118)
by Elkor on Mon May 13, 2002 at 09:16:09 AM EST

Or it could be that rule about electrons. The act of observing the phenomena negates it.

Or, it could be an issue of reflex over conscious effort. If the individual who was the vortex volunteered for the experiment, then it wouldn't work the same because he would be concentrating on his ability.

Have you ever found that there were things you did better when you didn't think about them? Like shooting hoops? Or catching a baseball? When you start thinking about it, you suddenly throw for crap, and get start tipping the balls off your glove.

Not saying this is definitely the case, but they are two possibilities.

And yes, it is easy to come up with an explaination for why something doesn't work. However, if is also impossible to prove a negative.

Regards,
Elkor


"I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
-Margo Eve
[ Parent ]
Hard incontroverable evidence (4.75 / 4) (#119)
by Phillip Asheo on Mon May 13, 2002 at 09:33:04 AM EST

Would research from Princeton be good enough for you ? Check out Princeton Engineering Anomalies Research and pay special attention to the section describing human/machine anomalies. Random mechanical cascade experiment. In these experiments human operators attempt to influence the behavior of a variety of mechanical, electronic, optical, acoustical, and fluid devices to conform to pre-stated intentions, without recourse to any known physical processes. In unattended calibrations these sophisticated machines all produce strictly random outputs, yet the experimental results display increases in information content that can only be attributed to the influence of the consciousness of the human operator.

Over the laboratory's 20-year history, thousands of such experiments, involving many millions of trials, have been performed by several hundred operators. The observed effects are usually quite small, of the order of a few parts in ten thousand on average, but they are statistically repeatable and compound to highly significant deviations from chance expectations. These results are summarized in "Correlations of Random Binary Sequences with Pre-Stated Operator Intention: A Review of a 12-Year Program."

(emphasis mine).

Nobel Prize winning physicist Brian Josephson's on Psi is also worth a read.

Demiurge, Mind over matter is an ESTABLISHED SCIENTIFIC "FACT", you would do well to do some reaearch before describing the work of Princeton scientists as "insane bullshit". You might want to think about some of the implications of this knowlege, too.

--
"Never say what you can grunt. Never grunt what you can wink. Never wink what you can nod, never nod what you can shrug, and don't shrug when it ain't necessary"
-Earl Long
[ Parent ]

"Empirically" (3.42 / 7) (#95)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:16:30 AM EST

I reiterate that the word "empirically" does not mean what you think it means. It isn't a medal handed out by the National Science Foundation to "real" scientists whose work is "empirical" because it follows the NSF Manual of Best Practice. It means "by experience", by which criterion magic has been proved to work at least as many times as the double slit experiment.

I seriously doubt that you have performed the interesting, single-photon version of the double slit experiment "many times", by the way.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

science and empiricism (4.00 / 1) (#127)
by speek on Mon May 13, 2002 at 11:55:37 AM EST

I have endless arguments with my brother (bio-chemist) about whether science is a purely "empirical" endeavor. My argument is that it is not, and that it implies a dualistic paradigm. He argues science is purely empirical and that humans, and indeed animals, have been using the scientific method forever.

Empiricism, in the sense of Hume, just isn't a concept likely to hold together in people's minds. It's too strict and narrow, and slowly begins to mean the same thing as "objective" in casual conversation. Unfortunately, "objective" is an impossibly difficult concept that people assume is easy to understand, and "empirical" is a simple concept that people have great difficulty understanding. But it is by confusing these concepts that people come to the conclusion that science is the be-all and end-all of human understanding.

Ya, I know, a pointless comment, but there, I made it :-)

--
al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
[ Parent ]

As far as I can tell (4.25 / 4) (#134)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 01:11:19 PM EST

You are right and your brother is wrong; science cannot be merely empirical, because as Hume and Kant both proved in their own ways, you can't get any coherent program of reasoning off the ground based on empirical observation alone.

However, I question your motives for grasping out at "Objectivity" like a drowning man; what's wrong with merely taking a structured, pragmatic approach to our experiences? Other than that it doesn't allow us a privileged standpoint from which to condemn the beliefs of brown people without college degrees, of course.

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Nothing. (3.00 / 2) (#135)
by Skywise on Mon May 13, 2002 at 01:29:50 PM EST

People have lived without science for thousands of years and gotten along fine.  People have also eaten drugged chocolate pudding to go fly to the hale-bopp comet.

You can live a perfectly structured and ordered life without worrying about "objectivity" or "science" or even "fact".

World-views are subjective, reality is not.

What you bring up is the ivory tower problem.  People wield science to control the masses and promote segregation.  But that's not science.  That's just typical human prejudices.

It's very likely (and happens often) that the "brown people" (and rednecks) have happened upon some knowledge that science can help determine its factuality in reality and replicate for the good of all... without all the trappings of ceremony.

But I'll say again... the ivory tower people have more in common with the religious leaders, than science has with magic.

