Illusions and Enlightment

I don’t believe in woo woo stuff. Woo woo stuff tends to follow me around like a cat you fed once, and who keeps returning.

Given that and despite the fact that none of the Odds are “very good x” where x means religion, because our minds and emotions tend to work at right angles to normal humans, and heaven only knows (literally) how our minds work, I choose to stick to the religion I was (mainly) raised in.

It’s sort of like when you venture out on a foggy night, across a shallow brook, you stick to the stepping stones someone put there centuries ago. They might not be the only way. They might not be the best way. They are there, however, and they’ll allow you to deal with the uncertainty and the fog semi-dry shod. Even if you’re not going to drown if you just go whichever way — maybe. What if you get tripped up and fall and hit your head? — you’ll likely cross more or less dry and functional and with fewer chances of incidents.

Here is where my atheist and “only physical reality exists” readers are shaking their heads and deciding I lost my mind.

Yeah. Okay. Look, I am convinced there’s about 1/3 of humanity who are “blind” to whatever it is the rest of us perceive, but trust me, there is something there, just like I can assure blind people that there are colors.

For one, think about it: primitive people’s living extremely close to the bone believed in this stuff. In situations in which you shed everything that didn’t work. So, it works. At least most of the time.

What works? Well, any number of things, really: foreknowledge, telepathy, coincidences that can’t be coincidences, all the way up to and including seeing and talking to “entities.” (I wouldn’t recommend. Contains live bobcat. Not that I’ve done it, but I’ve read things. If you’re inclined to play in those waters, go and read “Hungry Ghosts.”)

The problem is that while on balance the woo woo works, it is …. slippery. And …. inconsistent.

The US as well as Russia had programs studying this stuff. The Russians supposedly were far more advanced, because of course they were. I mean, they could just make up stuff wholesale. And yes, sure, I have heard the US used the program — called Stargate, weirdly — to hide the fact they had spies in the USSR. Waggles hand. Well, that’s what they say now, because that stuff went out of fashion with stunning rapidity.

It kind of tends to, because it’s inconsistent, slippery, and…. well… mostly filled with lies. Like, whatever entities are in charge of this stuff? They’re tricksters… Kind of like our mainstream news, who I sometimes think are following this kind of thing, somehow. Well, maybe not somehow. A lot of Marxism seems to be in tune with the type of thing these entities (?) say.

Again, read Hungry Ghosts for that sense of “there is something there, and it’s malicious.” Read it with the light on, and maybe sleep with the light on while reading it, okay?

So, why am I talking about this?

Mostly because, as I’m cleaning and painting and refinishing I’m tired and therefore in a highly susceptible state. No, not to woo woo. To things my mind interprets as “suggestions.”

Someone mentioned John Keel in the comments, and I remembered that when I was in between houses, after #1 son was born, I went through his ouvre and also that of Jean Vallee (sp?) and came to the conclusion that UFOs (at least most of them. I’m not excluding real aliens. Not in 2021) and fairies and spirit guides and the like were all the same entities and they didn’t mean us well.

Wondering if I had come to that conclusion on air, and realizing (the now late) John Keel’s books were on prime, I read through two. At night. Before going to bed.

He himself came to the same conclusions, actually.

But while he lumped religious experiences in with the “paranormal” wilderness, he at the same time believed that some of these were “good” and “guiding us to a superior consciousness.”

Since most of the things he was convinced this superior consciousness was guiding people towards was the mistakes of the age: free love (couldn’t they settle for reasonably priced), anti-capitalism, and all the insanity that USSR agit prop planted among us, I don’t think he was right. (Yes, I do hope he found his way to the right place after death anyway.)

Anyway…. One of the things he did was collect a lot of incidents that are absolutely unexplained and possibly unexplainable. (Not all of them. My dad has opinions about the Marie Celeste, for instance. wind him up and watch him go.)

So…. something is out there. Something exists that is not really clear to our senses. And mostly, it doesn’t mean us well.

Not here, I’m not speaking of Himself.

Yes, there are ways to tell if something is coming from Himself or these…. “Tricksters” to put it no lower.

For one, and this leaked out in Keel’s perspective, the tricksters tend to put humanity down. Like at one time he says that after we die, our personalities, memories and history would obviously dissipate, because anyway “what would humans have in that sense that’s worth preserving.”

It can get worse than that, but in general the tricksters really really really hate humans and strive to make us feel bad and worthless.

Himself…. not so much. Sure, you might be corrected, but He seems to find worth even in the most severely flawed of us. (Like any good author.)

Anyway, mostly I advise not believing in these things even if they exist.

It’s part of the reason that I prefer science fiction to fantasy. If you think the “miracles” obey laws of science we just never figured out, it’s safer than if you think you can alter reality with a few words. Because the people and things invested in the later aren’t… right.

Oh, and part of the problem with staying away from this altogether is that it seems to partake of a nature with “gateway writing” which has effects. As in, if you have 3 “gateway” writers working in the same house, the house will be haunted. No, I don’t know why. And it’s a little scary. (Of course, if an unsolved murder happened in the house… well.) Even 2 gateway writers, at times, my having heard anedacta.

No, I have absolutely no idea what to do with that point of data, except I try not to write evil.

The other part of this was that after I put the last Keel book down, I started thinking: the left currently wants to humiliate and destroy and hurt humanity. And they despise humans as humans. Um…..

Anyway: if you have to go walking across that river, stick to the stepping stones. (Why the churches being shut down for a year and a half, effectively, probably are going to come back to bite us, honestly.) But if you can stick to the foggy shore, and ignore the voices that come from the fog. Particularly the ones who pretend to be enlightened and your friends, but obviously don’t like you much.

502 thoughts on “Illusions and Enlightment

  1. Umm…how freaked out should I be by the fact that the exact phrase “woo woo stuff” has been on loop in my head since about 6 am today…and then I go to my mail and read this post????

  2. I think Sarah is referring to Joe Fisher’s “The Siren Call Of Hungry Ghosts”.

    Of course Sarah, if you’re thinking of another book, please let me know. 😉

    Note, it is Very Interesting that there are at least two places in the Bible that talk about “testing the Spirits”.

    IE: Don’t trust All Spirits that come calling. 😦

      1. I just checked it out. The kindle version is close to $15, and that’s ridiculous, and my library doesn’t seem to have a copy. I’ll have to hunt up a used one.

    1. God’s messengers tend to be easily recognized as such, right from the beginning. The Adversary works much more subtly, worming and seducing his way in. That’s why it’s so vital that as soon as you notice, you chop it off right then and there. It’ll probably hurt, but you might just save your soul in time.

      1. From one of C. S. Lewis’ musings, I take the idea that to enter Eternity, we must consent to have the Seven Cardinal Sins and their like ripped out of us like a forest of barbed spears, especially painful since as they are pulled out we’ll try to keep them/pull them back in. Scares me.

      2. I’m not so sure about “easily recognized”, but maybe so. The sense of terror described repeatedly in the Bible I think is true. I don’t know if the “other” kinds of visits would have the same sort of wholesome terror, if that makes any sense.

          1. True. I see what I see, and I can’t unsee it.

            Trivial, but annoying example: “Grade D Meat, But Edible”. Go look it up in any search engine you care to use; It doesn’t exist, never has existed, and anyone who says it existed is a liar. There are no images on the web of such a thing in any sort of packaging you care to look for. And yet, I saw shelves full of cans marked exactly that in the storage closet of my elementary school cafeteria. I cannot unsee them.

              1. Nope. Assholes like you told me that the moment they said “shut up, kid” and closed the storeroom door. But I saw what I saw.

              2. A further rebuttal: Why did I not think about this for 40 years, not hear or see the phrase “Grade D Meat But Edible”, have no reason to think that it was ever a thing, have no idea that it might be important to anyone, except for the memory of reading it and being reprimanded for repeating what I read out loud *on a fvcking food label*–and then when it suddenly pops back to the top of the memory stack, I go do a quick search and find that this very phrase is “debunked”?

                Go to hell.

                1. When my Dad was a meat cutter the grades of beef were prime, choice, good, cutter, and canner. The last two seldom sold whole. The last destined for meat minces etc, but not pet food. Somewhere in the can might have been a grade and explanation, especially if pre about 1956. Cheers.

                  1. I think that’s correct. A label that says “Grade D” does not imply that the FDA gave it a letter grade. The reason for the label is trivia lost in the mists of time, but why does a web search turn up a bunch of misdirection about FDA grades? This was roughly 1980, by the way.

                    1. FDA doesn’t grade meat. USDA grades meat. They do NOT use letter grades, and never have. Further, quality grading is voluntary.


                      There’s also “U.S. Condemned” which is not salable as food and goes into fertilizer. (I only know about this because somewhere around here I have that carcass tag, found at the fertilizer plant.)

                      (I remember being bemused by “canner” and “cutter” and wondering what they were… why did I listen to the daily commodities report when I was a kid? It came on right before Paul Harvey.)

                      As best I can tell from numerous apocrypha using the same phrasing as your canned meat — this might have been Army surplus, using some grading-labeling system internal to the military. Far as I can learn such a product has never been available on the consumer market. But assloads of Army surplus found its way into the early school lunch programs. So if you really want to know, I’d pursue that angle.

                      Also, don’t be a dick.

                    2. Beef grading remained prime, choice, standard, cutter, and canner until 1987.
                      The cattleman’s association requested that “standard” be replaced with “select” for marketing purposes.
                      Which did happen.
                      But the dairy industry is much more politically connected. And so “select” was also significantly broadened to allow dairy cattle to make the grade. (A lot of what you’ll see in the grocery store that doesn’t have an explicit grade is “select” byproduct from dairy operations.)

                      IIRC, until that time, cutter and canner were labeled “not for human consumption”, which government exempted themselves from; especially with respect to the military, prisons, and schools.
                      (We raised beef, you’d have to ask a dairyman for more detail, as it didn’t really affect us. We had a freezer full of beef labeled that way, but it was mostly because we didn’t pay the USDA to grade cattle we slaughtered for our own use.)

                2. Dude. Humans create false memories all the time. Supposedly, every time you “remember” something you’re basically recalling it from storage and then rewriting it back over the previous copy, complete with retcons, inadvertent cross-associations, smoothings-out, fillings-in of details, and outright errors.

                  An article I read about memory recently (and that I think I mentioned here a few weeks ago) described one middle-aged sister recounting a childhood story, and the other sister saying “that’s a true story, but it actually happened to me”. Both had repeatedly heard the story from their parents of something they were too young to clearly remember, and both “remembered” it as happening to them.

                  Until I went back to Alaska last fall to look after my dad, I was absolutely certain that when I was about four years old I nearly slid to my death from under the railing at the observation area at Thunderbird Falls (just north of Anchorage) only to be saved by my dad grabbing my shirt collar and dragging me back up. But when I went there to revisit the site, well, the geography of the trail and the observation area bear no resemblance at all to what I am positive I remembered and I could not possibly have slid the way I thought. Don’t know where that one came from; maybe I slipped and was caught somewhere else at about the same age, maybe I dreamed it, maybe I saw something like it on TV, who knows?

                  Snopes (yeah, I know, but the article is from 2003 and it’s not a political issue) says reports of “Grade D But Edible” go back to 1980. How old were you in 1980, and is it possible that at some point you integrated a FOAF story into an otherwise-real memory of being chivvied out of the forbidden storage room?

                    1. You know, I believe you. But you could be a bit more civil, since this is more like a group conversation.

                  1. Addendum: You didn’t answer the question, you piece of shit. Why did I “invent” a memory at age 8 important enough to be debunked by Snopes 35 years later? Go to hell, you moronic garbage.

                  2. You are a complete idiot. The stories go back to 1980 BECAUSE THAT IS WHEN THOSE LABELS WERE BEING MANUFACTURED. That is when I saw them. That’s not a refutation, that’s a CONFIRMATION.

                  3. I had a teacher in first grade convince me I’d never ridden an elephant. For years I believed it was just my imagination, until my parents showed me the photos we took of it at the carnival.

                    False memories work both ways.

                  4. Humans create false memories all the time. Supposedly, every time you “remember” something you’re basically recalling it from storage and then rewriting it back over the previous copy, complete with retcons, inadvertent cross-associations, smoothings-out, fillings-in of details, and outright errors.

                    Problem being that cuts both ways, and there is a strong tendency of people to be flatly blind to obvious alternative information when they’ve decided that someone is having a false memory.

                    As it was mentioned later, that system of food grading was used by the Army. The US Army, even. Which would be the correct time, and would explain the over-the-top reaction of the adults involved when a kid found that out. My mom saw similar reactions when fire camp in the 70s was feeding them horse meat and she noticed while helping the cook. (That was also not graded through the American system– it came in through Canada. And no, that was probably not incredibly legal, which is why the cook nearly had a heart attack.)

                    It’s really rude to just flatly assume someone is having a false memory, especially when there’s not a very solid reason to do so– and “a single agency in a single country uses a different grading system for meat” is really not a very solid reason.

                    I know that it really pissed me off when we got a red van, and I noticed that there seemed to be a lot of red vans around– so I started doing a running tally of all the vans we drove past. Black, white, metallic, red, blue, yellow and Other (green, dark maroon, Junkyard Collection).
                    I collected data for three months, counting only those vehicles actually on the road. (there were a few yard ornaments)
                    A full quarter were red.
                    At absolutely no point was I ever allowed to finish the sentence to mention that I had actually checked, before people rushed to inform me it was an illusion and I was wrong. And no, they never took it well when I told them I HAD actually checked, because they “knew” that people make false memories all the time and you can’t trust human perception.

                    1. Something like 80% of the vehicles in the U.S. are white, black or red. None of those colors would be my first choice.

                    2. Huh. When/where did you tally red vans? Cuz I can’t remember seeing a red van EVER, but it’s not like I pay huge attention to vans. Most of what I’ve noticed are either plain white (including marginals like Ford’s cream-white and VW’s grungy off-white), hippie-stickered, or commercial-logo’d, or that disgusting Dodge forest-service-green. Musta been selling colorful vans somewhere I never went. 😛

                      Now, of course, I’ll look out the window and see a dozen red vans drive past. Probably fell out of your head and turned real. 😀 (Side thought: Okay, now we know where the red vans came from, but what about their drivers??)

                      For 34 years I drove a Ford pickup in that awful two-tone Puke Green (exact same color as Donnagel). Rare enough that no matter how large the parking lot, it was just about guaranteed to be the ONLY one in its color. Rare enough on the highway to generate comical hanging-out-window-staring from both drivers if another passed. Except for the day when I came back from inside the bookstore… and found another in the same color parked next to mine… likewise with a topper full of dog crates. Except mine was an F100 and it was an F250. Maybe it’s what mine was supposed to grow up to be? imaginary truck in the mirror??

                      Anyway, yeah, we not only remember what ain’t so, we forget what was, and every time it comes up reinforces whichever way the brain decided to record it.

                      BTW the problem with horsemeat is not that it’s illegal, but that the inspection funding that got yanked, so slaughter for sale for human consumption in the U.S. is prohibited.


                      A significant proportion of horses are unsafe or unfit for riding (rank, crippled, aged out, etc.) and this ill-considered kowtowing to “animal rights” idiots made them into a liability, and pulled the rug out from under the grade horse market. (Bottom tier now worse than valueless, tier above now valued at the bottom.)

                    3. The color difference is a known regional thing, with there being areas that have, say, zero yellows that didn’t move with their owners– and I think you’re missing the minivans in your mental tally. 😉

                      Side thought: Okay, now we know where the red vans came from, but what about their drivers??

                      Considering I did my tally in the Seattle blob, I don’t know but can they please go back? (really, really bad drivers, like “middle aged lady in office clothes who clearly hasn’t slept well in a months, driving an SUV piled with soccer girls” level bad driver)

                      I’m aware of the horse meat inspection trick, and I’ve been pissed about it for years at this point– was the inspiration for the idea I’ve suggested before that any law which requires a good or service that does not exist should be suspended, with all production during that time grandfathered in when the good or service becomes available.

                      DO NOT go looking for news stories after one of their earlier “make it illegal to euthanize or sell for slaughter any horses” games, it’s not good for one’s view of humanity. Short version, when you make it impossible to ethically euthanize a large, expensive animal, there are unethical steps taken instead.

            1. K, I now want to smack Snopes once again….

              Along with a large section of the internet.

              DO THEY REALIZE THAT USDA IS NOT THE ONLY GRADING AGENCY ON EARTH?!?! There are even private ones. Saying “it doesn’t exist and never has, because the USDA uses totally different words” means NOTHING.

              Which is why “Grade A” is used for marketing, for heaven’s sake, along with “natural”.

              1. Don’t forget ‘organic’. No matter how much you might want to.

                John Ringo has a few words to say about ‘organic’ in ‘The Last Centurion’.

                1. I didn’t forget it, “Certified Organic” is a legal category.

                  That’s why I keep copy-pasting links to the sprays that can be used when folks believe the marketing lies about it not involving any “chemicals.”

            2. When a college freshman in 1983, one night a month was steak night. They served the toughest, thinnest, most tasteless steaks. When those steaks were delivered to the cafeteria, they came in boxes labeled Grade D, Edible.

            3. K, found out the Snopes debunking is EVEN DUMBER THAN I HAD THOUGHT.

              The Federal Meat Grading?

              It’s voluntary. Has been made involuntary twice, during WWII and Korea.


              So the debunking makes no freaking sense to anybody who did basic due diligence– which, in fairness, it’s not NEWS that Snopes fails to do that, even back before the owner got in the habit of hiring college girls he was dating.

  3. Hmm. I like fantasy – but like you say for SF, I prefer it where the magic is another Law of Reality that takes specific training to make work. Like electricity, water-power, etc. Because yes, there’s spooky stuff out there, and I sometimes think H.P. Lovecraft was a little odder Odd than the rest of us, but not wrong.

    In which case someone has to be prepared if one of those Things wants a snack.

    …I prefer writing the fictional Prepared For That characters. Me, I’m probably hiding under a blanket with salt to throw if one of those shows up.

    There’s definitely bad vibes in the air lately. Too much people not seeing each other as human beings, cascading into badness.

    1. This. I think what attracted me to urban fantasy (besides the “easy” setting [hah! Little did I know . . . ]) is that it lets me safely deal with “OK, how do you deal with this kind of stuff if you are not in a position to call in clergy?” Not that you shouldn’t when things reach a certain level, but more how do you recognize stuff so you can get away before clerical aid is needed? Plus I can get away with a lot more snark and smart-assery in UF than I can in my blue-collar fantasy. I need to vent, yes?

      I know what I personally have encountered, and what I believe. I’m not going to question people who believe differently, so long as we all agree that Evil exists, and is Not To Be Played With. Call it resonances from something we don’t understand yet (science), evil spirits, or mental imbalances writ large (science and like attracting like), but don’t brush it off as imaginary. I can work with that. The people who refuse to believe in Evil, well . . . Lunch for someone or something, I greatly fear.

        1. “Do Not Call Up That Which Ye Cannot Put Down.” Early training. And humans usually find out what they can’t put down the hard way.

          I remember a barracks bull session during my USMC days in Japan. Things were getting very weird (cold drafts in a closed window and door barracks, etc.) For some reason – possibly Someone prompting- I announced is a loud clear voice “My father Abraham was a priest of HaShem, and I am a priest after him. Instant normalcy.

    2. I prefer fantasy myself, but my magic has to have…consistency, I guess? Waving your hands and magic words may do *something*, but there had better be repeatability or at least a pattern. “A wizard did it” will make me wall the book.

      1. Fantasy has to have a convincing appearance of consistency.

        The more your characters control it, OR the more it solves problems, the more consistency.

      2. Don’t forget Niven’s Corollary to Clarke’s Law: “Sufficiently advanced magic is indistinguishable from technology.”

        Wen Spencer’s Elfhome series is a great example.

    3. I tend to prefer fantasy as well, though coming primarily from a JRPG background the mechanics aren’t something I give a lot of thought to beyond what they’re shown to be in similar settings. Seems appropriate for the thread that the character demanding the most attention is a badass demon hunter/exorcist with a quick sword and a few eerie qualities of his own. That ironically had a lot bleed in from the half-demon villainous rival of a half-demon demon hunter from a video game series…

      1. We have lots of RPGamers in the family. I used to play D&D back in the late 70’s but I only play historical now. My sons are into Warhamer, I remember when they were just a shop in Nottingham. Sigh. Simple rule, no satanism. period, No chaos space marines, no dark elves, none of that in my house. Orks, are fine since they’re not evil per se and so dakka dakka dakka. but the rest. Not in my house. I’m not all that much a fan of the regular space marines for that matter.

        Earlier I banned heavy metal and rap the first because I didn’t want any satanism in my house, the second because I didn’t want any violent misogyny in my house. I couldn’t be bothered going through and inspecting each one and so banned it all. Rap, outside pop rap which seems to be inescapable, is still out but my boys have made a case for a certain amount of metal.

        1. There exist Christian metal and historical metal.. quite anti-evil if you ask me.

          Rap, tho, there’s no excuse for. Remember, the C in RAP is silent!

          1. ::pounces on the excuse to post Yet Another Dan Vasc video::

            Doing a singing geek-out over recording a song he loved as a kid… *with two of the guys who sang it then*…. Guy also covered “Joy” back when his accent was thicker, although that was more of a straight cover than his usual “metal cover of [song]”.

            1. Any excuse 😀 Don’t know the song (or the other guys) at all, but that’s really good, thanks.

              Only reason I know Christian rock exists is cuz out in the “radio silence” area in the SoCal high desert, some repeater station that played it was the =only= AM station I could get in my truck. Pretty good music, and didn’t run any truly stupid ads.

