Monday, November 15, 2010

THE Thoth Tarot Newly Available!

Considered by many to be the Holy Grail of Tarot Card Decks, the Thoth Tarot is finally back in print and is now widely available.

World renowned as the Tarot deck painstakingly designed by British occult legend Aleister Crowley, and illustrated under his supervision by Lady Frieda Harris, this deck remains a fantastic tool for divination.

Containing 78 cards born of more common tarot traditions, the Thoth deck contains kabbalistic and astrological aspects that most other tarot cards lack, bringing to it a new dimension to help with divinations, all as Crowley described in the Book of Thoth, also available for purchase.

Crowley (Oct. 12, 1875 – Dec. 1 1947) was born Edward Alexander Crowley, and was also known as both Frater Perdurabo and The Great Beast. A highly influential English occultist, mystic and ceremonial magician, he was responsible for founding the religious philosophy of Thelema. Through this belief he came to see himself as the prophet who was entrusted with informing humanity that it was entering the new Aeon of Horus in 1904, a time when old ethical and religious systems would be replaced.

Widely viewed – and often equally hated – as one of the most influential occultists of all time, he was a member of the esoteric Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and eventually a leader of Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.)

He is known today for his magical writings, especially The Book of the Law, the central sacred text of Thelema, although he also wrote widely on other subjects, including a large amount of fiction and poetry.

Crowley was also a bisexual, a recreational drug experimenter and social critic. In many of these roles he "was in revolt against the moral and religious values of his time," espousing a form of libertinism based upon the rule of "Do What Thou Wilt." (This is a similar precept embraced by Wiccans, with one HUGE difference: Wiccans add, “with harm to none,” as its religious, ethical and magickal compass.)

Because of this controversial philosophy, Crowley gained widespread notoriety during his lifetime, and was denounced by the popular press of the day as, "the wickedest man in the world."

Alongside his esoteric activities, he was an avid chess player, mountaineer, and it has also been alleged that he was a spy for the British government.

The illustrations of the Thoth deck are rich in symbolism, based upon Crowley's stated desire to incorporate symbols from many disparate disciplines, including science and philosophy, as well as to draw on his extensive knowledge of various occult system (as described in detail in his Book of Thoth). For example, The Hanged Man and The Moon draw from Egyptian mythology, and the Princess of Disks holds a disk bearing the Taijitu. The pip cards in the four suits (Wands, Cups, Swords, and Disks) depict their objects in carefully-crafted positions; for example, the Four of Swords (which Crowley named "truce") shows four swords with their points toward the center of an imaginary square, suggesting a possibly tense peace. The card illustrations are uniformly stark and vividly illustrated throughout.

Here are a few examples of the traditional Rider-Waite Major Arcana cards, side-by-side with the Thoth equivalent:

I: The Magician — I: The Magus
II: The High Priestess — II: The Priestess
VIII: Strength — XI: Lust [Lust card depicted above]
XI: Justice — VIII: Adjustment
X: Wheel of Fortune — X: Fortune
XIV: Temperance — XIV: Art
XX: Judgement — XX: The Æon
XXI: The World — XXI: The Universe

Crowley originally intended the Thoth deck to be a six-month project aimed at updating the traditional pictorial symbolism of the tarot. However, the project was to span five years, between 1938 and 1943, as its scope grew ever wider. Crowley and Harris were meticulous in their work, and Harris painted some of the cards as many as eight times. Early editions of the deck included two of Harris' early drafts of The Magus card, each making use of markedly different style and symbols.

Neither Harris nor Crowley lived to see the deck published. The first full publication was by Ordo Templi Orientis in 1969, although this initial printing was seen by many to be of inferior quality, and in 1977 Harris' paintings were rephotographed for a second edition. The current edition is based on a further update that took place in 1986.

[Note: The Ordo Templi Orientis (O.T.O.) (the Order of the Temple of the East, or the Order of Oriental Templars) is an international fraternal and religious organization founded at the beginning of the 20th century. Crowley has become the most well known member of the order.

Originally it was intended to be modelled after and associated with Freemasonry, but under Crowley's leadership, the O.T.O. was reorganized around the Law of Thelema as its central religious principle. This Law — expressed as “Do what thou wilt shall be the whole of the Law" and "Love is the law, love under will” — was promulgated in 1904 with the dictation of The Book of the Law.

Similar to many secret societies, the O.T.O. membership is based on an initiatory system with a series of degree ceremonies that use ritual drama to establish fraternal bonds and impart spiritual and philosophical teachings.

The O.T.O. also includes the Ecclesia Gnostica Catholica (EGC) or Gnostic Catholic Church, which is the ecclesiastical arm of the Order. Its central rite, which is public, is called Liber XV, or the Gnostic Mass.]