[ Parent ]

Empirical evidence? (3.50 / 6) (#94)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:13:51 AM EST

There is absolutely no empirical evidence for "magic",

What about those people who have experienced it? Or don't their claims count, because they are brown people without college degrees?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Since when are humans infallible? (4.00 / 2) (#104)
by Demiurge on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:50:21 AM EST

Does it ever enter into your mind the possibility that people who say they can bend spoons with their willpower may either be deluding themselves, or lying? Especially when they fail to produce any real evidence for their talents?

[ Parent ]
Since (2.80 / 5) (#108)
by streetlawyer on Mon May 13, 2002 at 03:12:33 AM EST

Since when are humans infallible?

Since the foundation of the National Academy of Sciences, you seem to think :-)

And in fact, human beings are more or less infallible in describing their own experiences, which was sort of my point.

I notice you've now moved from "empirical" evidence, of which there is stacks to talking about "real" evidence. Would sir care to be giving a non-question-begging definition of what he means by "real" evidence, and how it differs from "empirical" evidence?

--
Just because things have been nonergodic so far, doesn't mean that they'll be nonergodic forever
[ Parent ]

Where's the benefit anyway? (none / 0) (#167)
by Steve C on Tue May 28, 2002 at 11:33:18 AM EST

Can someone who believes in magic answer me this?

Practicioners of magic have been around for time immemorial. So, let's assume their magic lets them affect the world, and the people and things in it. It is, in effect, a tool, and humans are great at using tools. It's the basis for civilisation.

In a low-tech world, these magicians may have had a big effect; curing disease by magic, gaining insights into the world, etc.

However, in the modern world, it would seem that there are better ways of doing the things that magic is supposed to be good at, and measurably so; hospitals are better at healing - look at increasing life expectancies. The stock exchange is a faster route to money than alchemy. Empathy, a decent aftershave, exercise, and a bar of soap will get you further than love potions, (unless those love potions include a lot of vodka. ;) Cranes will help you move things more easily than the power of your mind.

My point is; what is magic supposed to do that a direct approach, using tools and well-known techniques, can't do equally well or better?

Also, has this list of things decreased over time, in the same way that phenomena attributed to god / the gods has decreased? ('Zeus throws lightning from the heavens!' => 'It's all electrostatics, actually')

[ Parent ]

What's the world you live in? (none / 0) (#168)
by juahonen on Wed May 29, 2002 at 12:28:21 PM EST

Does modern technology present a better way or just easier. Technology allows a lot but it is like all those "lose weight while you feast" things; it allows people to achieve something without commitment to it.

Your point is interesting, though aimed at the wrong target. Technology, when applied in a single-minded "direct approach" as you said, often brings the results sought without much fuss. However, technology has some very visible side effects when used in this way. You might say the side effects are acceptable, but you're in no position but to accept them; they've already happened. None of the side effects would have been caused by magic. But then, you would not have all your aftershaves or cranes without technology.

Technology -- or rather the people promoting it -- have turned our world into one which places effectivenes above other values. This is the world we live in, there's little point comparing it to the world of magic we don't have.

The flaw with your stament is that you compare the two worlds using the standards of only one of them.



[ Parent ]
Side effects, and magic as power (none / 0) (#170)
by Steve C on Thu May 30, 2002 at 05:04:29 AM EST

You talk about side effects. Can you explain a bit more what you mean by that? What counts as a 'side effect' is really decided by the person performing the task, isn't it?

As a example; X-rays were discovered as a side-effect of leaving some photographic plates in a draw with a bunch of radiactive rocks; That doesn't make medical x-rays a side-effect of using drawers, though.

What I'm saying is, be careful what you call a side-effect. Everything we change by an action is just an effect; whether it's 'side' or not is a matter of our own intent.

Can you give us an example of achieving something with magic, without side-effects, and the corresponding use of technology with side-effects? What exactly did you have in mind when you wrote those words?

---

Personally, I feel the sci/tech approach has had massive, unprecedented impact on the world. That we're comminicating now is evidence of that. In contrast, no magician I know of has made any kind of significant change in the way people live.

I always understood the point of magic to be to make something happen; Magick is the science and art of causing change to occur in conformity with will. (Crowley.) To me, that sounds like a pretty good definition of power.

If magic is one type of power, it's reasonable to expect comparisons to other sources of power; political influence, money, tools, sex, loyalty, respect, religious dogma, military position, physical prowess, whatever...

My point; many of these options are open to people to pursue. I can use money to get what i want; I can exert sexual power to get what I want; I can use phyiscal strength to get what I want. What makes magic different or more powerful than these other, mundane methods? Give us evidence, give us examples, showing why magic, if it is a force at all, is not a negligable one.

Thanks for reading,

Steve

[ Parent ]

Re: Side effects, and magic as power (none / 0) (#171)
by juahonen on Thu May 30, 2002 at 08:21:15 AM EST

X-rays were discovered as a side-effect of leaving some photographic plates in a draw with a bunch of radiactive rocks

This is what I call a by-product. The immediate side effect for X-rays is cancer.

