Tag Archives: daily telegraph

Live! At The Witch Trials

 

Connie Booth as the witch from "Monty Python and the Holy Grail."

Burn her anyway!

I read today in the Daily Telegraph of how authorities in Germany are reviewing the 400 year old case of a woman burned for witchcraft. What gets me though is that instead of just giving her a posthumous pardon, they are actually “resuming her trial.” 😮

Why??? As I said in a comment to another post, if modern standards of justice were applied to all those of accused of witchcraft in the past, they would all be acquitted, or their cases would never have come to trial in the first place, because (a) their acts would not nowadays be classed as crimes; (b) their confessions were obtained by torture (and hence would be inadmissable as evidence); and (c) it is doubtful that the allegations would be treated with anything other than scepticism anyway. I suppose that because of (stereo)typical German efficiency they have to go through the rigmarole of re-trying the woman in order to exonerate her.

However, before Wiccans start rejoicing, one should note that the present case is taking place not because of the efforts of a pagan activist but those of an evangelical pastor and religious education teacher. Therefore his agenda is not to prove that as a pagan she was not guilty, but as a Christian she was not guilty. The argument being that – like almost all of the 25,000 people accused of Witchcraft between 1500 and 1782 – they were almost all not Pagans, but Christians who had been wrongly accused.

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Getting Away With Murder

Lorraine Mbulawa, the teenager accused of attempted murder.

You now have the power to kill someone in the UK and be found Not Guilty of either their murder. This is the apparent verdict of Leeds Crown Court, which has acquitted a teenager of the attempted murder of her own mother.

Unfortunately though, the teenager in question was convicted of section 20 of the Offences Against the Person Act (“malicious wounding”), which means that if death had occurred she would still have been guilty of manslaughter. NB: life imprisonment is the maximum sentence for manslaughter, though unlike murder it is not mandatory. As it was, she was given a suspended sentence.

The teenager and her family came from Zimbabwe where belief in the the occult is widespread. Interestingly in order to convict her of malicious wounding, the Jury implicitly accepted evidence that she was not insane at the time of the offence. In sentencing, the Judge said.

“[She] believes she was doing what the spirits told her to do which reduced her culpability significantly.

“Since she knew what she was doing she should have fought against what she was told to do.”

Now this is an innovation in the law which appears to have crept in since I was at University! You will probably have heard of the old adage: “Ignorance of the law is no defence.” So what we have got here is the following situation:

  • The jury hears that the teenager believes someone or something is telling her to stab her own mother – which she does;
  • The jury also accepts that the teenager was not insane, acting like an automaton, or in a dissociative state;
  • The teenager is not allowed to plead ignorance of the law relating to murder.

What, therefore, is the correct verdict? If one assumes that the accused did actually want to cause her mother’s death – albeit at the behest of these spirits – it should be Guilty of Attempted Murder. What the jury seems to have done is  assume that belief in disincarnate spirits, which does not amount to insanity, is somehow a mitigating factor – that it makes the accused Reckless as opposed to Intentionally violent.

This would be like me being acquitted of Theft because Valefar put me up to it. Actually this could be a good wheeze, the more I think about it. Theft is a crime of strict Intent. There is no such thing as Reckless Theft, so if a jury found that I did not have sufficient mens rea for the full offence, there would be no lesser offence for me of which to be convicted. Hence I would walk completely free! Sorted. 😉

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Daily Telegraph reports on Ley Lines 90 years after they were first discovered.

The many millions of readers of this blog will know that I am not overly impressed by the Daily Telegraph’s reputation for up to the minute scientific reportage. Often a scientific story gets reported a few days or even a week late, and sometimes even the time-gap is even longer (e.g. getting round to reporting on Professor Chandra Wickramsingh‘s work in astrobiology only after he had been doing it for the best part of forty years).

Now however they have taken the biscuit. In today’s edition I read that “Prehistoric man navigated his way across England using a crude version of sat nav based on stone circle markers, historians have claimed.” Further:

They were able to travel between settlements with pinpoint accuracy thanks to a complex network of hilltop monuments.

These covered much of southern England and Wales and included now famous landmarks such as Stonehenge and The Mount.

Well, well! There is only one problem with this theory: it was first proposed by Alfred Watkins in 1922 in his book Early British Trackways (1922), which was the fore-runner of the seminal The Old Straight Track (1925), which is the first major work on Ley Lines.

