Monday, May 30, 2011

Cat With Thumbs

A couple of my Facebook friends posted this British TV commercial. It's for a brand of milk, and it speculates on the idea of cats with thumbs:

This is Janis Joplin. She is a cat I inherited when I moved into this house. She actually has thumbs:

As the owner of a polydactyl (i.e., thumbed) cat, I can tell you that she does not open doors, read books, or file her nails. However, I have entered my basement (where she lives) and found mouse intestines strewn in front of the furnace. The other day I found a cave cricket near her bed, with the head ripped off. I treat this cat like an elemental--she can be sweet and loving, but I always have a wary eye on her darker proclivities.

This, by the way, is a cave cricket:

I probably have several of them in my basement, but aside from the headless one, I've only seen two others. They hang out in the basement stairwell. I call them Fred and Ethel. I have no idea about the sex of either of them--I didn't check. And my policy on cave crickets is I don't mind them being around, as long as they don't jump on me or end up on my clothes or in my hair.

Besides thumbed cats and striped crickets, I encountered another mismatch yesterday evening. I have been writing an article on H.P. Lovecraft, and I came across a couple of articles about the Cthulhu mythos. They suggested that Cthulhu and the Old Ones were not deities at all, but aliens, and that humanity was an accident. Lovecraft was no occultist; he was more of an existentialist than anything. His stories suggested the power and indifference of the cosmos, and how insignificant we are in the whole scheme.

I noticed that the author of two of these articles was Robert M. Price. My interest was piqued when I saw that he went to the same theological seminary where I got my graduate degree. As it turns out, this is the same "Bob Price" that served as minister when my now ex-husband and I were married in 1994. I had no idea he'd written about the Cthulhu mythos, and I wasn't sure I'd expected it. On the other hand--this is the same Dr. Price who, when we were writing our wedding service, said, "we'll just delete all that Jesus stuff out of there." Lest I get him in any trouble--he was tailoring the service to my husband and I, and had more "secular" versions of the service. We did not want a religious service.

Life and the people you encounter in life are often surprising. In reflecting on my last blog post, we have very curious ideas about what is "normal", and what pattern people's lives should follow, given what they've identified with. As someone with a Religious Studies Master's degree, people are usually surprised (and perhaps uncomfortable in some cases) with my interest in the occult. Then again, I never went to school to be a minister; people just assume that this is what one does with a Religion degree, or what one aspires to do. I suppose that I was surprised by Bob because he DID become a minister--a Baptist minister, at that. But, I don't think it's "weird"--in fact, I applaud his openness, which could only benefit his congregation.

I've been labeled "weird" by people before, and not just for my esoteric interests. I had a friend once who was very attached to me, but whenever we went out with her friends, she always introduced me as her "weird friend". I never really understood why I was considered "weird". Then I considered that her life revolved around hanging out in bars, discussing stock portfolios, and moaning that she was too stressed because her husband didn't shower her with affection daily and she wasn't appreciated enough at her job. One day I said to her, "maybe you're unhappy because you have no passion. Your life revolves around your husband and your job. Your job sucks, and your husband is a busy executive. Maybe you need to find what really interests you." She looked at me like I had three heads, and then intoned, like a mantra, "I don't know why I'm so depressed."

When I think about myself, the places where I don't intersect with the "norm" are--not being married, not wanting children, not waiting for Prince Charming to sweep me off my feet, taking responsibility for my mistakes and problems, and accepting the negatives in life as much as the positives. Oh, and not basing my life and career on how much money I can make. If I've read the literature correctly, this comes out to being at least reasonably "psychologically healthy". Which, by some social standard, makes me "weird".

Of course, they say that one in twenty-five people are sociopaths, and one in one-hundred are psychopaths. Which would make psychological disease the norm.

I often reflect on this when I think I've chosen a risky life path. Given the norm, I'd rather be a cat with thumbs.

Saturday, May 28, 2011

The Surprise

Saturday afternoon--I'm in my bedroom, at my re-claimed office desk. The sky is blue, the ground outside is decidedly green, and a beautiful breeze blows through my window. My indoor cat is snoring away on my bed, and I can see one of my outdoor kitties from the far window asleep on a patio chair, curled up in a ball that is white spotted with gray. It is a sleepy afternoon, with the hum of lawnmowers, and the singing of birds. I sit cross-legged in an old 18th century chair with a glass of claret, newly awake from a nap. On weekends, most of my chores and cleaning are done early--I'm usually finished with all domestic tasks by noon at the latest. Today, I have two more big tasks for the afternoon. I contemplate blowing off everything and just heading out to one of the local microbreweries for some exceptional beer and maybe food. But I am short on money and not in need of extra pounds, so the adult in me decides to stay put.

An early morning e-mail check always takes me to Yahoo's home page, that bastion of "normalcy", where a bevy of unrelated articles always rotate across the screen. Today, there was an article about racecar driver Danica Patrick. The question was whether or not she was planning to have a family with her husband. In typical Yahoo fashion, the headline said, "the answer might surprise you." Of course, her answer was no. She's married, but has a career and other interests, and doesn't feel a pull to motherhood. Surprise!

As is often the case with Yahoo articles, that "surprise" phrase managed to irk me. Maybe because I've been asked the same question a thousand times before--not so much since I've been divorced, but an awful lot when I was married. And it's an annoying question in this day and age. Instead, if she announced she wanted a family, the question ought to be, "are you sure that's what you want?"

I probably shouldn't blame Yahoo or anyone else. After all, motherhood is the central mythological female theme. The mystery of Woman is that she can manifest life. There is a Mother archetype--and a Terrible Mother archetype. There are hosts of goddesses that represent different aspects of women as mothers, and as family nurturers. Even Amma will always say that one should embrace their inner Motherhood--men included. (In that case, she is not being literal--she is saying to develop the associated qualities of compassion and nurturing).
The Virgin, Maiden, and Crone as archetypes of a woman's life cycle all center around the woman's ability to bear children. Joseph Campbell once said that girls become women when they experience menstruation, meaning that they are finally able to have children. And thus their myth begins.

But does it?

Biologically, the woman as potential mother is a fact. Our myths are as hardwired as other genetic features, and just as animals know when to engage in certain behavior to reproduce, the human female also changes when she finally "grows up" via drowning in a sea of aggressive hormones. A sea, by the way, she is told to stay out of when it happens to her in adolescence. But when she is an adult, it is expected of her.