Can you give us an example of achieving something with magic

That debends on wether or not you believe in magic. But as an example I give you this: Walking on water has no immediate side effects to the environment. The technological equivalent (modern day) for walking on water would cause noise and pollution as an immediate side effect. Other side effects would include spoiling nature by building roads and docks, mining and such. All of the side effects could be avoided with magic.

no magician I know of has made any kind of significant change in the way people live

I doubt you know many :) Well neither do I, but magic is not a common thing any more. Most people do not even believe in it. There's little room for modern day magicians to change anything.

political influence, money, tools, sex, loyalty, respect, religious dogma, military position, physical prowess, whatever ... these options are open to people to pursue

Do you think magic is an inborn talent, denied to the mundane people? The point here is that like with technology and magic, so it is with "mundane" powers and magic; you can achieve the same things with both. But you claim you can use these non-magical powers on a whim, without need to consider the consequences. You cannot use any of the powers you listed to get what you want, without consequences. An example: If you used physical power to get women, you'd surely get them, but you'd also get a life in prison and a criminal record if it turns you outlife your sentence.

I'm not saying magic comes free of consequences. It does not have so dire side effects, the consequences you did not plan or wish.

Give us evidence

No. If you believe in magic, you don't need it. If you don't believe, why would I bother with it, I'd gain nothing and you would still deny it. If you wish to stop neglecting magic but need evidence, you can find the evidence youself. It requires an open mind and resources. Since you already know Crowley, I'd suggest you start with his work.



[ Parent ]
Evidence and Effects (none / 0) (#172)
by Steve C on Thu May 30, 2002 at 09:40:16 AM EST

Steve: X-rays were discovered as a side-effect of leaving some photographic plates in a draw with a bunch of radiactive rocks.

Juahonen: This is what I call a by-product. The immediate side effect for X-rays is cancer.

I don't see the substantive difference here. x-rays moving through animal cells are absorbed; one effect is that non-absorbed rays can build up a picture; another is that the energy causes cell damage which can lead to cancer. Both of them are simply 'effects'. One is unwanted by doctors, and one isn't. If I wanted to give someone cancer, and shot them with x-rays, the doctor's result becomes my by-product and his by-product my intended result.

Walking on water has no immediate side effects to the environment.

True. But if I used magic to influence the feelings or mental processes of, say, the President of the US, there could be very extreme consequences, couldn't there? Many of them might be unforseen by me before I actually enacted that magic.

But you claim you can use these non-magical powers on a whim, without need to consider the consequences.

Did I? I think I only claimed that power could be used. If there were no consequences, it wouldn't be power. Power is the ability to create consequence, or effect, in accordance with your own desire.

If you used physical power to get women, you'd surely get them, but you'd also get a life in prison

Eh? Surely getting women with any kind of power, be it physical strength, emotional coersion, drugs, or magic, is still rape?

If you believe in magic, you don't need [evidence]

How can I come to believe in magic? There's nothing to suggest I should believe in it. If it's real, it will have effects; what are those effects?

If you don't believe, why would I bother with [evidence]? I'd gain nothing and you would still deny it.

Which is an unfair way of tell me I'm closed minded without providing anything to back up your claims. You say magic works. I say 'where? how?' You say 'Since you question me, you are closed minded.'

I'm trying to get your point of view. Throughout, I've said 'lets assume magic works.' If I'd be closed minded, I'd have begun and ended this conversation with 'You're talking bullshit.' I haven't, and please don't suggest again that I'm closed-minded simply because I don't believe something without evidence. That's gullibility, not open-mindedness.

There's little room for modern day magicians to change anything ...  If you [...] need evidence, you can find the evidence youself ...

This is the core of my argument, really. I have seen no evidence, either on the small scale of my own experience, or on the larger scale of, say, world politics.

If I wanted to change your beliefs, I wouldn't expect you to take any conclusion I presented on faith, but would rather;

  • offer you evidence
  • present my own conclusion
  • happily hear your conclusions or objections.

    Can you do the same? You seem to be starting things by offering the conclusions, like 'magic works' and 'it's effects are more benign than other types of power' with nothing to suggest that your conclusions are true.

    My evidence, by contrast, is negative;

  • I have seen no first-hand evidence of magic
  • I have seen no trustworthy second hand evidence of magic
  • I have not seen any consequences of magic
  • I have never met a magician. (I know a part-time witch, but she's more of a gardener with a spiritual side than a magic-worker ;)

    Conclusion: Magic does does not exist, or is a negligable force.

    That conclusion might change if any of the above pieces of evidence could be challenged.

    On the other hand;

  • I have seen political influence, money, tools, sex, loyalty, respect, religious dogma, military position, and physical prowess used to enact change in accordance with the wielder's will.
  • I have studied the workings of the natural world in depth, and have seen no evidence that human consciousness can bypass any of the fundamental laws of physics. (I have a masters degree in physics, aquanted with several doctors of physics, chemistry, and other sciences.)

    I'm glad to be having this conversation; I'd like to continue it. I realise the internet nearly always adds a divisive tendancy to discussion; I hope it doesn't happen here.

