virus: "supernatural"
Thu, 19 Sep 1996 20:32:15 -0600

Fellow Virians,

In observing posts regarding astrology, &c. (esp. incl. the comment
that palm readers and the like are to be regarded as "the enemy") lately,
there seems to be a lack of comprehension of the difference between
merchants -- such as the mentioned telephone psychics, which in many cases
differ little from phone sex operators -- and professional occultists.
In the marketing of psychic services, the dominant meme-complex is one
of exploitative capitalism (as distinguished from value-production
capitalism). No phone worker that I have met -- or for that matter, any
other public occultist -- has exhibited the characteristic of research
within their practice because of this. Some private occultists have,
In all of these latter cases, these individuals focus on the testing
of occult, parapsychological, or religious methods by a comparison of the
statistical occurrences of the specifically worked-for result after such a
practice is done, with the same statistical occurrences when the result is
worked for without the said practices. Each practice is then evaluated in
terms of how much more probable the worked-for result became when the
practice was done.
In divination, for example, casting yarrow stalks for the I Ching
would be contrasted with an elucidation of logically reasoned probable
outcomes -- and I know of no "phone psychic" who does this. The categories
of such practitioners are thus distinct.
Such occultists as I am focusing on restrict their work to studying
the effects of practices that seem "acausal." That is, they study practices
that have no evident link between their performances and the result. Such
practices cannot be classed as within science as this list has defined it,
because there is no causal relationship to study. This assumes, of course,
that science answers questions of "how does this occur?" or "why does this
occur?" or "what is required for this to occur?" -- all of which imply
causal relationships.
Such investigative (for lack of a better word) occultism rarely, if
ever, suggests the actual mechanism by which these "acausal" effects occur,
as that would invalidate their categorization as "acausal." Practices and
rites, &c. will be noted, however, for how well they seem to increase the
likelihood of an occurrence or a specific and accurate prediction.
Such occultism is thus purely inductive on a case-by-case basis, and
such occultists are not religionists or scientists but simply technicians.
It is noteworthy that these classes of practices and people are _never_ the
ones referenced when religion, parapsychology, &c. are discussed; nor have
groups of such people (such as the majority of the members of groups like
the Magical Pact of the Illuminates of Thanateros or the Ordo Mysterium
Baphemetis) opened themselves to outside study. It is common, in fact, to
find a highly elitist mindset with these people which restricts all such
research to members only and which in fact recomments _intentionally_
failing tests of any supposed "magical" or "supernatural" abilities. Such
groups usually style themselves as conspiracies and try to act as such.
This mindset, combined with the exploitative profit motive noted above
for other "occultists," results in the unfortunate fact that the study of
the "supernatural" that is available to the general public is not
research-oriented but control-oriented (for profit, leadership of a cult,
&c.). Similar restriction of information and similar results can be seen in
the fact that much investigative work in more formalized religious entities
(such as the work done by the Order of St. Benedict in its younger years)
is restricted from the laity: what Roman Catholic has seen the Ethiopian
book of 1 Enoch in a printed version of the Bible, complete with
commentaries? What person on this list has seen even a part of the contents
of the Vatican library?
I do not mention this to drum up conspiracy theories (although I have
in the past been members of conspiritorial groups such as the above); these
distinctions simply need to be made but have not yet seemed to surface.

As to the question of whether such studies of the "acausal" have
merit, I think that this is unanswerable unless (1) the proposition that
acausal relationships _may_ exist is given the possibility of existence,
without an initial bias toward or away from its objective validity, and (2)
research in this direction is carried out and published by people without a
paranoid and/or conspiritorial mindset, so that it may be evaluated by
those interested in the field. James Randi, whose work has been of
inestimable value in debunking practitioners of psychic and related
professions (most notably Uri Geller), provides a good base model for such
evaluators -- their tests should be no less stringent than his, and
preferably moreso.
If these two elements are satisfied, then we may begin to evaluate the
usefulness of such practices, and their objective validity -- but not
As to a closing note: yes, I do agree that "astrologers, palm-readers,
and phone psychics are the enemy," but I believe this because of their
methods and goals, not because of their field of study.

Toward the accumulation of applicable data,