Thursday, August 30, 2012

Magus Magazine: Demons or Deliverance: What is the nature of Evil?...

Magus Magazine: Demons or Deliverance: What is the nature of Evil?...: “If you ask for the Holy Spirit, you’ll get the Holy Spirit. No one has ever asked the Father for the Holy Spirit and received an Unholy...

Demons or Deliverance: What is the nature of Evil?

“If you ask for the Holy Spirit, you’ll get the Holy Spirit. No one has ever asked the Father for the Holy Spirit and received an Unholy Spirit.” – H.A. Maxwell Whyte, Demons and Deliverance.

“The demons have a better theology than the modern theologians.” – Kurt A. Koch, Occult: The Christian Perspective.

Demon Possession: It’s difficult in this day and age to accept the relevancy of such a phenomenon yet all over the globe, people claim that diabolical entities wage war for the souls of Man. This isn’t the plot of some movie or book of fiction. We see this on the news. A belief in supernatural agency is one of those cross-cultural certainties that anthropologists love to examine. And on any given Sunday, television preachers paint a gloomy picture of the soul possessed. But how many of these stories are the real deal? I can only equate it to somebody in the throes of a nightmare. It’s those few petrified moments when your spine hurts from the balled-up tension and you grit your teeth until you can taste fillings. You haven’t yet reached a level of consciousness where you realize your dreaming. It’s absolutely real and absolutely happening. At this point you’ve accepted whatever is occurring, as horrible as it might be, and just let go. They say that waking up is a violent jolt that leaves the dreamer gasping for air. Perhaps this is what it feels like to be exorcised of demonic infestation. The reality is: Absolute believers absolutely believe in the works of the devil. It’s as real as the dreamer stuck momentarily in his nightmare. Except in a case of demonic possession, the nightmare can go on and on forever. Folklore is no stranger to motifs of the devil and demons. There are dozens of themes that include narratives of this type. Countless stories of Satanism, possession, and the occult permeate the folkloric canon. 

One of the most disturbing cases of the demon episode I’ve seen recently involves a minister named John Ramirez. A former demoniac, Ramirez’s Out of the Devil’s Cauldron: a Journey from Darkness to Light, details his escape from Santeria. According to a ‘Christian Post Reporter’, Ramirez’s story begins in the Bronx over two decades ago with the Caribbean Santeria cult. Growing up in a Puerto Rican family, Ramirez was introduced to the religious hodgepodge that is Santeria. It was in that traditional family setting that Ramirez first became acquainted with the Devil. According to Ramirez himself,

“I was drawn to the power and authority that the Devil gives you over people. I found that the more evil I acted, the more respect I earned from others. If they feared me, I could get more and more what I wanted, People who knew me knew I was Satan’s son.”

Ramirez’s words imply the presence of the Devil himself but nobody seems to know where in Santeria rites the Devil makes an appearance. According to the New World Encyclopedia, Santeria or the “Way of the Saints” is a set of religious systems that fuse Roman Catholic beliefs with traditional Yoruba beliefs that over time, became a unique religion in its own right. (www.newworldencyclopedia,org ) There is a deep respect for adoration of the saints and in a creator god called Olodumare. There is no belief in the Devil because Santeria doesn’t adhere to a good versus evil philosophy. However, a main tenet involves Ashe, the primal force that comes from a creator and permeates everything. As Ashe is in everything, Santeria recognizes and respects the value of nature and all living things. (Ibid) Moreover, Santeria priests use magic to integrate man and nature. According to a Santeria priest, “When I cast magic spells, I enter the mountain to greet the lords of nature and to obtain from them the necessary help to make things happen.” ( )

All this seems relatively safe or at least not overtly weird as far as religions go. But minister Ramirez felt like a man who’d been wounded or wronged in a fight. He raves that, “The Devil can get you through identifying with your culture. I felt like I was loved and valued as part of an important family by joining Santeria. The sad thing is that the Devil can never love you or me. We are created in the image of God, and that is utterly alien to him now.” Although Santeria does have a creator being, it’s impossible to reason with somebody in the midst of a righteous religious frenzy. Ramirez went on to howl, “The demonic forces of the occult are so real you can touch them. They produce a spirit of fear that grafts onto people’s hearts.”