But consider the following--there are men who love men, and women who love women. They are not driven to reproduce, not in the ordinary sense. They may choose to have families, but that's usually through adoption, artificial insemination, or surrogate motherhood with a third-party female. There are also women like myself, and apparently, Danica Patrick--we have no urge to have children. And that's not likely to change.

I don't like children. I'll say it plainly here, whether that's considered "right" or not. While I am happy for friends, family and acquaintances who have children and want them, in no way do I want to hold said baby, or babysit, or have anything to with them or their care. When I see a baby, I see an ugly, pruny thing that spits up, craps radioactive waste, and cannot be reasoned with when it starts screaming its head off. It is basically a giant producer of disgusting things, and it is excessively high maintenance. It will learn to manipulate its parents much earlier than anyone would imagine. I don't mind kids once they've become more sentient and can carry on a conversation. But I still don't want one.

I know I'm not alone in this. The saddest part is when I have female friends who get married and have families, and realize they feel the same way. I had a college friend who married early and had a baby with her husband at 23. She continually referred to the baby as "it"--as in, "I can hardly wait to get away from it."

To me, there is no joy in trading a life of freedom for life with a child. I like traveling, researching, making new friends, going on adventures. You can't do that with a child. Motherhood is a huge sacrifice, and as far as I'm concerned, you have to want it. When you don't, and you do it because you're "supposed" to, trouble ensues--for you, and for the child. I don't want to bear that kind of psychological responsibility for someone else's existence.

So, back to my original question--can woman be defined and identified by her biological abilities? Is this her archetypical "journey" and "hero cycle"? I don't believe it is. We've been handed that line of garbage since time immemorial, and it is one of those Collective Unconscious things that gives us complexes. While I have no urge or desire to have kids, there is always that subtle external influence--those voices that say, "What do you mean you don't want children?" The same ones that are puzzled when I say I've never been happier since I've been divorced. Things are "not supposed to happen" that way, and you become another abnormality, a social deviant.

But my point is that I don't think it's "deviant" at all--I think most women, given the chance, would skip on the whole marriage and motherhood thing. Some love it to death and are content with that life, so good for them. They will continue to propagate the species. But many never should have gone there, never really wanted to go there. In the end, they walk away from their married lives, and in a lot of cases, the children end up feeling abandoned, at fault, or unloved, even if those feelings are not consciously obvious. For instance--most friends of mine who are children of divorce are quite content with their parents' decision--until that parent decides to re-marry or pick up with someone else. The resentment that comes out, regardless of age, is an interesting phenomenon. The women who do stay often profess to being unhappy--there is a constant feeling of needing to escape, and constant guilt about feeling that way.

And--just to reiterate--I realize some people have made this choice and are very happy with it. And that's great--I'm glad it really does work out for some people, and that their kids are well-loved. But that will never be me, even if I decided to re-marry at some point.

So--this is why I say, ask "are you sure?" before embarking on motherhood. Don't ask me when I'm going to have kids. And don't assume wanting kids is normal female "thing". Above all--don't pressure women who want to build their own lives to embark on such a thing because it's "what women are supposed to do." It's not.

Monday, May 23, 2011


Well, Saturday was a lovely day for a Rapture, and it didn't happen. Not that this surprised anyone, except perhaps for Harold Camping and his followers. If the Bible does contain any secret prophetic information, we can say one thing for certain: Camping is no Qabalist.

David Rankine (who, along with his wife Sorita D'Este, have written some of the best works on magic, grimoires, and esoterica for both a general and scholarly audience) published a quote today on his Twitter feed: “There was no Bible in any meaningful sense until after the fall of Jerusalem to the Romans in 70 CE." He cites "Ulrich", by which he presumably means Eugene Ulrich, chair of Hebrew Scripture and Theology at Notre Dame. (Ulrich wrote some rather definitive texts for Oxford University Press, among his other scholarship).

It's a very important statement, one that provides a real context for Biblical scripture. One piece of the puzzle that helps you put books like the Revelation of John in its proper place. The destruction of the Temple in 70 CE spawned a lot of apocalyptic literature and prophecy. After all, Jesus had predicted the fall of the Temple, so that gave his followers hope that the rest of his predictions were true. Of course, no other predictions did come true. And thus--the early Church began what Harold Camping's group had to begin on Sunday--routinization of charisma. A re-interpretation rather than a rejection. No one will reject something they have staked their life on.

However, even understanding this facet of human nature, it's important that good scholarship is not rejected. Most people don't know what good scholarship is, and if they haven't learned how to do real research, they probably never will. People think research is just for academic papers, but that isn't the case. If someone tells you something that could potentially change your life forever, you want to be reasonably sure that their statement is valid. For instance--in the political realm, I hear a lot about the horrible things Obama is going to do--make us all spend thousands to get "greener" homes or we can't sell them, install tracking devices in our cars, send kids to re-education camps, and--the best of all--that he was paying Hamas to come into the country. All of these are patently false. All one has to do is go to fact checking sites. Snopes is one, is another, PolitFact is another. These sites have no political agenda. They find the source of the rumors, and discuss them. If it has to do with a Congressional bill, they'll post the relevant parts of the bill.

"Source" is the important word here. In the case of the Bible, I'm more likely to accept a Scriptural interpretation from someone who actually knows the language of the Bible (and that person would probably be Jewish, or a scholar in Greek or Aramaic). Hebrew is a difficult language, and often times words or letters can be interpreted in a variety of ways. The Bible is also full of puns and word-plays-- common literary devices in Hebrew writing, likely to befuddle the Biblical literalist reading the Old Testament. If the interpreting theologian is not an expert in the language, then I at least want to see that they've consulted the language experts. Often you don't have to be the expert--you just have to know who the experts are.

