Thursday, 4 June 2020

Deriving the Scientific Method and a Nice Life Philosophy from Descartes' Second Meditation




I'm particularly fond of Decartes' second meditation on certainty. From this we can derive both the scientific method and a lovely life philosophy.

Descartes' second meditation was on what you could possibly know with absolute certainty. That wasn't a dream or illusion or misunderstanding. His conclusion was famously "cogito ergo sum". Usually rendered "I think therefore I Am", but perhaps more true to his meaning is "there is thought, therefore there is a thinker". Nothing else can you know with absolute certainty.

I quite like my Buddhist rendering "in thought there is an experience of self, in the thought of the world there is an experience of other".

Best of all I like my Judeo-Christian rendering, based on the meaning of YHVH, Yahweh, the holiest name of G-d given to Moses in the burning bush, the fire that burns but does not consume when he asked G-d their name and they replied יהוה.

Read right to left the Hebrew letters yodh, he, waw and he. Meaning I Am.

Descartes' concluded in his second meditation that the only thing you can know with absolute certainty is I Am.

So, everything else we can't be absolutely certain about. It might even be a dream. You know your memory and your senses play tricks on you and cognitive biases like confirmation bias where you look for things to confirm what you already believe distort your perception of reality.

So you build up models of the world. Maybe various different ones with differing degrees of probability. The level of your confidence. And you test your models. Try them out. Build up your confidence in them. You're always willing to be wrong, but you know why you think what you think and you adjust to new information as it comes in.

That's the basis of the scientific method.

We build up models of reality knowing they're not perfect but because they're testable we're able to verify whether or not they're a better model than the one we had before.

Narnia

On the topic of the name of G-d, YHVH, let's take a detour via Narnia. I took the name of my personal moral law from Narnia. I call it the Aslan rule: what other people do is Narnia business. 

A fragment of one of my favourite, but alas shortest, poems is also inspired in part by Narnia. 
IAO I adore thee, magickal thou art. Evoe. IAO the black and red sigil of my desire that is also my love. Evoe, the green, white and silver response soft sighs from every evergreen bowed gentle with snow.
IAO is the Greek form of the Tegtragrammoton, YHVH, the holiest name of God. Iota Alpha Omega, the beginning to the end as the smallest possible unit. Notable as the name of G-d beloved by the Thelemites.

Evoe is the Bacchanalian exclamation of fervour and was the battle cry of some of the armies of Narnia as they went to war in The Last Battle.


"Demons are made of the souls of the suffering, Angels the vengeful tears of the same. A trapped demon sings until whatever has it caught dies. A trapped angel sings until whatever has it caught awakens to freedom."

A Short Collection of Short Memories: The Great Work, Karen, Homophobia, The Police & more

The only work worth doing is the great work

The Great Work

Here's an example of the great work. Once in a fetish club in Bedford I met a man who said he was learning to be a hypnotist and he asked if could he try and hypnotise me. 
He was small and bald and bespectacled and looked exactly as an aspiring hypnotist should look. 

I'm sceptical of and intrigued by hypnotism so naturally I agreed. After an initial preamble he proceeded very assiduously as far as I could tell to do nothing for some moments after which he declared that I could not be hypnotised and bid me good day. 

I do wonder if he's going around and trying to hypnotise people into believing that they can't be hypnotised. I approve.

Karen

I grew up in the days of the hippy convoy. Two girls who liked me, Karen and Debbie, called me the hippy convoy when I was walking past Badger's Close to Tytherington Comprehensive school in Macclesfield, carrying my beaten up cornet case as it was the day of my music lesson. I was twelve. Karen was chunky and Debbie was tiny and blonde; all of us in school uniforms. We were walking past a block of flats with me dawdling along the sun bleached concrete capping of a brick wall that enclosed the grounds of the flats and their car park. They walked alongside me hurling insults. We were just opposite the house where the daughters of Mrs Gottleib, my favourite primary school teacher, would sunbathe in bikinis in the front garden. I may have been in the house and seen the back garden once, but it's a very distant memory.

The Worst Story in the World

On the way back home from a trip to the States I once heard the worst story in the world. I was sitting in the heat of the morning sun outside one of the Heathrow terminals waiting for Delia to pull illicitly into the drop off zone and pick me up. 

A homeless man came near me, scruffy khaki coat wrapping him in the sun and raggedy trainers and just as raggedy a beard. After a while he started to tell me his story. He's from India and he used to live with his wife and family, He'd never quite got round to sorting out his immigration status but worked in restaurants where that wasn't so much an issue.
 
Unfortunately he'd taken to beating his wife and eventually she'd gone to the police and he was thrown in prison. Now he was out, a convicted domestic abuser and the judge placed a restraining order so he's not allowed back near the house. So he's also homeless and of course his unsettled immigration status didn't go without notice, so not only does he have to report to probation but he's not getting any benefits and obviously he won't be able to stay in the country if he lets them take him away*. Looking as homeless as he is none of the restaurants will hire him.