Note however that Watkins never claimed that Ley Lines were anything other than a geographical phenomenon. It was left to later writers to attach paranormal connotations. John Michell’s The View over Atlantis (1969) is generally thought to be the definitive work in this regard, although in actual fact occultists had latched onto the ley-lines-as-paranormal-phenomenon barely a few years after Watkins first published his work. E.g. Dion Fortune’s The Goat-Foot God (1936) describes a method of using ley lines to determine the best location to site a magical temple.

Actually the idea of siting a temple using ley lines is perfectly sound, especially when you consider that ancient places of worship would have been the very sorts of location that neolithic man would have wanted to find as he roamed over the countryside. Hence: it is inevitable that ancient temples would be located upon ley-lines not necessarily due to any paranormal significance, but so that pilgrims would succeed in finding them.

This is not to say, however, that Ley-lines do not have paranormal significance. One of Michell’s assertions in the View Over Atlantis is that ley-lines indicate currents of energy which he refers to as “dragon-current,” because they are comparable to similar currents of energy found in Feng-Shui. Moreover the idea of “dragon-current” appears to be archetypal because along at least one ley-line in Britain there is a number of Christian churches – built on the sites of old pagan temples – which are all dedicated to either St Michael or St George – two saints famous for killing dragons. The official explanation for this is that they represent the victory of the Christian Church over Satan – although one may point out that it really meant the victory of the church over the pre-existing pagan religion, on the basis that in those days any religion which one did not like was linked by the Church to Satan by default.

So far, so coincidental. However recently I found a book called Ancient Magicks for a New Age in which the author, Alan Richardson described his psychic investigation of a conical tumulus somewhere in Wales known as “Bel’s Tump.”

But, prior to sleep, approached Bel’s Tump in the astral. Had a vision of  a broad tree with a whitened bole, and then the Tump itself, a demonic looking creature rising from it. For once, despite the usual frisson of fear, I didn’t shut it out and demanded, several times, to know its secret.

Then came an extraordinarily long and vivid image of a colossal dragon pouring from the mound,*  slithering out, vast. Again I felt no fear despite the reality. I knew it was part of me. At my demands to know its secret it crumbled to white powder and bones.

* My emphasis.

The biggest irony comes however when Richardson comments on the interpretation of his vision. “I am unable to give any clues, even at this remove, as to what my poor, short-lived beast actually meant.” We may speculate that a conical tumulus may have been just the kind of earth-work that neolithic man might have erected as a marker along the direction of a ley-line. If so we then have the situation that a clairvoyant, whilst still ignorant of John Michell’s theory of “dragon-current,” nevertheless has a dragon-related vision in relation to this particular locale. It may just be anecdotal evidence but it indicates a tentative vindication Michell’s writing.

So, all in all it is at least worth keeping an open-mind as to the paranormal or spiritual significances of ley-lines as something far-more than just a primitive sat-nav system.

What next for the Daily Telegraph one wonders? Scientists discover round-things which help make transport easier???

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Meditation: Better Than Morphine

You are able to achieve pain-relief through Meditation – even to a greater extent than by taking Morphine. That is the apparent conclusion of one study conducted by the Wake Forest Baptist Medical Centre in North Carolina, as reported in today’s Daily Telegraph. The meditation technique is referred to as “Focussed Awareness,” which as far as I can make out is more or less identical to the Hong Sau technique of Kriya Yoga. The study appears to indicate that the act of meditation causes a change in brain activity – parts of the brain involved in feeling pain show decreased activity, whilst other parts involved in pain-coping mechanisms are stimulated.

Now I don’t wish to belittle the work of the scientists themselves, but I will just point out that the Daily Telegraph is not exactly improving on its reputation for up-to-the-minute scientific reportage. It only took me two minutes on Wikipedia to find out that there have been studies indicating that meditation is effective for pain relief dating back to 1985, and this is quite apart from numerous public demonstrations of Yogis doing the old needle-through-the-cheek-routine. Nevertheless it can be argued that the present-study constitutes a valid attempt to peer-review the meditation-as-analgesia theory.

[Update: when I was trying to find the details of the study, I found out that the exact same scientists had conducted the exact same research at the University of North Carolina in 2009. I do hope that it is not actually the same study – it would mean the Daily Telegraph is either recycling old news stories, or has taken two years to publish these guys’ press release!]

If meditation-as-analgesia gained widespread clinical use, presumably that would mean cost savings in terms of less money spent on painkilling drugs. Hey! Perhaps this might even solve the current* NHS funding crisis – one can but hope.

