Above: John Dee presents to Elizabeth I, Henry Gillard Glindoni
Distrust of the occult is an important part of many traditional spiritual systems. It’s in the warnings about spirits, demons and jinn given in Islam, Judaism and Christianity, in stories of poltergeists and taniwha, in the trickster legends of Loki and Māui, in the striving of the Greeks against the cruel fates and capricious gods.
In 1587, John Dee, mathematician, alchemist, conjurer and adviser to Queen Elizabeth I, believed himself to be participating in a dialogue with the angels. During a series of ‘spiritual conferences’ he conducted in Bohemia, angelic beings allegedly invited him and a colleague to pool their personal property and swap their wives as part of an agreement by which Dee would be given the secrets of the universe.
Incredibly, this is something Dee proceeded to try out.
The obvious lesson is that you shouldn’t let a real occult experience dim a healthy heightened scepticism of occult sources. As the point is put in Paul’s epistle to the Romans:
Because they believed they [were students of special knowledge], they were [able to be deceived].
In a swing away from the enthusiasms of the Elizabethan era, King James VI and I’s experiences of witchcraft led him to write Daemonologie, a denouncement of the occult, in 1597. Like Newes from Scotland, the 1591 account of the North Berwick witch trials, Daemonologie tends to assume what it means to prove and poses difficulties for modern readers. Having said that, modern authors generally assume that witchcraft is an imaginary relic of the medieval mind, which it absolutely isn’t.
Unsurprisingly, the combination of high intelligence, illicit curiosity and naïveté comes in for repeated criticism from King James I, who emphasised that you shouldn’t imagine that you’re being let in on a secret for your own edification.
Just as a pay-off in a confidence trick is a win that facilitates a bigger loss, knowing that partial truths are often deployed for dishonest reasons can help to keep you safe. Don’t get involved in the occult.
While it’s important to encourage high quality contributions to public space, there is a danger of preventing people with other points of view from participating in public life.
The main difficulty is that pressure groups will seek to police the rules in ways that unfairly advantage partisan political agendas. These campaigns can diminish the practical value of the freedom of expression and have the potential to damage our political culture.
I’m tentatively opposed to efforts to conflate hateful and abusive speech with ordinary disagreements about style and content.
The quote from Marie Claire UK relates in part to the #witchesofinstagram. There's about 2,725,000 posts there as of this morning. You can see the hallmarks of Bernays' ideas about the power of symbolism and the subconscious - as they were expressed in his torches of freedom campaign - throughout.
Many of you will know the work of Edward Bernays and Walter Lippmann, pioneers in public relations and modern journalism respectively. Lippmann’s 1922 book Public Opinion argued for the management of public attitudes by elites in a process he called “the manufacture of consent”. In his 1928 book, Propaganda, Bernays stated:
“The conscious and intelligent manipulation of the organized habits and opinions of the masses is an important element in democratic society. Those who manipulate this unseen mechanism of society constitute an invisible government which is the true ruling power of our country. …We are governed, our minds are molded, our tastes formed, our ideas suggested, largely by men we have never heard of.
While these ideas were attenuated by a series of infamous failures, they still organise and inform efforts to determine public opinion today.
Observers of New Zealand politics may have noticed a pattern of favourable media coverage of John Key and Jacinda Ardern, the succession of allegedly “weak” Labour leaders during Key’s time in office (Cunliffe, Shearer and Goff), and the mainly negative coverage of Simon Bridges.
In the United States, the ’Beers with Bush’ media phenomenon culminated in the Supreme Court’s extraordinary decision to halt the Florida recount during the 2000 presidential election.* President Obama rose to power on a tide of favourable coverage set against the unfolding chaos of the 2008 financial crisis. And as the Gallup chart shows, Donald Trump was gifted millions of dollars in free campaign messaging and advertising by a complicit media establishment. He was nudged to the narrowest of victories by another extraordinary intervention – this one from FBI Director James Comey – one week before the vote.
Contrary to what you probably suspect, these aren’t coincidences. The big players don’t write the stories, they own the newspapers. And if all of that isn’t improbable enough, there’s something else they haven’t told you. Something really important:
Hot on the heels of mindfulness, crystals and reiki, is our growing obsession with witchcraft just a natural progression? Or is the reality darker? Could witchcraft – a space arguably inhabited by women alone – be offering us a way to vent our frustration at the status quo, and even seek revenge?
The people who convinced your grandmother to try smoking are hawking an even older kind of poison. Lies have been told, and people have been hurt.
Above: Tom Brady and Gisele Bundchen in March 2008.
Six-time Super Bowl winning quarterback Tom Brady recently talked about the contribution wife Gisele Bundchen has made to his success.
From the CBS Boston article:
Brady said Bundchen “always makes a little altar for me at the game because she just wills it so much,” complete with pictures of his children.
“And I have these little special stones and healing stones and protection stones and she has me wear a necklace and take these drops she makes, I say all these mantras,” Brady said. “And I stopped questioning her a long time ago. I just shut up and listen.”
Brady said at first he thought “this is kind of crazy,” but it worked.
“About four years ago we were playing the Seahawks and she said ‘you better listen to me, this is your year, but this is all the things you’re going to have to do to win,’ and I did all those things and by God, you know, it worked,” Brady said.
Bundchen also predicted that 2015 would not be Brady’s year, he remembered, and sure enough that season for the Patriots ended disappointingly in the AFC Championship game.