Historical and social context are also important. One of the best writers I've encountered in this area is Dr. Elaine Pagels of Princeton University. She's written many books, very accessible, and is mainly known for her research on the Gnostic gospels and apocryphal texts. (Here is an excellent talk she gave on the Book of Revelation) Her work is important because it provides context. The so-called "Gnostic" gospels (some of them were, some weren't, by definition) allow us to get a bigger picture of early Christianity, not just the "official" version decided in 325 CE. The gospel writers were called "evangelists", and this is not just an honorary title--the 4 canonical gospels were written for specific audiences. This is why, for instance, the Jews are portrayed as being "more responsible" for Jesus' death in one gospel, and why the Romans are more guilty in another. One was written to evangelize Jews, another to evangelize Gentiles--probably Romans who didn't like Jews, in the former case. If you're trying to sell something, you're going to look for common ground with your potential buyer.

Authorship is something else to be considered. For all the names attributed to Biblical books, we know nothing about who really wrote them. Recently, a scholar from University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill (Bart D. Ehrman, who has the title "James Gray Distinguished Professor", and is a magna cum laude Princeton graduate) wrote a book called "Forged", alleging that the many of the New Testament books were faked. When he says "faked", he means simply that they were attributed to a particular writer, when in fact they are probably not written by that writer. For instance--Paul's second letter to Timothy was not likely to have been written by Paul. For all the controversy this has generated, it's not really that controversial. One can study writing styles and samples, and determine if they were written by the same person. Ehrman says that in the early days of the Church, when it was still trying to define itself and its doctrine, lesser-known writers would make their views heard by signing the names of more well-known writers. They didn't quote the experts, they pretended to be the experts. Writing as one of Jesus' apostles, or saying you knew one of them, probably helped your case, too. People considered the source at that time as well.

Those who object to "liberal arts" Bible scholarship are the same ones who object to their children learning about other religions--they want to preserve their version of the narrative, which has more to do with them than with the Bible. It's like a mirror onto which the believer projects his or her image of the Unknown. If we believe they've found the "light", we try to ignore the shadow behind it. That is the most important thing to remember--regardless of interpretation, it's always about what we'll never really "know".

Friday, May 20, 2011

The Electric Thread

A couple of random events in the last few days have me thinking about electricity.

First--I was watching some Ghost Hunters reruns, and one of the episodes I revisited was the "Edgerly Home" episode. Mr. Edgerly was the gentleman who felt depressed--oppressed, even--and uneasy in his home. He sometimes heard footsteps, and his visiting friend saw black shadows that would suddenly disappear. The man did historical restorations for a living, and had many of the chemicals associated with his work in his house.

The end result of the investigation was not that his house was haunted, but that a number of normal factors were causing the phenomena. An area of mold in his basement, along with the chemical fumes, was one part of the problem. The other part is what is of interest--he had an open electrical box that was registering very high numbers on an EMF (electromagnetic frequency) detector. A normal household EMF reading is about 0.1 or 0.2. The electrical box spiked at 112, and even higher.

Electromagnetism can cause people to get uneasy feelings, physical side effects like nausea and skin rashes, and also to see things that aren't there. In other words, electricity can make people see "ghosts", or one version of them.

The second thing is an article I saw from PBS about a paraplegic man who was able to stand after being treated with electricity. The electric current apparently stimulated the man's nervous system. Electricity affects our bodies and our ability to physically move. Electricity animates us.

Thinking about these two things together--I started wondering about the old John Foxx phrase, "electricity and ghosts". There is a definite connection between electricity and consciousness, and electricity and the appearance of spirits.

I'm sure this is not news. But I've spent so much time reading about consciousness and the unconscious, I have to wonder about the connection between the unconscious and electricity. if spirits are manifestations of the unconscious, how do they manifest? It seems electricity has something to do with it.

We don't really know what spirits are; it's difficult (if not impossible scientifically) to prove they exist. You have to have an experience of a spirit or ghost to believe. But what are you experiencing? The "demonic" is no different--it's the same sort of thing, really. They are aspects of the psyche that manifest separately because they have no connection with your ego--they are unconscious. But are we experiencing "electricity with a personality"? How does that work? Are our personalities "electric"? Or, is the personality/attribute aspect a result of our collective symbol system interacting with something universal--and electrical--in nature?

There certainly seems to be a relationship between consciousness and electricity. I've written before about kundalini yoga and meditation. Most Eastern mediation systems (and medical practices) are based on balancing the electrical impulses in the spine, often referred to as "shakti"--and causing that electrical "consciousness" to move from the base of the spine through the major chakra centers, to the top of the head. This rise is experienced as an electrical charge throughout the body, and the unprepared body (i.e., one not proficient in yoga) may experience symptoms similar to those of high EMF exposure when they come out of their meditation.

A converse question--is the electricity we use to power our homes, our technological devices, etc. related to consciousness? Are electricity and consciousness synonymous in some way? Does electricity have a consciousness?

I did some cursory investigation of this idea, and apparently the idea of consciousness as electromagnetic has been proposed as a line of scientific inquiry, though not without objections. Seems to me it is a question worth pursuing.

Thursday, May 19, 2011


I've been hearing that the world will end on Saturday. OK, it will SORT of end. It is supposed to be the day of "Rapture", when the righteous are assumed into Heaven. The actual end of the world is supposed to take place 6 months later.

This latest apocalyptic prediction is brought to you by Harold Camping, head of California's Family Radio Ministry. Camping is not associated with any church or religious denomination; it is entirely centered around his interpretation of the Bible, and what he thinks are its prophecies. You might be surprised at his lack of Church affiliation, but really, nothing should surprise you when it comes to American religion.

In any case, Harold is sure enough of his prediction for his group to purchase large billboard ads around the country advertising the eschatological event. I've seen two distinct reactions to this prediction, besides "yeah, whatever". The first was from a Baptist minister, who criticized the prediction, saying that it was false--the Bible says that "no man shall know the day or the hour". He also felt that people already didn't take the Bible seriously, and when May 21 came and went with no event, it would just give more fodder to the anti-Bible camp, even though the prediction is Camping's, not the Bible's.

The other reaction, of course, is delight at the thought that those "saved by Jesus" will finally leave this earth, and the rest of us can loot, pillage, and party. I saw at least one reaction to one of these "post rapture looting" events on Facebook, with a guy saying, "Hey, that's disrespectful to their beliefs". While I am certainly open to anyone believing what they want, I can't help but think of the great Eugene Mirman quote, "Follow your dreams, unless your dreams are stupid." If we want to be kind, we can say that the prediction is "misguided". And Harold has no sense of history, as he is apparently unaware of all of the other "day of apocalypse" predictions that came and went. Even the Jehovah's Witnesses have stopped trying to name dates.