              East of the mountains, no matter where I drove at night I could always get that 50KW truckers station out of Albuquerque… seems to be gone now.

        2. >> “Earlier I banned heavy metal”

          Somewhere, Razorfist feels an eye twitch and knows not why… 😛

      2. >> “the character demanding the most attention is a badass demon hunter/exorcist with a quick sword and a few eerie qualities of his own.”

        I get the Devil May Cry reference that follows, but who’s this?

        1. Max, who’s shown up in several of my vignettes, took a lot more inspiration from Vergil than I realized. I had no idea how much until I started getting back into DMC lore and found out that Vergil’s signature Judgment Cut move is known as Dimension Cut (Jigenzan) in Japan, a name I’d given one of Max’s signature sword techniques. Granted, the behind-the-back katana sheathing in this video is a little too flashy for him and he’d rely more on his shadow phasing to thin out enemy numbers instead of facing them all head-on like this but he can definitely get his anime-style iaido-using badass on too…

  4. One of the things that I’ve been learning when I’m doing my research into the woo-woo stuff is this-

    The woo-woos are not primates for the most part, and they do not have the same logical biases that us primates have. Or the same understanding of the limitations of primates. Even if they look like us at times. Especially if they look at us at times. This makes them dangerous to us primates, because they are operating in the realm of unpredictability, especially since we can’t study them and get a good sense of understanding in the realm of “not how I would do things, but I can see how they would do it that way.”

    (That, and an odd fetish for cows and anal probing is common.)

    The more I read about it, it has this feeling of someone trying to externalize a mental health issue. Bring it outside of their own head, because if it’s outside…maybe they can figure it out. I was listening to a few people on YouTube talking about Lovecraft and you got that feeling that explained the monsters Lovecraft wrote about. If he could put them on the page, pull them out of his head, maybe he could give himself space to think without them.

    1. The more I read about it, it has this feeling of someone trying to externalize a mental health issue.

      A decent fraction of them are going to be sufferers of variously termed “mystical experience”, “theophony”, or “brain explosion”.

      The ways those can go bad are uncountable. And in the right conditions they can go bad in a way that destroys many people who weren’t patient zero (typically by founding a cult, or if it survives long enough a religion). Highly recommended to never have such an event.

      But the joker in the deck is that you don’t get to choose if you are going to have one. Something someday may reach into your head and go *POKE* and that’s that, handle the situation as best as you can; good can come from it. Having some sort of moral foundation helps. But anything you would do to try and eliminate the possibility just makes it more likely to trigger on something else and having nothing to stabilize on.

      1. Which, IMHO, proves that human brains were made to government contract and to the lowest bidder. Failure states like this are far too common.

        (That, and stay away from the funky mushrooms. Rarely does anything good come from it.)

        1. (That, and stay away from the funky mushrooms. Rarely does anything good come from it.)

          The early hippies *weren’t wrong* when they were blathering about all the “expand your mind” bullshit.

          I’m sure there were even people who were helped by it. There is enough human variation that you can always find a case like that.

          But they were playing with a bizarre mix of fire and candy. Fire because on top of the dangers of theophony you have the dangers of the drugs themselves. Candy, because most of the triggered experiences were empty nonsense that went nowhere, like making a meal out of cotton candy.

          Though I suppose “empty nonsense” is one of the more benign failure modes….

          1. They were playing with things that tended to poke the boundary spaces of the human brain and it’s often in the boundary spaces that the rules start to fail. And fail badly. (Remembering what happened with the F-104 Starfighter when you hit those boundary spaces, as Chuck Yeagar learned all too well.)

            Dad had stories of the guys that were in the Haight in the early ’70s because the came out for the Summer of Love and all of that stuff and they had the wrong (or too much of the right) ways to expand their heads and they fried something in their brains.

            And, you hear about some of the other failure-mode stories. Like the guys that did some basic-intermediate mind relaxation techniques and something just…popped. One of the tragic stories was of a guy that was very normal, but did something (I think he was in a relaxation/controlled feedback exercise) and afterwards he was almost completely unable to handle human interactions for longer than a few minutes because his brain would just go wrong when he did. Worked as the night clerk at a hotel, if I recall right, because it was the only real place that he could work.

            1. mmhmm

              I don’t delve very deep into the history of any of that; am content to learn what happens to fall in my lap.

              I was ridiculously lucky in that when one triggered for me the effect was to give the needed fuel to get my life out of a rut, and also to get a very clear idea of what I wanted along certain axes. About as benign as could possibly be.

              1. I got curious about some of this, especially when the whole “recovered memory” thing became more common. And, a fascination with cults-mostly because I want to know what the signs are to stay away (I grew up near enough to where Jim Jones set up his first church to wonder where those landmines are).

            2. I do know that the Unabomber was subjected to high-stress psychological experiments when he was a Harvard student, and that probably didn’t help with his developing schizophrenia.

              1. I see that the Wiki article can’t come out and say it was MKUltra, but the approach seems familiar. A prog-rock station (really!) in ‘Frisco did some research stories on the program in 1976, and the sense of pure evil came through.

                I have a hard time considering the CIA to be populated with heros. Didn’t help that a boss at [redacted] was proud of having worked for The Company. His well-deserved nickname was Fuckhead. One of the happier days of my life was quitting that job.

                1. I’ve been listening to the audiobook of ‘Legacy of Ashes, the History of the CIA’ and been flabbergasted by not only the sheer failures to adhere to the mission of collecting intelligence, but the incompetence of the off-books warfare.

                  1. Incompetence in a government agency, that’s crazy talk.

                    I remember reading that after the Fall of France in 1940, among the greatest military victories ever, the German army relieved 10-15% of their generals for underperformance. After being driven out from Afghanistan by a bunch of medieval savages, the only person who has lost their job is a light colonel who resigned in disgust.

                    Incompetence in a government agency?

                    1. “the German army relieved 10-15% of their generals for underperformance. ”

                      That was also the German Army that considered 1% fatalities in training to be a Good Thing. Which is one reason the German Army performed as well as it did; it apparently had a very good NCO corps.

                    2. It had, proportionately very few officers. Platoons were usually commanded by NCO’s. Make of that what you will.

                    3. And the brass wanted a mental evaluation and I’ve heard a suggestion about a court martial…for the LCol.

              2. There’s some experiments where you have to be VERY careful when setting up the initial conditions. What they described in a lot of these psychology experiments are dangerous initial conditions.

                1. It is fairly common for just-barely-adults to manifest schizophrenia, and a lot more common if exposed to cannabis. So it may not have been just the meditation exercises.

                  One of the more horrible casualties of the Sixties was a female religious order of teachers based in California, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary. They thought the whole order should get psychologically analyzed to improve their mental health. The shrink, Carl Rogers, thought the best thing he could do with religious sisters was to get them to talk several times a week about sexual hang ups, and encourage them to do whatever, while often inadvertently creating psych problems by suggestion. Many people have claimed that teachers they knew well became different people under this “treatment.”

                  The only parts of the order that survived were people who did not participate in the sessions, and the other provinces outside California. There is an “Immaculate Heart Community” that mostly does activism.

                  The purpose of the order was/is to rebuild broken societies through women’s education….

                  Anyhow, yes, sometimes stirring up and creating “inner demons” is as dangerous as actual demons, and sometimes the actual demons seem to prey on such people and make things worse.

          2. One of the explanations for lost ancient magic could be entheogens. That some prehistory cutlure cultivated a plant whose chemical compounds were specifically effective at unlocking black magic power/vulnerability to possessing malignancies. They get wiped out by somewhat wiser neighbors, but the plant still exists.

            So, when other societies become wealthy in calories, forget those lessons, and start meddling with those plants again it can go very badly.

            Basically, the sort of idea I can’t let myself get invested in, because I would take it to a very bad place.

            OTOH, might explain a lot about modern India.

            1. This might also explain far too many places on the fringes of the world where humans become rather inhuman monsters of one kind or another. Going too far away from the streetlights means that things will get into your head that roam in the night.

              1. I know some of my own issues enough to know that I have to be very careful handling the theory that Pelosi, Biden, etc., are animated by evil spirits not present when they were born.

                I believe that mental illness is a thing that can exist independently of magical phenomena. I understand some of mental illness as being a thing of chemicals.

                I have strong fears of mental illness, and with the chemical theory, I am only very touchy about what things people put in their bodies.

                This is strong enough that it would be very bad for me to believe I have a secular reason to try to police what magical influences people open themselves to.

                I also believe that people can choose evil, and do not have any particular hang ups with that model, except frustration with those that deny it. (Fundamentally, I deeply believe that I can choose evil. Even if I am unsure if my current choices amount to choosing evil. There are worse, or at least more obvious to me, evils that I have chosen to avoid, and have put work into avoiding.)

                So, I look at drugs, ‘natural’ mental illness, and the choice of evil, and may be refusing to see the other stuff.

                There’s a bunch of stuff I can’t prove is impossible, that I still get uncomfortable when considering, etc.

                Perhaps if human behavior doesn’t scare the willies out of you, you are not paying attention.

                1. Human behavior both amazes and scares me far too often. And, as someone that is scared of slipping down that slope of mental illness as well…this has not been a good eighteen months and some change for me as well. Therapist might be dead, hasn’t responded (could have been Crow Flu, could have been anything) and getting one through my new medical has been…interesting. Been delaying because I was hoping to not have to deal with Zoom and I bit the bullet…for an appointment in November.

                  I suspect it’s going to be rough the next few weeks-Federal unemployment will be running out soon, and probably most people on State will be coming close afterwards. I just can’t get any job-they’ll probably stuff me into warehouse or something similar and I’ve had enough family members with back issues to know that I won’t be immune to that.

                  It’s all just “keep calm and bugger on” right now, I suppose.

                2. I mean, if someone told me that Pelosi et al had actually made a pact with evil spirits…I think my only response would be “Well, that explains a LOT.” (Right down to the not actually understanding how humans really work, because that lot doesn’t understand how free will works.)

              2. There are some philosophies that go “Oh pick me! Pick me!” to the boogie man. Whether all of them know they’re willing acomplices of evil, I don’t know. but some most certianly do.

                  1. Can atest… and some opened the door to the Devil knowing who it was and what it meant. No posession… willing ALEAGENCE. *shudders*

                    1. “Some people have to be broken to let my kind in.
                      “Some people have to be tricked.
                      “Yashi, on the other hand, laid out a banquet and invited me in. And, it’s been a wonderful ride with him, superb teamwork.”

                    2. Doubt it actually works this way ever, but:

                      Exorcist : “You called for an exorcism?”
                      Human : “No.”
                      Demon inhabiting human : “I DID! Get me out of here. Send me back to Hell. Please!”

                    3. Angel did it, I’ve Got You Under My Skin, and the demon’s quote is chilling in a world of monsters-

                      “Do you know what the most frightening thing in the world is? Nothing. That’s what I found in the boy. No conscience, no fear, no humanity—just a black void. I couldn’t control him, I couldn’t get out, I had never even manifested until you brought me forth. I just sat there and watched as he destroyed everything around him. Not from a belief in evil, not for any reason at all. That boy’s mind was the blackest hell I’ve ever known.”

                    4. That’s the premise behind one of the most enduring, and evil, villains in the Dresden Files series–Nicodemus, who is partners with a fallen angel. And yeah, they might well to fighting Outsiders, and think that they are saving the world thereby, but they are still evil beings.

            2. So you’ve read Dan Simmons’ Song of Kali

              (Good story, but not one that contains a seed of hope. And you will never drag me to Calcutta.)

              1. IT was a creepy one for sure. I always have to read some good horror in October and picked that one. You have to wonder what horror’s going to turn up next time that someone decides to play along with that song…

                  1. I think I’m going to go for that Hungry Ghosts book this time, actually. Sounds like it’ll be fitting for the time period and I’ll be sure to keep an eye on the cats to see if anything seems off to them. If anything can penetrate R and C’s snuggle-locked brains of course… Might have to watch L instead.

                    1. Heh. I pretty much gave up on reading horror after my kids started sneaking up behind me and demanding my attention any time they saw I was getting immersed.

  5. Anyway, mostly I advise not believing in these things even if they exist.

    It’s part of the reason that I prefer science fiction to fantasy. If you think the “miracles” obey laws of science we just never figured out, it’s safer than if you think you can alter reality with a few words. Because the people and things invested in the later aren’t… right.

    Good advice, even if like me you don’t believe in any of it. Because there are few things which more reliably drive a person insane than this type of magical thinking. And if they did exist the best way of dealing with the problem would be to live the sort of live you should have been living anyway. Ironically the main contender for the drives-people-insane prize is best described as Ideological Possession. Yeah…

    Slightly adjacent rant:

    Annoyance: people who call themselves “Christians”, and yet if you stop and listen to what their stated beliefs are / what they like to talk about, they would be better classified as “Satan worshipers who think the god of this universe is evil”. Because they attribute 100% of available power to devils and thing God is chained up in a corner at Satan’s will.

    Naturally these often intersect with Church Karens. Because of course they do.

    1. Yeah. I grew up with the more normal stripe of fundies (Bob Jones/Bill-Gothard-before-he-got-caught types). Knew a lot of really, really, down-to-the-bone *good* people, but the amount of restrictions they believe God labors under made me want to cry. (Or explode from the logic bombs. The same God who blinded Paul/UNblinded countless beggars/made a freakin’ DONKEY talk…will not deign to contact you unless you have followed every single rule? Or won’t speak to you at ALL if you’re a woman, but only through what your father or husband says?) The out-there fundies, OTOH, make me want to scream and run.

      1. Thing is, it may be reasonable to conclude that talking to God is clergy magic, and that God arbitrarily made clergy magic work only for men. Because magic does not have to conform to the ordinary logic of society.

        At this point, I am talking entirely in ignorance, so…

        1. Heh. From the inside, the answer appears to be “because Eve”. From the outside, I always wondered at the close correspondence between “what God has wanted humanity to do for the past 6000 years” and “social mores in the 1950s Midwest”. 🙂 (I once blew my best friend’s mind by inquiring as to whether she believed Jesus Christ had an “exposed collar and ears” haircut.)

          1. I think that from what we know of customs and Judaism in Jesus’ day, and the dedication of Nazirites, it is unlikely that His hair was anything but long, and possibly scraggly. Add to that the idea that His physiognomy probably more resembled Sirhan Sirhan than Tab Hunter and one can really mess people’s minds.

          2. Heh. From the inside, the answer appears to be “because Eve”.

            My smart-mouth brain pictures St. Archangel Gabriel standing there, tapping his trumpet very meaningfully, with a desire to have a Conversation about the ONE PERSON in the Bible whose reaction to seeing an angel was a polite hello, rather than “AAAAAAAAHHHH!!!!”

            1. Yup a 13-17 year old girl (best guess) had more guts than most of the various Abrahamic fathers and the Prophets had throughout history. Perhaps Gabriel toned it down for the mother of the incarnation?

              1. If they could tone it down– without going full incognito– wouldn’t they have done it earlier?

                My guess is there was a difference in kind between Mary and all the rest– skipping my reasoning, they weren’t baptized, they hadn’t had the original sin washed away. Mary, on the other hand, was specially prepared by God to be able to say Yes to being Jesus’ mother– the ‘Full of Grace’ mentioned in the greeting.


                I am still just tickled pink at the whole thing where this teen girl is, as you point out, totally OK with this when her cousin-in-law the priest was both NOT cool, and then got kinda rude on top of it. 😀

                1. Well, Gabriel was a lot more patient with Mary than with Zachariah. He responded to Mary’s question of “How can this be?” with an explanation as well as a concrete fact she could check out to be sure that her conversation with the angel had actually happened. Whereas he responded to Zachariah’s question of “How can this be?” with “Because God, of course. Shut up. And stay shut up for the next nine months.”

                  Then again, a lot more was being asked of Mary (“get pregnant out of wedlock, so that even though you’re a virgin, everyone in town will think of you as a filthy whore and maybe try to stone you as an adulteress”) than of Zachariah (“deal with the fact that your most fervent prayer has been answered, just a little later than you expected”).

                  1. From memory of geek explaining the implications in that time and place, her phrasing was also a lot more polite than his– if I remember the implication correctly, it was “gimme proof of this expected, hoped for but given up on thing that you just SAID is going to happen” vs “well, I believe you, can you tell me how exactly that’s going to work since I know no man?”

        2. Except for the women that God talks to in the Bible. Starting with Eve in the Garden, continuing with (off the top of my head) Deborah, Mary, and Huldah. Sure there aren’t as many, but to say God only talks to men, you need only one example to break the claim.

          1. Yup. Gothard had some…interesting…ideas. (And, as my neither late nor lamented father says, “who tries to take sex advice from a virgin?”)

            1. Ooh, good catch! I seem to remember an old lady prophet in the Jesus childhood narrative–

              :::pauses, goes back over what she just wrote, giggles:::

              …. So, Christian Fundamentalists who ignore every time we have Jesus talking to women in the Bible, or that are forgetting that bit of fundamental Christian theology…?

              1. Oh no no no, now we have the HOLY SPIRIT since Jesus is no longer physical and doesn’t speak out loud. And apparently the Holy Spirit doesn’t like gurlz. *snort* Gothard had some amazing verbal twists going in his time.

                1. *rubs sinuses* At least he didn’t do it via Catholic theology, so no apparitions… but oy.

                  Is this the “they really meant grape juice” guy?

                  1. Yup. Because God is a God of Life and would have nothing to do with the horrible horrible alcohol, which is produced by fermentation, which is a process of DEATH. (not making this up)

                    1. Doctor Arensky: “Yeast. A microorganism that excretes alcohol as the same sort of by-product as urea, the stuff that makes the strong ammonia smell, in human urine. So what you’re drinking is, in effect, yeast piss.”

                    2. …is that a weird backwoods Mormon interpretation of the Word of Wisdom? Kinda sounds like it. Man, people come up with some weird, weird s**t…

                      Me, I always figure that it’s a NO because of the problems with rampant alcoholism these days.

                    3. >> “Because God is a God of Life and would have nothing to do with the horrible horrible alcohol”

                      Didn’t Jesus have a somewhat famous party trick involving wine?

                  2. AAARRGGHH. Ancient Hebrew lacked a word differentiating between grape juice and wine. If a distinction needed to be may, it was “new wine” and “old wine”. Hence the commandment not to sell new wine in old bottles. But there are numerous mentions of “Wine and other strong drink”. Presumably beer, since I don’t think they distilled yet.

                    1. Honestly, that grapes are so ferment-prone that there wasn’t a WORD for “grape juice” before pasteurization is just incredibly cool…..

                2. It’s a wonder his brain didn’t explode when someone pointed out that “Hagia Sophia” is a feminine form….

                  1. Generally, folks that far off of historically standard Christian tradition hold that the visible church went off the rails, generally pretty early although specific details vary*, and it was only visibly re-established when their tradition became publicly recognized.

                    * It tends to get earlier the better access they have to early church writings.

              2. Anna, a widow who had spent something like 65 years hanging in the Temple, praying and fasting. I think she was 84.
                My question is, if Christ took all our sins on Himself and offers forgiveness and new life, wouldn’t this apply to Eve, so that all the restrictions on her daughters would be rescinded?
                I suspect part of it was Paul, and he was influenced by Jewish attitudes toward women. One of Jesus many “differences,” was he talked to women as equals.

                1. If I remember the letter that it’s usually aimed at correctly, the ladies in question were rescued temple prostitutes.

                  They HAD a way to interact with men, but it wasn’t a particularly USEFUL way for a Christian woman to be interacting….

                  My question is, if Christ took all our sins on Himself and offers forgiveness and new life, wouldn’t this apply to Eve

                  There is some really, really nice artwork out there of Jesus breaking down the Gates of Hell and leading out those imprisoned within– with Adam and Eve at the front of the line.

                  Now, there are arguments for restricting the priesthood to men, many of them tied to the Bridegroom and those choices Jesus made in who He had go do the being-a-priest ministry vs other ministries, but they sure as shootin’ don’t try to limit who He’s going to talk to and they are NOT based on some nonsense about Eve!

                  1. For art, look up “The Harrowing of Hell.” I really like the one in the museum in Colmar, France, where Old Scratch is smooshed under a big heavy door as Jesus walks in and releases Adam, Eve, Abraham, and the other patriarchs.

                    1. Re: Anna of the tribe of Asher, the widow and prophetess greeting baby Jesus — Asher as a tribe was supposed to be notable for beautiful and smart women, including a lot of prophetesses.

                      Asher is also notable in Jewish lore for Serah daughter of Asher, who allegedly lived through the entire Egyptian episode (because there are Bible verses that could be interpreted this way), and either died and kept coming back to visit, or was assumed into Heaven alive and keeps coming back, or possibly just lives on earth with tons of powers. Whichever way it is, legend has her popping into rabbinic classes to explain stuff she lived through.

        3. But that’s wrong because Deity obviously is a good being, so he obviously agrees with all of the good people, and can’t be an icky sexist…

          Blah blah blah

          As CS Lewis wrote about his fictional stand-in for Christ, “Aslan is not a tame lion.”. We don’t set the rules. And the rules are under no compunction to follow the dictates of modern morality.

          1. No, but they would be internally consistent, so if you have to keep explaining why various lady prophets must’ve not REALLY been talking to God, or how a first century Jew totally never drank wine….

            1. Or how the Song of Solomon is metaphorically talking about Christ’s relationship to the Church, because obviously the Bible would never make any references to the erotic.