* I say “current” – but honestly, when was it otherwise?

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Site Update: March 31st 2011

A preview of the artwork for my forthcoming book, Licence To Depart, can now be glimpsed at my website.

Also, as it appears to be Satanism week over at the Daily Telegraph, I thought that Journalists might be after a pundit to talk knowledgeably about the dangers of Exorcism *cough* I mean Demonic Possession. With this in mind I have re-vamped the Press page.

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Lilith Day: March 19th 2011

"Lilith" (1892), John Collier

The Moon will be at Perigee in relation to Earth on Saturday March 19th 2011 – the closest it has apparently been for 19 years. In fact the Perigee will coincide with the March Full Moon. Now, Mental Health Practitioners in the UK’s NHS swear blind that a Full Moon always draws their most troublesome clients out of the woodwork. And guess what? The forthcoming Lunar Perigee is causing a whole load of whack-jobs to spout forth on public internet forums about all the kinds of disaster that are going to happen, e.g. tsunamis, earthquakes (“the one in Japan was just a warning” etc), the apocalypse, dogs and cats lying down together, etc.

Astrologically speaking however we are in for a far more intriguing though less dramatic time. “Lilith” the so-called Dark Moon is conjunct the Sun and opposite the Moon – on the cusp of the Sun’s entry into Aries at the Equinox. “Lilith” as an astrological phenomenon is a relatively recent innovation, although it has over 100 years on Ophiuchus. It is the one of the two foci upon which the eliptical orbit of the Moon is based, the other being within the Earth’s sphere itself. Hence, when the Moon is at perigee, Lilith will always be 180º (Opposition) to it (conversely when at apogee it will be in conjunction).

Lilith may be said to be the “Dark Side of the Moon,” i.e. it represents the hidden, repressed or unconscious aspects of what the Moon represents to the conscious. Because of the conjunction with the Sun, one may speculate that babies born next Saturday – or indeed events – will have the habit of exposing that which is hidden to the light of day, and not necessarily in a way that one would find desirable.

“The Owls Are Not What They Seem…”

As to who Lilith was, it appears that since the time of the Old Testament she was identified as some sort of “night demon” – the name “Lilith” is etymologically similar to the Hebrew word for night. Indeed, other semitic cultures referred to night-demons by similar names. Lilith is mostly mentioned in the Talmud and Dead-Sea Scrolls where, either as a generic term or as a person, she was held responsible for things like abortions, nocturnal emissions on the part of males, leading men astray etc.

However: the idea that Lilith was Adam’s first wife before Eve does not actually date back to the time of the Old Testament, but much later – the eighth to tenth centuries AD. However one should also note that the Zohar itself is not older, so there is as much to say that the Lilith-as-first-wife myth is a traditional belief as is the Qabalah.

A curious fact is that the Hebrew word for “Owl” is “Night-bird” and thus etymologically similar to “Lilith” as well. This has led some to speculate that references to Owls in translations of the Old Testament are actually referring to Lilith. Not wishing to stir up the Conspiracy Theorists too much but the Cremation of Care ceremony in Bohemian Grove takes place in front of a large Owl-like statue. Just sayin’ 😉

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Believers Have More Sex Than Atheists

You are more likely to have children if you are a follower of a religion than if you are not. Not just because you are more likely to have sex, but because you will be doing so with people more likely to be fertile. A church is probably not the best place to go for a one-night stand, but if you want to meet people who are ready, willing and able to get married and go forth and multiply, they are veritable hot-beds of lust and seething passion.

This is not just something I have made up off the top of my head in order to attract traffic to this website – it is the finding of some academic from Cambridge. Ironically, I find that he is a Professor not of Religion, Genetics or Fertility but of Economics. Presumably the world-wide recession has quietened down for the moment, leaving him with time on his hands! More seriously though, because Religious people allegedly have more children than non-believers, then this means that there will be a natural tendency for the number of people following a religion to increase in proportion to those that do not.

The great irony of course is that religion may be a meme, but so is the idea of criticising overpopulation – with one crucial difference: the former by its very nature encourages its own continuance, whilst the latter is actually encouraging its own extinction. Oh how Richard Dawkins must be kicking himself!

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Your Mind Has Its Own Healing Power

You have the power to heal your body with your mind, or mentally improve your body’s natural healing mechanisms through willed effort. Your mental healing power is so effective you can react to a placebo positively, even whilst knowing it is a placebo. This is the conclusion drawn by scientists from Harvard Medical School.