His wife wanted him back, he told me. She was going  to ask the judge to lift the order he said and he showed me his prison release papers. He so clearly and desperately wanted money. You'll have to beg I told him. He didn't ask me for any money so I didn't give him any. I asked him why not go back to India. He looked at me in horror and told me there was nothing for him there and he wasn't going back, no matter how bad it was here.


Homophobia

Funnily enough one of the reasons I'm so passionately against homophobia is because of being bullied for being gay when I was at school. I wasn't gay and the bullying was awful. So I know what it feels like. Evil fuckers.

When I left the school where I feared for my life because of the bullying a teacher told me I'd deserved it.

I was beaten up on the streets by rich fuckers in Cambridge just for being homeless. They threw coins at me before starting and then I was rescued by a woman passing by.

I was thrown out of home and into prison for being mad.

I know a bit about darkness. It's not all bad!

Isaiah 45:3 I will give you hidden treasures, riches stored in secret places, so that you may know that I am the Lord, the God of Israel, who summons you by name.

Baptism

On the cusp of insanity on a cold night in Cambridge I jumped into the river Cam. It was cold, so cold it knocked the breath out of me sharply and the current started to take me downstream. The stone bank I'd jumped from was a few feet above the water. Cold slimy stone that I couldn't grasp, and I couldn't swim against the current to the steps just a few yards away. I couldn't cry out but there was no-one there anyway. That was it I was going to drown.

So I relaxed. What else could I do. The current swept me further downstream and the stone turned to mud and I scrambled out of the river and away onto the grand college dinner in the grand college hall, the only one I attended.

In the face of death anyone who doesn't say I don't know is a fool. We all get to find out one way or another.

The Police

My weirdest experience of the police here in the UK was very soon after I'd been enlightened, when I was mad. 

I was walking the road from Harpenden to St Albans, Verulamium the Romans called it and the A5 runs right through it. The A5 is an old Roman road from London to Wales. It was Wales where the Romans slaughtered the druids and years after this tale I found myself living in a farmhouse called New River belonging to a cult. On the A5. 

Anyway, no-one would give me a lift so I was walking in the middle of the road. Some police arrived and with the help of some handcuffs persuaded me to join them in their car. I remember the bite of the cuffs against my wrists. 

In a police cell in St Albans I was sure I would ascend so I removed all my clothing and passed them through the hatch. The police women in attendance giggled and took my clothing. 

After some time I was cold. My time had not yet come. I think they gave me back my clothes. 

Then I walked to Cambridge. I did get one lift for a few miles. From a police car.




"The religion of Thelema: The systematic pursuit of knowing and exercising your true will, in accordance with the great work, understanding that love is the law. Every person is a star."

Tuesday, 21 April 2020

Opinions on SARS-CoV-2: How Long Should We Hide?


Moments may fly whilst the weeks drag.
Asian countries are now seeing second waves of the virus [1] after easing lockdown. Long term the only solution is herd immunity, either through most people catching it or a vaccine. Then the virus dies out, until the next one or it mutates. That's assuming you can only catch it once and we'll develop a vaccine, neither is guaranteed but both seem likely.

For the furloughed middle class, sitting at home, the virus is a scary inconvenience. For others the lockdown is bringing ruin, delayed treatment, mental health problems, increased abuse, destroyed businesses and families and even suicide. Poverty kills, stress kills, lockdown kills too.

Meanwhile it's still the case that something like 9 out of 10 deaths due to COVID-19 (SARS-CoV-2) are people with other serious health complications [2][3]. It's also the case that the mortality rate is a lot lower than reported because we're doing so little testing and a lot of people who have it are asymptomatic (maybe half according to an Italian study - or vastly more than half according to the recent - and probably flawed - Stanford study. [4][5][6][7])

The bug is dangerous, but only substantially if you're in one of the vulnerable categories. If you're not it's likely unpleasant at worst, unnoticed at best. If this is true this is very good news, for the mortality rate to be much lower than we've assumed and to already be more widespread than we were aware might make fighting it harder but it would also mean it's less of a danger than we think.

If that's true, for vulnerable people the best policy could be for them to stay isolated and everyone else to go out (gradually - managed), get the bug, develop herd immunity. Let the virus burn itself out. Sacrifice the strong to save the weak. You'd need "cold zones" in hospitals to protect the very vulnerable from catching it, something they're trying to do at the moment.

This is the approach countries like Sweden and Belarus are taking and was what the UK government, under scientific advice, was trying to do but the public baulked. [8]

Currently it's that or hide forever.

If the lockdown lasts until June OBR (Office for Budget Responsibility) estimates we'll see GDP down 35%, unemployment up to 10% and huge public debt [9]. That's serious.

There are experts who agree and experts who don't. Make your own mind up what you think and let's see how it plays out. Nothing else we can do really. 

But don't worry, in the meantime we can always borrow more money from our children to get us through these times (and pay the interest on it - government debt is borrowing from the future and Britain used to have a budget surplus!) and blame the government for a global shortage of PPE. Be thankful you don't live in the US where they're already spending most of their budget on interest payments [10] whilst borrowing more, their healthcare costs are out of control and who knows what will happen with COVID-19, plus their military spending is vast and fails every audit. That house of cards comes crashing down some day and who knows what else falls with it.