The whole thing is an absurdity, because it's more Biblical literalism gone wrong. (Yes, I realize that is a redundant statement.) You can support almost any point of view with the Bible; it is so disjointed and contradictory. There is not a linear narrative running through, and those reading it in this way today have no understanding of why the various books were written, or what the writers had in mind. The prophets were writing for their own groups (usually Jews on the verge of war or exile). While you might find bits of timeless wisdom in some of their sayings, they have to do with their contemporary events, not with future ones.

In any case, May 21 will come and go, I will have my garage sale, and Camping's group will either claim a Rapture occurred (though the fact that they're still here would be interesting), his radio ministry will go down the toilet, or--more than likely--his group will engage in what religion scholars call "routinization of charisma", a fancy term for "justifying your beliefs when they turn out to be wrong". If you think humans who do that are stupid--it's one of the most basic elements of human psychology. We stick to our stories, regardless of facts. Another example of humans being essentially irrational rather than rational creatures.

Speaking of future life, I mentioned Stephen Hawking's declaration that there is no Heaven in yesterday's post. Well, that pre-eminent Bible scholar Kirk Cameron (annoying actor from the 1980s TV series "Growing Pains") has declared Stephen Hawking to be unequivocally WRONG. Why? Because Hawking is like John Lennon, who said "imagine there's no Heaven", and they're both just quoting their religious beliefs. Or something like that. His argument makes no sense at all, but then again, most of his arguments are equally prosaic. I think it's funny that he says Hawking is quoting his "religious" beliefs. More than likely, it's his scientific opinion, though Hawking has no more proof of a Heaven or lack thereof than Cameron does. "Religious" belief is not the right word in Hawking's case--it's part of his narrative, what he accepts as truth a priori.

Which brings me back to science and scientific method. There is often a curious blending of religion and science that we refer to as "scientism". I've noticed that Richard Dawkins has a new book for children coming out about "truth" and "reality". This is scientism, pure and simple. Science provides us with tests and measurements, and may teach us the mechanics of nature and the universe, but whether or not they are the ultimate keepers of "truth" can be very much debated. Scientific facts are only part of truth, and reason is only a means of organizing and labeling our thoughts and perceptions. Most of our "psychical" life (meaning life of the mind) does not fit into neat categories. Just as religion should not try to use science to justify itself, science should not get into the business of interpreting religion. And religion should not be in the business of "facts". Religion is about the stories and mythologies that tie us together, and the reality of the unknown, and our terror and wonder of it. It often has little to do with "facts".

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Scorpio Moon

I had a dream the other night about cats, with a Kabbalistic twist. I saw that a woman's cat had 18 kittens, and mentioned that to her. She gave me a much higher number (which I can't remember), and said, "They can have as many as 36,000". Then she lamented having to euthanize 500 of the kittens. And was now left with 4. The higher number she gave me was not 504. I have had my copy of 777 out trying to figure out the correspondences here.

This morning I woke up angry. I don't know who I was angry at; I was just angry at people's stupidity in general. I spoke to another friend later in the day, who reminded me that it was a full moon in Scorpio. He was also feeling angry that day, and attributed it to that. It's a good a theory as any.

I find that when my energy level rises, my patience decreases. I'm like a ship moving forward, full steam ahead, and I get very impatient with obstacles. Mostly I'm annoyed with myself for allowing myself to be hindered. Which is silly, but there it is. I think what underlies the feeling is the sense that I always find excuses to put off important action, and I fear that I will start doing that again. Sometimes it's OK to pour a glass of wine, kick back with some pleasure reading, and say, "Eh, leave the challenges to tomorrow." Sometimes it isn't.

Lately, I've realized that most of us know more than we think we do. We just have a way of letting people make us feel that we're stupid.

Stephen Hawking now claims there is no such place as Heaven. I'm with him on that, but he also claims there is no afterlife--it is a "fairy story" for the fearful. I'd like to see his scientific justification. Religion can't prove an afterlife, but neither can science. Psychology is the only bridge, and even that leaves more questions than answers. Something can exist externally and also be manifest because of our collective unconscious.

I believe it was Jung who said that rationality can't replace religion or spiritual belief because it is only means of organizing thoughts.

John Foxx likes to write about cities as organisms. So, this article on Serendipity, the Net, and Cities is for him. Ahem.

In the department of "things that don't go together", I bring you--the Vegan Black Metal Chef.

The H.P. Lovecraft Society is finally coming out with the film for The Whisperer in the Darkness. Currently being shown in Amsterdam, and it should be coming to Los Angeles and Seattle later this year. I am looking forward to the DVD (hopefully). Look for it.

Here is an article on how coffee, chocolate, and wine keep you cancer free. Yeah, I knew that.

And, here is a video featuring Vincent Price vs. the Bee Gees. I'm not sure who's scarier. Or if there's a film that sucks worse than this does.

On the John Bellairs page on Facebook, there has been a discussion of making "The House With a Clock in Its Walls" into a film. I think it would be horrible, especially if it was a big-budget film. There was a Vincent Price special from 1979 (mentioned in a previous blog post) featuring a short adaptation of the story. Sure enough, they tried to make Lewis Barnavelt and his friend Tarby more contemporary. The story is set in the late 1940s--they should have left it there. I can't even imagine a modern re-make. Just read the damn book. And keep Mrs. Zimmerman in the story, please. The only gripe I've ever had with Bellairs' characters is in the 3rd Barnavelt book, "The Letter, the Witch, and the Ring". Mrs. Zimmerman says she needs to consult the "Malleus Maleficarum". Who would consult that? It's a misogynistic manual of torture for Church monks. But to be fair to the late Mr. Bellairs--you can't expect him to know everything. I'm sure the title sounded neat.

Speaking of--in my host of bottom drawer treasures, I also found a bookmark that states, "Would it kill you to read a f**king book?" The image is of a young man watching TV with a bottle of something in his hand, oblivious to his surroundings, and a book being thrown at him.

And with that, I'm back to the lectures of Sigmund Freud and the detective stories of Aleister Crowley. One of these days I will get things sorted and have more organized posts.

Til then...