Now I can hallucinate what all the millions of spiritual healers from various traditions are saying as they read the above paragraph: “But Alex, we already knew that!”  Yes indeed – this is just another case of scientists finally catching up with us and daring to suggest that there is a basis in science for what spiritual healers have been saying for centuries. I did a review of spiritual healing techniques in a previous blog post. Since then my own observations would seem to indicate that such practices continue to be effective – although I cannot say that I have observed an unequivocal miracle … yet.

Spiritual and magickal healing undoubtedly has the power to produce an immediate sense of increase in wellbeing. I have personally observed this in a number of healing rituals in which I have participated, in which recipients who were present as the ritual progressed reported a sudden benevolent feeling as energy was directed towards them.

I have also tried distant healing, although I recognise that none of the circumstances were in controlled double-blinded conditions. I have seen it happen on many occasions where a healing ritual was done for a person known to be ill, who later turned up in person reporting to feel better. I have written about two occasions previously (here and here), although in both of these the patients had loads of other people praying for them at the same time. Distant healing therefore is the next big objective for scientists to prove.

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“Humans Do Have Psychic Powers, study claims.”

The Daily Telegraph is down to its usual low standard of up to the minute scientific reportage, viz by getting round to covering a story that everyone else did last week. A study in the New Scientist says that humans do indeed have psychic powers. Apparently there was a test of 1000 volunteers who were asked to recall words from a list – it turned out the words they most remembered by sheer coincidence *wink* turned out to be words on a separate list that they were later asked to type out (I presume it ought to go without saying that the two lists were kept separate under controlled double-blinded conditions etc etc).

This at least is the hype – the hard fact is that it only “magically” worked in 53% of cases, which the author of the study reckons is 3% more than would be expected by chance alone. It was at this point that the Sumner brain spotted the flaw in the methodology – it’s a basic mathematical error: PROBABILITY IS NOT THE SAME AS STATISTICS!!!

Some people might have difficulty with this concept, but let me illustrate with a coin-toss example. The probability of getting “heads” when flipping a coin is 50%. The probability of flipping a coin ten times and getting “heads” each time is 50% raised to the power of ten, which is 0.09765625%. Now imagine the following situation:

I flip a coin ten times. I get seven heads and three tails. Does this mean that the probability of me getting heads is 70%?

Or again: I flip a coin ten times and do indeed get ten heads. Does this mean that the probability of me getting heads is 100%?

Or again: I conduct a parapsychological research with 1000 volunteers. 530 volunteers achieve “hits”, 470 do not. Does this mean that there is a 53% chance that people have psychic powers? Or that any particular significance should be read into there being 530 hits, as opposed to e.g. 500 hits or any other number?

Quite clearly, the answer in all three cases must surely be “No” – because PROBABILITY IS NOT THE SAME AS STATISTICS!

The unfortunate fact of the matter is that at no point during the study did the investigators attempt to answer the question “Why are the people achieving hits managing to be successful?” Come up with a decent answer to that and only then you have plausible scientific evidence for saying humans have psychic powers. I personally would be thrilled to bits if there was scientific validation for the existence of psychic powers, but unfortunately this study is not it. The great irony is that this experiment is not an exercise in psychic powers, but it is an exercise in “numerology.”

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Invisibility


News today that scientists are apparently working on a Star Trek style cloaking device. Overlooking the fact that we are banned from doing so after having signed the Treaty of Algeron, this apparently works by manipulating the speed at which light reaches the viewer to create an apparent time-gap in which an event could be hidden. What this will do will in fact amount to making real-life look as if you are trying to stream an HD-video clip on a low-bandwidth connection.

Star Trek technology around the corner?

The maximum size of time-gap this can create is apparently 2*10^-9 seconds – so it is pretty pointless for creating an invisibility device given that the human brain apparently only processes information at the speed of 60Hz (i.e. if you can perform an event within 2*10^-9 seconds, there is no point turning on your cloaking device as no-one will realise you have done it anyway). Realistically though such a cloaking device could have an application hiding events not from humans but from computers which have a processor speed of 476mHz or greater – which is actually most of them nowadays.

In any event, one must bear in mind that the figure of 2*10^-9 may well be improved upon in the future, and given the rate at which, e.g.,  artificial telepathy has come on in the past twelve months, the likelihood that this will be sooner rather than later cannot be discounted.

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