    Steve

    [ Parent ]

  • BS... (4.00 / 5) (#89)
    by Skywise on Sun May 12, 2002 at 09:51:12 PM EST

    While I agree with the statement that there are other views of reality besides science, the whole idea of a magic "system" that requires a byzantine system to prepare the user is...well... stupid.

    The fact of the matter is that "reality" is a subjective concept.  It's a little like your Windows/Mac desktop.  You can customize the colors, perception, sounds, and actions of your desktop in much the same way that you categorize, respond, and interact with your daily environment.  But you have little to 0 understanding of all the micro actions you're causing once your finger clicks on the mouse button.  (Try explaining to a computer neophyte how to scan their disk sometime to solve errors...  You'll discover that your assumptions about the environment are not the same ones that the neophyte has.)

    Reality is ONE, 1, UNO, thing and one thing only.  But man has some control over that reality.  We stopped some people from dying because somebody figured out that chewing certain leaves of plants stopped a fever or acted as a diuretic and purged infection.  Thus man was able to bend reality to his needs by halting death.  Sort of.  But the idea is very sound.  If 2 people were saved in the tribe by eating those leaves, then maybe eating those red berries over there will make them better hunters...er... lovers... er... increase their luckiness... er... well THEY'VE GOTTA DO SOMETHING!  Then you've got the charlatans who will only be too happy to sell you those red berries and tell you they'll solve your problems.    THIS is where science comes in.  Science is methodogical, yes.  Science is the seeking of facts, yes.  But ultimately, science is an OBJECTIVE process.  Figure out what happened.  Make a test to recreate the events.  If what happened, happened AGAIN... voila... reality.  Write down that process and hand it to a buddy.  Now here's where things get interesting.  I don't have to be a learned fellow with many letters besides my name.  I don't have to be ordained by the masters to practice.  I don't even have to believe in what I'm doing.  All I've gotta do is run the test as written and try to come up with the same results (or not) and I'm practicing SCIENCE. (Which will piss off a lot of ivory tower educators who will tell you that only they are the way.)

    In that sense, Magic has nothing to do with Science. (But quite alot to do with ivory tower politics...)
    Magic (and I believe to a great extent, Prayer) works on a sympathetic basis.  So long as you have a shared vision of "reality", people will collude and even involutarily perform actions to make the magic "real".  This is why Ouija boards work.  This is why tarot cards work.  This is why sugar pills cure depression more effectively than Prozac.  "I can't jump that high", "I could never get a girl like that", "I can't control my ability to eat fast food"... "But then I found"  "Scientology", "Jesus", "Wicca", "Subway sandwiches"... Because our reality is subjective, we build the universe in our heads... the downside is that we're bound by our observations and "I can't because" becomes the dominate trait.  "Magic" allows us to reshape our observations to break beyond the rationale we've built in our minds to take on new challenges that disturb us.  (A content man will never seek out a magic man...)
    That's where the symbols, altered state of consciouness and ritual come into play.  Symbols as a rational foundation to restructure reality in your head.  Altered state of consciouness to detach you from the existing reality and Ritual to lock down the new reality (because otherwise you'll snap back to the old reality).


    [ Parent ]

    Reality (3.75 / 4) (#92)
    by localroger on Sun May 12, 2002 at 11:31:10 PM EST

    Reality is ONE, 1, UNO, thing and one thing only.

    This belief is called Naive Materialism. I remember chafing when I was taught that at the age of 17. I remember embracing it around the age of 24, when I first experimented with the Tarot. I remember getting a bit smirky about it in my late twenties.

    I'm not smirky about it any more. It's mostly depressing, because the truth about subjective systems is that if they really work, they work in such a way that no future generation can ever build on what you've done; this is why science is so powerful. Every shaman and rainmaker has to start from scratch, while an engineer can pick up the HoC&P and start with the knowledge of a thousand lifetimes all piled up on one another.

    This isn't necessarily a good thing. Not necessarily a bad thing either, mind you, but when I look at the kind of people who believe in each system and the things they do in practice, I am not encouraged that our species has a bright and shining future that can be expressed in more than a few digits of years.

    I can haz blog!
    [ Parent ]

    Reality++ (3.00 / 1) (#129)
    by Skywise on Mon May 13, 2002 at 12:26:30 PM EST

    Um... no...  If I were a naive materialist I would believe that only the material world that is tangible exists, and no other.   Science, however, can only help you in this material world.  Without reproducible evidence, science is a worthless tool to determine the truthfulness of a situation.  (IE, try using science to get a woman into bed with you... riiiiight...)

    But I didn't say that.  I said there is only one "reality" (or only one shared existence).  But because of the limitations of our senses, and our perceptions of reality, we are subject to easily being conned by our "world view".  This is what makes magic, religion, etc, possible.  Partially because science is only analytical.. Science won't help you to create new ideas (Science can act as a guide, but wholly new ideas rely upon creative insight and intuition and isn't subject to process...)  But it's the creative spark that allows the metaphysical world to exist in our minds.  But, not everything that we think of or create becomes "real" because it's subject to the limitations of this temporal/material world.  Earlier this was referred to as people who are "grounding rods" to reality.  Well, no.  You don't need a "grounding rod".  It's a real simple test... get yourself rip roaring blasted drunk so that you don't know what's going on, and chant to yourself that you can fly.  Make sure you believe you can fly.  Now jump off a building (You can be the only person within 100 miles).  I guarantee that every person will hit the ground.  And no amount of magic, belief, ritual or faith will ever stop that.