Sunday, May 15, 2011

The Bottom Drawer

I know I'm rather bookish, but I had no idea until this week exactly how much paper I have in my house. I'm going to estimate 300 pounds. And I'm probably throwing out 250 pounds of that. Some of it is predictable stuff, like old tax returns and check stubs from 6 jobs ago. Other things are old cards and photos, some of which I probably should throw away but probably won't. And then there's the "bottom drawer papers".

The bottom drawer of my file cabinet has alway been full of oddities--articles I've clipped for various research projects, jokes, weird photos, quotes, old printed e-mails, and dot-matrix printed bibliographies. I even found some old pieces of writing in there. When the Internet was new in the late 1980s and early 1990s, I printed out a lot of things, because there really wasn't a great way to "save" e-mail. Most of my accounts were work accounts, and you're not supposed to save those kinds of things to work accounts (doesn't help when you leave the job, either).

Here is a sampling of some of the weirdness I found in my drawer:

An article from 1993 entitled, "20 naked people in car crash after police chase." Apparently they were Pentecostals who believed they had to give up everything, and cut no corners. And they had 5 naked children in the TRUNK. (That's the boot, for those of you not in the United States). The police were pretty casual about this, and they were written up for "minor traffic violations". All of them were from Texas. No, I'm not implying anything, just stating the facts.

An old bibliography on witchcraft from a local library, which is actually pretty decent.

A dot-matrix copy of "the Christian test". Sample question: "Ask for their money, all of it. Just ask for their wallet. Have them show it to you....etc.". The question references Luke 6:30, and Matthew 5:42, both verses that instruct believers to give their money away to whoever asks. If they refuse, they are not True Christians. Et cetera.

The General Final Examination. "History: Describe the history of the papacy from its origins to the present day, concentrating especially, but not exclusively, on its social, political, economic, religious and philosophical impact on Europe, Asia, America, and Africa. Be brief, concise, and specific." Or, "Music: Write a piano concerto. Orchestrate and perform it with flute and drum. You will find a piano under your seat".

A partial list of phrases that Dave Barry said would "make excellent band names". Some include, "Pinot Noir and His Nuances of Toast", "The Foliage Eaters, "The Radioactive Muskrats", and "The Flaming Salmonella Units".

An article entitled, "Do you have to love your lovers"?

A Peanuts cartoon that features Sally writing a letter. The letter says, "Dear Santa. I want a magic wand...and I want one that works".

A collection of notes I made in the late 1980s/early 1990s about working in the library Periodicals department. Noted--how people always bring 10 request slips when they need one item, and then write through the carbons on the other 9 unused slips. Also noted was how the job of separating request slips that were stuck together was going to be valuable training for my future.

A test MARC record written during a system migration that was being project managed by me. I think I was figuring out the editing function and was a tad frustrated. Here is the record:

100 1_ $a Who, Guess.
245 10 $a Test title.
260 __ $a Anytown, USA : $b Ihateunicorn Pub., $c 2070.
300 __ $a 333 p. : $b copious ill. ; $c 65 cm.
500 __ $a Why does nothing work the way it's supposed to in this system?
505 0_ $a Aggravation -- Putting out fires -- More aggravation -- Interruptions -- Even more aggravation -- 50 migration-related ways to kill yourself -- Thorazine for project managers.

An entire sheet of sticky notes with the words "Please Review", and little pictures drawn on each one. I believe this was made by one of my cataloging assistants about 10 years ago.

A quote from Aleister Crowley's Simon Iff:

"I never heard anyone talk like that before. Everyone knows it's wrong."

"In 1850 everyone knew it was wrong to protest against negro slavery. In Germany it's wrong to question the divine right of kings. In Turkey it's wrong to eat pork. In Hindustan it's wrong to eat beef. In 1500 it was wrong to say that the earth moved. In 1900 it was wrong to say it didn't. Time and space, my friend, time and space, the illusions, breeders of other illusions! Right and wrong are fashions, like women's hats".

A quote from Amma: "Self-control is never a hindrance to freedom. By observing spiritual austerities, we can enjoy lasting happiness and contentment."

A quote from George Bernard Shaw: "Religion is a great force--the only real motive force in the world; but what you fellows don't understand is that you must get a man through his own religion, and not through yours".

A "Letter to Dr. Laura" Schlessinger in response to her saying that homosexuality is an abomination according to Leviticus 18:22. A quote from the letter writer: "Lev. 25:44 states that I may indeed possess slaves, both male and female, provided they are purchased from neighboring nations. A friend of mine claims this applies to Mexicans but not Canadians. Can you clarify? Why can't I own Canadians?"

A article about the mayor of Inglis, Florida, who wrote a municipal proclamation evicting Satan from her town.

A bored librarian's list of quotes entitled, "Tom Swift, Gonzo Librarian." "There's a waiting list for that title" Tom said with reservations.

The resume of a Yale law school graduate who has had a psychotic meltdown.

One of my favorite fake ads ever, spoofing on Advil. It shows a woman with an anvil in her hands, about to drop it on her schlub of a husband, sitting around looking dopey with pizza boxes and beer everywhere. The caption: "One Anvil gets rid of even the worst headaches". I think I had it in my cubicle during my married days.

A Dilbert cartoon featuring Wally, the Pointy-Haired Boss, Dilbert, and Ted. Ted says, "I just found out that the committee across the hall is doing the same thing we are. All we can do now is hum 'West Side Story' and have a dance-fight."

A document with a drawing of a bear that says, "The librarians are slow. Please bear with us."

Ineffective daily affirmations: "Only a lack of imagination saves me from immobilizing myself with imaginary fears".

A Thelemic language lesson. Example: the phrase "Their camp is very independent" translates to "They're planning to overthrown the Grand Master and they've become born-again Christians".

A cartoon of a ghost reading a newspaper and talking on the phone. He says, "I'm calling about your says you're looking for someone really spiritual?"

An e-mail featuring some of Rich Hall's "Sniglets". "Disconfect: to sterilize a piece of candy you drop on the floor by blowing on it and rubbing it a little." "Telecrastination: letting the phone ring 3 times before you answer it when it's right next to you."

That's all for today. Back to cleaning out more files...I think they breed overnight.