A true case of demonic possession is sad and miserable. The victim’s mind and body are frayed by an other who comes as an intruder, separates from the host, and ultimately undermines the person they inhabit. They violate and humiliate and degrade until the host gives up hope. Whether or not the entity is a fractured mind, an agent of evil, or some undiagnosed trauma is beside the point. The other exhibits behavior that is destructive and often times, life-threatening to the poor soul who is afflicted. Theologians will tell you that characteristics of demonic oppression and possession are in some ways uniform or fit into specific patters but the victim doesn’t want to hear statistics and could care less about what happened in the Bible. They are haunted by something that attacks without warning or provocation. Perhaps a handful of the afflicted have some idea of spiritual turmoil but the majority want to be able to eat without violently vomiting, cease from doing or saying unspeakable things and reverse the wasting away of their body and mind.  

In his book, Minister Ramirez remarked that he cut and burned Santeria symbols into his flesh, summoned spirits, drank animal blood, and even sold his soul in a ceremony that cost him $3,500. (Christian Post Reporter- November 17, 2011) So, what are we looking at here? Does these events jive with a demonic attack? Perhaps some. But Minister Ramirez’s rhetoric also suggests Holy warfare. There is a righteous vehemence to the Ramirez story. He states that, “animalistic cultures provide more accessibility for demonization because they typically not only practice Spiritism, they embrace it. But an atheistic biochemist teaching at an Ivy League College is just as susceptible to demonization as an illiterate hunter or farmer living in the rain forest.” (Ibid)

But nobody really knows what Ramirez means by ‘animalistic culture’. At first glance, I assumed he meant Nietzsche’s ‘Animal Philosophy’ or maybe the current technique of teaching non-humans through socially transmitted behavior but neither of these pertain to possession or exorcism at all. Then I realized that ‘animalistic’ was the Minister’s shrewd way of saying animistic. It’s not his fault. How many Minister’s are trained in the subtleties of spiritual beings? Most charismatics erupt in a torrent of wild god-speak until their eyes glaze over and the crowd begins to weep or faint. We’ve seen them on television. The eyeliner and rouged cheeks. The sweat on the brow and perspiring neckline. A mouth moving so fast that the words are nearly ‘in tongue’. Ah, yes my brothers! Praise the Lord! Jesus and baby Jesus! Good God! Then out come the snakes and a venomous ride to the local hospital. I don’t think Santeria is Ramirez’s real enemy. In reality, it’s his being born to an alcoholic father. It’s being born in extreme poverty. It’s having a rough childhood in the Bronx. We can’t blame Ramirez for his hatred of things ‘not-Jesus’. His hatred was a focal point for a poor, disenfranchised youth who sought refuge in a spiritual system that didn’t jive well with him later in life. Does that make Santeria evil? Not at all. But, he can be blamed for his actions and rhetoric when releasing a book into the public domain. Now he is getting paid to spew his hatreds. And I don’t even think the Minister is a crook or particularly crazy but simply somebody who doesn’t like competition in areas of religion.

In 1975, theologian James Hitchcock characterized charismatic religious movements as having these features.
1)      Faith needed continual reaffirmation through contact with the divine world. Any intensely meaningful experience was assumed to be divine in nature.
2)      Gods direct intervention superseded ordinary means of worship.
3)      Believers who are motivated spontaneously by the spirit were impatient about comparing these revelations with established theologies. (Ellis 2000)

These three postulates are all present in John Ramirez’s ministry. One of the strangest part of the whole bit is the fact that divine intercession happened to Ramirez himself. And that is an honorable thing… an occult kind of way. After all, according to the Christian Post Reporter, the “word occult contains the entire supernatural realm”. (Ibid) In one form or another, the occult contains all three charismatic features. In the Minister’s half-mad attempt at Deliverance we see every characteristic of the occult process. What is truly frightening is the fact that he doesn’t seem to know. The mechanisms he uses as part of the ministry are a reflection of every religious system, including those of Santeria. Within the epiphany that inspired Ramirez to be ‘born again’ are processes also used by Santeria to provoke revelation. It boils down to a question of whether Ramirez believes his Christian ministry to be the cure to Santeria’s sickness. Trying to inform silly fundamentalists of the concept of religious ethnocentricity is like trying to steal a jackal’s fresh kill. We can only hope that a backward sense of superiority hasn’t instruded itself too deep into the mind and body of the Minister.

Tuesday, August 7, 2012

Magus Magazine: Addendum: Mysterium Tremendum- Reconciling Heisenb...

Magus Magazine: Addendum: Mysterium Tremendum- Reconciling Heisenb...: Hello everybody, here's the Addendum for the 'Mysterium' article. After posting, I realized a philosophical  problem that needed to be w...