    [ Parent ]

    Reality+- (none / 0) (#161)
    by epepke on Wed May 15, 2002 at 05:01:31 PM EST

    I tried Reality++, but I could never remember how to use the address operator. I prefer Objective Reality myself.

    IE, try using science to get a woman into bed with you... riiiiight...

    This is the example everyone gives, and it's a terrible example, because science works great for seduction. In fact, I think it's the only way that does work except for those who learned very young. If you don't know how to do it, you have to observe, generate hypotheses, do experiements, and make models. In other words, science.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    The Tree in the Forest says you're wrong! (none / 0) (#175)
    by JyZude on Mon Jun 17, 2002 at 03:37:05 PM EST

    It's a real simple test... get yourself rip roaring blasted drunk so that you don't know what's going on, and chant to yourself that you can fly. Make sure you believe you can fly. Now jump off a building (You can be the only person within 100 miles). I guarantee that every person will hit the ground. And no amount of magic, belief, ritual or faith will ever stop that.

    Okay... but that's not proven. Let's say you did jump off the building with nobody around for 100 miles but instead of hitting the ground, you hover above it for a few seconds. Then, a giant cacodemon materializes, giggles, and smashes you into the ground, creating the exact same splatter that you would get if you hit.

    Now, how can you tell me that that is impossible. You can tell me that it's never happened before, that you can't stop instantaneously and float and giant creatures never come up from the ground. But you did not witness this particular splatter. (Nobody did). So why can't a demon appear and kill me instead of gravity?

    However, I, being splattered, can't really prove to you it happened any way in particular. All you can see is the evidence later on, which suggests I hit the pavement as per usual.

    Science lets you be sure that 99.9999% percent of the time, people jumping off buildings will hit the ground, but you can never, ever say that it will always be this way, because you can't observe 100% of all cases of ground-hitting throughout all of the time in the universe.

    It's the proverbial tree falling in the forest. 99.9999% of the time it makes a sound, but unless you saw it, heard it, or otherwise detected it, you might be wrong.

    99.9999% of shamanic chanting may be hot air... but you haven't explored 100% of all cases.


    -----
    k5 is not the new Adequacy k thnx bye


    [ Parent ]
    yes (none / 0) (#132)
    by kubalaa on Mon May 13, 2002 at 01:01:20 PM EST

    Science is a system of mapping out everything in reality that is objective. Nothing is "outside" of science except for purely subjective experiences. If spirits/magic exist in any meaningful sense -- that is, if they affect anything in our universe -- then they are a PART of our universe and observable by scientific methods. Everything is connected; even if we're in a clay pot, we can still listen, and feel, and observe the universe outside, by virtue of the same physical relationship that allows the universe outside to stop the pot from rolling. Nothing magical about that.

    [ Parent ]
    This comment... (none / 0) (#105)
    by Farq Q. Fenderson on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:58:50 AM EST

    This has inspired me to repost my How to Work Magic it still needs proofreading, and it's a work in progress, but what's there is there.

    Enjoy.

    farq will not be coming back
    [ Parent ]

    Oh Wow! (3.16 / 6) (#71)
    by tkatchev on Sun May 12, 2002 at 01:45:13 PM EST

    Interesting, where have I read that before?

    And, what's important, in a writing style almost as horrific as this article!

    The old dude must be spinning in his grave from all these cheap new-age knockoffs he spawned. (Unless, of course, he didn't write it purely for monetary reasons in the first place.)

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.

    Yes, we know who Carlos Castaneda is (none / 0) (#82)
    by CaptainSuperBoy on Sun May 12, 2002 at 07:00:35 PM EST

    No, you're not particularly clever for mentioning it.

    --
    jimmysquid.com - I take pictures.
    [ Parent ]
    Really? (1.00 / 1) (#151)
    by tkatchev on Mon May 13, 2002 at 06:46:09 PM EST

    Then why are you so stupid?

    P.S. You also eat mud.

       -- Signed, Lev Andropoff, cosmonaut.
    [ Parent ]

    This killed me. :) (4.00 / 5) (#72)
    by lonesmurf on Sun May 12, 2002 at 01:45:40 PM EST

    So I asked him why there was no documented magic in the world. He looked at me and said; If there is a lion living in these bushes (he pointed to the semi-jungle outside), and we find it, we will kill it before it kills us. The lion would know this. So what do you think will happen if a child wanders into the jungle, and meets the lion? Do you think the lion will let the child come out to tell his father?

    Which I read as, "If I tell you, I'd have to kill you". What a cool old guy.


    Rami

    I am not a jolly man. Remove the mirth from my email to send.


    Not so sure... (5.00 / 1) (#139)
    by christianlavoie on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:53:57 PM EST

    I think the point is that we are the lion, not the child.


