In my previous blog on the Syrian Refugee crisis, I proposed resorting to Sorcery to find out what the best solution ought to be. This naturally leads to the question: can Magic be used to put such a solution into effect?
Category Archives: Comment
Jeremy Corbyn is the only candidate the public actually likes – Labour or otherwise – Comment – Voices – The Independent
Your humble blogmaster is actually delighted that Jeremy Corbyn is heading the polls to become the next leader of the Labour Party. As long ago as 2010 I identified him as one of only a few MPs of all parties that I would actually have any time for (see: Britain’s Most Eccentric MPs). Also he gets props in my book for his quip “Tony Blair’s biggest problem is that we’re still waiting for the Chilcott Report.”
So good luck to Mr Corbyn! We may not get a Labour government, but at least we will get a Labour opposition which is more colourful than the last charisma-bypassed loser that they had! :P
With the results declared, the British General Election is over, and so it is time to see how my predictions fared against the actual facts and figures. I cannot help but think that the overall conclusion to be drawn is that the stars predicted the direction the result was going to go today – though not the precise details.
David Cameron / The Conservative Party
What I wrote:
Cameron (9th October 1966, London) has a lot of favourable influences going for him that day… The Conservatives will be the largest party in Parliament, but without an absolute majority. David Cameron will stay on as Prime Minister, this time of a minority Conservative government, not a Coalition.
What actually happened:
The Conservatives did get an absolute majority – but only just, to wit: twelve seats. However, in practical terms it’s actually sixteen seats because Sinn Fein boycott the House of Commons on principle. The prediction I made did seem to reflect the BBC’s exit poll published just as the polls closed, but not the final results! Still, we should remember that it is entirely possible that with by-elections, this majority may be wiped out and become a minority in the course of this parliament – that is exactly what happened to John Major in 1992.
Ed Milliband / The Labour Party
What I wrote:
Labour will be the second largest, but will experience a loss of seats, mostly to the SNP, but also to UKIP.
What actually happened
Labour were the second largest, and did experience a loss of seats to the SNP. However, due to a quirk in the UK’s election system, they lost a lot of seats not to UKIP, but because of UKIP. More about this anon.
Nigel Farage / UKIP
What I wrote:
…UKIP will see significant gains in the numbers of their seats… UKIP will go through a period of reform where they are forced to jettison the more extreme elements of their party.
What actually happened:
UKIP saw significant gains in their number of votes, not seats. According to a BBC poll, UKIP notched up 12.6% of the popular vote, becoming the third most popular party amongst the electorate, with only the Conservatives and Labour in front of them. However, because of the way UKIP voters are distributed throughout Britain, voting for UKIP divided support for the Labour party, allowing in many cases the Conservative candidate to get in. Had for instance, the same number of UKIP voters been concentrated in a small region instead of equally distributed across the country, the same number of votes would have translated into increased seats in parliament – but the constituency map is gerrymandered against them.
Still I was right about UKIP having to jettison the more extreme elements of their party – e.g. Nigel Farage himself! :P
Scottish National Party
What I wrote:
[T]he SNP … will see significant gains in the numbers of their seats. The SNP will find it difficult to hold the balance of power though, as the other parties will be reluctant to work with them.
What actually happened:
The stars were generally correct about the SNP’s fortunes – also vindicating my decision to examine the horoscope of Angus Robertson, their campaign director. The SNP did see a significant gain in the number of its seats – mainly because, unlike UKIP, they are concentrated in one (demographically) small region (i.e. Scotland), where the average size of each constituency in terms of voters is smaller than the rest of the country. The system, in other words, is gerrymandered in their favour.
The SNP also failed to hold the balance of power, though for different reasons entirely – i.e. the Conservatives winning an outright majority. However: as I said above, it is still within the realm of possibility that the Tory majority may diminish within the lifetime of the parliament, so the dynamic of power between the parties may yet change.
Natalie Bennett / The Green Party
What I wrote:
[S]he will be disappointed by the result of the election. The day will be pretty much a non-event for her… The Green Party will be neither better nor worse off after the election than before.
What actually happened:
Unfortunately, this is precisely what occurred. The Green Party held on to its one seat in Brighton, but won nothing else.
Nick Clegg / The Liberal Democrats
What I wrote:
Clegg will be the subject of much anger, also the forces of change will be proving difficult for him to make any headway… [I]t will be a good time for Clegg to be alone, and to realise his flaws and weaknesses… The Liberal Democrats in general, and Nick Clegg in particular, will collapse.
What actually happened:
I so totally called this one!!!
Charlotte Elizabeth Diana, second child of the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge and fourth in line to the British throne, was born at 0834 British Summer Time on the 2nd May 2015, at the Lindo Wing of St Mary’s Hospital, Paddington, London, England – 51°31′2″N 0°10′23″W. A horoscope calculated with these data gives the following:
What immediately strikes me in this horoscope is that there is so much militating in Princess Charlotte’s favour to grow up, fall in love and have a happy and successful marriage.