Thursday, May 12, 2011


Once a year I have my oil company come in and clean my furnace. It’s part of my warranty, and I need to do it whether it needs it or not.

I ended up in a long conversation with the mechanic who came out to service the furnace. We started by talking about my furnace and my oil tank, and ended up discussing religion and its effects. (It’s true—no one is immune from this topic around me). He was raised as a Jehovah’s Witness, but opted to leave the religion when he was 13, which his mother okayed. A sick younger relative who died from not having a blood transfusion caused a great explosion in his family. “There’s somebody’s life and death, and what did it hinge on? Something in religion. All of that stuff is protocol when you believe, but when you’re faced with the real deal...”

What was really amazing to me was how his family responded. There were family members in the hospital with open Bibles, lashing out at each other with competing verses. Talk about a scriptural war. If anything, it gives credence what I’ve always said—the Bible is full of contradictions. You could rationalize almost any argument scripturally. At the end of our discussion, I mentioned that people have little interest in facts when it comes to their story—psychology has proven that people will believe what they want to in spite of facts. He said, “I know why that is. People love stories.” And I think he is exactly right. Humans are walking houses of stories. We run entirely on stories.

I’ve been clearing things out of my house these last two weeks, and as I went through some boxes under my bed, I found my graduate school notebooks. One of them was for a class on psychology and religious thought. I opened up to this note: “Psychoanalysis is seen to be threatening because it reduces human thought and nature. But it is threatening not because of reduction, but because it expands our understanding of our powers and responsibilities.” And a related quote: “Psychoanalysis is like a woman waiting to be seduced, but knows she will be underrated if she doesn’t offer resistance.” The unconscious likes to play hard to get. There’s no fun if it just “gives” it to you. And like a desirable man or woman, it is mysterious and not a little intimidating.

The notebook is useful, not only because it reminds me of things I’m trying to apply to current research and their sources, but it’s also a symbol of my time in graduate school and everything that surrounded it. In this class I met Alex, who was one of those male friends who tended to fill in emotional gaps that my then-husband left empty. (No, I never cheated with him, if that jumps into your mind. But we were pretty good friends). The margins of my notebook are filled with notes from Alex. He would sit next to me and write things in the margins—comments on the material, comments on other people in the class, comments on himself. One says, “I am tired and hungry and homicidal.” Another says, “I think Jung would call for a break about now...” There’s even a whole marginal discussion about Don Henley when Alex posed the question, “What is evil?” Alex was only there for a semester, then he went back to Oregon.

I notice in a section of notes about “afflictive emotions”—I have my ex-husband’s name written in the margin with exclamation points. The particular note read, “makes it difficult to tolerate unpleasant feelings or hard times.” I’m guessing this understatement was in our class discussion of Erik Erikson. I took classes on Jung in graduate school, but Erikson dominated my studies, due in no small part to my thesis advisor, with whom I took most of my courses. She was described to me as "Erikson's protege", having been mentored by him, and had even lived in the same house with he and his wife Joan. She was always hard to pin down; the school never seemed to have enough faculty in that department, and the psychology and religion program only had two full time professors. She was the teacher for the course in this notebook.

In any event, the notebook has been a boon, as I am working on a paper on Freud and Crowley. I've been more absorbed in Jungian theory all these years, and this gives me an instant refresher on Freud. It also reminds me why we keep things in general. Even the most insignificant things are symbols. Just paging through the book recalls my entire graduate religion career and everything in my life at that time. Much of it was unpleasant, and I think it's important to see some artifacts regarding the way things really were. Memory has a tendency to be selective.

A couple of days ago I stopped in briefly at a friend's house. We got into a discussion of angels, demons, and spirits. At one point in the discussion, she said to me, "It's all symbols, isn't it? Our entire life is symbols." A true statement that appears reductive, but it is not. In my notes on Carol Gilligan, I have written down: "without a theory of symbolization, it's tough to talk about what's going on."

And now I think I'd better go to work before I get into a discussion of semantics and postmodernism...

Sunday, May 08, 2011

Goetia on Mother's Day

I passed a sign today on the way into New York City: "Lincoln: great President, crappy tunnel." Indeed.

I went into New York today for a workshop on Goetia with Lon Milo DuQuette. Lon has that gift of imparting real learning and information while being entertaining at the same time.

Before I get into that, no doubt some of you are wondering about Mother's Day. Did I blow off my Mom for Lon Milo DuQuette? Actually, no. We went to dinner on Saturday night, and I visited her on Sunday morning before catching my train. She told me this wonderful story: In the early years of her marriage to my father, they were out shopping and looking at flowers. My mother saw some daffodils, and told my father, "Oh, we should get these for your mother." My father replied, "Oh no. Daffodils aren't good enough for my mother." Fast forward to Mother's Day. My mother was in the kitchen visiting with my aunt and uncle. My father walked in with--daffodils. He said, "Happy Mother's Day. These are for you." My mother did not forget that these were not "good enough" for his mother. She laughs about it now.

As for me, the cat didn't get me anything for Mother's Day. Not even a dead mouse. But he has the sniffles, so I'm assuming he's distracted.

Back to Lon's workshop. I had lots of questions about Goetia. Why would someone invoke demons? It didn't make a whole lot of sense to me. I'm mired in the imagery of the unconscious, so I was sure it had something to do with that. But the notion of pacts with evil spirits is a weird idea. And if it goes wrong, what does one do? I didn't have to ask Lon a single question, and he answered all of these.

By drawing on his own experiences, and explaining things with very useful metaphors, he clarified Goetia for me in a way that other writers have not. The best metaphor had to do with machinery. He started with Solomon. In the Bible, Solomon is called upon to build the perfect Temple for the Most High. He appeals to Jehovah, as he has no idea how to begin such an operation, and asks him for the wisdom to build the Temple and rule his people. God responds by giving him the wisdom, and as part of that he gives him the "key" to his Temple building labor union. This happens to be 72 legions of demons. Demons are the heavy-lifters of the universe, and are as much a part of things as anything else. He drew comparisons with the Titans in ancient Greek mythology--these are a race of giants. (I think the Bible also has a race of giants--nephilim--the spawn of human women and angels. It's the reason for the Great Flood--God wants to destroy them). Psychologically, demons are our "problems". They are externally real in some sense, but don't manifest except through our weaknesses. Solomonic Goetic operations often allow the operator to confront their own weaknesses, and stand up to them. The idea of making a "pact" with them is absurd--you don't make "pacts" with your problems.