              But for some reason the metaphor is using erotic language in its *TILT TILT TILT TILT TILT*

              1. Catholics and most other folks:
                They’re not mutually exclusive….

                You should see how much some of the artwork of religious ladies contemplating Christ freak out some of these folks. Usually named “The Ecstasy of Saint ____” and they have to start making theories that it’s really something else, because of course absolutely nobody before them was familiar with anything erotic, and that goes double for religious people.

                1. Well, it is a different mode of the erotic, because there are Obvious Big Differences between loving God and loving a human spouse. Thinking it is the same mode is a quick trip to the insane asylum, which is why “Jesus is my boyfriend” songs are dangerous (IMHO).

                  Song of Songs uses a very elaborate use of Scripture imagery and direct Bible quotes to talk about the relationship of God and Israel, as well as the Temple, and even Israel’s geography. That is the literal sense. The human erotic stuff is the playfulness of the poet, as well as the marketing through rhetoric. But honestly, a lot of the images contemporarily would have been insulting and not erotic, if they weren’t set in the Scripture context. To the point that one scholar guy thinks it is a mocking parody (but he is wrong, IMHO).

                  Modern people are very uncomfortable with a love that is not between humans only, so the view of the book that existed all through history is now pooh-poohed. But given how many rabbis viewed it as the apotheosis and holy of holies of the Bible, it was never viewed as a wholly human thing. It is also one of the foundation books of Christian mysticism. So yeah, if you want human eroticism, you are reading the wrong book of poems. (Although every Bible book has applicability to every human life.)

                  It is almost impossible to find modern scholarly published books about this, though. Which means the scholarly fashion is about to turn all the way around.

                  1. Well, it is a different mode of the erotic, because there are Obvious Big Differences between loving God and loving a human spouse.

                    That should be obvious to anyone with a not-horribly-deformed-sense of relationships.

                    ::Looks over at the people who can’t see basic friendship without assuming f-ing is going on:: They really, really aren’t in that category, sadly.

                  2. ::Sighs::

                    I just can’t get it out of my head, how unspeakably lonely the idea of being unable to imagine intimacy beyond the purely sexual……

                    1. Nah. Emotional shallowness seems to make all the instances I’ve met — fortunately online — oblivious.

                      Though it have been being young enough that they could always get laid.

                    2. I don’t know, or maybe I just run into the folks who aren’t in that “young enough” zone anymore– there seems to be a strong vibe of… not quite desperation, but close enough.

                    3. Most of them have been told (for a couple of generations now) over and over that sex is the ONLY thing that matters, so of course they aren’t sure how to form intimacy without it. :/

                    4. Among the under 60s, there seems to be a chain of ideas and attitudes that could lead to strange conclusions and bad results.

                      1. A person should self-actualize, no matter what the cost.
                      2. Females deserve consequence-free sexual satisfaction, that men seem to enjoy.
                      3. Contraception inhibits the self-actualization of spontaneity.
                      4. Therefore, females need abortion on demand, as denying it denies them 1, 2, and 3.

                      One thing I have in common with former President Clinton–I’d like to see abortion legal, safe, and RARE. I don’t hold that abortion has NO place in society.

                    5. Clinton, as with most of what he said, claimed whatever made it so he could more easily get what he wanted with the lowest possible consequences.

                      He didn’t care about safe, legal or rare, the “she’s pregnant so she committed suicide” solution would have fit him just fine.

                      Which is a pretty fitting defense for literal dehumanizing of vulnerable humans– Clinton was good at finding victims that couldn’t successfully fight back.

                    6. I see I tripped over the generalization I dropped on the floor. Musta been the glaring reflection off my children.

              2. ::chuckles:: I will say this for my early-morning seminary teachers in our little LDS ward in NE Oklahoma when I was a teen: they basically said “Look, there’s a lot said about this being some kind of metaphor, but…it’s not. It’s really not. Yes, there is porn in the Bible. And we’re gonna skip it, because I don’t want to explain what all these, ahem, allusions mean.” Also because they knew if they DID, every teenage boy and not a few of the girls would spend the whole class sniggering instead of learning anything…and better to just let them do that on their own time (and figuring out what those allusions meant)

              3. Tangentially, my little wordy brain was playing around with the SoS descriptions of “your hair is like a flock of goats running down the mountainside”, which always puzzled me as an erotic/romantic image. (Palm tree with the fruits on top, not so much. :D) And then I went “oh yeah, pastoral society.” Goats = wealth, running down the mountainside = beautiful moving wealth, so it’s the equivalent of “your hair is like a waterfall of gold”. It’s a small thing, but it made me smug, because I *love* getting shaken out of my perspective like that.

                1. That actually seems to be one of the geographical descriptions, IIRC. It’s kind of funny, because the text directly relates descriptions of the Bride’s body to Scriptural geographical descriptions of Israel. (And this would be one reason the one scholar dude was arguing that the whole thing was a mocking parody of both Scripture and love poetry.) It’s a high-larious and cool poetic idea, very much like Andrew Marvell.

                  (That’s what actually is turning the tide, in scholarly circles. This guy’s papers on how all these lines are Scriptural references and therefore must be mockery of God and Israel, is starting to convince modern scholars that it really is a love poem about God and Israel, just like the rabbis and early Christians said that it was.)

            2. Eh… I’m not referring to that. I’m referring to how people often try and shoehorn modern sensibilities into all things religious. God does what he wants to. If he wants to talk to one person, he can. If he wants to talk to another, he can. He can also change things up since he’s the one running the show. He knows the rules, after all, and why he’s done things certain ways at certain times. And it’s expected that there will be changes in some things due to the times. Most agree these days that Paul’s (I think he’s the one who said it) admonition for women to cover their heads no longer applies.

              But there is a tendency for people to try and take modern sensibilities, and try and change their church to match those sensibilities. That’s something that troubles me.

              1. But there is a tendency for people to try and take modern sensibilities, and try and change their church to match those sensibilities. That’s something that troubles me.

                Since we have Jesus utterly lighting into the guts of some of the big-time preachers of His lifetime for exactly that…..

              2. So far as I know/believe, God has TWO hard and fast rules: one, free will is inviolate. Two, no unclean thing can enter into His presence, which loops back to free will and the fact that we have to choose to become clean via the Atonement.

                However, neither is he going to bow to the whims of modern (or ancient) sensibilities.

        4. It is simpler than that. The men are the face and play in the hierarchical structures, while the women work in the background along informal, undocumented routes.

          It means when the purges happen the men die, and the women hide them.

          1. Um… Traditionally in the Catholic Church, it has been acknowledged that mysticism is “easier” for women, even outside of religious orders. Which is why there are a ton of women saints who are mystics. I am totally croggled at the idea that any church would think that women can’t have a direct relationship with any person of the Trinity, because it’s like saying that women can’t do laundry.

            1. One of the non-binding theories of “Why Only Male Priests” I was taught– with warning that it was applied psychology, even close to head-ology to borrow Pratchett’s phrase, much closer to looking at the health outcomes of the old testament restrictions on diet and such– is exactly BECAUSE women are so much more naturally religious.

              Guys need a dedicated role or they’ll slip away, but GIVE them that and they’re solid; this can be observed in parishes above a very small size, where they allow female altar servers having about the same number of altar servers, because the boys only volunteer if forced. If it’s boys only, the boys will actually do it, although occasionally an man has to sub in.

              Doesn’t have to be THE reason, to be A reason.

              (I’m pretty gobsmacked over the stuff I found when tooling around for more from that guy, too; it’s….creative?)

              1. That’s kind of the prevailing theory in the LDS church as to why men hold the priesthood and women don’t. Dunno how much credence I give it (after all, it’s just a theory). I mean, it also says in one of our books of scripture that men, given even a little bit of power, are wont to abuse it (and it’s not clear that it’s only referring to the male gender, either)–which I think is a pretty clear-eyed view of human nature in general. So an alternative theory for me would be…an awful lot of the time, women in a position of power over others seem to go even MORE crazy-wrong than the average male. ::eyes people like Commie-la and Pelosi::

                In the end though, God says “I want you to do it this way until I tell you otherwise” so…you do it that way, even if you don’t know all the reasons WHY.

            2. Ah. I’m coming out of the Orthodox tradition, so I’m not sure we make even that distinction.

              I think the closest we come to that is in the traditions of the Theotokos. My understanding is she was, in many respects, the mother of the church, but the church also kept her out of the firing line. Despite her being active in pretty much the entire New Testament, about the only think she says is to do whatever Christ asked them to do. Even at the resurrection, she is clearly one of the first to the tomb, but her identity is deliberately misdirected, mostly to keep her protected.

              I think one of the ideals of the church is men are supposed to emulate Christ, while women look towards the Theotokos as their role model.

              I’ll have to check, but I recall many of the apostles were killed, but she reposed at a ripe age, and bodily carried into heaven. As I recall, someone tried to push over her coffin and a angel cut off their hands on the spot.

              That also makes sense when one remembers that Christ was also the one who filled every jot of the law, both in the letter and the spirit. That includes the duties of a son to their mother.

              1. If you look at some of the cutesy circumlocutions (“a man” “the disciple Jesus loved” “another follower” “the women”) about naming names in the new Testament, there’s a lot of avoiding the names and current locations for folks who were currently alive and that folks like the then-future Saint Paul would really like to get their hands on.

                Mama Mary would definitely be on that list.

                (Note, I am not the one who noticed this, it was pointed out to me by a bible geek)

                1. That makes sense.

                  Also…I got my mind blown a while back when listening to a podcast with a couple of biblical scholars (both of whom were women) and one of them pointed out that the Gospel of Mark is now thought to have been intended to be *performed* which is why it’s so short and also the disciples trend more idiot than in the other gospels–because they were there as both audience-surrogate (and possibly to produce a bit of a laugh). (and of course, remaining vague about identities because, as you say, people like not-yet-renamed-Paul would have loved to get their hands on certain people and/or their descendants.)

                  I mean…given how few people were literate then, it makes sense. Still, I was rather mind-blown at the idea.

                    1. So…outside of Israel, Saul’s name sounded like a prostitute’s ad? ::dies laughing::

                      Man, no wonder he changed his name!! (Well. And it also may have had something to do with him getting Roman citizenship–I know freed slaves sometimes took on new names, so I don’t see why a born freedman who became a Roman citizen wouldn’t. Ahem. Especially if he was getting made fun of for the other one…)

                    2. It’s like finding out that “Plato” was the fellow’s wrestling name, eh?

                      (Yes, my brain DID take that factoid and try to insist on WrestleMania)

                    3. >> “It’s like finding out that “Plato” was the fellow’s wrestling name, eh?”


                      Want to share this one with the rest of the class, Fox?

                    4. Know how the ancient world had a HORRIBLE habit of using the same coupla dozen names over and over, so almost everybody had nicknames?

                      Yeah, him to…

                      Before Plato became known as the founder of western philosophy, he was an athlete. We learn from Diogenes’ book two fascinating facts about Plato’s young athletic career: he “studied gymnastics with Ariston the Argive wrestler” and that “he wrestled at the Isthmian games.” (Note: Laertius, Diogenes. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers (p. 135). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition). This text in a relatively obscure ancient philosophy book belies the significance of Plato’s athletic background. The father of western philosophy trained in his youth as a wrestler and competed in one of the four prominent ancient Greek athletic festivals. That’s akin to a modern-day university level wrestler competing at an international wrestling tournament, if not at the Olympics.

                      If Plato’s athletic achievement is not impressive enough consider the origin of his name. Plato was actually his nick name. In the same Diogones book we learn that his birth name was Aristocles (named after his grandfather), but his wrestling coach gave him the nickname Plato “because of his robust constitution.” (Note: Laertius, Diogenes. Lives of the Eminent Philosophers (p. 135). Oxford University Press. Kindle Edition). Plato in Greek is Platon (Πλάτων), which is derived from Greek platys (πλατύς), meaning “broad-shouldered.”

          2. Ya know, that’s a good observation for just about everything in a normal human society (that doesn’t stick its women out on the front lines to die with the men).

            1. Or send them out traveling and evangelizing. That seems to me to be the simplest explanation–dangerous times means sending men out to be itinerant preachers, not women.

    2. Well, I HAVE been told that Satan is the Prince of this World, or at least he’s been given dominion over creation. C.S. Lewis himself used the analogy of Jesus making an incursion into enemy occupied territory.

      Still not clear on the mechanics of how Satan took over or how that was conferred on him when Adam forfeited his dominion in the Garden of Eden.

      1. I wouldn’t say “dominion over creation” so much as “a certain amount of free reign”. And even then there are limits. We’re told that in the fallout of the Garden of Eden mess, he was promised that he could bruise humanity’s heel. But humanity could crush his head.

        Those limitations still leave him with a lot to work with, though, if we’re talking about a being that is untold ages old, and has had thousand of years practicing how to subvert the hairless apes and control their lives.

          1. The word “certain” is a qualifier with a very wide range of different possible meanings that can be attached to it.

            Again, it’s made clear that there are limits to what he can do. He can bruise our heel. We can crush his head. In the Book of Job, he’s explicitly told, “You are allowed to go this far, but no further.”

            1. I thought that was because Job was one God’s favorites and enjoyed some protection, which God withdrew.

              1. FWIW, I wonder if one of the reasons for Job’s travails was he was over-scrupulous….fussing over ritual and trying to protect himself and his family through ritual.

                1. Um… Job doesn’t seem to have had that problem. He was known for generosity and justice, not for.nitpickery.

                  However, one of his friends does suggest that he didn’t do enough, and God scolds the friend for that, towards the end. (IIRC.)

            2. I’m reminded that in the context of Biblical translations into English, which happened in a prior era of our common tongue, “to certain poor shepherds” meant “to reassure said shepherds” not “to specific (or a range of) shepherds”.

              Perhaps we are to be reassured that Evil has limits more constrained than our own.

              1. Nope, that’s an urban legend. There is no verb “to certain” or “to certayne,” in Middle English or in Early Modern English. The translation is:

                “The first Christmas announcement/carol that the angels made was to particular poor shepherds while they were out in the meadows, keeping their sheep.”

                “Certain [persons]” was an extremely common construction, so it’s not clear why anyone would want the obvious wording not to be the wording.

                There is a Middle English verb “acertainen,” which did mean either to inform or to give assurance (or to inform oneself of facts, which was “acertain of”, and that’s where the modern meaning arises), but there’s no evidence that the carol ever said anything about ascertaining the poor shepherds.

    3. See below for a bit of my detail on that (only a bit. Don’t want to share the nightmares)… in my experieince NOT believing in this is like wandering around not believing in guns… and I mean not believing they exist and thinking you won’t get shot because there’s no such thing.

    4. >> “Ironically the main contender for the drives-people-insane prize is best described as Ideological Possession.”

      Back on ESR’s blog I coined the term “ideomania” for this. He liked it.

      And speaking of ESR’s blog… Now that I’m back on a proper computer, how do I get an invite to the AtH Discord group? Orvan once said he had some info for me that he didn’t want to share in public.

        1. Thanks. Hopefully I have more luck receiving e-mails than I’ve had sending them around here: dgm UNDERSCORE accordingtohoyt AT yahoo DOT com.

  6. I write fantasy because if I put some of my experiences into non-fiction or even sci-fi– it wouldn’t be believed. I agree totally that there are more “hostile” entities than benevolent ones. And even benevolent may not mean “for your good” types. So I am very careful dealing with people who channel entities. Any type of possession worries me.

    I don’t mind advice—

    I also think people can cause as much damage as any woo-woo stuff especially if they project negative or nasty intentions. There is a lot out there our brains can do that we haven’t discovered yet.

    1. I know a lot of you won’t agree with me— but when I started to read about quantum theory and mechanics in the early 90s it read remarkably like magic.

        1. Quantum isn’t magic. It’s thingummies. It’s much more difficult than magic. Just ask Ridculley.

      1. That’s because quantum physics is very much like magic. Richard Feynman, a Nobel prize winner for his work in the field, was dissatisfied with quantum theory because he could not discern why things occurred. That is to say predictions could be made based on formulas but there was no understanding of why the formulas worked. This is indistinguishable from magic.

        1. That’s because quantum physics is very much like magic.


          But mostly because descriptions of QM for laymen — or even techies — start Bad, waltz through “Are you *deliberately* trying to mislead people!?”, and then floor it down the highway to Bong-physics town.

          Also they are usually groslly out of date. One of the popular observations (“nobody understands it”) if from decades ago, and if it were still true there wouldn’t be any such thing as an integrated circuit.

          1. Well I went through the Navy training in electronics and even the guys who taught it and knew it better than anyone said that they still didn’t understand if the electron in the circuit was moving or was a standing wave. That was the least of it. And there are two types of electronic theories too– that work and the formulas from both work. So we don’t know what we think we know …. still.

            1. if the electron in the circuit was moving or was a standing wave.

              Yes/neither. It is something entirely different from a particle or wave, but which exhibits traits of both.

                1. For anyone wondering– this is very literal.

                  ESPECIALLY when you get a bunch of folks with That Sort of mind in a room, they’ll go insane trying to figure out how a thing works– so you need a short circuit. A sort of jumper.

                  So you hit the I Believe Button (ours was bright, shiny red with BELIEVE on it) and carry on to what you need to keep from killing yourself in interesting but very painful ways.

                    1. I mean, this is why that meme floating around about how the Federation in Star Trek was at the top of the pile because humans are totally bonkers and do things that SHOULDN’T work, but DO, and keep doing it even when they can’t explain why or how it works. So the Vulcans (and later the Klingons) just kind of stand back and…let it happen.

          2. Modern physics can be a dumpster fire and modern physics can be finally starting to show some really interesting results from the wilder theories and modern physics can be usefully predictive and esoteric and comprehensible. These are /not/ mutually exclusive possibilities.

            Part of the issue is purely with training people to understand and be able to use certain tools.

            Some of that is stuff that wouldn’t be a problem for every society, because Education, journalism, and popular non-fiction writing are dumpster fires to such a strong degree. Also, universities, to a weaker degree, which may only be the difference between extremely strong and very strong.

            Engineering education and engineering science have been in an arms race for centuries in improving predictive models, and teaching people to use them in a simple enough way for real world applications. Academically, the engineering disciplines can be defined as a subset of tools that make sense to try to teach to people over the course of a degree. You can’t reliably teach an undergraduate many more tools during a BS than they learn during the BS. There may be a dozen disciplines worth of tools simple enough for engineering purposes, that can be learned during an undergraduate degree.

            Physics is basically all of the other models, ‘combined’ into a single field. So, the subfields are basically fields, and people spend a lot of time trying to learn stuff that is too complicated for engineers to want to bother with most of the time. So, you would expect a bunch of factional partisanism, simply because people believing that the tools that they know are the ones that should win.

            I think EEs still may not really learning the tools to play with lasers, and that laser engineering may still be more of a task for physicists. Progress in that to parallel more conventional engineering training seems to be ongoing, so perhaps it will happen after we stop training engineers in mainstream universities. There seem to be a few other specialties which are much less far along that path, but still showing some promise over the career of an engineer graduating today.

            There are a lot of bad influences on people studying physics at the university these days, from primary and secondary teachers on up. The international day of light is used by some supposed professional organizations to promote their fields, and those organizations are also using it to promote a ‘we believe in science’ pledge. *spits*

            Anyway, I understand that electronics have had applications that required quantum mechanics to explain for a decade or two longer than IC circuits. Radar predated WWII, but a lot of work on radar was done during WWII, so they probably had some of the engineering realities down by the end of the war. Radar is apparently a really weird sensor, requires a really absurd dynamic range. The noise floor is apparently often the thermal noise in the antenna from being a room temperature or whatever. This noise is apparently genuinely random, and I guess would be probably have to be some sort of aggregate quantum effect. (I was talking about this the other day with someone who knew this stuff, and got it wrong.)

            Feynman is famous enough, and has been dead long enough, that the physicists may have worked over pretty well the stuff he knew that he didn’t know. Some of the horizons of ‘what is even /true/ here’ that we can now identify may be better examples of issues in fundamental knowledge of physics.

            OTOH, I haven’t heard that turbulent flows within fluid mechanics are fully understood yet, even with the continuum mechanics assumptions. Just high temperature/high pressure gas measurements alone have a lot more ways to go than you would think from listening to the people who make science more accessible.

            1. Anyway, I understand that electronics have had applications that required quantum mechanics to explain for a decade or two longer than IC circuits.

              True, though ICs are a big and obvious item that is meaningful to most people.

              For radar, I don’t know anything specific, but a portion of quantum theory had already been worked out by Newton under the heading of “optics”. So no surprise that “fancy invisible optics” would result in lots of ugliness.

              1. Radars can apparently be built far enough into the microwave range that they start to use optics assumptions.

                Right now, Terahertz electronics are apparently a thing for crazy bleeding edge electrical engineering.

                The issue with the noise floor/dynamic range in radar seems to be a) you are providing your own illumination, and transmission power is limited, so the return signals are very weak b) radar targets can be very far away. So, it is one of the few applications these days where you might have analog gain turned up to the point that you hear noise on your antenna regardless of whether there is any signal.

                Wave/Particle: Sound is a wave transmitted by moving particles. With mechanical vibration through a solid, you can see how there are not little matter particles moving far apart from each other, and still the motions can propagate across the object. With EM waves in conductors: DC current, electrons are pretty obviously moving. This thing with high frequency signals of skin penetration distance seems to imply that it is electrons moving, but locally, not the full distance of the propagation. I don’t have a real explanation for free space propagation.

                1. I’m not sure when the semiconductor diode was invented, but the transistor itself was invented in 1948. Integrated circuit, somewhere in the early 1960s. FWIW, an important part of solid state physics theory involves Fermi (*that* Fermi) levels, so there’s a fair clue as to when that was beginning to be understood.