    Maybe Computer Science ought to be taught in the school of Philosophy
       -- Christian Lavoie [modified from RS Barton]
    [ Parent ]

    i don't think so (none / 0) (#149)
    by speek on Mon May 13, 2002 at 04:59:36 PM EST

    I can't make sense of that interpretation. I think lonesmurf was right. Maybe you could explain your interpretation?

    --
    al queda is kicking themsleves for not knowing about the levees
    [ Parent ]

    The Cosmic Serpent (4.33 / 3) (#88)
    by Comblock on Sun May 12, 2002 at 09:02:54 PM EST

    Those of you who find topics like this of interest, may want to check out The Cosmic Serpent: DNA and the Origins of Knowledge by Jeremy Narby.

    It's a darn good read.

    The cosmic serpent, an interview with Jeremy Narby by Todd Stewart

    Here's a nice review: Noetic Sciences Review, Vol. 48, Summer 1999

    And here's some Excerpts from theThe Cosmic Serpent.

    *ahem*, memememememeee...... (2.00 / 10) (#101)
    by Rhinobird on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:34:05 AM EST

    I told the witchdoctor I was in love with you I told the witchdoctor I was in love with you And then the witchdoctor He told me what to do He said that Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang I told the witchdoctor You didn't love me true I told the witchdoctor You didn't love me nice And then the witchdoctor He gave me this advice Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang You've been keeping Love from me Just like you were a miser And I'll admit I wasn't very smart So I went out And found myself A guy that's so much wiser And he taught me The way to win your heart My friend the witchdoctor He taught me what to say My friend the witchdoctor He taught me what to do I know that you'll be mine When I say this to you Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang You've been keeping Love from me Just like you were a miser And I'll admit I wasn't very smart So I went out And found myself I guy that's so much wiser And he taught me The way to win your heart My friend the witchdoctor He taught me what to say My friend the witchdoctor He taught me what to do I know that you'll be mine When I say this to you Oh baby Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Come on and Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang Ooo-ee Ooo-ah ah Ting tang walla walla Bing bang http://www.oldiesheaven.com/witchdoctor.html
    "If Mr. Edison had thought more about what he was doing, he wouldn't sweat as much." --Nikola Tesla
    What the hey... (none / 0) (#138)
    by Skywise on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:50:58 PM EST

    That ol' Black magic has me in my spell... oooh oooh...

    [ Parent ]
    Hmmmm, Stuff.... (4.00 / 1) (#122)
    by Elkor on Mon May 13, 2002 at 10:56:18 AM EST

    The following is pat advice that is often given to people looking to learn more about wicca/witchcraft/paganism/whatever you want to call it. You might have heard it before. But, just in case you haven't....

    First, I would recommend a book called "The Truth About Witchcraft Today" by Scott Cunningham. Think of it as a "primer" for witchcraft, much like Christians make up booklets to explain Christianity to nonbelievers, thought the book isn't intended to try to convert you.

    When you are done with that, start next on Raymond Buckland's Complete Book of Witchcraft and do the lessons/exercises at the end of each chapter.

    It's possible that some of the Shaman's could do magic, but gave you the sleight of hand because that is what they knew you would expect. Either way they were going to get paid, so why not give you what you want? As someone else said, the hazards of being a "true" shaman outweigh the benefits of convincing a tourist. You're going to leave, they live there.

    As for your questions of taking over the world, I'd respond with "why bother?" On the one hand, it is possible the process of learning their magic has changed their priorities. Another possibility is that there is no motivation. How often do you play a game you know you can beat/win at? For some people, the knowledge that they can do something is enough.

    Also, once you take over the world you have to run it. Sure, in the abstract it sounds fun, but the beurocracy, tedious whining of your subjects and constant assassination attempts would get old after a while.

    Regards,
    Elkor


    "I won't tell you how to love God if you don't tell me how to love myself."
    -Margo Eve
    So you wanna be a magician... (4.66 / 3) (#150)
    by dissonant on Mon May 13, 2002 at 05:24:49 PM EST

    Wicca\Paganism is (IMHO) more a religious practice than a magical discipline (though many of its adherents also practice magic). Magic is really more of a skill than a belief set.

    For those who find Wicca\Paganism leaves too much of a new agey tang in their mouths (and who wouldn't after reading some Cunningham and Bucky's Blue Book!) but still would like to learn more about magic (and other magic-friendly belief systems) I would recommend the following (though bear in mind these books assume you already believe in it and have at least a very basic grasp of terminology (or a good dictionary):

    The Magician's Companion by Bill Whitcomb
    Anything by Peter J. Carroll (Maybe start with Liber Null & Psychonaut)
    Hermetic Magic: The Postmodern Magical Papyrus of Abaris by Stephen Flowers (though this leans towards new-agey again)
    The Fire From Within by Carlos Castaneda (also a pretty good read as a novel)

    This list is by no means complete, but it should get you started and many of them offer good suggestions for further reading. I'd also recommend reading up on quantum theory, buddhism, taoism, and of course basic physics and psychology.