Addendum: Mysterium Tremendum- Reconciling Heisenberg's Uncertainty Principle in regards to the Baltic Anomaly

Hello everybody, here's the Addendum for the 'Mysterium' article. After posting, I realized a philosophical  problem that needed to be worked out a bit. I think the particle analogy works but I'm continuously refining these ideas of Folklore and Philosophy of the Occult. Read it and feel free to gnash your teeth, heckle, or throw a tantrum. :) Enjoy!!!
PS- Magus Magazine #2 is being released this FRIDAY 08/10/12 


            Fundamental to acquiring a solid grasp of any state of affairs is being able to perceive changes in relations. That being so, position and movement are an essential aspect of confirming or falsifying how we perceive variances in association. Our discussion of the Baltic Anomaly makes use of relational study as we probe objective knowledge and subjective experience. By referencing object and subject or evidence and ‘what we understand of the evidence as it changes through time’, we are able to map out and plot the trajectory of the Baltic Anomaly event. As ‘what we understand’ acts as an epistemic conduit, the ontology of the Anomaly continuously changes Vis ‘a Vis the changes made in understanding and reassembling the data. Like new puzzle pieces of a puzzle, information is constantly entering the fray to be recognized and included in defining what the Anomaly really is.
            I know that obtaining a certainty of relations is considered by many to be an impossibility. In fact, object/subject study is ripe with theories suggesting that evidence and ‘what we understand’ can never coexist much less converge into a coherent ontological status. This problem is called Heisenberg’s ‘Uncertainty Relations’ and is best described in terms of particles. According to the Heisenberg dilemma, we can’t know both the position and velocity of a particle at the same time. The moment we pinpoint the exact position of a particle, the momentum or velocity becomes less defined. In other words, if you know the position, then seek to determine its velocity, you destroy what you know about its position. The problem also occurs if we focus on the velocity of the particle. Feyerabend states that, “if by some trick you can determine its momentum with absolute precision, then you not only don’t know anything about its position, there doesn’t even exist anything like a position any more” (Feyerabend 1991). What we know about one, annihilates what we know about the other.
            It’s easy to see how ‘Uncertainty Relations’ can be applied to the Baltic Anomaly as well. Object and Subject or evidence and ‘what we understand’ are proportional to position and velocity in Heisenberg’s Uncertainty. For example, the more evidence that is collected lends to a lesser understanding of the evidence as it changes through time. As we collect data, what we know becomes less defined because there is more information to work with. Inversely, as what we understand through time becomes more pronounced, we tend to discover less new evidence. We narrow the playing field to include only what we already understand. Subsequently, when ‘less is considered’, the research programme becomes suspended and begins to degenerate. Thus, the Heisenberg problem makes it impossible to create an ontology or plot its trajectory because either the Anomaly becomes indefinite due to discovering more but understanding less. Or, we understand more through time yet suspend our context of discovery. We only consider what evidence is already there. Either scenario threatens to dissolve the entire ontology before it can even be created.
            The solution to maintaining ‘definiteness’ in our ontology is in measurements. If we measure our evidence, we can discern the relationship between the evidence and ‘what we understand’ at a given time. We can also infer ‘what we understand’ either immediately before or after the measurement. The Object was always in a well-defined position because the evidence could have been measured at any time. Likewise, ‘what we understand through time’ was always well-defined because it was possible to measure in relation to the evidence at any given time. What we understand was there had we the inclination to measure it against the evidence. The fact that both the evidence and ‘what we understand’ could be measured indicates that object and subject were always in a well-defined position. Focusing on one was no threat to the other because they are defined in relation to each other.
            Another difference between a particle and the Baltic Anomaly is in the identity that is produced by configuring evidence and ‘what we understand’. Although a particle’s position and velocity can be measured in relation to each other, the Anomaly’s object/subject relationship creates an identity-constituting space time. The Anomaly has a personal identity that is lost on the particle. In addition to identity, the Anomaly also enters an alterity and state of vagrancy where in-between occurs while an ontology is being created. An incandescent liminal state, evidence and ‘what we understand’ disassemble only long enough to be re-configured into a new state of Being. We don’t have any evidence that position and velocity of a particle enter into any intermediate or ‘betwixt and between’ state. Furthermore, no interpretation is needed when measuring the distance between position and velocity. However, the Anomaly relies on an interpretation of old and new evidence to form coherent versions of truth.