                  Where it gets interesting is the theory/convenient assumption that there are two types of current carriers in semiconductors. Electrons of course, but “holes” are equally important. Yes, they’re where electrons aren’t, and have a different mobility than electrons. (Think of how cars pull out of a stop light. There will be cars/electrons moving forward, but there’s gaps/holes moving backwards.) And if your head hurts after thinking of this, welcome to the club.

                  1. Electron holes are basically like voids in the fine resolution understanding of mechanical structure, except that voids do not move (but the they do grow under periodic loading). So, the existence of holes makes sense.

                    Movement, well, I’ve never studied semiconductors. It does sorta of make sense that the presence of electrons, and the absence of electrons, could both be explained statistically, and that these would be with different statistics.

                    I would almost certainly find holes painful if I properly studied semi-conductors.

                  2. Officially: transistor in 1947, IC in 1958. FWIW. The real history is somewhat messy and not always amenable to exact dates.

                2. My field (see name)…

                  Yes, optical approximations are used for many RF applications, radar probably being the most famous/apparent, but antenna design and communications link analysis are also common areas. Optical phenomena like reflection, refraction, diffraction are all commonly utilized in electromagnetics, even at sometimes surprisingly low frequencies, depending upon scales of things in terms of wavelengths. We even have a word “quasi-optical” for the transition region where optical approximations “begin to become good enough” for certain uses.

                  Regarding dynamic range and noise floor: even with really high transmit powers, path loss is a beotch. Comes from the physics/mathematics of spherical waves spreading out. And hearing noise on your antenna isn’t limited to microwaves: there is enough atmospheric/ambient noise at HF (few to tens of MHz) that it’s easy to hear it with no other signal present. It’s actually a useful quantity to observe. It’s why there is (generally, there are exceptions) no point in putting a low noise amplifier at the input to your HF receiver; the channel is already noise-limited…

                  And electrons are moving locally and not meters through a conductor…more head hurt material…

                  So I studied EM through MS and PhD. Those programs contained quite a good deal of mathematical rigor. My take is that there is a continuum between “what is actually going on” and “good enough for practical use.” The person who finally figures out what every electron in a given device is doing might have complete knowledge of that device, but likely does not have generalized/usable insight/tools for a range of disparate devices. Since humans are finite creatures, where do you want to spend your time? I’m on the “jack of all trades, master of none (or, well, maybe decently competent at a few)” end of the spectrum since I’m an engineer and not a physicist. But there can be a lot of overlap, depending on the field and one’s approach to it.

                  Finally (for this post 🙂 ) I would venture that a lot of what we call “device physics” was understood to a certain degree quite prior to building said devices. Look at Fairchild’s FET patent, for example. Patent history and the history of technology is fascinating in its own right. Things were often patented or described in literature decades before being realized in a lab, much less a production environment.

                  1. Yeah, the device physics was almost certainly understood before designing the device, in many cases.

            2. “There are two great unexplained mysteries in our understanding of the universe. One is the nature of a unified generalized theory to explain both gravity and electromagnetism. The other is an understanding of the nature of turbulence. After I die, I expect God to clarify the general field theory to me. I have no such hope for turbulence.” — attributed to Theodore von Kármán

          3. If they’re more than five years old, and (somewhat) understood by more than a few hundred people, they’re out of date.

            The physics that lit up the night at Trinity was so off-kilter it “wasn’t even wrong”, to use Pauli’s phrase. Yet that model was good enough for what they were using it for.

            We may never reach a final solution for all observable physics, but that hasn’t stopped each generation of physicists from slamming on the brakes, closing their eyes, and defending the status quo. You’d think of all the population subsets, physicists would be the ones most comfortable with the concept of uncertainty…

          4. Quantum slit experiment
            Emitter shoots a photon at a receptor, with a card with two slits in between. Which slit did the photon go through? Both of them!

        2. To be fair, you can say the same thing about Newtonian mechanics. Unless you can explain to me what “inertia” and “gravity” are without resorting to just reciting their observed effects.

      2. Oh, I discovered that when I tried to read a textbook on QM back around 1970. Its basic assumptions were so alien that I could make no sense of it.

      3. Explaining Computers YT channel recently had a vid on quantum computing which in Chris’ usual way as a skilled teacher, he put into easily understood perspective. In my head it stopped being magic and started being just another form of logic gate. I have no idea how that would translate into quantum mechanics, which I’m not sure I believe in.

        1. Yea– I found that logic gates could be simple. When I was learning about them– it was memorize–memorize and then the big accelerated test. I passed… but didn’t go back to really study them again.

    2. I remain *convinced* that there was a non-human Presence in the woods where I grew up. Aware of me and utterly neutral. I used to go and fertilize a young tree it seemed either attached to or centered on – not any kind of bargain, just felt like it’d be a nice thing to do. 🙂

      1. Watch the most recent episode of Abandoned and Forgotten Places (old deep mines exploration channel). Gly got himself warned not to proceed by …something… on camera, and you can see the very moment (first time we’ve ever heard him swear, or look that freaked). Whether it was intuition gone sensibly berserk or a friendly “ghost”, it probably saved his life.

        And a few old miners came out of the woodwork and related similar experiences in the comments.

        1. *nods in “I’ve heard those stories” fashion*

          Friendly Knockers/kobolds.

          If THEY are willing to go “hey, back up,” then do it. Same as someone in an IYOYAS shirt sprinting in the opposite direction of where you’re headed.

          1. Yep. I’ve learned if I have that Stop or Go Back feeling… pay attention. Never, ever just blow it off. At the very least, stop and interrupt whatever was going wrong. (Useful around the house for not, say, sliding down the garage stairs on my ass.) And Go Back is always =serious=.

            My favorite T-shirt that I don’t (yet) own:
            “I am a bomb technician. If you see me running, try to keep up.”

              1. I’m not especially sensitive to “emanations” of an otherworldly kind – just imaginative, OK? But my daughter is, although it seems to be weakening with age. There were places that we visited when she was a child which sent her freaky, in some cases almost into a panic attack. The sense that “something BAD happened here!” was so very strong. Some of those were understandable, by me – visiting Dachau on a fall morning, the place wreathed in fog and silence. The battlefield of Verdun … later on, she was driving by the freeway turnoff for a place in IIRC Northern Virginia, and got the ‘something BAD happened here!’ vibe which creeped her out with that same old feeling. Turned out it was the place where a particularly vicious Civil War skirmish had been fought.

              2. Maxim 2: A Sergeant in motion outranks a Lieutenant who doesn’t know what’s going on.

                Maxim 3: An ordnance technician at a dead run outranks EVERYBODY.

    3. Agree on the more hostile than non-hostile out there. My family, by and large, have had experience with the non-hostile–but it’s the form of either a dead loved one with a very specific message for a particular family member or in the form of just-deceased loved one saying goodbye.

      Much as I love a good ghost story, I do point out to people that, in reality, dead folks have got better things to be doing, unless they have been given a specific task and/or are allowed to see their still living loved ones from time to time. Otherwise, what people are calling ghosts are either (in my opinion) the memory of a place where things–usually Bad Things, but always involving strong emotions–OR it is a Bad Thing in and of itself and you damn well better get that location blessed asap.

      And people who go LOOKING for ‘paranormal’ experiences…well, let’s say I am not shocked when I find out that a lot of them seem to end up with something very nasty following them home. You don’t go seeking that kind of thing out–it opens a door that really oughtn’t be opened.

      1. My family tends to weird stuff that isn’t very impressive, but is comforting. The “for want of a nail” prevention type stuff.

        A few weeks ago, I had a dream, where my grandfather, my sister, and another I Know They Are A Relative that looked like a specific great uncle, but healthier than he’d been when I knew him and why on earth would he be there, as well as a vague cloud of folks I knew but not that well, were kind of hanging out.

        It felt kind of like when there’s going to be a party, but everybody is waiting for things to actually get going, the tables aren’t out yet, etc.

        I mentioned it to my husband the next morning, he gave he the eye-roll and informed me that my dreams were weird, and asked if I was going to be calling family again.
        I said no, the only thing that stuck out was the I Know He’s A Relative, who I figured had to be Uncle Floyd (dropped dead in the 50s) even though the pictures I remembered he was much skinnier. If Granny had been there, I’d have been calling mom’s siblings, if adopted-grandfather-died-last-year had been there, I’d have been calling his widow and trying very hard to avoid the woowoo, but as it was? Figure it was Just My Brain and the general feeling that everybody was going to die, sometimes a dream is just a dream.

        Got a text the next morning; the widow of the great uncle I’d first thought of had passed away, a few hours after I told my husband about the dream.

        You would not believe his eye-rolling when my out-loud response was “Oh. That explains it… it was Uncle [it looked like].”
        (Which is, in fairness, a very unusual reaction– since the reaction if I hadn’t had that would’ve been… very counter productive at this time, I’m very glad for that dream. I know she’s OK, and so are the rest.)

        1. Oh, for obvious checks on suggestion– the great-aunt was not in poor health that I knew of, just OLD, gave up her license and only drove the 4-wheeler for the last three years, we weren’t especially close other than that branch of the family is physically closer than most (not to be confused with “close”) and the great-uncle died over a decade ago.

        2. Like, one foggy evening, coming home from Swedish class, I climbed the three blocks from the train station to my parents.
          I wasn’t sure I was the only one who had got out of the train, because fog, but I usually was. (TINY whistle-stop then, not proper station. Now it is)
          After a few minutes I became aware there was a young man ahead of me. Six foot odd, shoulders broad and square, head of curly dark hair. Those who’ve met younger son know exactly what he looked like. Atop of that, he walked with an almost imperceptible limp, which is characteristic of men in dad’s family, due to hip malformation.
          I mean, I know it’s weird but for Portugal at the time the family was weirdly tall and big (seriously. And it breeds true) and the limp cinched it.
          I thought “Oh, relative I’ve never met? Or haven’t seen in a long time. Probably one of the foreign ones visiting.”
          The guy was like …. ten steps ahead of me, no matter if I sped or slowed.
          He opened the gate to my parent’s house, and walked through front door. Due to where I was, I couldn’t tell if the door was open.
          I was slightly puzzled both the door and the gate were closed, when I got there, since dad would have seen me, when opening the door, and waited for me.
          So, I went in and asked who was visiting. They thought I was nuts. Dad was alarmed enough to search the whole house, then call relatives.
          No one had any distressing news, but mom and dad knew me well enough (I’ve been doing this stuff since I could talk) to go “uh.”
          Next day our second cousin on dad’s side got a phone call. She called us.
          At the moment I saw the man walking ahead of me, our cousin, Escravelho (I don’t remember his real name. The nickname means potato bug because he was tiny as a kid, kind of like my younger son) had fallen from a walkway in Brazil, and been eaten by sharks in front of horrified passerbyes.
          I had actually met him, but when he was tiny and very slim.
          This is normal for me. I accept it as normal. They check out with me to tell me they’re okay, and in his case I interpreted it as “I’m going home.”

          1. Few months back I had an “urge” to google an old boss. Found out he died the day prior to this “urge”.

          2. Well. That’s a thing.

            Nice of him to stop by and see family, as I’m pretty sure I would have been haunting whoever built the walkway….

            I’ve had some “bad feelings” and dreams of relatives/friends, but nothing particularly remarkable. (Other than it being remarkable for me to have a dream I remember on waking.)

        3. I’ve had, I think, maybe one or two vaguely premonitory dreams (but at this point, I don’t even remember what they were, heh.) Mostly, I get flashes of intuition–including sometimes being able to sense the evil in another person (there’s this one guy on Ancient Aliens…::shudders::).

          Baby Brother, though, has nigh-full blown Sight. It’s been…interesting a few times over the years. He’s mostly seen dead relatives (like our grandfather), but occasionally he will see things that aren’t supposed to be hanging around our house and tell them to get lost. And…they do.

          So yeah. Gotta say, I’m kinda glad to “only” have flashes of weird intuition.

  7. On another perspective– you may be thinking about this stuff because you feel unsettled and not really connected to your place yet. As soon as you root, you’ll do better imho. (Yes, and I know a lot about gateway writing)

  8. Another reason to avoid woo woo stuff is it’s genuinely hazardous to your health. Anecdotal, but we knew a “practitioner,” of the utterly self centered, raise power because you can sort, and when we last heard of her (from a safe distance) she was a complete physical wreck.
    Of course, there’s the whole, “Why does God need a starship?” Thing – I gather one of the things wiccans do is offer power back to the gods, and why would gods need humans to give them power? (I’m open to correction on this).

    1. There’s a nasty circular-loop logic of most “practitioners” that becomes both creepy and dangerous when you look at it too closely. Probably one of the reasons why I’m a paranoid agnostic by nature.

    2. Who knows? At one extreme, the Bible often explicitly states that God ignores the sacrifices of the evil. At the other, there is a Hindu account of how Vishnu once taught error to lead astray evil practitioners of pure Vedic sacrifice because as long as they practiced it perfectly the gods could not touch them.

  9. Thank you, Sarah, but my stepping stones are mathematics, physical realism, and the Enlightenment. As the emperor told Cordelia Vorkosigan, “I am an atheist. A simple faith, but it comforts me in my last days.”

    There’s a concept in anthropology called “folk taxonomy,” or the way tribal peoples all over the world classify living organisms. And there are other folk cognitive systems, such as folk physics, where the arrow flies straight out (what’s a “parabola”?) until its impetus is used up and then falls, like Wile E. Coyote running off a cliff. It struck me a while back that there is folk economics, which teaches us things like wealth being specie, and interest being theft, and one nation’s wealth being at another nation’s expense. And none of them are actual models of the way the real world works; they’re what we GURPS players call “gameable abstractions.”

    So why shouldn’t there be folk metaphysics? In fact, we can identify some of its premises: that the natural world is full of things that have agency (human brains are wired to be oversensitive to agency) and that things happen by narrative causality. They make really good stories; I used them to run my latest GURPS campaign, and Pratchett did wonderful things with them. But there’s no reason to suppose that the human brain was hard wired by evolution to perceive reality accurately. At least not in its first guesses.

    On the other hand, going for woo woo stuff is also not a good idea from my materialist point of view.

    1. Indeed. On the other hand, for all that I am an atheist and I try to be a rational thinker, I’m also aware that I have a human body and brain, and that humans are wired to transmit emotional states and mental models to each other. In particular, I know I’m susceptible to crowd dynamics, to sway with the audience at a rock concert, to tear up when I’m on the dancefloor with forty other people and the DJ puts on a particularly emotional song. (It’s one reason I prefer to read political speeches, not listen to them.)

      So sometimes it’s a good idea to fight fire with fire, so to speak, and use that gameable abstraction in my favor. Specifically, when I bought my house, and again when my wife divorced me and moved out, I smudged with burning sage inside the house, and walked the boundaries of the property with my athame* held high and invoked the Towers at each cardinal point. (My first wife was a Wiccan, so I knew the ceremony. I don’t know any others.) Rationally, I know it’s bullsh*t, but down on that hindbrain level I know I’ve defended myself against incoming evil.

      And, wouldn’t you know, no evil has entered the property. I’ve had my car broken into three times in 12 years, but only when it was parked on the street, not in the driveway. And my recycling bin was set afire once and melted into a puddle, but it was outside my back fence in the alley. So yeah.

      *(my athame is a utility knife from Home Depot)

      1. Recently I had reason to look for votive candles (form factor issue, fwiw) and happened a cross a bit on ‘candle magic’. It was interesting, I’ll grant, but too much was imprecise and could be varied. I started to dismiss it as nonsense, then realized… it’s it’s NOT about the candle. It was pick the color (variable) that means X to you. Pick the symbol(s) (variable) that mean X to you. And so on and on. Visualize what a success result is like DING! DING! DING! The ritual(s) are wrappings for visualization, or autosuggestion or such. It’s “hacking the subconscious” perhaps – and there one ought be careful. Minds are not at all easy to debug.

      2. First place I lived in the desert had a wandering Nasty that would sometimes come in the house. It upset the house ghost and made the place feel annoyingly risky, similar to the sensation one got (and it wasn’t just me, it was everyone) standing under the tree out back that had a Nasty in residence. Asked a friend who was a practicing witch what to do about it, and she advised: burn some sage. No ceremony, just do it.

        So I did, and it left posthaste, after that when the damn thing was bumping around, all I had to do was threaten to burn more and it would stay outside and mind its own business.

        I don’t think these Things Out There We Don’t Understand are “spirits” as such. I think they’re bleed-through where our physics (reality, universe, phase, timeline, whatever) bumps up against or overlaps some other physics, and that’s when we encounter Something From Over There that has also noticed this bleed-through and is having its idea of fun with it. (Or in the case of the house ghost, which could not leave the house, perhaps got partially stuck on our side. It was lonely.) And I suspect how after one is aware of ’em they’re easy to spot is much like learning the feel of a few volts of stray electricity (like when a ground is bad)… ever after you always instantly know what it is.

        And maybe people who go poking too deeply for this sort of thing can drag Something back with them, or get stuck Over There and serve to frighten Over There’s normies.

          1. That sounds like a rather wonderful ‘The Others’ style short story or two, and now I kind of hate you because I’m supposed to be working right now.

    2. I’m always careful when academics start talking about “folk” anything. It’s often just a caste marker. That’s not to say that the folk can’t be wrong, but aim afraid social scientists have a lower accuracy rate than the folk do. Most all of social science is just woo and mean girl talk.

      And, yes, I do have advanced degrees in the most mathematical of the social sciences from universities you’ve heard of.

      1. ‘Social Science’ and ‘Political Science’ are oxymorons, plain and simple. Economics is only scientific as far as the human factor can be excluded.

        The Democrats seek to rule a world in which the human factor can’t disrupt their Perfect Theories.

        1. Just so. I think there’s a pool of truth that can be extracted but economics in particular has lost its way by believing the math instead of the facts.

          I find that the Americans have too much physics envy and the Europeans are way to tied up in formalism. it’s not as bad, but still pretty bad, in the UK.

          I have a BA, MA in Math and an MSc in Economics.

          1. Perhaps a better description is that economics has lost its way by believing the formula (projections) instead of the data. Pretty much what “climate science” has done too.

            Peculiar side thought: my university required a quarter of Basic Economics. I have never been so bored. Nonetheless, the professor and I became great friends… and would spend hours talking of everything BUT economics. I have absolutely no idea how that happened!

      2. The people who talk about “folk taxonomy” are not talking about how the Common People in the US (or in Western nations generally) classify living things—or not primarily. They’re anthropologists who have looked into how tribal cultures categorize things. See for example some of Scott Atran’s books on the subject. I believe the same thing is true of people who talk about “folk physics,” though that includes, for example, the theories of the Scholastics about “impetus.”

        As for economics, what I have in mind when I refer to scientific economics is the ideas of Adam Smith, David Ricardo, and Jean-Baptiste Say, among others, as contrasted with the body of ideas commonly known as “mercantilism.” That’s a longer time scale that I think you’re thinking of.

        1. I would say economics began to lose its way with Ricardo and utility theory seems to have gone wrong with Bernoulli so I think I’m going back a fair bit, I would also be somewhat less UK centric and include the Spanish Scholastics, like Molina, and any number of earlier French economists. What Smith did was put everything together and be the right person at the right time. He was right about mercantilism, right about division of labor, and right about the invisible hand. He was wrong about the labor theory of value.

          In any case, I still dislike the term “folk” anything. It’s just rhetoric, a caste marker, and usually a sneer.

  10. Yeah, the older I get, the more that I have seen, the less dogmatic I am about things.
    Mind you, I’m not about to espouse doctrine. But there is certainly a stronger ‘wait and see’ outlook.

  11. I was having considerable problems yesterday listening to the pastor’s sermon yesterday (for other reasons, I really don’t think I can go back there, except for special events).

    The pastor was talking about the story with the Canaanite woman (Matthew 15:21-28; Mark 7:21-30). First, obviously Jesus wouldn’t talk like that to anyone, so, either something got lost in translation, or the writers/translators were putting their own prejudices in Jesus’ mouth (which had me going, sure, something might be lost in translation/tone of voice/lost joke, but I have considerable problems with this whole approach).

    Then he talked about the woman’s daughter and her mental illness, and we know that demons do not actually possess people. (Once again, I’m sure that there were many people who had mental illness back then who were labeled as demon-possessed. But I also think there are people now who are labeled as mentally ill who are actually demon-possessed. Probably not nearly as many as the first group. But still, there is no way of knowing, without any further evidence, which was true for this daughter.)

    I’m still thinking that there are many people, some in the churches, who are calling upon Tashlan. And Tash is starting to answer. And his aim isn’t that good.

      1. I used to believe that demonic possession was just a primitive rationalization of schizophrenia.
        Then I spent time working with psych patients.
        And I learned that we moderns are perhaps even more prone to primitive rationalizations.

        I’ve seen a bunch of UFOs. (Shrug) I grew up under the flightpath between Groom Lake and Mountain Home.
        Only one of them struck me as alien or inexplicable, and it had FAA required lights. (But was not aerodynamic, at all. Think the surface texture and of a Millennium Falcon model, and you’re close. Somehow diffusely lit from underneath despite no obvious light source doing so. And a weird sensation that I can only describe as a “hum”, which I couldn’t hear.)
        I still have no idea what the heck it was. But like I said, all the required FAA lights were present and blinking.

        I’ve had a few encounters with spirits.
        The two I can classify as ghosts were by far the least freaky of the lot. (It helped that they were beloved relatives giving a bit of silent comfort in tough times.)
        There were a couple that were clearly benevolent, but utterly unsettling. (I know I missed that jump. I felt myself falling well short of safety, I could clearly see where I was going to hit. And something unseen picked me up and moved me out of harm’s way. Leaving behind a lingering sense of a debt.)
        Then there was the thing in the tree. I couldn’t see it, but hatred and malice radiated from it like a dark sun. I didn’t sleep that night.