But I have not told you the brilliant metaphor. He compares demonic evocation to operating heavy machinery--bulldozers, backhoes, Caterpillar equipment. If you turn them on and let them run amok with no operator, they will charge along and destroy things. However, if properly operated, they can build useful structures. A woman in class raised her hand and asked, "Is the only difference between angels and demons that angels already have a job?" And Lon laughed and said we could end class with that comment. (We didn't, but it summed up a lot). Angels apparently are connected with specific forces. Demons have to be assigned tasks. They are the blind, chaotic (Qlipotic) forces of the universe, but they are part of it nonetheless.

Psychologically, the demonic relates to our Shadow. It is the weak areas of our psyche, and performing evocations is one way to confront these weak areas. I would still submit that it's not for everyone, but giving it a psychological context makes it less fearsome. The demonic are the things we do to ourselves to limit ourselves. And we can tell it "no" and not give in to it. And it will generally say, "okay".

Lon also talked about an experience where he was asked to exorcize a school building, and this answered my other question, because he described how he went about the operation, and what he confronted as a result. Every evocation is a confrontation with oneself and one's weakness. Each one is like an initiation.

I would recommend Lon's book, "Low Magick: It's All in Your Head...You Just Have No Idea How Big Your Head Is" for more discussion of Goetic operations. I can say that I learned a lot.

Saturday, May 07, 2011


I drove to work yesterday morning and saw a sign that said "Organic Insect Buster". I thought it said "Organic Insect Butter" before a second look.

I wasn't the only one misplacing letters. I posted a link from Mental Floss magazine, and a friend thought it said "Mental Loss". As she said, why advertise the fact by buying a magazine?

I stare at my computer, and words blur before my eyes. I do not wish to admit that I am tired. My eyes are tired; my spirit is not. I look under my shirt, at the remains of my surgical incision. It curves around my nipple like a smile. I am tempted to draw eyes on the other side of my nipple, and make a smiley face. I resist the urge.

I finished an article yesterday evening on magical operations and the Jungian concept of the collective unconscious. I was fishing about for a particular reference, and came across a Catholic catechism site--not the official Vatican site, but clearly one of those Catholic community sites. I glanced at a list of questions from "laity"; they were all the same kinds of sniveling questions I heard when Father Lampert (the exorcist) spoke at Montclair State. "Father, is it true that all yoga practitioners are really devil worshippers?" That sort of thing. With equally bad and ignorant responses. I want to smack the questioners in the face and say, "wake up and stop being an idiot, already!" I want to double-smack the answerers, and say, "Stop feeding people's fear of the unknown!"

Living on the fringes means you have few friends, and are largely invisible. I find myself surprised at certain behaviors of others, behaviors that indicate that I am largely invisible to them. I remind myself that I shouldn't be surprised. This isn't new. I don't live a life that most people I interact with regularly can relate to. Most people in my demographic are married with kids, and discussing normal married-with-kids kind of stuff. They read mainstream books and go to mainstream movies. Even if they're a little off the beaten path, the kinds of things that interest me (largely forbidden, scary, and strange things) don't interest them at all. Similarly, I can't relate to their lifestyle, and can't speak to their issues with personal experience. I don't spend a lot of time with people who don't share my interests, so why should they?

Still, there are days when you crave ordinary conversation, and do mundane things to keep yourself from floating away. Worlds with too many words and thoughts get mixed up, and it's hard to know what's actual and what's potential. Wesley Stace said at the recent WAMFEST that the writing life is a lonely life. You spend a lot of time with your thoughts and ideas.

My non-writing time is often taken up with mundane tasks--keeping up with the housework and the yard, doing the washing, buying groceries, et cetera. Some weekends I am very tired and not in the mood to do all these things. My friends will tell me, "you don't HAVE to do those things." What they don't realize is that I DO have to do those things. I can't tolerate disorder in my life. Sure, to a certain degree, there is a creative chaos that can be wonderful. But not in my house. The bed is made every morning, the sink is never full of dishes, floors are regularly vacuumed and washed, things have to be put away. My home is my oasis, the place where I do my creative work, and where I get away from the rat race. If it's in disarray, then I become depressed. If my relaxation place is also overwhelmed by chaos, then so am I. I operate knowing there's a place to put my feet if my arms get tired.

My love life has a similar psychological trend. I find love, sex, and relationships to be infinitely more complicated than necessary. It's simple for me--either I'm attracted and would take the risk, or I don't. Most of the time I don't. I meet lots of men who I think are terribly interesting and make wonderful friends, but I'm not feeling the magnetism. I hate the social dictum that says that a woman's involvement with a man must necessarily be of a romantic or sexual nature. And the one that says a woman doesn't travel or do anything social alone. I try not to pressure others or put any expectations on them, and I have to say that I like it when others do the same.

I had a dream about a month ago, in which a voice said to me, "You are Sophia, and create the world alone." I was staring at a lush forest behind a waterfall.

I had lunch a couple of weeks ago with one of my former students. He happens to live alone as well, and he says it can be just as difficult for men as for women. The world is designed with the assumption that people live in pairs or groups. Ironically--people I encounter every day live in their own worlds. The social structure doesn't match the social reality. I am suspicious of people who are too ready to accept me as their best friend on sight--they're either drunk or belong to a cult-like Christian group. It's like men who tell you they love you after talking to you for 5 minutes. Somehow I don't accept their sincerity. At the same time, there is something disturbing about the lack of awareness of others that people demonstrate every day. There has to be a happy medium somewhere.

Nature is beautiful right now, and the weather is perfect, but the pollen is lethal. I am ever so sleepy. Even the cat is not immune; I hear him snuffling away. Spring is like an hallucination, all the pretty colors viewed through a haze. Tomorrow is Mother's Day, but I'm celebrating it with my mother this evening. Tomorrow I go to New York for a workshop downtown with Lon Milo DuQuette. It is on Goetia, which I have been reading about extensively, so I am most interested to hear what Lon has to say.

For now, I am going to take a nap--and then a long walk.

Thursday, May 05, 2011


On Friday May 6 (tomorrow), "Animus" will be published in Danse Macabre magazine. This is story 5 in the archetype series.