    To be perfectly honest, most people who can really do magic have always had the talent and the reading (along with constant practice) just helps them build their skills.

    To answer your "how come science has never captured it" questions, it's a "fastest gun in the west" type of problem in many cases; history changes to meet up with the altered present, thus it seems like nothing happened. As for taking over the world, I'd agree with your Guatemalan friend.

    [ Parent ]
    Speaking of the difficulties of ruling the world.. (none / 0) (#155)
    by Handyman on Tue May 14, 2002 at 06:57:33 PM EST

    http://reallifecomics.com/d/20020124.html

    A friend of mine draws a daily online comic strip (plug, plug) which this link references. Check the two weeks or so prior to this strip for the backstory.


    --
    Never be afraid to be the first one on the dance floor.
    [ Parent ]
    Social Voodoo (4.00 / 2) (#123)
    by Kintanon on Mon May 13, 2002 at 11:09:19 AM EST

    This is a phenomenom I've come across from association with a lot of Martial Artists, Wiccan's, Christians, heck, just a lot of people who believe in some kind of supernatural force.
    People will use the beliefs of others around them to influence those others behaviour. This was one of the things witnessed by people who researched Voodoo in Haiti, an example was one man who had offended a Voodoo priest somehow, the priest "cursed" him and told him he would die within two weeks, the man was so incredibly anxious and worried about the curse that he didn't pay attention to his surroundings and walked in front of a bus. Of course, everyone who knew about the curse took this as evidence of the Voodoo Priest's power. I've seen similar methods applied to self hypnosis in Martial Artists, I personally engage in 5-10 minutes of meditation where I drop myself into a different frame of mind before competition. It's not exactly magic, but you convince yourself that your situation is different than it is, for instance that instead of competing in a sparring match you believe you are fighting for your life. There is a definate and significant change in behaviour after one of these sessions for about an hour afterwards. Social Voodoo can be incredibly powerful, because if you can convince someone to believe something then to that person it's true.  I've witnessed this occur in a group of people all trying for the same result where their belief reinforced itself until they were all 100% certain that they witnessed something, and their description of it was all the same give or take a minor detail. A lot of strange things can happen based on the power of people to convince themselves and each other that something is true, and this kind of power shouldn't be dismissed lightly. I would liken it to a form of mass hypnosis in scope and affect.

    Kintanon

    Kundaleni (sp?) (none / 0) (#147)
    by Rhodes on Mon May 13, 2002 at 04:49:09 PM EST

    Don't forget dreaming / lucid dreaming / intensive meditation. Biofeedback allows one to approach, or to perhaps catch sight of the shadow of alternatives- control of the breath is the entrance.

    [ Parent ]
    Kundalini (none / 0) (#152)
    by broken77 on Mon May 13, 2002 at 06:56:14 PM EST

    And yes, it's real. I've had my own experiences with it, and other similar things. I also have friends/acquaintences who have had their own experiences. And no, we're not just dreaming, we're totally awake. And no, we're not on drugs either. Also, read about the "third eye".

    I'm starting to doubt all this happy propaganda about Islam being a religion of peace. Heck, it's just as bad as Christianity. -- Dphitz
    [ Parent ]

    Alternative world view (5.00 / 1) (#137)
    by SCheng on Mon May 13, 2002 at 02:29:12 PM EST

    The Guardian in UK has an interesting article about a tribe in Columbia driving oil away from an oilfield by praying and fasting. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/oil/story/0,11319,714634,00.html) This tribe U'wa believes "They say they sing the world into existence every day, keep it in equilibrium and prevent its collapse by the constant reflection and meditation of their werjayas. "Our purpose on earth is only to protect the world," said Roberto Cobaria, a U'wa spokesman. "The world depends on us."

    Name of the country (none / 0) (#169)
    by Swoko on Wed May 29, 2002 at 04:17:06 PM EST

    Colombia...

    [ Parent ]
    Shamans != Witches (5.00 / 2) (#157)
    by MalTheElder on Wed May 15, 2002 at 01:15:12 AM EST

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    This article, while interesting as a report of one person's encounter with a reputed shaman, sows a great deal of confusion.  First, there is no explanation of the different meanings of "witch," allowing for obvious confusion among many posters.    He also seems to accept the shamans' explanation of his abilities in terms of the shamans' own belief system.  It seems to me that these two things lead to all the other problematic points, so I won't bother with them.

    In the European-derived cultures, witch usually refers to a practitioner of one the old goddess-based religions, or a modern offshoot.  BTW, the Christian elevation of Mary to a goddess-like stature reflects the lingering power of old Celtic and even older mother-goddess traditions in Europe.  The Church was canny enough to embrace and extend what it could not crush (and you thought that was originated by BG---ha!).  Wiccans and their fellow travelers, to the best of my knowledge, are generally benign.  And in Western cultures they fill a different roles than non-Western shamans and witches.  In tribal cultures a witch is a person of magical power whether used pro- or anti-socially.