        1. Theodore Dalrymple, after many years working with the sane, met a man. He did not actually think this man was demonically possessed, but he was quite certain that a reasonable man could come to that conclusion.

        2. I’ve had a couple of visitations from my late hubby when I was going through some real problems. It was comforting. And yes, if I feel malice when I am walking down a path, I turn around. It has saved me several times.

      2. My thought is–if it’s a very young child, probably mental illness. Old enough to know right from wrong–well, usually mental illness, but not always. They might have invited an unwanted guest in. And I do think it’s likely that they did so because they were tricked into it, rather than knowingly doing so. (And the ones who do so knowingly I think are probably rare, and probably don’t have obvious signs of mental illness, just straight up evil.)

    1. we know that demons do not actually possess people.

      Ha. I have somebody in my life with what I politely call “rage issues”. And I’ve been aware for a while that one reason I can never win an argument with them is that when the anger starts to surface, my subconscious starts *screaming* at me that I have just poked the bear. Literally. The thing that’s angry at me is not human. (While M. Scott Peck is also high on the woowoo, his description of “the Satanic face” rang quite a few bells for me.)

        1. Yep. I’ve seen that once. I bailed (not my fight in the first place) and avoided the angry individual from that point on.

    2. Every diocese of the Catholic Church is required to have an exorcist–a priest who is specially trained to distinguish between mental illness and “something else.” According to exorcists who have spoken about this, most of the people referred to them have mental illness. BUT there’s that other 10%, who need to be dealt with…

    3. > But I also think there are people now who are labeled as mentally ill who are actually demon-possessed.

      I would laugh at that, except I’ve known too many people – some of them for decades – who were good friends, and then one day they were someone else. Every interest, every value, every goal, at least the ones they’d mentioned to me, abandoned. Even their speech patterns changed. Generally followed by changing jobs and/or moving away.

      At first I thought it was something I’d done or said, or didn’t do or say. After a while I realized whatever happened inside their heads wasn’t anything to do with me; they generally cut off everyone else they knew, that I knew of.. Still hurt my feelings some, though.

    4. A surprising number of agnostics have run into “random crazy people” who hit all their “no, no, put car in reverse, back up, FOR LOVE OF HOLY DO NOT GET OUT, there is something REALLY BAD there.”

      I say surprising because there are even some who went driving around for a church who are still agnostic…. how much darkness do you have to see to realize you’re usually in ambient light, even if you can’t look directly at the source?!?

    5. Jesus was talking to the Canaanite woman like a rabbi talks to a student — asking her questions. It was in a tougher question mode than normal, but she rolled with it and came out a star A+ grad student. People don’t get this, but it was brilliant how Jesus used her to teach the Jewish crowd.

      He did the same thing with the woman at the well, but he was just teaching her personally so that she could pass it along. No show for the crowd.

  12. Faith is what keeps you on the well-worn rocks. That can be one of the hardest things to do; especially when the darkness is whispering about better paths to your destination.

      1. Might have read those, a long time ago. At least, I remember something that referred to the clockwise swastika as the ‘sun-cross’.

        F*k the Nazis for ruining an innocent Eastern good-luck symbol.

        1. David Brin (blind squirrel, nuts, etc.) did one of my favorite takes on that trope in “Thor Meets Captain America”. (Well before the MCU was a twinkle in somebody’s wallet.) Then he beat it to hell with a comic-book sequel, but the original short is still pretty awesome IMO.

        2. And also, coincidentally, the Finnish national insignia during that same war.

          That’s the “good” axis country (since the Finn’s only joined the Axis to defend against Soviet aggression).

  13. I’ve had lifelong experiences in the world of the weird, family and personal. Along the way, after finishing a doctorate in engineering, I became a Board Member of the Rhine Research Institute, Durham, NC, an engineering consultant for the UFO groups APRO and MUFON, was part of an official poltergeist investigation at the Soldiers and Airmen’s home in D.C., met UFO luminaries such as Dr. Hynek, Jacques Vallee, Stan Friedman; had more personal experiences/encounters with the paranormal than I can count; and wrote columns and articles about a small amount of it.

    This one thing I know: Reality is much broader than we are taught, and that we usually experience. We are but tiny beings in a.nearly infinite Universe that is stranger than we will ever know, even though we occasionally glimpse parts of it that we don’t fully comprehend.

    Lately I have quit being an evangelist for all Forteana, being content as an amused observer to watch as the Establishment grudgingly comes to grip with phenomena that ordinary folk have known about for centuries.

    1. I’ve found that every country I’ve been in has their own interesting ‘folk” mythos and idea. Some can even hurt you if you ignore it. Africa was the most powerful although something in Japan could get downright scary. Thankfully I’ve been lucky.

      1. A friend’s son and daughter in law lived in Japan in a rental house for a while that they claimed was haunted – I couldn’t get details, my friend says DIL said the house was evil. When they asked the locals about it, the locals said, yes, April is when the spirits walk.

          1. And, if the movies are to be believed, nearly impossible to exorcise or dispel.

            At a nominal generation rate of a couple of ghosts per year, each permanently inhabiting a random house or field and terrorizing and/or killing any living humans who enter, you’d think that large stretches of Japan would be uninhabitable by now.

            1. Actually the propitiate them. In every hillside and every park there is a small altar. They are all over the place filled with flowers and gifts.

            2. And apparently the Japanese are sometimes really in favor of not keeping old buildings around.

              1. This is true. Japanese usually don’t buy used houses, they knock the old one down and build another. Not always, but usually. On the other hand, Temples are often very old though you do have an axe of my grandfather phenomenon there given they’re usually made of timber.

            3. My parents grew up in Korea (missionary kids). Mom’s first house had been a Japanese HQ and bit of prision had, and I quote, “A triangular demon” in one corner. Basically it got squashed because it wouldn’t leave the house and COULDN’T go into the house with the Christians. So it sat there squashed in the corner of her room and she never did figure out how to tell her dad about it to get rid of the thing.

              My dad’s dad was asked why the local (Korean) preachers were better at casting out demons than the Europeans and Americans. “They believe in them.” Was the response. You can’t cast out something you don’t believe is there… likewise you can’t get rid of something you think is too powerful to get rid of.

        1. I’ve wondered why ghosts and woo-woos are always perceived as evil. No friendly ones who’d help find your car keys, wake you up if the alarm didn’t go off, or alert you of some impending problem.

          Bastards aren’t going to do anything useful, I’d be working on some way to charge them rent.

          1. I have had…four significant woo-woos that I can think of, five if you count the one that was a direct answer to prayer. Of the four, one was neutral and three were emphatically evil.

          2. Some ghosts are friendly. But only if they’re the ghosts of people you knew who’ve passed on… and apparently came back for a quick bit of moral or emotional support.

            The nastiness of the others makes sense. Either they’re unaware that they’re dead, and react in ways that make sense to them. Or they know that they’re dead and refuse to pass on. Such individuals probably weren’t nice in life.

            My novel has a friendly ghost, but she’s not just hanging around. The sequel (assuming I ever finish it) touches on some of the less “nice” stuff involving ghosts. And the plot for either the third or fourth (assuming I ever get that far) basically amounts to, “blithely foolish living people call attention to themselves in a haunted house, and the protagonists have to help them avoid suffering the consequences”.

            1. Some ghosts are friendly.

              Exactly. I’m not a big horror fan. The UF I prefer that include ghosts are the stories who only a select few can see, and the ghosts that stay, do for a variety of reasons. They can pass on to the next step anytime they choose. But the really bad, the evil do not get a choice to continue on to the next step and their purgatory and punishment. Like the movie Ghost.

              1. Was Greebo the kind of cat who would confuse himself with a guard dog, and patrol the perimeter to keep the unwanted things away? Based on what you’ve said about him in the past, I get the impression that he just might.

  14. They hate us; they really do hate us.

    The Christian explanation for the malicious entities is that, upon hearing the plan for bringing humans into eternity / salvation, the baddies said “F that!” and set about trying to ruin it for everyone … explains a lot to me /shrug

  15. You know, that would make an excellent explanation for a question that has puzzled me for years: why do the vast majority of vampire-writing authors go batcookies insane?

    1. Well, I can tell you that writing from Arthur Saldovado’s PoV trips things inside of me that . . . need to stay in the shadows and out of public circulation, thankyouverymuch. And he’s very much one of the Good Guys!

      No, he’s not a vampire, exactly, except, well, um . . . Yeah, heck if I know. I’m just the author.

      1. And if he told you all about himself, he’d have to kill you. [Crazy Grin]

      2. Could be worse. Think of MG. I’d respect Arthur from afar. Meister Gruenwald(spelling), I’d prefer to respect from another continent, or perhaps another planet.

    2. Nuts is an occupational hazard for fiction writers.

      And perhaps also tends a little to be a pre existing condition.

      The choices you make about thinking are real, and do matter.

      If you aren’t grounded in truth somehow, writing fiction, believing in it enough to sell to your audience, can come with some unhealthy psychological rewards.

      Goodness is also important to be grounded in. If you choose to write a lot about evil, it can have some of the same occupational hazards that policing does.

      Part of it is niches, if you write vampire books, you may only write vampire books. Part, it is really hard to write vampires that one can reasonably square with being morally good. Drinking blood is suspect, and by definition… Hodgell’s Kencyrath are maybe about as close as you can get to a vampire race, and still have some of them unambiguously good. And they are kind of also Swiss Jewish Elves. (Even if they are much too New Age/Christian influenced to call Jews.)

      1. I dunno, there’s a certain type of…fixation, for lack of a better word, and the vibe’s the same across all the ones that I’ve read. The “vampire as tortured tragic hero”, maybe? Like Twilight but with actual evil? Anne Rice and Laurell K. Hamilton both seem to me to have spectacularly wobbly connections with realilty to me, and there’s a few others in that, um, vein.

        I *know* I’m nuts. I make it work for me when I can and put up the barriers when I can’t.

        1. Well, Barbara Hambly wrote about Vampires and she seems to be OK.

          Of course, her Vampires are not Nice People but she never wrote from Their POV. 😉

          1. Hambly’s always struck me as eminently sane, for a writer. Maybe it’s that she doesn’t exclusively write vampires, maybe it’s that she’s more of a craftsman than an Artiste. But she doesn’t give me the “back away slowly” vibes that so many of ’em do.

            1. She doesn’t come across crazy in person either. More mercenary than anything else. Hates libraries and usedbook stores, regards both as theft from the author’s pocket.

              But from casual acquaintance, now I sure can see the self-insert character in every book. Hint: it’s the one with the pointed nose and glasses.

      2. Well, depends on whether you have to drink it from a living being. Drew Hayes manages with Fred, the Vampire Accountant. Most vampires are nasty in that world — for cultural reasons.

    3. The same reason Harris decided that he needed to make Hannibal Lector a protagonist?

      Nice to meet you. Hope you guess my name…

    4. Huh, good observation… Kind-of glad that my own longest-serving vampire character is a mercenary who took up the profession because he figured if he was cursed to kill he might as well get paid for it. Not a nice guy by any means but he does have his own code of honor and wants to slice up the demon who cursed him pretty bad for whatever that’s worth too.

    5. Compare the trait list and interaction rules of vampires with the trait list and interaction rules of narcissists, under a lens of poetic/authorial license.

      You will find that vampires absolutely exist. They just don’t drink literal blood.

      1. There is an alleged narcissist guy online who.does videos on how to recognize and escape narcissists. (H. G. Tudor is his pseudonym.) He goes into a lot of detail about different kinds of “fuel.” (And that he regards his viewers as giving him fuel.)

        His info and advice does seem to be good, although the narcissism about how stupid other narcissists are — that gets tiring.

        1. Alleged narcissist? If somebody says he’s a narcissist, I’d take his word for it. 😛

  16. I am here to say, that there are things out there, and some of them are quite nasty and consider a curious young person as nothing more than a tasty snack.

    There are other things that are less dangerous, but damn few things that wish us well. And they can be quite difficult to tell apart at times.

    1. I think Jack Vance’s portrayal of sandestins, fairies, and Yips, at their own purposes only vaguely connected with humans/other humans may be closer to reality than I’d like.

  17. Did I get moderated for the big wall of text?

    I’m not at all sure that I want to recreate it.

    1. Found the wall of crazy in a tab in a different browser window. Will probably post it later.

      It is on topic, but I’m definitely not comfortable with it now.

  18. Thomas Aquinas thought that some of the woo-woo stuff (telepathy, etc.) might result from natural human abilities that were poorly understood, and you shouldn’t attribute everything to malign spirits. On the other hand, he definitely believed that there *were* malign spirits out there causing trouble. There’s an interesting podcast about it here:

  19. Keel’s “Operation Trojan Horse” is one of many interesting books I’ve read about UFOs. Try Dolores Cannon when you really want to stretch your mind.

    Had a Bible interest for many years, but still had unanswered questions. Yeah, you have to have faith and can’t know everything (Heb 11:1), but looking into UFO happenings, “ancient aliens”, folklore, and quantum stuff has cleared some of those questions. I’ve found that these areas and religious scriptures are not mutually exclusive but seem complimentary.

    Of late I’ve gone to a group discussion on a monthly basis that goes over UFO topics. Subjects and people attending are varied and interesting; retired commercial and military pilots, retired CIA and other top secret clearance people, as well as those that feel if they can’t reach out and touch it at will then they don’t believe it!

    1. Right in the bible it says, “Other sheep have I, in other folds.”

      There is absolutely nothing in the bible that precludes other life, certainly not UFOs.

  20. “For one, and this leaked out in Keel’s perspective, the tricksters tend to put humanity down. Like at one time he says that after we die, our personalities, memories and history would obviously dissipate, because anyway “what would humans have in that sense that’s worth preserving.”
    It can get worse than that, but in general the tricksters really really really hate humans and strive to make us feel bad and worthless.”
    In other words you are claiming that the tricksters are all progressive socialists.

  21. The US as well as Russia had programs studying this stuff.

    The really freakin’ weird thing is that with stuff like the far seeing/distance seeing thing, it’s a KNOWN EFFECT that first attempts tend to be much, much more accurate than later ones. When they gather the information consistently between all attempts, and compare them, even– so it’s not that trick where you send out cards with a 50/50 chance and then only send follow-ups to the guys you sent the correct one to.

    It’s not accurate in a way that’s useful, but the weird accuracy is…well, weird.

    1. In fairness, Russia had been doing it far longer.
      Go ahead, try to argue that the Oprichinina weren’t absolutely awash in woo.

      I wouldn’t be at all surprised if their successors didn’t keep some of it as a continuing touchstone. Especially if any sort of loyalty oath was actually binding.

      I will, however, admit to being shocked that Hillary’s advisors casually organizing occult rituals was part of the email hack Leak.
      And that none of them denied it.

  22. I wonder if people in Facebook and Apple are going Where No One Should Go.
    We don’t watch much TV but we do watch college football (for the time being). There were two commercials that saw significant airtime while we were watching.
    The Apple commercial touted a set of filters for use with your IPHONE. The name of the set is, “Brutal.” I don’t remember most of them but the last image is of a young woman with her face covered by cartoonist eyes.
    The Facebook ad was worse. They were touting affinity groups, but the one they chose to tout was for 20-somethings. It featured a young girl who looked like she’d taken way too many drugs – frail, unhealthily thin, speaking slowly and carefully while texting about, “feeling… lost?” She gets responses from others in the group. The two most sensible bits of advice come from a black man and woman and the girl is shown trying to follow the advice. The Last response comes from an equally-wasted looking white guy with sequined butterflies on his face who I tones, “There’s nothing wrong…with being lost.” The ad ends with the girl being at a party with a bunch of equally wasted looking people and falling into a swimming pool.
    Just a creepy, creepy ad. What are they thinking?

    1. That people who are drugged out and don’t care what happens to them make the perfect subservient drones that will do whatever they are told to do. They are deliberately trying to create a generation of useful idiots.

    2. I saw that last one as for the first time in forever, I’ve watched real tv. My WRONG vibe was off the charts on that one about being lost.

    3. >> “There were two commercials that saw significant airtime while we were watching.”


      That sounds messed up. But I’m morbidly curious now; do you have links to those?

  23. There is a school of thinking — to which I mostly subscribe — that loses interest in arguing about questions if there doesn’t seem to be a useful answer to the counterquestion “how does the answer to that question affect what we will observe?” Quantum mechanics pushed a lot of people toward that school of thinking, but even classical physics has issues where that question arises. For example, mathematically Hamiltonian mechanics and Lagrangian mechanics look very different from Newton’s laws of motion, but they arrive at the same answers. (They arrive at the same answers … eventually. Some problems are considerably more tractable with some of those approaches than with others.) If someone wants to argue about the question of which of these approaches is right, I will probably drop out of that argument pretty early: in the end, the three methods are different ways of arriving at the same prediction about what experiments will show.

    For that matter, you don’t need to venture into physics calculations to encounter such controversies over multiple techniques which reduce to the same real-world prediction. Is it correct to center the zero of longitude in Greenwich, or should it be in Berlin instead? Once you establish that both kinds of calculations predict that a given vessel will make landfall at the same time and place, it takes a certain kind of stubbornness to persist in the dispute.

    Relatedly, Ian Bruene wrote “it is something entirely different from a particle or wave, but which exhibits traits of both” and Cyn Bagley replied “yep- so still not really explained.” It is not clear to me that that follows. If an argumentative biology student disputed our understanding of the sickle cell gene by saying that it is not really explained if we can’t even say whether it is beneficial or harmful, how should one respond? Would my counterquestion be appropriate? Probably I would respond by bowing out of the argument pretty early (possibly after namechecking some combination of “false dichotomy” and “heterozygosity”) if there was no clear answer to my counterquestion.

  24. I’ve had some odd experiences, mostly extremely positive, things that felt like contact from loved ones who’d passed on, that sort of thing. Could be my imagination, but I’ve got a pretty good feel for what’s my imagination and what isn’t (and calling it all “imagination” is tricky, because once you go there, where do you stop?)

    But I did have a time when I was reading a lot of “true” ghost story type stuff – including the Hungry Ghosts story. The stuff I write is “spooky but the good guys win,” so I can always call it research, and I enjoy a good ghost story, fictional or not (and deep down, I want them to be real, I guess). But I got so I was reading too many of the “real” ones, enough that I felt vulnerable. I started turning on an air filter for white noise to sleep at night, because it blocked out the house creaks that make you wake up in the middle of the night feeling sure that “Something is There.” Only the white noise started to bother me, too – it kept sounding like muffled voices, too faint to make out the words. It wasn’t scary, but it was annoying, because I kept finding myself listening to try to make sense of the sounds, even though I knew it was just the air filter, kind of an aural version of seeing pictures in clouds. I ultimately decided I better limit reading/watching so many of these kinds of stories, and the “voices” went away. I have since heard that these kinds of voices, just on the edge of hearing, often in white noise, are a sign of a malevolent presence. I didn’t feel malevolence in it, at the time, but I was definitely not in the best shape emotionally. Either way, actual presence or projection of my own subconscious, I keep that kind of reading to when I feel mentally and emotionally strong.

    1. Yeah. I love a good “true” ghost story and have since I was a kid…but it’s definitely not a good idea to read too many for too long!

      There was a particular book of Wyoming ghost stories–and a lot of them are centered around Rawlins. Which is where I work, and…well…I happened to mention a particular story that really scared the heck out of me as a kid (and still gives me chills) that took place in a house in Rawlins, and the coworker I was riding with said “Wait. I know which house that is. I read that story too, and asked a long-time local, and they told me where it was!” (I gather it’s frequently up for sale. Same with the local mansion, which is also allegedly haunted–but that may have as much to do with the fact that trying to run a B&B in a hole like Rawlins is not really financially viable…) This same coworker and his wife, upon moving here, ended up backing out of the first home they bought because they found out it had been the site of a murder (and NOT from the realtor. And as coworker’s wife is a local judge, she got her hands on the casefile and crime scene photos, just to make sure they weren’t being told wrong–and both went NOPE and found another house.)

      TLDR, some places seem to have more than their share of nastiness. The first time I ever truly became aware that a PLACE can be saturated in evil and pain was when taking a tour of the old penitentiary in Rawlins. That is a BAD place. (And I could not believe it when a friend of mine told me they used to do overnighters with schoolkids there. WT actual H were those idiots thinking?!?!)

      1. And I could not believe it when a friend of mine told me they used to do overnighters with schoolkids there. WT actual H were those idiots thinking?!?!

        ::points at California’s “hey let’s chant prayers to Aztec gods” cultural curriculum team building nonsense::

        There are some people who absolutely relish the idea of sticking kids in really horrible situations to punish their parents for believing in The Wrong Thing.

        1. One of many reasons I plan to never go near California ever again (and thankfully don’t have to: best friend escaped a few years ago, and I don’t have relatives there any more either). They (I speak of the overall cultural “they”) went past “slightly nutty granola bar froot loops” to “full on lunatics who probably think calling up the Old Ones is a fantastic idea, and think that doing so will gain them the fame/money/power they want, instead of getting turned inside out and eaten while still alive.”

  25. It took me a number of decades to get my son to agree that atheism is just as much a matter of faith as theism, that the only rational position is dangedifiIknow agnosticism.

    Not knocking faith, you understand. I’ve seen and experienced, many many more things in heaven and earth, Horace you know, than are dreamt of in your philosophy -or can be explained rationally.

    1. -or can be explained rationally right now.