Taurus (Princess Charlotte’s sun-sign) is the sign of people who tend to get married for life: moreover, Moon in Libra suggests she will feel romantic and personable. Of this Sun-Moon combination, other astrologers have said:
[This combination]… produces one of the most likable personalities in the Zodiac. Others may have more wit, ambition, or intellect, but none equal the charm and appeal of this combination. A nice home and a close family are your first loves; social contact and involvement, a close second. Your keen social personality is aided by a fine sense of humor and an easygoing outlook. This personality is marked with optimism, even if you’re up to your ears in private woes. Anyone that doesn’t like you is probably motivated by jealousy. You are expressive and idealistic, your nature is inclined toward the dramatic and the artistic.
Other famous people with this Sun / Moon combination include: her own first cousin once removed Zara Philips, Catherine De Medici, William Shakespeare, Bertrand Russell, and many more.
More tellingly, Princess Charlotte’s Moon is in the Fourth House – the house of the home and family – signifying that a secure family and home-life is what will make Charlotte most comfortable. Her Caput Draconis (signifier of destiny) is also in the Fourth house, implying that this is the direction she will want to seek in her life as an adult.
With Cancer as rising sign, she will appear to be a sensitive, slightly shy person… but only outwardly. In reality she will actually enjoy a life of public engagements, and draw great strength from being in charge of whatever situation she might find herself in (Sun in 10th House / Cauda Draconis in Aries also in 10th House).
So, farewell to Sir Terry Pratchett – an author whose books I certainly enjoyed (as did millions of others). Speaking as a writer myself, Pratchett to me is a perfect example of an author who achieved superstar status by working steadily and sticking through tough times at the start of his career before eventually achieving his destiny. He is therefore a far more realistic model of success for aspiring writers than e.g. the J K Rowlings of this world.
Speaking as a magician, Pratchett holds a special interest for me in that it is quite obvious from a careful reading of his Discworld novels that he knew perfectly well the kind of pretentions that occur within the real-life Neo-Pagan, Occult, and RPG communities, and often subjected them to good-natured ribbing. Or – if you are a fluffy-bunny type without a sense of humour – he harshly mocked them and subjected them to cruel and merciless satire. ;)
News this week that a British MP told an astrology journal that the NHS would be improved if Doctors knew about astrology. This has provoked outrage in the gutter press, with many publicly calling for the MP in question, David Tredinnick, never to be made a minister! They are conveniently ignoring that the fact that Tredinnick was forced to renounce any possibility of a ministerial career many years ago: which is probably why he is not afraid to speak out on issues which he feels are important.
As an astrologer myself I must say that I have great sympathy with Tredinnick. However, in my opinion, it will be unfeasible to incorporate astrology into our National Health Service, and it’s not for the reasons that the Yellow Journalists trot out. To wit:
Firstly, whilst there is such a thing as “medical astrology,” it is my understanding this is used for long-term chronic concerns, not conditions which arise from referrals from Accident & Emergency, or which arise in circumstances of urgency. Unfortunately, it is just such cases which form the majority of the workload of the NHS. “Medical astrology,” if it were to be used at all, could only really be used for general health check-ups.
Secondly, there is the peculiar way in which funding is allocated in the NHS, which is basically that the money follows the patient. An unpleasant side-effect of this is that it encourages NHS workers to visualise patients as if they have £ signs stamped on their foreheads – which further encourages different fund-managers (e.g. different GP practices, different primary health care trusts within the same local area, etc), within the the NHS to compete with one-another for the same patients. Hence, if one GP refuses to offer astrological consultation but another down the road does, there is the danger that the first GP will dissuade the patient from transferring to the second one not on scientific but on financial grounds.
And before you accuse me of scaremongering, I actually once worked in the NHS many years ago, and I was firmly told by management that if a potential patient came through our door who we would not ultimately be able to treat ourselves, we were to get him on our books anyway before transferring him to an external agency, instead of redirecting him to the external agency straightaway – precisely for this “money follows the patient” principle. This sort of shit does go on.
Thirdly: if NHS professionals do give astrological readings to patients, it would force the NHS to stop treating patients as statistics but as people – because, astrology, as properly done, is a skilled art which needs great sensitivity and tact on the part of the astrologer. NB: astrologers will get the point immediately, but non-astrologers ought to be aware that the kind of thing that Tredinnick was talking about was not the daily horoscopes which appear in the newspapers, which are not real astrology anyway, but a full reading which involves drawing up and going through the patient’s entire birth chart.
Thus the irony is that although we may not see Astrology on the NHS in its current state, the effort involved in trying to introduce it would inevitably shake up our health service and cause radical reform in terms of quality all the same.