But early this year, Brady asked if he had a chance to win it all and he got the answer he was seeking.
“She said, ‘yeah, but you’re going to have to do a lot of work and you’re really going to have to listen to me. So man, I listen to her,” Brady said.
Bundchen was right, of course. Again.
“She said you’re lucky you married a witch – I’m just a good witch,” Brady said.
There aren't many people in this world more successful than Tom Brady, but this kind of assistance comes at a price. Don't get involved in the occult.
U.S. Route 61 runs from Wyoming, Minnesota to New Orleans, Louisiana. It's infamous in American music as part of the story of the crossroads, the tale of the devil's bargain sometimes struck where Highway 61 meets Route 49. In the first volume of his memoirs, Bob Dylan wrote:
Highway 61, the main thoroughfare of the country blues, begins about where I began. I always felt like I'd started on it, always had been on it and could go anywhere, even down in to the deep Delta country. It was the same road, full of the same contradictions, the same one-horse towns, the same spiritual ancestors ... It was my place in the universe, always felt like it was in my blood.
The long history of the devil's bargain is often told through the lives of bluesmen Tommy and Robert Johnson, violinists Guiseppe Tartini and Niccolò Paganini, Johann Faust and the stories of the Arabian and Egyptian texts introduced into Europe in the years following the fall of the Roman Empire. It's most famously set out in the Bible passages concerning the Temptation of Christ in the Book of Matthew:
Again, the devil took him to a very high mountain and showed him all the kingdoms of the world and their splendor. “All this I will give you,” he said, “if you will bow down and worship me.” Jesus said to him, “Away from me, Satan! For it is written: ‘Worship the Lord your God, and serve him only.’
In Martin Scorsese's biographical documentary No Direction Home, Dylan describes the "big deal" he made on Highway 61 (2m35s); Tony Glover describes the transformation in ability and style that followed it (1m53s):
In 2004, Dylan gave an interview to Ed Bradley of 60 Minutes in which he elaborated on the bargain he struck and the kind of assistance that's fueled his extraordinary success: a "kind of penetrating magic" that helped to write his songs:
Dylan described the process by which he wrote Like A Rolling Stone as a kind of possession:
“It's like a ghost is writing a song like that. It gives you the song and it goes away, it goes away. You don't know what it means. Except the ghost picked me to write the song".
The thing you might not already know is that Dylan is describing a real experience. It's not metaphor or a kind of artistic license - it's that only so much can be said without straining credulity. The idea behind this kind of inspiration is as old as the the Muses of the ancient Greeks and the design and construction of the Ark of the Covenant.
And so it came to pass that in August 1963 a man with a bargain with the devil sang in support of the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom - opening for the Reverend Martin Luther King's 'I Have A Dream' address, one of the finest moments in all of American history. There were many who might have been expected to have supported Dr. King that weren't present, but, as Dylan noted that day, those divisions had deep roots and had been carefully contrived.
Bob Dylan, now a Nobel laureate, is 77 years old. Don't get involved in the occult - not because it doesn't work, but because it does.
To note the midpoint of the Trump presidency The Atlantic has prepared a list of fifty previously unthinkable stories about his time in office.
Editor in chief Jeffrey Goldberg writes:
This week marks the midway point of Trump’s term. Like many Americans, we sometimes find the velocity of chaos unmanageable. We find it hard to believe, for example, that we are engaged in a serious debate about whether the president of the United States is a Russian-intelligence asset. So we decided to pause for a moment and analyze 50 of the most improbable, norm-bending, and destructive incidents of this presidency to date.
Our 2016 editorial was a repudiation of Donald Trump’s character as much as it was an endorsement of Hillary Clinton for president. It was not meant to be partisan. The Atlantic’s founders promised their readers that we would be “of no party or clique.” This remains a core governing principle of the magazine today. What follows is a catalog of incidents, ranked—highly subjectively!—according to both their outlandishness and their importance. In most any previous presidency, Democratic or Republican, each moment on this list would have been unthinkable.
Strange times for honest folks.
Eighth generation soldier Tommy Clack served as a US Army captain during the Vietnam War. On 29 May 1969, Captain Clack was hit by an explosive shell in combat near Củ Chi, Saigon and was severely injured.
Clack’s near death experience has a number of familiar elements: a feeling of calm and tranquility, viewing his body from above, a bright light and tunnel, meeting soldiers who had lost their lives; Clack witnessed his body being transported from the battlefield and the medical procedures that saved his life.
When he regained consciousness ten days later, Clack was able to tell doctors and soldiers which of his comrades had not survived the battle.
You’ve probably seen variations of the dying brain hypothesis – such as that recently offered by Dr Sam Parnia in the Herald – which proposes that your brain processes more about your surroundings when you’re clinically dead than when you’re asleep or unconscious.
It’s an interesting theory – but it’s not easy to account for the unusual details present in so many NDEs of this type.
Thanks for taking the time to reply.
I don’t think you understood what I wrote, or that you understand how things work in the real world, especially with drugs like these. Although I’m pleased that you now seem to understand what decriminalisation means, because that hasn’t always been evident.
I'm not sure your take on the "real world" of drug use justifies the abolition of the Misuse of Drugs Act or the legalisation of recreational drugs.
Rip it up and start again? Who knew that drug laws and health care could be so complicated.