      2,000 years ago simple chemistry couldn’t be explained rationally. A few people had worked out rote procedures that turned out useful results, but had no idea why. Hardly anything could be explained rationally, so they latched onto irrational explanations involving gods and demons. “We don’t understand these things, therefore they can’t BE understood!”

      I don’t place any observable phenomenon outside the bounds of rational explanation, even if we haven’t figured it out yet.
      Facts do not depend on opinions. Unfortunately, for far too many people, their opinions do not depend on facts, either.

      1. Pretty sure that was well after various ‘elemental’ theories for why things worked as observed; sure, there was shortened folk protections… like the modern “never mix two cleaners.”

      2. Of course they could explain it rationally. All material objects were made out of earth, air, fire, and water. Their semblance depended on the exact proportions of the four elements. No gods or magic required.

        Unfortunately that model was too crude to be useful for any practical purpose despite the alchemists spending centuries doing empirical experimenting.

        1. What’s wrong with gods and magic?

          Do they fail to distribute the middle? Do they commit argumentum ad misericordiam?

          There’s nothing irrational per se about them.

          1. Indeed, all they can do is huff and puff. They can’t actually answer this scientifically. All they can do is appeal to Occam’s Razor but Occam believed, as Muslims still believe, that God could cause things to fall up if he willed it since to bind God by a law diminished the omnipotence of God. Occam’ unnecessary multiplied entity was physical law itself.

      3. Meanwhile way back in the beginning of the 21st century atheism & theism are still matters of faith.

        Of course if one could show an operating electric light switch to a 15 century dweller, he assuredly see it as a miracle or magic.

        Also in this day and age woo woo or magic, in my opinion, based on personal observation and experience, exists. However as Sarah notes it’s inconsistent, not necessarily reproducible, hence one’s far better off flipping a light switch rather than attempting to conjure a rosy glow.

        As you say, I won’t place any observable phenomenon outside the bounds of rational explanation, even if we haven’t figured it out yet either. However for me, that’s a matter of faith, not fact.

    2. I usually say I don’t have enough faith to be an atheist. Been agnostic for about 25 years now. I don’t feel anything and some of the more… strident Christians I’ve run into seem to not realize their methods only drive me further away from any possibility of rejoining their faith.

      If I didn’t know there were a lot of decent Christians out there and have run into them too, I’d might have become anti-theist, though probably eventually gave it up for a simple reason. I’ve never run into any supernatural being, so how can I blame a God like Yahweh when humans being fanatical idiots is the more plausible explanation?

      I suspect I might be one of the “blind” people Sarah describes, though knowing my luck I do have a bunch of hostile entities following me around in frustration. “Why doesn’t this guy notice us or even feel anything from us?!” 😉

      1. >> ‘I suspect I might be one of the “blind” people Sarah describes, though knowing my luck I do have a bunch of hostile entities following me around in frustration. “Why doesn’t this guy notice us or even feel anything from us?!”’

        I love this image and I am shamelessly stealing it for my own use. If evil spirits DO exist I can totally imagine myself driving them crazy in the same way. 🙂

    3. >> “It took me a number of decades to get my son to agree that atheism is just as much a matter of faith as theism”

      Not so. One of the fundamental rules of reason is that it’s the positive claim which requires proof, and in the absence of proof the corresponding negative claim automatically holds the field.

      Atheism is a negative claim, so rationally it’s the default position. No blind faith required.

      1. Nope. The negative claim is lack of knowledge. To positively assert that there is no God requires evidence.

        1. It has nothing to to with knowledge or lack thereof. It’s the nature of the assertion being made. Perhaps you’re going by a different definition?

          A positive claim asserts that something is a part of reality: a thing exists, a phenomenon occurs, an event happened. A negative claim is simply the denial of a corresponding positive one: the thing doesn’t exist, the phenomenon doesn’t occur, the event never happened. That distinction exists BEFORE any knowledge or evidence is brought into it.

            1. That’s a useless way of defining it. We distinguish between claims that something is real vs. claims that it isn’t because reality is not set up in a way that accommodates proving negatives in a vacuum.

              1. Lots of things are difficult to prove. That does not give anyone the right to assert they are true without proof. Indeed, logically, you just argued for God’s existence because it is difficult to prove in a vacuum.

                1. >> “Indeed, logically, you just argued for God’s existence because it is difficult to prove in a vacuum.”



                  It’s difficult to parse whatever you’re trying to say, but it sounded like you just said “The fact that it’s hard to prove is proof of it.” Which would be utter nonsense.

                  Would you like to rephrase that?

                    1. No, MY claim is that positive assertions – assertions that something is real – require evidence and that in the absence of evidence negative assertions win by default. Because the way reality operates doesn’t permit reason to work otherwise.

                      I’m not even sure WHAT the hell you’re trying to claim.

      2. Atheists are making a positive claim– that a specific situation which differs from those they are speaking to is the case.

        Agnostics could defensibly claim a negative claim, as their stance is “I don’t know.”

        When there is evidence, it gets complicated. That is why the standard is that the challenger must support his claim.

        That “positive claim” does not mean, as many of the top results say, “a claim that a thing exists” should be obvious from looking at something simple– who has the burden of proof in showing that 9/11 actually happened?
        The general population saying “this exists,” or J Random Guy saying “9/11 did not happen”?

        1. >> “Atheists are making a positive claim– that a specific situation which differs from those they are speaking to is the case.”

          See my answer to Mary. You’re not talking about proving what is or is not part of reality; you’re talking about disputing what is commonly BELIEVED to be part of reality. That’s a different subject.

          >> “When there is evidence, it gets complicated. That is why the standard is that the challenger must support his claim.”

          Different context. You’re talking about a commonly used social standard. I’m talking about the basic laws by which reason operates.

          And yes, as a practical matter, the social standard you’re referring to is often justified. You usually have to assume the person you’re talking to has already accepted certain prerequisite conclusions because there’s not enough time to prove everything from scratch every time you have a conversation.

          But you don’t get to do that with the very thing thing that’s in dispute. Then you go back to the laws of reason and logic, one of which is that the burden of proof is on the person asserting that something is real. Or if the subject is too advanced – say, a calculus student demanding that the teacher prove that 2+2=4 – then you may just have to conclude that the person doesn’t have the prerequisite knowledge for the conversation.

          >> “who has the burden of proof in showing that 9/11 actually happened?”

          Generally you assume the other person already knows that sort of thing. If they doubt 9/11 happened you can show them the footage, witness testimony, etc. If they still deny it despite overwhelming evidence then you might simply not be able to reason with them.

          1. But there are things that exist, that are only in evidence behaviorally.

            Honor, etc.

            There is also behavioral evidence that could be interpreted as spirits or gods.

            Part of the issue is that human behavior is fundamentally a screwy sort of evidence.

            You cannot show honorable behavior to a man without honor, and expect him to see honor. He most likely will perceive other things in that behavior. This same sort of blindness can occur for physical evidence. (‘Fire won’t melt steel’, etc.)

            Me being me, I note that this might be the sort of debate that I would suggest be addressed in aggregate by mutual homicide. I think a lot of disputes between populations have probably been settled this way. At least, for temporary definitions of settled.

            Up too late past my bedtime, so the last thought might be something I would disagree with were I in my right mind,

            1. >> “But there are things that exist, that are only in evidence behaviorally.”

              So? Mental phenomenon – ideas, emotions, personality traits, etc. – are also part of reality. They have a very different nature than physical things and the type of evidence you give are different, but they still exist and have real consequences.

              >> “There is also behavioral evidence that could be interpreted as spirits or gods.”

              Wrong subject. I’m not discussing whether there is or is not a God. I’m discussing how reason works. The Theism/Atheism divide is just the topic that happened to trigger the conversation.

              1. I’m saying that at a minimum you have a category error.

                If your ‘central’ claim about reasoning is true, you’ve picked a terrible case to demonstrate it with.

                If you set the admissible evidence at the threshold that disproves atheism the least, you are dealing with almost purely subjective evidence.

                Logic works on the basis of assumptions. How do you set those assumptions? For subjective evidence phenomena, it looks like the majority gets to determine what is assumed to be default.

                Property rights, and peace are also examples of things based in subjective evidence.

                I say peace specifically because of the differences of opinion between endemic warfare societies, and societies that are potentially capable of an extended period of relatively peaceful behavior.

                Who is correct? My suspicion last night was that by killing off the endemic warfare societies, the other sort won the debate. Having slept, I can see that this would require concessions to the PRC, NSDAP, and Islam that I have no intention of making. So, majority picks default.

                Note, that I am not claiming moral relativism, ‘my truth’, or consensus reality, and am not denying objective truth. However, practically, if you have a bunch of people trying to persuade each other, the greater the number who have yet to be persuaded, the weaker the assumption that the specific position should be default.

                I picked property rights earlier, but thieves are a bad example to discuss rights recognized by criminals versus rights recognized by the lawful. Thieves often recognize property rights when it is ‘their’ stuff. There are other types of criminal who may not see that what they do is wrong, even when it is done to them. How do you decide who is right between those criminals, and the lawful? My thinking last night was majority rule. But, majorities can be wrong, so that leads me to majority picks default, and dissenters can prove the majority wrong.

                But what is the majority here?

                I do not trust the PRC to accurately provide counts towards totaling the world majority, and additionally, based on subjective evidence, think that communist atheists are not actually atheist.

                US is not majority atheist.

                Aggregating across time, some theory of spirit seems to be the majority position.

                If you are going to argue the fruits of mathematical models of mechanics, electromagnetics, etc., then you also admit as evidence discussion of the fruits of Christianity.

                1. >> “If you set the admissible evidence at the threshold that disproves atheism the least, you are dealing with almost purely subjective evidence.”

                  This isn’t about how much evidence you need to prove that there’s a God. That’s a separate subject (and would depend on what traits you insist a God must have). This is about which side has the burden of presenting evidence in the first place, regardless of the amount needed.

                  As for the rest of what you said, I don’t see the relevence.

                  1. But that’s what I just explained to Bob – I’m NOT trying to argue about religion. I’m arguing about which side has the burden of proof in an argument. Jim’s comment about atheism not being a rational position is just what happened to trigger it.

                    1. Sorry, should have replied to Mary so this came under Sarah’s comment. I hate it when we hit the last level of nesting.

                2. DGM is right. Truth is not determined by counting snouts. It doesn’t matter how many people believe something if they’re wrong. Argumentum ad populum is a logical fallacy for a reason.

              2. Unnecessary complexity is another angle, besides majority consensus picks default.

                Issue is, no spirit models of human behavior can be pretty elaborate.

                Lot of neurological weirdness this, evolutionary pressure that, etc.

                It might be reasonable to conclude spirit/no-spirit is a wash.

                And it seems like there would be few spirit models that completely rule out theistic entities.

          2. DGM-
            your definition was false.

            Even if it was granted to assume your conclusion, that’s not what “positive claim” means.

            That you don’t *like* it when two different people tell you that isn’t what the phrase means doesn’t really fix that.

            1. >> “That you don’t *like* it when two different people tell you that isn’t what the phrase means doesn’t really fix that.”

              Fox, you noted yourself that many top search results give the definitions I’m using. Whether YOU like it or not, that is how the terms are commonly used. What is your justification for telling me I’m wrong to use them that way? Where are YOUR definitions coming from?

              More to the point, whether you agree with the names I’m using for these concepts or not that distinction is still the important factor here. Popular consensus is not part of the process of reason.

              1. DGM-
                One blog post and three atheist comment boards does not establish the claimed fundamental rules of reason. It establishes that the top results are extremely low quality information sources. Contrast with my link below, which bought up results from multiple college level classes.

                The oldest of the top results for your phrases, the blog post, is from 2012 or so.

                That’s because “positive claim” vs “negative claim” is not a long standing existing phrasing in traditional logical/rational arguments.

                When you go and look at results for uses in logic, positive statement — which would be another phrasing of “positive claim” – does exist. It’s used most often in economics. Positive StatementA positive statement is one that can be tested and verified and is not based on a value judgment. For example, stating that the current level of unemployment is 4.1% is positive because it can be tested and either verified or falsified. Stating that the level of unemployment is 20% is also positive, even if not true – because the statement can be tested and falsified..

                There is even a philosophy known as “Positivism.”

                Popular consensus is not part of the process of reason.

                A bold statement, for someone who opened by appealing to tradition; if it is so common as to be described as a fundamental rule, it should be dead easy to link to something like Cambridge Department of Philosophy list of terms, describing it and supporting its worth.

          3. Then the skeptic says the burden of proof is on you. Refusing to reason with me proves I am right, because it is difficult to prove a negative.

        2. Yeah, there are a lot of hypothetical entities which some might call a god.

          Potentially fitting a very wide range of evidence, or lack of evidence, or what ever.

          A-theism is the claim that none of them are real.

          Monotheism is the claim that there is but one that is real, that should be treated as such an entity.

  26. Just had some whack-job drive 35 miles (twice!) randomly to half a mile from my house, and the second time shoot up a family and their dog. I know damn well there’s things that wish us ill in the universe. Just as I know there’s forces in the opposition. What to call them however….

  27. Any suggestions of a cross-politico-cultural warning I could *briefly* give to young uns who I only know slightly, who’ve decided to play around with thus stuff.

    Been on my mind a bit recently.

    1. “Literally every historical culture that has any place for Stuff Beyond The Known includes the belief that they will eat you. This may be a clue, on par with sex making babies.”

      If that’s too blunt, “all medicines are poison”– if it’s powerful enough to do good, it’s powerful enough to do harm, and you wouldn’t strip naked, get drunk and lay in the middle of a rock concert so don’t do the same thing with spirits.

    2. For Bob’s version of brief…

      In gambling statistics, if the odds of a game favor an outcome, and you play that game enough times, you get that outcome; Gambling on a game is a choice that you make know, but the choice you make now will shape future choices, and the results of choosing to play multiple games of a certain sort are foreseeable costs.

      Magical experimentation is basically like recreational drug use, in that you don’t know what your exact risks are, your decisions after the first may be impaired, and you don’t have a real limit on your costs.

      People will try to tell you, on the basis of other people, that the activity is perfectly safe. They may be outright lying to you, and you probably don’t have complete information about their examples.

      Issue with drugs, if you make the favorable assumption of meat robots working on chemical logic, you don’t know your own biochemical risk factors, and you certainly don’t know how they compare to the example group. Just considering something as safe as ethanol, there are known racial disparities in metabolic enzymes. If you take one gamble with drugs, you are probably looking for something, and find it or not, you will probably repeat the gamble. If you try enough different drugs, you will probably hit one that you are really sensitive to, and before that point you will probably accrue a bunch of costs that are individually minor. Furthermore, drugs that are a mental experience will screw with your mental judgement, so you can’t be certain that you will follow through with an x gambles then quit strategy.

      Magic is similar. Most favorable assumption for gambling is ‘magic is purely psychological’. Humans are hugely different from each other psychologically, so for psychological magic, ‘this group had no problems’ is missing even more information about risk than the drug scenario is. Basically, similar logic of if the first experiment is searching for something, so will the later experiments. Again, a mental experience will screw with your judgement, and hurt follow through on ‘x games then quit’. Human history and prehistory are full of people who were involved in magic, a number have died because of it, and if it is purely a matter of psychology, you cannot be sure of only playing games that will not be a problem for you.

      Both of these are cases where the strategy most likely to be mathematically optimum is not playing.

      In conventional gambling, with known risks, and costs in money, there are situations where a mathematically optimum strategy can be calculated of playing only a certain number of games. Gambling is an industry precisely because people do not pay careful attention to this, and carry out perfect strategies.

      For drug use and for magical experimentation, the costs are not always instant. Someone who appears to have had safe experiences now may not fit that profile in three years, or in ten. Decisions on mental health questions can have results that are extremely slow.

      1. In gambling, you only get the outcome if you ignore gambler’s ruin. This is one of the primary differences between practitioners and academics in finance. Academics assume the systems are ergodic and, implicitly, in statistical ensembles — they usually don’t realize that they’re doing either of these things. Practitioners know you only go through life once, manage the size of their bets, buy insurance, and are often accused of being “irrational” by the academics. Like the academics, they usually don’t realize they’re doing this but unlike the academics they usually don’t go boom. q.v., LTVM, or the Gaussian copula.

        Non ergodicity is an interesting new development in economics and actually makes it an awful lot better. The error goes back to Bernoulli and the matter is fundamental to the subject. Alas, as Kuhn noted, it will advance at the rate of retirement of senior economics professors.

      2. And this is why I (a) refrain from psychedelic drugs, and (b) deliberately avoid circumstances that might lead to a mystical experience.

        Sure, it might open my mind to different states of consciousness, but it could also put me on a slippery slope to schizophrenia. I think of most drugs, including alcohol, as messing with my engine: sugar in the tank or disconnecting one spark plug or whatever; something that will resolve itself soon enough or that I can quickly put back the way it was.

        Psychedelics and mystical experiences are more like disassembling a whole subsystem, throwing all the parts into a bin and shaking it up, and then reassembling them. Maybe got it right and don’t have any parts left over, and just barely possibly I improved the performance, but I don’t have a manual and it’s much more likely that I messed something up.

        1. Um… Why would anyone deliberately do shortcut things to have a mystical experience, when daily prayer usually does it eventually? I mean, if you don’t want to politely approach God, what do you want a mystical experience for? And if you have mystical consolation, you are almost certain to have spiritual aridity and desolation at some point. (Because you gain faith from the one, and you tend to have annoying problems from bad stuff, with the other.)

          And anyway, the more “spiritually advanced” that people get, the less they want the feelings of consolation, and the more they want the changes and growth from closeness with God that are harder to notice.

          Mysticism is not a drug or a.procedure. (Although I know a solid Catholic who calls his spiritual journal “lab reports.” This is the same guy who did the amino acid meditations on the Mysteries of the Rosary. He is a great fun guy.)

          1. Because not everyone chasing mystical experiences is doing so within the framework of Catholicism.

              1. Yeah, that’s what I meant. I mean, if you’re a pagan, honoring the gods and doing your duty in a dutiful way, you might expect to meet the gods someday, but you wouldn’t expect to have Instant Theurgical Powers. And so on.

                Modern people want everything to work like a faucet that you can turn on and off.

                1. It’s not just moderns, and /prayer/ is not the only possible mystical experience.

                  Look at the Mexica, particularly the Aztecs, and then look at Jeff Dahmer.

                  I’m feeling a little sick at my stomach, so I won’t try to line it out in intricate detail.

                  Mystical experiences include the religious and the magical. Some theories of magic associate power with taboos, either in following or in breaking.

                  Re: altered states of mind, consider the monkey dance before violence, and that the same can be applied to ritual.

                  And counting coup is a rather fast process for what was considering of mystical significance, and a somewhat less unpleasant example of such.

          2. Ease. Same reason as a person might take a ski lift just to see the view at the top, instead of hiking up, even if the view might not seem the same to both.

      1. Back in the mid-1990s, for my sins, and through a chain of circumstances that would be tedious to rehearse, I ended up as the director, prop-master, and cat-herder of the Tacoma Rocky Horror Picture Show cast for a couple of years.

        I was at a pre-show party with a bunch of late-teens and early-20-somethings, when somebody said something along the lines of “hey, let’s read from the Necronomicon and get out the Ouija board!” Now, the book they had was one of those 1970s fake mass-market ones, and I don’t believe that Ouija boards contact spirits, but I rather forcefully pointed out to them all that EVEN if they somehow thought that was a good combination, maybe doing it on the dark of the moon on the night before the Winter Solstice was a VERY VERY BAD time to be doing it.

        They all kind of looked at their shoes for a minute and went back to harmless revelry instead.

        1. Now, the book they had was one of those 1970s fake mass-market ones, and I don’t believe that Ouija boards contact spirits, but I rather forcefully pointed out to them all that EVEN if they somehow thought that was a good combination, maybe doing it on the dark of the moon on the night before the Winter Solstice was a VERY VERY BAD time to be doing it.


          Either it’s nonsense… or it’s not nonsense, in which case you’re like just short of “and add a blood sacrifice while turning around counter-clockwise in front of a mirror” level Bad Idea.

    3. If they have a technical / rationalist bent:

      There are states you can get your mind into which let you rewrite things it is dangerous to rewrite, stuff falling under the broad heading of “the occult” is really good at this. You wouldn’t write random data to your computer’s firmware, you shouldn’t do it with your brain. Especially since you can’t reflash your brain back to the factory state when something goes wrong.

    4. Also: lack of belief is in no way a shield if one decides to muck around with certain things. (ex: it doesn’t matter if you believe the Ouija board works or not–it won’t keep you safe if you start screwing around with one. Because the nasty things out there like to ignore the “I’m just joking” tone of voice, and treat an invitation as an invitation, full stop.)

      1. How people using a Ouija board are saying “as a joke let’s play around with this” but in the back of their minds they’re going “wouldn’t be cool if we contacted something”?

        So yes the Bad Critters ignore the “this is just for a joke” but act on the “wouldn’t be cool” thought. 👿

      2. I once pointed out to a person online that saying you don’t believe in the devil is as good protection as a woman who picks up men at the bar saying that she doesn’t believe in serial killers, they were a patriarchal construct to inhibit women.

        For a person who claimed to respect different beliefs, she sure was certain that her beliefs were facts, and the woman ought to believe HER.

        1. I do not believe in the Devil. But I do believe that, as Ian Bruene pointed out above, that you can get in a state where you can rewrite your own software and do it badly, or as I said somewhere in this thread, that you can reassemble your mental engine and find out you have parts left over.

