Archive for April, 2010

Review of MPLS

Posted in Uncategorized on April 22, 2010 by Patrick

Here’s an excellent review of Magic Power Language Symbol.  It’s highly complimentary.  So of course I focus on the small passage about errors.

I apologize for any errors in my books.  If people do find them, please let me know.  I don’t exactly sell out, but presumably if I keep writing and keep breathing, someday there may be second editions and when and if that occurs I will try to correct as many errors as I can find.

I’m particularly embarrassed about two errors: First, mixing up Brythonic and Gaelic languages is — in my profession — pretty shameful.  It’s like a chemist mixing up glucose and sucrose.  Yes, they’re similar — but not the same.  The second embarrassing thing is that somehow I suggested the Indo-European diaspora occurred ten thousand years ago.  I don’t know why that number was in my head and made it to my fingertips, when it’s pretty well established that it was closer to 4500 ybp.  Again, sorry about the error.  The other errors pointed out were sometimes just attempts for me to wrestle the octopus into the box — after all, the complex relationship between which ideas were Spare’s and which one’s were Grant’s is a hard one to tease out.  Others were simply me trying to write outside my field; I read a lot in anthropology but I’m not formally trained in it.

But I’m quite pleased that this particular reader enjoyed the book and got so much out of it.  I’m also glad those errors didn’t turn into incentives to make my book into a wall-banger.


I’ve Arrived

Posted in Uncategorized on April 18, 2010 by Patrick

I’m not entirely sure, but I think Jason Miller just picked a fight with me.  I have arrived!

Seriously, I’m kind of an evangelist for the information model, so it’s hard not to read that as a “get over it” to me.  And I can understand that.  Jason’s very much about practical magic, getting things done.  I’m very much about intellectual study of magic.  The two are not enemies, and one doesn’t preclude the other.  I get lots done.  (Weirdly: ’cause I rarely *do* anything).

I’m pretty sure he didn’t actually mean to direct it at me, and I certainly don’t want to pick a fight with him.  But I do want to address why I think it’s worthwhile to find a model that offers actual explanatory power in magic, Ramsey Dukes notwithstanding.

If magic is real, it is real.  That tautology means that it’s not “anything goes.”  Some things will work, others won’t.  Of course, that also doesn’t mean that there’s one true model.  It’s clear that a Hoodooist and a Cabalist can get the same results, so what’s universal and true about magic can’t be in the technology alone.  It must be in the models used to describe those theories, and the best model will come as close as possible to accounting for the widest range of successful techniques.

I think that’s the information model.  The energy model doesn’t explain spirits, prayer, or systems of folk magic that don’t involve imagining moving energy, all of which can work quite well.  But each of these acts is an act of communicating an intent.  Similarly, if something goes wrong with magic and it doesn’t work, the energy model offers no real advice, other than to “get more energy,” which means what?  Eat more glucose?  The information model says that the error may have been in several places: the intent may not have been unified so you may have been sending multiple messages; the channel of communication may not have been clear, so you need to work at clearing your mind and selecting appropriate symbolism; you may not have communicated the message you thought you did, so you should look again at your encoding.

Is this ultimate truth, therefore?  Not at all.  Communication as a model presupposed a separation that I’m not sure is there in reality between the magician and the ultimate consciousness he or she communicates with.  But it’s very much “like” communication, and a heck of a lot more so than it’s “like” energy.

It’s simply a more coherent and useful metaphor all around.  But I do understand that it’s useless to get angry about the whole thing, which I’ve seen.  And the energy model does have the virtue of being quite a bit easier for most people to visualize and “experience.”

So that’s why I can’t just “stop it.”  I think it’s a valuable avenue to think my way down.  And I fail to see why that’s silly.


Posted in Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 by Patrick

I just used the word “ill” to describe a student who is sick.  Next thing you know, I’ll refer to someone who’s late as “tardy.”  There are just some bits of vocabulary that you use as a teacher, even though no one uses them outside that context.

I suspect there are also some bits of vocabulary that are used only by magicians.  I know the words “tool,” “offering,” and “ritual” take on extra resonance for me.  And I know that “energy” does so for other people, despite my bs filter going off.  And in Hoodoo, “trick” takes on new meaning as well.  And I sometimes forget that for most people “demon” means “evil.”

Jargon is weird.

Connecting with community

Posted in Uncategorized on April 16, 2010 by Patrick

I’ve been in my current location for nigh on three years now, I guess, and I just got around to trying to contact some of the local community.  By local, I mean in my ‘burb.  Obviously, I know several people in the City itself.  But that’s an hour drive and no parking, not to mention horrific traffic.  So I had coffee and some sandwiches with a local coven.

It wasn’t unpleasant.  Some interesting people, certainly.  I felt downright staid, which tells you something, I think.  And, of course, there was the usual pagan hugging thing, which I fended off with a strategically held copy of Ioan Couliano.  I’m much more a hand-shake kind of guy.  Several of the people I spoke to seemed to have great senses of humor, which matters a lot to me.  And they all seemed very active and dedicated.

So that was nice.  I need to do stuff like that more often, even if it does mean walking away from my beautiful, beautiful Macbook for a couple hours.


Posted in Uncategorized on April 8, 2010 by Patrick

Everyone’s talking about money on this little corner of the blogosphere.  Frater POS doesn’t think teachers should charge.  Frater RO (rather predictably) disagrees.  Everyone’s got an opinion.

Mine?  Money doesn’t pollute.  Money doesn’t corrupt.  It’s just a token, a symbol of value.  Why wouldn’t you want to pay someone who does you a service?  By the same token, yes, someone might choose to do such a service — teach someone magic, act as a clergyman, etc. — without receiving that particular token of value.  But trust me, if value exists in teaching, there is an exchange.  I’ve volunteered to teach mundane subjects, and I’ve been paid to teach them.  Neither is better than the other; both are useful, both have value.

The idea that money, itself, is a polluting influence is pernicious nonsense, unexamined balderdash passed on from one dogmatic thinker to another.  People get greedy for money.  They get greedy for love, greedy for power, and greedy for donuts.  It doesn’t matter what the token of value is: what matters is the greed or lack thereof.

I pay my mortgage.  That doesn’t pollute the value of my house.

Behold the Future Cyborg

Posted in Uncategorized on April 6, 2010 by Patrick

Here’s a two-and-a-half year old girl who picks up an iPad for the first time and immediately begins using it.  No particular sign of confusion, no hesitation.  She just starts making Apply gestures all over it, and before long, with minimal instruction, she’s playing games.

To quote Kerouac, “What will happen?”

There’s such an intimate relationship with information and its manipulation on display here, an intimacy with information — a tactile intimacy — unimaginable even twenty years ago.  I’m not a singularity freak, but this is what it looks like as it approaches.

(note: not an ad for the iPad here.  I am baffled by the very existence of the device.  I’m just intrigued by the fact that babies are practically born with technology in their hands)