Important Note: Anyone planning on ordering a reprint of the Aleister Crowley Thoth Tarot Deck should be very careful. The deck with a predominantly blue cover contains cards that are more muted in colors, while the deck with the green cover (often referred to as the “Large” deck rather than the “Small” deck version) contains cards that are much bolder in colors, and I believe closer to the originally produced deck.

Included with this green boxed deck you will also find an instruction booklet to aid you in learning the meaning behind each card as it falls in your spread, which also contains commentary and essays concerning the cards within.

— Danu’s Daughter

Sunday, November 14, 2010

ESP and YOU!!

In many faiths, including Wicca, the ability to “intuit” is valued and even cultivated through meditation and even magickal rituals to encourage and strengthen the practitioner's psychic talents.

In a fascinating series of studies, a psychologist has established for the first time scientifically that the capacity to perceive future events may be common among most people, regardless of religious beliefs or prior alleged psychic abilities.

These findings emphasize just how much we still do not understand about the life and abilities of our magnificent brains. While further studies are critical, the conclusions suggested by these studies go way beyond tantalizing my imagination.

[Note: The studies relate to psi phenomenon, defined as parapsychology, study of mental phenomena not explainable by accepted principles of science. The organized, scientific investigation of paranormal phenomena began with the foundation (1882) of the Society for Psychical Research in London. Such early efforts attempted to dissociate psychical phenomena from spiritualism and superstition, and particularly to investigate mediums and their claims of evoking spirits or apparitions. The society also studied automatic writing, levitation, and ectoplasmic and poltergeist activities. One of its principal founders, Frederic William Henry Myers, summed up the society's early efforts in Human Personality and Its Survival of Bodily Death (1903). An American Society for Psychical Research was also founded, with James Hervey Hyslop as its leading spokesman. Considerable experimentation has been conducted, perhaps the best-known being that of Joseph Banks Rhine at Duke University. The Foundation for Research on the Nature of Man, created in the early 1960’s, has since replaced the Duke program. In Great Britain the work of Whately Carington and Samuel George Soal paralleled that of Rhine. The great majority of parapsychological studies have focused on the area called extrasensory perception (ESP), which includes telepathy, clairvoyance, and precognition. The popular press often reports stories that are parapsychological in nature. Many scientists have criticized the claims made by parapsychologists, arguing in particular that there can be no proof of such phenomena, which underscores the importance of these new studies.]

A synopsis of the findings appeared in Psychology Today, and is reprinted in its entirety. Read it below, or at the website.

Have Scientists Finally Discovered Evidence for Psychic Phenomena?!
By Melissa Burkley, Ph.D.

"In Lewis Carroll's Through the Looking Glass, the White Queen tells Alice that in her land, "memory works both ways." Not only can the Queen remember things from the past, but she also remembers "things that happened the week after next." Alice attempts to argue with the Queen, stating "I'm sure mine only works one way...I can't remember things before they happen." The Queen replies, "It's a poor sort of memory that only works backwards."

How much better would our lives be if we could live in the White Queen's kingdom, where ours memory would work backwards and forewords? For instance, in such a world, you could take an exam and then study for it afterwards to make sure you performed well in the past. Well, the good news is that according to a recent series of scientific studies by Daryl Bem, you already live in that world!

Dr. Bem, a social psychologist at Cornell University, conducted a series of studies that will soon be published in one of the most prestigious psychology journals (Journal of Personality and Social Psychology). Across nine experiments, Bem examined the idea that our brain has the ability to not only reflect on past experiences, but also anticipate future experiences. This ability for the brain to "see into the future" is often referred to as psi phenomena.

Although prior research has been conducted on the psi phenomena – we have all seen those movie images of people staring at Zener cards with a star or wavy lines on them – such studies often fail to meet the threshold of "scientific investigation." However, Bem's studies are unique in that they represent standard scientific methods and rely on well-established principles in psychology. Essentially, he took effects that are considered valid and reliable in psychology – studying improves memory, priming facilitates response times – and simply reversed their chronological order.

For example, we all know that rehearsing a set of words makes them easier to recall in the future, but what if the rehearsal occurs after the recall? In one of the studies, college students were given a list of words and after reading the list, were given a surprise recall test to see how many words they remembered. Next, a computer randomly selected some of the words on the list as practice words and the participants were asked to retype them several times. The results of the study showed that the students were better at recalling the words on the surprise recall test that they were later given, at random, to practice. According to Bem, practicing the words after the test somehow allowed the participants to "reach back in time to facilitate recall."