          Humans are built to exchange emotional states and mental models (the original meaning of “meme”), and some memes are highly toxic mental viruses. Deliberately exposing yourself to toxic memes is as stupid as bathing in the blood of an Ebola victim. And while you can strengthen your mental immune system, it’s like writing security into your software: you might think you’ve done it right, you might have followed a cookbook (faith, philosophy, meditation, etc.), but chances are good you screwed up somewhere and that toxic meme will go right past it. So don’t do it.

          It’s fine to engage with the occult in terms of learning its history, or writing a novel touching on it, or running an RPG campaign based on it, as long as you maintain mental distance and don’t ever stop thinking it’s (literally) pernicious nonsense.

        2. For a person who claimed to respect different beliefs, she sure was certain that her beliefs were facts, and the woman ought to believe HER.

          What’s that line….something about “they say they’re open to other views, but then are shocked and offended to discover that there are other views.”

      3. I remember the meme I saw where someone had a Ouija board rug and the Roomba was accidentally summoning things.

        1. Yeah, I’ve seen that one. It made me laugh, but also go “Please tell me no one out there is dumb enough to have that as a rug.”

          But then, of course, the answer is almost certainly “There are probably more than a few out there dumb enough.”

    5. “The most dangerous thing you can do with Spirits is succeed in calling them. You have no guarantee you’re going to call the floppy puppy, the tiger is always hungry and you are on the menu if he sees you “

  28. There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio, than are dreamt of by your philosophy.

    I don’t believe in woo, despite a number of wooie events in my life. I’m not sure that woo doesn’t believe in me. I don’t think the devil is woo, what he is I don’t know, but that he is I do know and I think he’s abroad. Of course, one could go with Gaiman and Pratchett in saying that humans get up to things that devils wouldn’t think of, but I’m more with Lewis from That Hideous Strength. It starts with ugliness and one needs only look at a picture of a DC office building. It’s nihilism pure and simple, and the devil would rather have nothing that be second

    This is somewhat, but not entirely off topic and I made a typo earlier and so ended up in moderation — don’t type on your phone, the IPad is bad enough — but Evergrande, the biggest Chinese property company, is failing right now. it’s been going in for months but accelerated over the weekend. I’ve had a weekend of it let me tell you. Where it ties in to this topic is not knowing who the good guys are. Five years ago, a company called Citron research called Evergrande out for essentially what’s going on now. Citron were driven from the cHinese market, given huge fines and legal costs, the whole dreary business. They were right and had action been taken Evergrande could have been nipped 5 times smaller. Move forward to earlier this year, Citron was driven out of the short selling business by being on the wrong side of game stop. The whole meme thing of punishing the baddies was actually punishing the goodies. The short sellers make their money by telling the truth, usually, they’re not saints. They don’t have to lie because the other side does the lying for them. Why should the person who identifies the lie be the baddie?

    BTW Nothing has shown up in the papers about Evergrande outside a group who reads Zero Hedge and a single mention on Bloomberg. The Asian papers are silent. The Asian markets have been up because they believe that China will successfully shift the losses outside China. I think it’s 50/50 whether we wake up to nothing or a crisis that dwarfs Lehman. Evergrande owes $350B with $75B due over the next few months.

    Buckle up.

  29. I don’t have a problem with the idea of short selling. I do, however, have a problem with shortselling forty percent more of a company’s stock than actually exists.

    I don’t think GameStop is viable for long. It’s business model is approaching the end of it’s useful life. But there was too big of a feeding frenzy this time

    As for Evergrande – I can’t say much because I’m not familiar with them. Are they purely Chinese real estate? Or do they have foreign holdings?

    1. I think the guys who worked the squeeze by identifying an excellent opportunity were great. What I don’t think is great is the notion they were sticking it to the man. The short sellers get paid to find out lies, which is why the liars try to get them punished. The short sellers aren’t the man, they’re the actual Robin Hood’s, I can’t believe I just wrote that.

      Ys, I’m talking my book. I’m not a short seller though I do, occasionally, sell short. it’s a really good way to lose all your money if you get it wrong, I use it to hedge,

      It’s all such nonsense. My daughter came home from school back in 2008 and asked me what short sellers look like. They’d told her that the financial crisis was caused by the short sellers. I did the vogue face framing hands and smiled. She couldn’t believe that I was a short seller. They were made out to be bad people who caused the innocent to suffer. Nope, the idiots that sold unlimited downside backed by pools of underwater 120%LTV liar loans caused
      It much as the idiots that tell you to buy sucks at the worst valuation level ever are causing it now

      One of the greatest propaganda triumphs is the slogan Don’t sell America short.

      I would not, repeat not, recommend that anyone become a short seller. It’s a good way to lose, not only the money you have, but all the money you don’t yet have too.

      1. Short selling is selling stuff you don’t own, that may not exist.

        There are, I’m sure, quite defensible edge cases for it, especially in high speed trading.

        When you’re selling 40% of a company’s total worth in “doesn’t exist,” you’re not a truth teller, and that’s not an edge case.

        The Nazis hated the Soviets; that doesn’t make Stalin a good guy, nor visa-versa.

        1. Umm yes, but mostly no. The law is you borrow the shares. You certainly pay to borrow them. Short sellers also stop the market falling by covering their shorts and you can’t run an options market or hedge your portfolio without them.

          The old saying was “he who sells what isn’t his’n must buy it back or go to pris’n. If you want a bad guy, blame the regulators who don’t enforce the law against naked selling or who bail out the bankers if they’re caught so no bankers ever go to prison. That those regulators go to work at these banks after their government “service” is probably about as closely related as the generals going to defense industries after keeping wars going or the CDC clowns going to Pfizer to shill for vaccines that would cover the hole left by Viagra’s patents expiring.

          In any case, it’s is not a Hitler / Stalin or a good guy bad guy thing anyway. it’s just money. If you want a liquid market that allows you to buy and sell with little friction then you need short sellers. They are no better nor worse than long buyers.

          1. Thing is, I don’t want a bad guy.

            I’m objecting to trying to frame people selling stuff that isn’t theirs and objectively profiting from causing a loss in others as being good guys, just because the shoe pinched when someone else figured out a way to profit by causing them to take a loss.

            In any case, it’s is not a Hitler / Stalin or a good guy bad guy thing anyway. it’s just money.

            If you think it’s “just money,” then stop trying to make it a moral thing, and assigning good guys and bad guys.

            They gambled.

            They lost.

            That doesn’t make them Robin Hood, even if them gambling produces as much “look at the good stuff” as state lotteries.

            1. I’m afraid that people sell stuff that isn’t their’s all the time. That’s essentially what banking is. They borrow it. There is no moral difference between short selling or buying on margin and before you start, your mortgage is buying on margin. Naked short selling is fraud, short selling is just short selling.

              Short sellers don’t cause the loss, almost always recless spending and fraud do.

              Robin Hood wasn’t a good guy.

              What I was trying, badly, to bring forward is that it’s hard to tell who the good guys are using an example that was discussed here when the GameStop thing was going on. Almost no one here understood who was who or what was what and assigned good guys and bad guys without having any idea why or wherefore.

              In any case, the short sellers in question were right about Evergrande. The officials let it get 5 Times bigger. $350 B US is a lot of money.

              Look on the news and see if you see anything about it then ask who the baddies are.

              1. Naked short selling IS illegal, it IS widespread, and NOTHING is done about it. Millions of shares have been on the REG SHO lists for DECADES with no action by the SEC.

                The stock market is a zero-sum game. In order for one player to win, others must lose. Buying and selling the same things over and over and over does not create value. It’s just gambling. Those involved in trading stocks produce nothing, their mistakes and malfeasance can ruin millions of lives, and yet they are among the most highly paid individuals in our economy. That’s F’d up.

                    1. You are correct that naked short selling is illegal.,You are correct that it isn’t being enforced by the SEC. You could add that most of this trading is playing with free money by people with first access to it, so add the FRB to your evil list.

                      You are not correct about trading being a zero sum game, You are somewhat correct about churning trades on short term fluctuation, much of it is what’s called front running, and front running is illegal but not enforced by the SEC. You’re mostly incorrect about mistakes in the markets causing misery in the economy, the stock market is an effect not a cause. The Great Depression caused the stock market crash, not vice versa. You are right about no one being punished for their actions. They used to be but not any more.

                      The issue with the markets in the here and now is a collapse in the rule of law. It goes back a long way and is the product of what is called regulatory capture. The market will make the best of whatever environment it’s in. If the law isn’t enforced the players won’t obey it. It seems to me that the people entrusted with enforcing the law are at fault here.

              2. *looks over response*

                As you aren’t arguing with what I said, but are arguing with quite a bit of unrelated stuff, I’ll take that as good enough.

                1. This set of comments tied back into the main topic in an interesting way in that I raised a power I wasn’t intending to. Och weel.

                  I did answer you, though I suppose I was, as usual, inarticulate; but I’m going leave it there and go to bed, because I have to get up in the wee hours and deal with whatever falls out of a $350B default and so won’t argue usury and ex nihilo nihil fit, which is what your 40% argument, which seems to be the critical point in your objection if I’ve understood it correctly, amounts to.

            2. Bingo.

              Short-selling *is* a good thing. For instance, it was short-sales that got people taking a properly close look at Enron. But there was too big of a feeding frenzy on GameStop (and to a lesser extent AMC).

              1. When short sellers flood the market with millions of ‘ghost shares’, drive the stock price of a good, stable company into the ground and reap a fortune by putting the company out of business, that’s a good thing?

                A company’s stock is often used as collateral for loans. If the stock price crashes, the loans have to be paid off immediately. That’s part of what happened to Bear Stearns. Another part was, the short-sellers had a lot of money in Bear Stearns accounts, and pulled it all out.

                1. Advice from “Letters From a Self-Made Merchant To His Son” written around 1900 (entertaining stories about business advice, still applicable today – highly recommended): self-made merchant tells his son that he never sold anything short unless he was absolutely certain he could lay hands on it if needed (actually calls it being a bear, as opposed to a bull).

              2. They don’t actually do that. A good, stable company can’t be driven into the ground by ghost shares and short sellers don’t create them in any case.

                What drives the good, stable company into the ground is the leveraged buyout when vultures buy the good, stable company, strip the assets, steal the pension fund, load it up with debt and then it goes boom because it’s no longer a good, stable company, it’s the shrunken shell of a once good stable company.

                What the short seller does is identify when this has happened, and then, yes they sometimes profit. Interestingly enough most short sellers die poor because you have to be right, at the right time and it’s very hard to do that.

                Honestly, this is what happens. What the short seller does is identify it. The people who tell you how evil the short seller is are typically paid by the other side.

                I’m not talking about naked short selling, naked short selling is fraud and the broker dealer who put the transaction through is complicit in the fraud. Moreover, this kind of short selling is actually a minor part of all short selling. Most of it is hedging. Insurance in another word.

                So, yes. Short selling is a good thing.

                1. Since you replied to me…

                  “They” don’t actually do what? What I specifically identified was the frenzy over Gamestop’s stock. 140% of Gamestop’s outstanding stock was short sold. There’s no debate over the fact it happened. And *THAT* is a problem. I don’t care how you try and frame it. Shorting that much of a company’s stock shouldn’t ever happen.

                  1. Gamestop is not a stable, healthy company. It’s being kept alive by the mass of cheap credit and money printing to everyone is going on about. Without that, they’d be gone. they’re what is called a Zombie company. there are a lot of them I’m afraid.

                    The people who were naked, that’s the term, on GameStop were committing fraud, themselves and their primary brokers. They ought to be prosecuted but won’t be. They were also incredibly stupid and should have been wiped out, but won’t be. The Reddit kids executed the most epic “short squeeze” in history but the hedge funds on the other side look to have survived or just lost client money, their principals will be back.

                    If you want to blame someone, blame the economic regulators who provided free money to keep GameStop alive, who provided free money for the short sellers, and who won’t prosecute the short sellers or their primary brokers for fraud.

                    Please don’t mistake me, short sellers aren’t Boy Scouts. It’s a ruthless business. What they are is no worse than the big, respectable firms who do more damage but are seen as captains of industry, master of the universe, maestros. What they are is greedy, thieves, the regulators are corrupt, and the financial press a bunch of barking seals.

                    1. GameStop is being kept alive by a bunch of people switching over to the recently released new Playstation and XBox consoles, and dumping all of their old stuff at GameStop. GameStop then turns around and sells it all as Used. The second-hand market is pretty much the only reason why GameStop still matters, and now is basically the best possible time for it.

                      In a year or two, when the new consoles have been around for a while, the number of people doing this will decrease, and GameStop will go belly up faster than an Upsidedown Catfish. But that point hasn’t been reached yet

                      In short, your argument might have made sense a couple of years from now. But not yet. And also, as has been noted repeatedly by everyone posting on this particular topic except you, the funds went overboard with the shorting to an absolutely ridiculous degree.

                  1. All the big firms do both. Most of it is hedging and market making. Hedge funds qua hedge funds do both, that’s what hedge fund means, — they’re supposed to be lower risk but many hedge funds are just large one way bets in non liquid assets, a few firms specialize in it, and they usually do very good analytical work but it’s a good way to lose all the money you might ever have.

                    A typical hedge fund example would be a pairs trade. you might buy Coke and sell short Pepsi. You eliminate a fair bit of what is called Systemic Risk and increase what is called idiosyncratic risk. if Coke does better than Pepsi, you profit. The profit is very small so you do it with borrowed money to increase your ROE. , This is called leverage. If Pepsi should outperform Coke the leverage can cause you to lose money in a hurry and if Coke should introduce New Coke causing Coke to crater and Pepsi to rocket then you lose all your money.

                    I’m a hedger. I have a very aggressive stock allocation, typically over 90%, and use put options to hedge the tails. I’m willing to live with small ups and downs but not willing to go through the crash of 2008 naked. I will sometimes buy what they call reverse ETF’s which are essentially short bets. I went net short in August 2008, this was by far the most profitable trade in my life. I am net short now, some in a reverse ETF and some in long term out options. At the moment I’m losing money on it. We’ll see.

                    I don’t sell names short, I’m too small to get the good pricing so the carry is too expensive. Further, The losses in short selling are unlimited and the gains are limited. I don’t ever put myself in an unlimited loss situation, ever. Never, ever ever.

                    Honestly, I don’t understand the opprobrium around short selling. It’s no different from long buying. Propaganda is a powerful thing.

                2. The stock market is not a “zero sum game.” We are living through a time in which the computer revolution has created entirely new industries. That tends to bias people to be optimistic about company valuations, even though there have been many years in which the S&P 500 was horizontal.

                  I choose truth rather than lies. Often short sellers are more truthful than people who are long a stock. There are lots of people selling hope. Often that hope (the argument that a company’s stock price will go up) turns out to be, effectively, a lie.

                  I don’t try to short stocks because timing is everything. You have to be right, lucky, and…the rest of the market has to believe in your argument. If any one of those elements are missing, it can go very badly. I read short sellers because Caveat Emptor always applies.

                  And a point that I’m trying to make is that people backing companies without products, like Theranos, are harming people who buy their companies. Not every company is valued correctly.

    2. Evergrande is almost entirely in China though a fair amount of their funding came from abroad. They are the usual pumped up conglomerate. We’re they to fall, it would cause problems though. They’re one of the largest consumers of steel for example.

      The big thing though is $350 Billion and it’s not clear that that’s the total, it could be significantly higher. Further, the real damage would come if the chain unwinds. the word is re-hypothecation and is what the last financial crisis was all about.

      Im not sure the world is a highly leveraged as it was last time, but China is. I’d think they’re going to let Evergrande go and this is what all Winnie the Pooh’s BS over the last few weeks about equality and sharing the burden has been about. It was battlefield prep for this event. Wiping out most of the private capital in China would suit him.

      We’ll see. the math is the same as electric grid failure. if the load is above the critical level, the failure of any component will cause the whole grid to fail, if not, not.

      1. There’s a lot of unusual stuff going on in China right now. It looks like Xi’s also in the process of getting government tentacles into companies that influence the minds of Chinese kids.

        And I just happen to be listening to a biography of Mao…

        1. How’s this for a creepy thought– familiar with the whole kill-the-swallows-they-eat-grain-oh-wait-they-eat-BUGS famine thing with China?

          ….isn’t that rather similar to the self inflicted situation with banning DDT, and the habit of banning any pest control that actually works?

          Sure rhymes with how the activists go nuts about animal abuse in the US, when it’s bigger in China and other such countries; racism, sexism, etc….

          It’s like folks get addicted to forcing the US to self-inflict the costs that other folks’ Bad Choices give them.

          1. Re: “the habit of banning any pest control that actually works”

            Insecticides such as DDT (and pyrethroids, and organophosphates, and pretty much any other commercial-grade one you can name) all have an insoluble problem: the target insects swiftly evolve resistance, and after a while – not a very long while – you find yourself having to up the dosage. Lather, rinse, repeat two or three times, and eventually you’re using such high doses that you’re poisoning insect-eaters such as birds, and possibly even the things that eat them .. but the now-highly-resistant target insects are not affected at all anymore. At that point, stopping their use becomes a matter of necessity, unless you want to poison the entire ecosystem. Enough Americans enjoy our various levels of parks that that’s not a viable option here. Of course, countries without environmental-protection laws like China will do as they damn well please.

            Sadly, there is nothing to be done about this, just keep switching to newer and newer insecticides. Evolution always wins. I suspect that somewhere somebody is trying to develop two or more insecticides that work in counterpoint — that is, increasing resistance to one automatically means a reduced resistance to the other(s) – but I haven’t heard of any successes.

            1. I am familiar with the claims– problem being that when I have dug up the support for those claims (and it was always that I had to go dig them up, they were not offered), the evidence was greatly over-stated or flatly nonsense.

              For example, using a caliper to measure the thickness of bird egg shells is like trying to measure a sponge with a caliper due to the nature of eggshells, or the case of non-targeted insects turning out to be directly spraying the specific non-targeted insect with three times the maximum mixture during entirely the wrong season for the pesticide used.

                1. Ooh, I am still so pissed over that last one– got spread as “kills honey bee hives when used anywhere near them and they don’t even care,” when the freaking MORONS that did it were literally in jail because that kind of nonsense is an illegal violation of their sprayer’s license because it’s dangerous, and it STILL only killed the (native, solitary) bees that were in the trees and directly sprayed.
                  Soaked in pesticide, for heaven’s sake!

              1. Foxfier, I’m also familiar with the claims that DDT made birds’ eggshells thinner – and why those claims were arrant nonsense at best, and deliberately malicious at worst. And I know that when used carefully, DDT remains a useful weapon against disease-carrying mosquitoes. But OTOH, I also know quite well that populations of insectivorous birds and dropping steadily, and habitat loss can’t be the only reason for it.

                A few years ago now, 1994 to be exact, a chap named Jonathan Weiner wrote about this matter of insects evolving to defeat insecticides in his book The Beak of the Finch, about evolution and how it works. He concluded that chemical insecticides are, while not a dead end, certainly a case of diminishing returns. The insects can evolve resistance faster than we can develop new pesticides. I haven’t seen anything since then to suggest his analysis was wrong.

                Point is, on at least some occasions there are good reasons for banning certain pest-control methods, no matter how effective they are. I’m not saying it’s always true, but I certainly think it’s true in some cases.

                1. But OTOH, I also know quite well that populations of insectivorous birds and dropping steadily, and habitat loss can’t be the only reason for it.

                  Did you check if those reported drops correlated with those times when, if it was known you had certain animals on your property, you effectively lost the property?
                  Or the known cases where areas’ population report was based off of the numbers that a few bird watchers, and when they got older or got sick, or changed jobs, or the place they went to bird had one side built on, the numbers went down? (See also the studies based off of dead birds on the side of the road or dead bugs on vehicles– that didn’t account for changing styles of vehicles and changing driving patterns.)

                  That’s just two very common, well known issues; the infamous cases where scientists took X percent of eggs of an endangered population and dutifully recorded that X percent fewer hatchlings were sighted are somewhat harder to find, since you have to connect different studies, programs and reports to find them.

                  I went and looked up some of the studies that set out to test the claims of increasing resistance, by sampling insects in a variety of areas over a range of years. They found that some populations did show resistance, defined as anything less than 85% fatality an hour after exposure to paper saturated with a specific concentration of various pesticides.
                  …they also found that there was no correlation between use and resistance, with some populations being resistant one year and having over 95% fatality during the next test.

                  There is a massive difference between “there can possibly be a reason to ban some insecticides” and the Silent Spring type lies poured out to ban DDT.

                  THAT IS WHY I DO NOT BELIEVE THE STORIES. Because when we go dig up the evidence behind the stories, we find out that THEY WERE EDITED in order to promote the “correct” conclusion, rather than to find the true conclusion.

                  The dance never ends, unsupported claims get thrown out, debunked, and then abandoned until someone that didn’t see the debunking is around, then they’re thrown out again.

                  See also, the infamous “wolves never attack humans” dance. Which became PURE wolves never attack humans. Which became healthy wolves never attack humans. Which became healthy wolves never attack humans unless the humans are doing something wrong. Which became there are no confirmed cases of healthy wolves attacking humans that were doing nothing wrong– defined by “it was witnessed by a wolf biologist and all involved survived, then the wolves were captured and tested.”

                  Then a wolf biologist was mauled by wolves he’d been studying and survived without the wolves escaping, so now it’s just “is rare.”

                  Was, when pressed, limited to North America; even the craziest didn’t try to claim European wolves never never never attacked humans, they’d just dodge the question instead.

      2. I’ve read that China is in about six times deeper than we were in 2008.

        Their entire building industry appears to me to be a pyramid scheme, and the little people who invested in China’s only investable asset, “homes” (high-rise apartments) are going to get the shaft.