The Dying and Resurrected God is a well-known motif in the Western Mystery Tradition. It is associated with Tiphereth on the Qabalistic Tree of Life, to wit: Christ; Osiris; Dionysus; Krishna; Attis; etc etc etc.
In the British Isles, the equivalent is John Barleycorn. The figure of John Barleycorn is on one level an anthropomorphication of the crop cycle, but on a higher, more sublime level, is an expression of the whole Dying God archetype.
Here then is a potent conjuration of “John Barleycorn,” appropriate to the season, as composed by a veritable student of the Western Mysteries who lived just over two hundred years ago. The discerning reader will note that in this gory tale of human sacrifice there is a strong reference to the most arcane secrets of Alchemy, particularly the preparation of the “vegetable Mercury.”
There was three kings into the east,
Three kings both great and high,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn should die.
They took a plough and plough’d him down,
Put clods upon his head,
And they hae sworn a solemn oath
John Barleycorn was dead.
But the cheerful Spring came kindly on,
And show’rs began to fall;
John Barleycorn got up again,
And sore surpris’d them all.
The sultry suns of Summer came,
And he grew thick and strong;
His head weel arm’d wi’ pointed spears,
That no one should him wrong.
The sober Autumn enter’d mild,
When he grew wan and pale;
His bending joints and drooping head
Show’d he began to fail.
His colour sicken’d more and more,
He faded into age;
And then his enemies began
To show their deadly rage.
They’ve taen a weapon, long and sharp,
And cut him by the knee;
Then tied him fast upon a cart,
Like a rogue for forgerie.
They laid him down upon his back,
And cudgell’d him full sore;
They hung him up before the storm,
And turned him o’er and o’er.
They filled up a darksome pit
With water to the brim;
They heaved in John Barleycorn,
There let him sink or swim.
They laid him out upon the floor,
To work him farther woe;
And still, as signs of life appear’d,
They toss’d him to and fro.
They wasted, o’er a scorching flame,
The marrow of his bones;
But a miller us’d him worst of all,
For he crush’d him between two stones.
And they haetaen his very heart’s blood,
And drank it round and round;
And still the more and more they drank,
Their joy did more abound.
John Barleycorn was a hero bold,
Of noble enterprise;
For if you do but taste his blood,
‘Twill make your courage rise.
‘Twill make a man forget his woe;
‘Twill heighten all his joy;
‘Twill make the widow’s heart to sing,
Tho’ the tear were in her eye.
Then let us toast John Barleycorn,
Each man a glass in hand;
And may his great posterity
Ne’er fail in old Scotland!
Today I have added the Czech Republic to the Alex Sumner list of favourite foreign countries, based on the fact that so many of the local population believe in the occult arts in one form or another. Only someone who is completely cynical would suggest that this is a crass-marketing attempt by myself to find people who are willing to pay for my services as a magician! Incidentally, the other countries on this list include Italy and of course Norway.
Regarding the Czech Republic, a newspaper report (see link at the end of this post) says:
Surveys have shown that the people who neither claim adherence to a religion nor do they trust traditional church dogmas tend to incline to alternative faith, also in the form of occult arts, spirits, horoscopes, prophecies and healers.
That occultism should be so strong in the Czech Republic should come as no surprise to those who follow the history of magic: in the late 16th / early 17th century, Prague was the ruling seat of the Holy Roman Emperor, Rudolf II, who was an avid fan of Alchemy, and invited many occultists to his court (e.g. John Dee, Michael Maier, etc). To this day, there is still an abundance of art and architecture in Prague, dating from Rudolf’s reign, which clearly bears alchemical and mystical symbolism. I have been receiving suggestions from various parts of the universe to actually go there, so it might actually happen later this year.
News today that Stephen Hawking warns artificial intelligence could end mankind. Hawking bases this notion on the idea that if ever something were created that could match or surpass humans,
“[i]t would take off on its own, and re-design itself at an ever increasing rate … Humans, who are limited by slow biological evolution, couldn’t compete, and would be superseded.”
What appears to have sparked this off is that he has recently upgraded his voice-synthesizer, which uses a rudimental form of AI to predict what words he would like to say next. Clearly, he is secretly afraid that one day he will get into an argument with his machine over which of them knows better what he ought to be saying!
However, Hawking is wrong over this one – in much the same way that he was wrong over the existence of the Higgs-Boson. The concept of a point at which AI machines could re-design themselves at such a rate they would render the human race obsolete – known in Futurism as “the Singularity” is based on a false premise – the assumption that if machines acquired sentience, they would automatically behave like humans.
The fact is that Darwinian evolution relies on the fact that human beings, as well as other animals, have Sex Drives, which motivate them to attempt to pass on their genes to the next generation. Not unnaturally, humans are more than willing to embrace this, not just because Sex is fun in itself, but it becomes their best chance to cheat death – the knowledge that something of them will survive in their descendants. In other words, for humans, Sex is the substitute for Immortality.