    Ruth Benedict---one of our most reknowned cultural anthropologists---made the error of confusing a cultural explanation (myth, legend, belief) with the actuality of how events related to one another.  We know that the sun is not pulled across the sky by horses pulling the god of light in a golden chariot.  But to the ancient Greeks this was a perfectly valid explanation of otherwise unexplainable phenomenon.  In her famous statement on cultural relativity Benedict quoted the Digger Amerind saying that "God gave each people a different cup from which to drink."  Many people took that to mean that any given culture myth is as legitimate an explanation of reality as any other.  To some this indicates that the Greek myth of Apollo and the fiery chariot is just as true as the modern explanation of celestial mechanics, gravity, etc.  Wrong---valid and true are NOT necessarily equivalent.

    So the belief that something functions a certain way doesn't make it so.  The old man's statements about why his magic worked, and why the poster couldn't grok it, are valid in a cultural context, but not true in a phenomenal sense.

    Shamans (as contrasted with Wiccans) function as a combination physician, psychologist, and keeper of religious mysteries.  Not all shamans fill all these roles, but often they do.  In any case, basic sympathetic magic (the changing of anothers' behavior through spells and such) is nothing but basic behahvior modification using tried and tested reinforcement techniques.  The symp-magic technique of "Invoke Often" == the beh-mod technique "Reinforce Often" (props to Shea and Wilson---Hail Eris).

    For a classic example of the equivalence of these techniques look up the old New Guinea practice of "boning" an ememy; it works. The victim dies within 72 hours, and only another shaman cannot undo the curse.  The victim basically dies of fright, through self-imposed shutdown of his/her body system.  Aussie doctors watched a number of tribesman die in their hospitals, and could describe the physical processes perfectly, but couldn't cure the victim.  They finally learned to send for another shaman.  I've done behavior mod/sympathetic magic for years working rehab with retarded convicts, with severely DD people in cluster homes, and currently with adolescent sex offenders.  It works with your children quite well, too, if you do it right.  Most of us don't know how to do behavior mod well, so we do it badly (we all do it all the time, whether we know it or not---RTFM to learn why).

    So the old man was indeed a shaman, and a witch by the non-Western world's conception, but is not a witch in the Wiccan sense.  He also practiced real magic; sympathetic magic.  He also practiced sleight-of-hand.  That's also part of a shaman's stock-in-trade.  The old man's explanation for why he didn't take over the world?  Blowing smoke, though he may actually have believed his own explanations.  If a shaman is indoctrinated to refuse to use his powers for evil (read: anti-social) purposes, he/she can't be exposed as being unable to use them for gain or domination in that way.  That serves to indoctrinate the shaman to act for the group welfare rather than his/her own, and to protect the reputation of the shaman as a person of power.

    Enough---I need sleep.  BTW, despite the tenor of my comments, I enjoyed the article.  Thanks for posting it!

    Best,
      Thumper/Mal the Elder

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    "Those who would give up essential Liberty, to purchase a little temporary Safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety." --- Benjamin Franklin

    Celts and stuff (5.00 / 1) (#159)
    by epepke on Wed May 15, 2002 at 11:53:06 AM EST

    BTW, the Christian elevation of Mary to a goddess-like stature reflects the lingering power of old Celtic and even older mother-goddess traditions in Europe.

    I've heard this assertion many times. However, when I look at modern Catholics, I notice that the Latin variety does this, and the Irish variety does not (for which reason the Latin variety seems to be much more healthful). This is just the opposite of what one would expect if these statements about Celts were true. Of course, there is Celtic influence (Easter is named after the fertility goddess Ester or Esther, which is where we get the eggs and bunny rabbits), the link to supposed Celtic matriarchal religions seems strained. The Spanish, hands down the most aggressive and successful promulgators of the Mary-worshipping strain of Catholicism, may be partially Celtic (celtiberos) in genetic makeup, but culturally they are much closer to Arabic and Hebrew ideas, and of course in the New World many pantheons, than they are to any Celtic beliefs. Most likely, the elevation of Mary simply represents the traditional Latin preference for matriarchal extended families as well as that for 4 as the number of completion, rather than the Anglo 3. English-speaking people might feel comfortable with a trinity, but speakers of Latin languages would feel that there's something missing, like "shave and a haircut" without the "two bits."

    Wiccans and their fellow travelers, to the best of my knowledge, are generally benign.

    Wiccans are modern and, as such, are probably as benign as people who drive SUV's and live in the suburbs. Wicca is basically a New Age pastiche and is only about 60 years old. It's fine if people want to do that sort of thing, but just as romanticized suburban Buddhism doesn't involve being hit on the side of the head with a rattan stick, Wicca doesn't involve painting yourself blue and cutting your enemies to shreds. WRT history, about the only thing that can be said is that Christianity in some places and Islam in others happened to win. It is tempting to think that it was because they were bad while the losers were good, but it could as easily be due, say, to the fact that a crossbow is better than a longbow.


    The truth may be out there, but lies are inside your head.--Terry Pratchett


    [ Parent ]
    Witchcraft | 175 comments (150 topical, 25 editorial, 0 hidden)
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