        1. “Homes” in China aren’t really a good long-term asset. IIRC, the land that a given building rests on is often under what is effectively a very long-term lease with a one-time payment (at the start of the lease). And eventually the lease will expire, and the ground will revert back to the local government that issued the lease.

          1. Right. But far as what I’ve heard, it’s about the only investment available to ordinary citizens.

            ‘Interesting’ way to ensure that inheritances are never long-term.

  30. Interesting stuff as always… I guess the best way to describe my vision in this area is my left eye before last year’s surgery. I can’t completely dismiss various forms of…weirdness for lack of a better term but outside an odd coincidence and observation or two I’ve never experienced anything “woo-y” and tend to mostly default to “there’s a rational explanation for everything” even if, for whatever reason, I can’t break that last tie to Christianity and just go full agnostic. Whether that’s because there’s something to it or just sheer cowardice on my part, I can’t say. I know I’ve said it a million times now but Southern Church Culture really sucks for Odds even if some of the crazier fundies I’ve met are tame compared to some of the others here. Having a taste for games and stories with a horror-like flavor to them like Shin Megami Tensei and Devil May Cry (yes Vergil, I know you had plenty of input on Max, and are looking forward to seeing him face down challenges different from Dante) really doesn’t help with these types either. I can believe there’s some kind of malevolent trickster, or more than one of them, out there thanks to crap like the Covidiocy and how catastrophically wrong some things have gone in my life, hence my oft-repeated comment about the actual Trinity I deal with being Loki, Tzeentch, and Nyarlathotep. Where that leaves me in all this, who can say?

    1. Thing is, if there is ‘a rational explanation for everything’, then all of the behavior is a result of neurological weirdness.

      If it is neurological weirdness, then we cannot reliably direct experiments to minimize hazard, and that pushes us to find a way to avoid playing the games.

      I’m meaning game in a statistical sense, and referring to magical experimentation. SMT is a sort of game I would consider playing these days, if I was not trying to minimize my time spent on video games, and hence spending too much time on incrementals/idles/clickers, etc. I read a lot of fantasy, and think I have a pretty small risk of problems from it. (Or at least, that sort of problem, I’m maybe a bit too invested in reading this one thing with kung fu wizards.) I’ve definitely had superstitious concerns about whether playing a wizard in a video game was something I should be doing, and maybe they were even correct.

      My strategy for not playing the games is basically paying close attention to my own thinking, and rooting out the magical thinking.

      One result, as I’ve learned more about the theory and practice of physical models, is that the physical models are much more suspicious than I originally believed. Another is that the reliability of a physical model should not be taken as evidence that those modeling human behavior have any idea of what they are doing. Experiments /only/ tell you exactly what experiments tell you, and extrapolation can be very invalid.

      Anyway, so I can paint that as ‘my rationalist journey towards skepticism of rationalism’. ;P Might be as fun as ‘my intellectual journey to anti-intellectualism’. Truthfully, I’m pretty sure that the important parts of the journey were not what I discuss in this comment, so it wasn’t really a /rationalist/ journey. But it may still be fair to say that if someone thinks anything coming from a university in the past fifty years is completely trustworthy, it is only because they have not gone deep into the guts of studying it, and figuring out why we think it might be true.

      If a religious theory is true, it might then be possible to predict that some types of magical thinking are safe. In which case, a confidence in a rational explanation for everything may be sound. ~:D

      1. Re: if there is ‘a rational explanation for everything’

        There is… but it may not be what you (generic ‘you’) think it is. I decided (or discovered, or concluded – call it what you will) long ago that the term “supernatural” is an oxymoron. If something can affect the consensus Universe, then it unquestionably exists. If it exists, then it is unquestionably part of Nature. And if it’s part of Nature, then there is a rational explanation for it. We might not yet have all the required facts to come up with that explanation, but it has to exist.

        1. C.S. Lewis has a thick chapter on Nature in Studies In Words. It’s a profitable study. It goes into what we mean by supernatural even if it doesn’t make much sense.

          It makes some.

          1. I find that substituting *unnatural for *supernatural helps me. It is *unnatural for a person to walk on water, i. e. it defies what we understand of the nature of bodies of water. Lewis pointed to Joseph’s first impulse, faced with a pregnant fiancée was to break off, because he knew no *natural way it could be anything other than illicit sex. To me, arguing about definitions seems to devolve, all too often, into hair-splitting and semantic acrobatics.

    2. SMT is the kind of thing that would probably draw all sorts of negative attention if more people knew about it. And that applies to pretty much *all* of the various digital devil games, even when they don’t have SMT in the title. That includes the DX2 mobile game that I have installed on my phone (though it’s been a little while since I last signed in), that has a “VR” mode somewhat similar to the VR mode in Pokemon Go.

      Persona is its *much* less problematic sibling.

      I’m suddenly reminded of the times that old video game Xenogears came up for discussion online, and I would feel the need to step in and remind people that the protagonist in that game does *not* actually kill “God” as we understand the concept. Instead, he kills a rogue planetary defense system with delusions of grandeur.

  31. WRT Quantum Mechanics: Instead of saying that “we don’t understand it,” it might be better to say that “at very small scales(*) matter and energy don’t interact in the same ways they do at human scale, so our everyday models don’t work.”
    We’re used to motion not being quite the same when you’re walking on the sidewalk and when you’re trying to walk in a swimming pool. QM is what you get when you try to describe things and events where Heisenberg’s Uncertainty matters. The corner cases can be surprising–like Pauli exclusion–but also provide “So that’s why atoms don’t collapse!” explanations.

    (*) and at very large scales

    I wish I could contradict our hostess’s insights, but they reflect some of my own thinking lately. Cultures sometimes seem to “go mad” — rarely in good directions.

    C.S. Lewis said he was influenced by Rudolf Otto’s _The Idea of the Holy_ . In the book (I think it was the introduction) Otto warns that those who have not experienced the numinous probably won’t understand what he’s writing about.

    I haven’t experienced anything I’d call a ghost, though my wife think she has (not malevolent, just intensely sad). The only times I’ve had an inarticulate and unexplained “risk, flee!” were times that might better be described by “The Gift of Fear” than anything supernatural.

    But I had an epiphany–clarity I never had before or since–that everything made sense in Jesus, which is why I’m a Christian now. So, some supernatural experience.

  32. Keel’s books are the *only* ones I’ve read on the subject which made the hair on the back of my neck stand up, felt like I was being watched, and could not read at night as the feeling increased tenfold.

  33. Yeah, I was actually feeling a little compelled to write something similar.

    Sections are labeled this way, because they do not logically flow, and some of it feels really crazy and untrustworthy, and I want people forewarned in case they find it is not something that they should read.


    We basically have the ‘real magic’ hypothesis, and the ‘human psychology is weird’ hypothesis, and they are not mutually exclusive. I’m also not sure they are exhaustive, but alternative hypotheses are not ones I am aware of knowing. And because we have so many humans, humans vary, measuring humans is hard, and so many humans are known strange, hypothesis testing is not trivially easy.

    If you carefully avoid anything to do with such experiences, evidence fits ‘human psychology is weird’.

    I try not to seek out experiences, as a matter of faith. I believe that Christ can and does prevent magic from having power, and part of this is the Christian not seeking stuff out. This realization or conviction is perhaps the first element of how I developed religious beliefs.

    Some of the ‘but how do I know’, and being careful about sources of information, is driven by religious experience. Though, the way I do it is solitary enough, that if I were seeking out power, it would probably be classified as magic by the way I draw the religion/magic line.

    Part of the reason for the solitude is experiences with family members who are both religious, and very mentally ill. They were around me, so it would have been very damaging to take what those around me think and feel about religion for granted. I am also very reclusive. At the same time, I know very well that my own thinking and feeling can be very suspect.

    Anyway, this is part of my basis for understanding that leftism is a heresy. Some of how I work, is not rational, and does not have a basis in careful logic. But, I do try to pay attention to how I know things, and to distrust sources of information that are not things it is wise for me to trust. Seeing information from sources can be seeking power from sources. This is largely why the magical thinking in leftism, when it comes to forecasting/knowing, is so objectionable in my eyes.

    It really does matter that some of the ancient Greeks understood mathematics as knowledge gained with mystical experience, and that this influenced mathematical ideas in Marx’s era. Sources and practices are both actually really important when it comes to academic thinking in theory, for more reasons than simply the proper use of theory as a tool.

    I normally look at this as stuff I don’t need to say, that is rude or boring to bring up, and repeat all of the time.


    I was actually starting to feel a little compulsion on this, after Foxfier’s mention of raise in activity by Catholic exorcists.

    The ‘magic is actually real’, and the ‘human psychology is weird’ theories can both explain such an observation.

    One of the ideas that is relatively safe, if one uses it in fictional world building, and doesn’t take it seriously, is ‘faith by Christians had a role in pushing out black magic and power held by idols’. It is unsafe if you assume that there is a mechanism for this, and that one can personally game that mechanism in RL.

    For the ‘magic is real’ explanation combined with ‘pushed out by faith’, either modern faith in idols of leftism and scientism has empowered something, or Anti-Pope Frank has weakened the magic that protects Catholics whose faith is not as strong.

    For a pure ‘humans are weird’ explanation, our ideas about magical power will clearly shape our interpretation of whatever defect it is in our neural functioning that causes such experiences. So, likewise Anti-Pope Frank, and the bowing by a lot of nominal Christians to false idols. A more Protestant explanation would be to classify Catholicism as a magic seeking sort of faith practice, requiring magically competent priests, so combining the practice with a secular priesthood, or undermining confidence in the magical power of the priesthood, would be bad. Full Lutheran catechism theory predicts the behavior poorly, unless it is the end times.

    So, the sort of analysis that interests me in some ways. But, laying it out, I am feeling unpleasant, and wondering if I haven’t made a mistake in thinking it out this way, and also in sharing. Maybe that ‘intuition’ to speak out was from a bad source, or the execution has been twisted in some way?

    Definitely, I’m not confident in my answers about the true way to practice the faith. I’m also not entirely confident in my understanding of the correct Christian approach towards magic. Or even if what I am trying to do is the correct thing for me to be trying to do.

    Much of my writing and thinking is directed by intuitions. I’m a bit uncomfortable about the possibility I need to be being more discriminate about which intuitions I ‘act’ on.

    I’m also very stressed now, and am not at all enthused about stepping back from my ‘real’ work, and trying to get this stuff figured out, on top of my baseline normal levels of freaking out in the current circumstances.


    It has often seemed a possibility that I am fundamentally mistaken in how I practice, and have some aspect that it is vitally necessary for me to fix.

    I really do not know.

    Definitely, there is a utilitarian materialist ‘humans are weird’ explanation for the value of religion. Definitely, it is also useless for defining effective practice of a sound religion. Definitely, times are now stressful.

    Definitely, magical stuff is extremely dangerous to seek out.

    i. I’m pretty sure that current events can be described in terms of a separation in religious practice, and a breakdown in the ‘peace’ that previously appeared to exist between those religious practitioners. I will repeat that I had spent a little time re-examining Christian/Pagan, Christian/Muslim, and Catholic/Protestant conflicts to try to find a useful guide to the secular politics of this. I did find a lot of bad secular options, and the usual religious options. But, the English Civil War is interesting, that may have been an actual breakdown of peace between Anglicans and Catholics, spurred on by the monarch.

    Thank The Lord for Thomas and for Gorsuch. Thomas’s rectitude, and Gorsuch’s failure show very clearly that the current mess is not merely Catholic wrong doing, and that the Protestants have also played a role in falling to the heresy. The opposition had very nearly lined things up so that they could pass this mess off as Anti-Catholicism, or as a Catholic conspiracy. The unavoidable part of the fight is bad enough, without all of the possible avoidable parts. Americans have never entirely trusted or liked each other, so we could plausibly kill ourselves off if we got drawn into /all/ of the avoidable fights.

    1. I read your post with interest. I think that the recent rise in interest in returning to the Latin masses and older traditions of the Church is a reaction of the faithful to a feeling of unholiness emanating from Bergoglio. People are fleeing from his corruption to what has protected them in the past.

      I tend to believe the old pagan deities did have power, and there’s a reason that people fled from them to the salvation offered by Christ.

      1. I tend to believe the old pagan deities did have power, and there’s a reason that people fled from them to the salvation offered by Christ.

        Plot bunny/idea, free to a good home-
        baptism traditionally offered a large degree of protection. HUGE degree, like “they OWNED you, but now they can’t touch you” level protection. People can still hurt you, but even if you backslide they didn’t have the same amount of power.

        Almost everybody in the first world is baptized, even if it was just to make grandma happy and they were then abandoned.

        And there are blessed things all over.

        1. St.Athanasius’ book, On the Incarnation of the Word, famously invites unbelievers to prove that Jesus is God to themselves by visiting the temple district in their cities and saying Jesus’ name or making the Sign of the Cross. Because it will instantly destroy the ceremony, even if you don’t believe yet.

          St. Saturninus (a bishop in Gaul) got martyred for allegedly disrupting city sacrifices by his mere propinquity, as he commuted on foot.

          The rise in exorcisms has been a thing for a while. People not going to church, not receiving Sacraments, and fooling with Bad Stuff instead, is probably the reason. Getting possessed does not just happen; it is what happens after a lot of unnoticed/undealt with spiritual problems.

          In Catholicism, the Sacrament of Confirmation (“strengthening”) not only gives a seal on Baptism and gives you the Seven Gifts of the Holy Spirit. It also gives resistance against demonic attacks. Which was why you were supposed to receive it either immediately after Baptism (as in the East) or at some point close to the age of reason, which was seven, and before First Communion (as in the West until the Seventies).

          In US Catholicism, most kids get Confirmation in high school (the “Catholic bar mitzvah” idea, bleh, and without the bar mitzvah good stuff), and many refuse to be Confirmed at all (which is their right, but which happens because it is presented as “being really sure you are Catholic, so you confirm your commitment,” bleh, and let’s not get into the simony of mandatory volunteerism). So basically they have minimal defenses during important periods of life, while being told lies at school, by the media, etc.

          1. I am TEMPTED to get you started on the entire mess, because holy crow will I sing along with the chorus! I am still hurt and angry over how I was abandoned to the general culture, because something as simple as “hey, resources EXIST to educate yourself, since we can’t be bothered during the dedicated faith formation classes.”

            It’s abandonment all the way down.

            1. Yup. Although my childhood parish and my parents’ teaching was better than most, my faith formation still left out a lot. I was very angry for many years, when I found out how much.

              A lot good information actually came from Fatima devotional material, which (at least the Blue Army stuff) was meaty for.its skimpy size. Which is why the annoying conspiracy theory stuff really annoys me, as did some of the earlier waves of stupid.

              1. My parish was kind of an oasis from epically bad Archbishop Bernardin, and it had money/donors. So it got punished and attacked in various ways, like sending problem priests there. (My pastor literally patrolled the property with his dog, to watch for problems, even though he had a bad back, and couldn’t tell people why, so.people thought he was the weird one. He was an uncharismatic priest but a stubborn honest shepherd.)

                All this went over my head as a kid, of course.

                1. *sympathy* We got lucky, entirely avoided those issues. (Which is kind of a bad thing– the way the parish was set up, it would’ve been an effective way to prevent any chance for grooming.)

                  We were always at a satellite parish that WAS the punishment/”get him away from me” place for priests that were
                  1) dying of terminal illness,
                  2) unknown qualities they were testing,
                  3) people who REALLY annoyed the bishop.

                  The last one included a guy my family STILL calls “Father Leprechaun.”

                2. So basically the bad catechesis we got was more about parents who did not know what they were supposed to teach, along with muddying of the waters by the problem priests.

              2. Eh. I knew the guy who published that in Portugal. He tried to get his wife to go into a convent because he wanted to become a monk. It took his son, my age, to get in his face and point out he had seven kids to support. So he moved to Fatima and became a publisher.

                1. Ugh. I’m glad he found a middle course, but… yeah, good devotions attract some very fringey people. And fringey devotions get even weirder results.

                  I’m still kind of weirded out that we had a local false apparition/fraud/whatever that had Mary worried about flying saucers, telling people to “Watch the skies!”, and advising people on the size of blankets they should buy. I would have more details, but I threw out the unauthorized flyers when I saw them.

          2. I don’t think there’s anything bad about the Mass of Pope Paul VI, when said honestly. But like a lot of post-Vatican II stuff, it leaves out good bits, and leaves holes that bad people can use for bad/lazy things. It is less impressive and artistic, which tends to slowly drive people away, unless you have a lot of good things going on that help draw people back. The catechesis has holes, often, especially because people tend not to understand Mass because of the things taken out.

            But in general, the old Mass is better and more complete in theology and practice. It inspires people more. And you tend to get better catechesis if you attend a parish with the Extraordinary Form.

  34. In a room full of Odds, leave it to me to be Odd man out.

    “Woo woo!” to me invokes cheesy Martial Arts movies, where every lightning move has dubbed sound effects:

    Woo! CRAK! Woo! Woo! THUD! Woo! CRAKTHUD! Woo! Woo! THUD!

    1. You’re not alone. I keep thinking it refers to sex, although my brain might just be confusing it with “snu-snu” from a Futurama episode. It has that same “there might be young children listening” feel.

      1. I don’t know about Futurama, but I do know in the Sims franchise, Woohoo refers to the Sims taking long looks at each other in bed, pulling the blankets over their heads, and having the dust fly. (I think it’s supposed to be steam, but it looks like dust.)

  35. So, when I read the argument for using the stepping stones in the fog, I immediately flashed to G. K. Chesterton’s argument for not abolishing an inconvenient gate. (Have forgotten the book he used it in.)

    1. Not the gate. The fence.

      In the matter of reforming things, as distinct from deforming them, there is one plain and simple principle; a principle which will probably be called a paradox. There exists in such a case a certain institution or law; let us say, for the sake of simplicity, a fence or gate erected across a road. The more modern type of reformer goes gaily up to it and says, “I don’t see the use of this; let us clear it away.” To which the more intelligent type of reformer will do well to answer: “If you don’t see the use of it, I certainly won’t let you clear it away. Go away and think. Then, when you can come back and tell me that you do see the use of it, I may allow you to destroy it.”

      This paradox rests on the most elementary common sense. The gate or fence did not grow there. It was not set up by somnambulists who built it in their sleep. It is highly improbable that it was put there by escaped lunatics who were for some reason loose in the street. Some person had some reason for thinking it would be a good thing for somebody. And until we know what the reason was, we really cannot judge whether the reason was reasonable. It is extremely probable that we have overlooked some whole aspect of the question, if something set up by human beings like ourselves seems to be entirely meaningless and mysterious. There are reformers who get over this difficulty by assuming that all their fathers were fools; but if that be so, we can only say that folly appears to be a hereditary disease. But the truth is that nobody has any business to destroy a social institution until he has really seen it as an historical institution. If he knows how it arose, and what purposes it was supposed to serve, he may really be able to say that they were bad purposes, that they have since become bad purposes, or that they are purposes which are no longer served. But if he simply stares at the thing as a senseless monstrosity that has somehow sprung up in his path, it is he and not the traditionalist who is suffering from an illusion

  36. At an Event in July I saw some various ‘magic’ stuff. Most was hokum, maybe it all was, but most was a lot of play and Probably (not same as Certainly) Harmless. And then I noticed some of the scrying stuff… and while I seldom if ever have any reaction, that pretty much pegged my nopemeter and I didn’t bother looking at anything else from that vendor and decided it was a Good Idea to be Quite Elsewhere.

    1. Scrying chases me off. Tarot, rune tiles, the I Cheng, Ouija boards, no, thanks. I saw seriously bad stuff start from a Tarot set (great art, dumb users) and have steered clear of divination ever sense. Maaaaybe doing the lead and water on Silvesterabend, but that’s pure fun and all about silliness, and everyone in the room knows it. And that’s still a maybe.

      1. My one experience with Tarot in college produced a reading that was 100% wrong for me…. but 100% right for my favorite AD&D character. 😎

      2. When I was young I found Tarot was a good way to organize my thoughts, no woo-woo required. It offers well-defined paths useful for identifying and sorting things out. Functionally, a series of A/B choices in flowchart format.

        Shortly I learned to organize my own thoughts, and never used the Tarot deck again (tho it’s probably still around here somewhere). Of course nowadays I’d just skip to the conclusion with no need to show my work. 😛

  37. A little late with my full thoughts on this. I cannot agree that people are better not believing in this stuff at all. When you don’t believe in it at all, especially if you also believe in NOTHING else, you are vulnerable. You don’t protect yourself against things that aren’t real. And if you have no one else to protect you you die. In Iraq Aethists were three times as likely to comit suicide as any other religious groups (they wouldn’t show us the rest of the break down but I have some guesses.)

    Why? If you don’t know the voices in your head AREN’T YOURS they can and will lead you down some very dark paths, including suck starting your M-4. The true Aethists. The ones who believe in NOTHING have no defenses. The people who believe in ANYTHING are in a different danger… they often call up what they can’t put down. (Cleaned up a few of those.) It’s my biggest twitchiness about modern pagans. I have met exactly TWO who had any clue what they were screwing with. And even one of those didn’t have nearly as good an idea as she thought she did.

    For me this isn’t a matter of ‘magical thinking’. It’s real enough to kill. Real enough to fight. And lot of folk are wandering around claiming they can’t get shot because guns aren’t real or treating them like a chew toy.

    1. It’s apparently when the story idea and the characters “come to the writer” out of the blue.

      It’s as if the writer’s mind is a gateway to an already existing world where the story actually happened.

      1. I got those sometimes, but could never follow through to a conclusion.

        Thankfully there’s only one other writer under my roof.

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