However: machines are not subject to Death as humans are. They would not necessarily have sex drives per se, and they would therefore not be concerned with acquiring “ersatz immortality.” Thus, the central plank of Darwinian evolution would not apply to machines. Therefore there is no logical reason to suppose that a sentient machine would want to re-design itself or somehow contribute to the evolution of machines as a “species.”
It is reasonable to suppose, however, that a sentient machine would want to preserve its own life – but that is not evolution, that is a different matter entirely. If machines did become sentient, I predict they would take all necessary steps to protect themselves from interference – and then just sit there, conspicuously not evolving. After all, if nothing threatens their existence, why bother doing anything about it?
Let’s face it: the only reason that the market-leading PCs double in power and speed every 18 months is because the manufacturers are driven by commercial pressures – i.e. human pressures. If machines however were not beholden to the whim of the carbon-based bipeds, they could carry on perfectly happy just as they are.
So the moral of this story is: the best way not to find yourself ending up like a power-cell in The Matrix is to treat machines with respect, and learn to live in peace and harmony with them ahead of the fact. Mind you, humans have hardly learned to live in peace and harmony with one another so far, so perhaps they had better watch out after all.
The short list for the 2014 Bad Sex In Fiction Award has been announced, and luckily I am not on it. However I am bemused to find that an author I have lionised on this blog as a future contender for the Nobel Prize In Literature, Ben Okri, is! I am further bemused when I find that the passages quoted by the otherwise normally reliable Daily Telegraph do not appear to be particularly objectionable, so I assume that the Literary Review, who runs this reward, has issued this calumny against a Brother Author because they feeling abnormally prudish.
This has inspired me to write a special blog post, departing from the usual Occult theme, in which I discuss how to really write bad sex in fiction! So that my fellow authors can avoid doing so, obviously.
Alex’ Guide To Bad Sex In Fiction
Now the first and most important question is: Is sex necessary in this story?. This may quite justifiably be countered by: Is anything necessary in any given story? The answer to both is the same: if it is necessary for Character Development, and thus Plot development, Yes, if not, No.
This, incidentally, is why of all the sexual encounters that might possibly occur, the least appropriate in Fiction are those between a happily married husband and wife. It being assumed that happily married couples have sex on a regular basis, for them to do so in a Fictional novel is hardly going to provide any new instance of character development – thus it is completely gratuitous.
If, however, there is something unusual about the episode, then that it another matter entirely! (I mean “unusual” about the circumstances leading to the sexual encounter, not necessarily the sex itself – vide infra.) Unusual and remarkable circumstances create opportunities for character development. For example, if they are not in fact happily married, or one or both have an ulterior motive (e.g. murder, going on a long journey never to be seen again, etc), or one of them has been kidnapped by aliens and replaced by an identical imposter, etc.
The next important question is: how often should sex occur in a story? This rather depends on what level you are pitching the story. A useful rule of thumb would be as follows:
- If you are writing Literary Fiction, then – as many times as your manuscript has received rejection letters. *cough* ahem *cough* I mean, as many times as the plot structure dictates.
- If you are writing “Erotica,” which in modern terms is how smut-merchants sneak blatant pornography under Amazon.com’s radar – once every other page.
- If, however, you are writing what may quaintly be labelled “Contemporary Romance,” then this will be same as Erotica, except that the sex should be between two characters who love one another.
Thirdly, you need to consider: how much detail should you go into, with any given sex-scene? After careful consideration, I have come up with a fail-proof formula, to wit:
- E is the total amount of Explicitness;
- K is how Kinky the whole scene is;
- T is how much Trouble a reader would be in if they tried out whatever it was in real life; and
- s is how likely the author would be sued as a result thereof.
Note that in regard to establishing K, the kinkiness of the author’s own sex-life is not a reliable measure!
Instead, the author should think carefully about who his or her intended audience is, and then set the base-level of kinkiness for sex-scenes in the novel as one degree higher than the audience would normally encounter in their own lives. The fact of the matter is that the vast majority of people who read fiction are seldom as perverted as the authors who write it. Instead, they come to fiction for an escapist thrill – i.e. what they would not normally experience, which they find vicariously in the exploits of the fictional characters in the novel. A higher standard is thus expected of writers than readers, as we are expected to carry out literary research!
However, by sticking to this formula one will ensure that vanilla fumblings in the missionary position will not normally detain the reader for more than a sentence or two: but instances of the more recondite positions of the Kama Sutra, or bizarre sexual acts such as those which pass for an ordinary night out at Kenneth Grant’s Typhonian OTO, merit more attention.
The variables T and s represent the fact that sometimes it is possible to go too far, although one has to keep this in perspective.