Danse Macabre May Issue Publicity

I finally received my copy of Geosophia Volume 1 from Scarlet Imprint Press. I'd mentioned this book by Jake Stratton Kent in my post on Goetia and Vibration. I am reading this book amid a flurry of Ficino, Agrippa, and Paracelsus. Among the many things I am learning from this book, I learned that the Greek word elektron means "amber". Yes, this is the root of Electra, electron, and electricity. Amber (or elektron) is so called because its yellow color is reminiscent of the sun. The sun is the source of all life--at least it was thought to be by the ancient philosophers. Amber, in effect, bottles up the sun and its energy--it's captured fire. And this was the word chosen to represent the currents of energy that permeate everything.

I've often wondered about the connection between electricity and the paranormal. John Foxx pointed out once that our inventions leading to the use of electricity came from experiments in spiritualism and spirit contact. Paranormal investigators use electromagnetic frequency readers, and often report a spike in electrical energy when paranormal events occur, energy that cannot be attributed to another natural or man-made source. Electricity is said to drive consciousness. Kundalini meditation is based on the ancient Hindu ideas about "shakti", which is the electrical energy of our consciousness, moving through our spine through chakras, or energy centers. Most women know about hormonal rises and drops, which can lead to energy drain, hot or cold flashes, and mood swings. I've been able to track my own bad moods to a substantial drop in energy. In the 1960s and 1970s there was a lot of talk about the pineal gland and its electrical effects,especially during adolescence. Poltergeist activity is thought to center around the energy generated from this gland when hormones are becoming activated during puberty. It doesn't happen to everyone, or at least it doesn't manifest as external phenomena in everyone. But the connection between "mind and matter" is interesting, and not explored enough anymore.

Nonetheless, it has always been clear to me that this is why one must be careful when playing with the energy of consciousness. I've suggested before that bursts of consciousness are like sticking your finger in an electrical socket, and this is likely to be more literally than metaphorically true. Deep kundalini meditations can leave you with headaches, body aches, and nausea--similar to electrical shock, if your body isn't prepared for the experience through yoga. You may also be left with this feeling after hours in front of a genuine guru or satguru. A real guru is an emanation of perfect consciousness, and that emanation is experienced as electrical energy.

This is also the reason that Hinduism tends to steer the average householder away from Kali worship. Kali is pure electrical consciousness in its rawest form, and invoking that energy regularly is like cleaning your house with a blowtorch. You don't want to burn it down unless you're really ready to renounce the world and the ego. Or, you have to know how to handle the energy with care. Most of us are not experts. The magician is one who strives to be an expert in handling and commanding pure energy.

Cultural and collective evidence certainly does more than suggest a connection between what we call "spirit" or perhaps "soul" and electricity. But since everything is electrical, including our thoughts, it still doesn't answer the question of whether or not spirit manifestation is a phenomena that is "separate" from us or part of our unconscious psychology. Do we "see" things because the mind is picking up on unusual or intense pockets of electromagnetism, or are these separate electrical beings with a consciousness of their own? In some larger sense all consciousness is connected, but does such a thing have an identity or ego? Is it a fragment of one, unrelated to the "soul" or "spirit" of a person?

For more thoughts on electrical beings, I recommend John Foxx's recent blog posts on Grey Energy vs. Green Energy (Thought Experiment 1 and Thought Experiment 2).

Tuesday, May 03, 2011

Symbol versus Function Take Two

I saw two headlines this morning. The first said, "The world is safer" (The Philadelphia Inquirer). The one immediately underneath it said, "TSA on Security Alert after Bin Laden Death". Which I think nicely sums up everything that needs to be said about the death of Osama Bin Laden. It's hard to tell who's delusional--the press or the TSA. I'll put my money on the press. It's entirely possible that taking out Bin Laden will take some of the wind out of al Qaeda's sails. It's also possible that we'll see a resurgence in terrorist activity.

With regards to the current celebrating over Bin Laden's death, a lot of people are disturbed about the celebrating of an event like death. When it comes to killing, two wrongs don't necessarily make a right. On the other hand, as a Facebook friend put it, "Bin Laden was not a Muslim leader; he was a mass murderer". Those who lost someone in the World Trade Center attacks almost 10 years ago may feel a sense of relief or justice. Regardless of viewpoint, the death of Bin Laden is the second example in less than a week of symbol preceding function. I mentioned it in my last post in connection with the royal wedding, and it applies here, too.

On some shadowy level, all of us have the potential to be hateful, all of us have the potential to kill. It's innate in human nature; it's innate in life. Life on the most basic biological level is killing and eating. But that's just a small part of what drives celebration over death. In this case, Bin Laden had become a symbol of fear. He was a symbol of America under attack, of Muslim fundamentalism at its worst, of everything that is supposed to be the antithesis of national values. He has ceased to be human in the collective mind. Killing the source of fear brings about a collective psychological relief. It doesn't matter that there are other terrorists out there. It doesn't matter that al Qaeda is likely to continue its existence, with other extremists. It doesn't matter that someone else could gain prominence and be like Bin Laden. Facts DON'T matter when it comes to the collective psyche. It's the old scapegoat ritual, where all of the sins of a community are symbolically put into an animal, and that animal is either killed or banished. If you think ritual doesn't count for anything in the 21st century, think again. We've just participated.

I'm not interested in delving into the ethics of the situation. This is simply the psychological fact, regardless of where one stands on such killing, on war, and on life. Your personal ethics will naturally dictate your response to the event. NPR ran an article today asking, "Is it wrong to celebrate Bin Laden's death?" Certainly it is an ethical conundrum for those who believe killing is wrong under any circumstances. They have to struggle with the collective response.

I would suggest that sometimes, to choose life means choosing death. They're not as mutually exclusive as you would think. You can give that some thought.

As for me, I need to get ready for work. I've been trying to cram too much into my days, and it tends to make me irritable. I don't like when my sense of ambition lags behind my growing to-do list. The cat has worked hard at being helpful, sitting in the middle of piles of papers while I'm working, and hiding under the sofa to make sneak attacks when I walk by. Now he is contentedly washing his face while simultaneously watching for mice in the corner of the living room. Apparently he is much better at multitasking than I am.