In another study, Bem examined whether the well-known priming effect could also be reversed. In a typical priming study, people are shown a photo and they have to quickly indicate if the photo represents a negative or positive image. If the photo is of a cuddly kitten, you press the "positive" button and if the photo is of maggots on rotting meat, you press the "negative" button. A wealth of research has examined how subliminal priming can speed up your ability to categorize these photos. Subliminal priming occurs when a word is flashed on the computer screen so quickly that your conscious brain doesn't recognize what you saw, but your nonconscious brain does. So you just see a flash, and if I asked you to tell me what you saw, you wouldn't be able to. But deep down, your nonconscious brain saw the word and processed it. In priming studies, we consistently find that people who are primed with a word consistent with the valence of the photo will categorize it quicker. So if I quickly flash the word "happy" before the kitten picture, you will click the "positive" button even quicker, but if I instead flash the word "ugly" before it, you will take longer to respond. This is because priming you with the word "happy" gets your mind ready to see happy things.

In Bem's retroactive priming study, he simply reversed the time sequence on this effect by flashing the primed word after the person categorized the photo. So I show you the kitten picture, you pick whether it is positive or negative, and then I randomly choose to prime you with a good or bad word. The results showed that people were quicker at categorizing photos when it was followed by a consistent prime. So not only will you categorize the kitten quicker when it is preceded by a good word, you will also categorize it quicker when it is followed by a good word. It was as if, while participants were categorizing the photo, their brain knew what word was coming next and this facilitated their decision.

These are just two examples of the studies that Bem conducted, but his other studies showed similar "retroactive" effects. The results clearly suggest that average "non-psychic" people seem to be able to anticipate future events.

One question you may be asking is how big of a difference was there? Does studying for a test after it has occurred, or priming you with a word after categorizing the photo make a dramatic change, or is it just a slight bump in performance? Essentially, these are questions of "effect size." It is true that the effect sizes in Bem's studies are small (e.g., only slightly larger than chance). However, there are several reasons why we shouldn't just disregard these results based on small, but highly consistent, effect sizes.

First, across his studies, Bem did find that certain people demonstrate stronger effects than others. In particular, people high in stimulus seeking – an aspect of extraversion where people respond more favorably to novel stimuli – showed effect sizes nearly twice the size of the average person. This suggests that some people are more sensitive to psi effects than others.

Second, small effect sizes are not that uncommon in psychology (and other sciences). For example, on average, the Bem studies showed an effect size of .20 (out of a possible range of 0-1). Although that is fairly small, it is as large as or larger than some well-established effects, including the link between aspirin and heart attack prevention, calcium intake and bone mass, second hand smoke and lung cancer, and condom use and HIV prevention (Bushman & Anderson, 2001). And as Cohen has pointed out, such small effect sizes are most likely to occur in the early stages of exploring a topic, when scientists are just starting to discover why the effect occurs and when it is most likely to occur.

So if we accept that these psi phenomena are real, how then can we explain them without throwing out our entire understanding of time and physics? Well, the truth is that these effects are actually pretty consistent with modern physics' take on time and space. For example, Einstein believed that the mere act of observing something here could affect something there, a phenomenon he called "spooky action at a distance."

Similarly, modern quantum physics has demonstrated that light particles seem to know what lies ahead of them and will adjust their behavior accordingly, even though the future event hasn't occurred yet. For example, in the classic "double slit experiment," physicists discovered that light particles respond differently when they are observed... But in 1999, researchers pushed this experiment to the limits by asking "what if the observation occurred after the light particles were deployed." Surprisingly, they found the particles acted the same way, as if they knew they were going to be observed in the future even though it hadn't happened yet...

Such trippy time effects seem to contradict common sense and trying to make sense of them may give the average person a headache, but physicists have just had to accept it. As Dr. Chiao, a physicist from Berkeley once said about quantum mechanics, "It's completely counterintuitive and outside our everyday experience, but we (physicists) have kind of gotten used to it."

So although humans perceive time as linear, it doesn't necessarily mean it is so. And as good scientists, we shouldn't let out preconceived beliefs and biases influence what we study, even if these preconceived beliefs reflect our basic assumptions about how time and space work.

Dr. Bem's work is thought provoking, and like good cutting-edge science is supposed to do, it offers more questions than answers. If we suspend our beliefs about time and accept that the brain is capable of reaching into the future, the next question becomes "how does it do this?" Just because the effect seems "supernatural" doesn't necessarily mean the cause is. Many scientific discoveries were once considered outlandish and more suited to science fiction (e.g., the earth being round, microscopic organisms). Future research is greatly needed to explore the exact reasons for these studies' effects.

Like many novel explorations in science, Bem's findings may have a profound effect on what we know and have come to accept as true. But for some of you, perhaps these effects are not such a big surprise, because somewhere deep down inside, you already knew you would be reading about them today!"

Suggested Reading:
Bem, D. J. (in press) Feeling the Future: Experimental evidence for anomalous retroactive influences on cognition and affect. Journal of Personality and Social Psychology. Visit Dr. Bem's website.
— Danu’s Daughter