California is a beautiful metaphor for the US, so wealthy but bleeding itself dry to make almond milk.


"But secondly, nine in 10 did have pre-existing illnesses, such as heart disease and respiratory problems that put them at heightened risk of death anyway."

[3]These figures say about 8 out of 10, but including some "unknown".

[3] Reference for the Italian study (not yet peer reviewed): https://www.medrxiv.org/content/10.1101/2020.04.17.20053157v1

[4] Here's a link to a South Korean study of 140 000 people finding a mortality rate of 0.6% https://www.businessinsider.com/south-korea-coronavirus-testing-death-rate-2020-3?r=US&IR=T

[5] A link to a BBC article with an interesting snippet about Swine Flue (H1N1):
One example is the H1N1 pandemic of 2009, known as swine flu. Early case fatality rate estimates were inflated by a factor of more than 10. Even 10 weeks into the epidemic, estimates varied widely between countries, coming in between 0.1% and 5.1%. When medics later had a chance to go through case documents and evaluate cases, the actual H1N1 case death rate was far lower, at 0.02%.

[6] 21 days ago, and things change quickly, but this article shows varying mortality rates by age.

A recent study of COVID-19 cases in the United States estimated a mortality rate of 10% to 27% for those ages 85 and over, 3% to 11% for those ages 65 to 84, 1% to 3% for those ages 55 to 64 and less than 1% for those ages 20 to 54.
[7] All the figures also show higher mortality rates, for example Italy, when the health service is overrun. Flattening the curve is not useless, but there is a cost - it prolongs the virus and the lockdown.

[8] https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/health-51979654

Is the virus bringing forward deaths by a few months? 
Every year, about 600,000 people in the UK die. And the frail and elderly are most at risk, just as they are if they have coronavirus. 
Nearly 10% of people aged over 80 will die in the next year, Prof Sir David Spiegelhalter at the University of Cambridge points out, and the risk of them dying if infected with coronavirus is almost exactly the same


[10] Most is a slight exaggeration. US debt servicing is estimated to be 3% of GDP by 2024. US public debt was $16.8 trillion in 2018/19.


"Deep calls to deep in the roar of your waterfalls;
all your waves and breakers
have swept over me."

Sunday, 19 April 2020

Stuck in the Living Room Dreaming of a New TV

Imagine if normal was a real thing.
The OLED 4K TVs I like, either the LG OLED55C9PLA 55" or the Panasonic TX-55GZ950B 55", have come down in price to around £1300. That's still more than I'd like to spend on a TV but they're gorgeous and we haven't yet made the jump to 4K. The Panasonic has the edge supporting the newer HDR10+ standard for High Dynamic Resolution and better display of blacks in the details. I'll keep the old TV because no-one is really making passive 3D displays any more and I adore Avatar in 3D.

We've been getting by using a PS3 and a 2nd gen Apple TV as media centres. Since we moved the living room around we no longer have an aerial or wired internet to the TV, so no live TV channels and no iPlayer.

Disney+ arrived and is fantastic. We're enjoying the Mandalorian, we've started The Simpsons from the start and there's a good selection of movies. Unfortunately the app didn't stream well from an iPhone to the Apple TV, so in lieu of pulling the trigger on a new TV I bought an Apple TV 4K. I saved a bit of money by buying a refurbished one from Ebay, but it comes without a year's subscription to the Apple services so it was a bit of a false economy. As it's the 4K model it's future proofed against me ever actually buying a new TV.

It's great. It has games on it, which include Jetpack Joyride and Rayman Adventures, both of which I think I'd already bought on the iPhone, and a good selection of free games and apps. There's even a Wii style tennis game using the Apple TV controller as a motion sensor racket.

It has Disney+, Amazon Prime, Netflix, Sky News and CNN News and BBC iPlayer, plus the ITV, channel four and five catchup apps which I doubt we'll use.

We're still using the PS3 as a blu-ray player and are finally working our way through our extensive and mostly unwatched collection. Ben has now mastered all of the Little Big Planet games on the PS3 and I'm playing Portal 2 with him. Irina has Animal Crossing on the Switch which mostly occupies her.

When the PS5 finally comes out I might make the jump to the PS4. At the moment I'm still loving the PS3. Anyone want to play the Modern Warfare 2 co-op missions?

One confounder is that when VR is ready, and it so nearly is the Occulus Quest is great fun, it would be nice to have a single VR/gaming/media system instead of the multiple boxes I have or might have. Sony PlayStation is most likely to deliver that although their VR isn't ready yet and I'd want a 4K disk player as well. I like consoles, I like a system that lasts years, I'm not jumping to a PC and having to debug my media player. Oh, the Apple TV has a really nice screensaver and I still have some good music on their system.

I still have work for the UKAEA on the BLUEPRINT fusion reactor design software and that's going fine. Delia is decorating Irina's room and listening to podcasts about something called a Yoni.

We're mostly coping with the isolation. Happy Sunday.


"God" might be the product of evolution. They're how the unconscious mind visualises and interacts with everything. And what the conscious thinks it believes is irrelevant, maybe."

Friday, 10 April 2020

On Being a Wizard or a Witch

A way is the only true way. All ways is the only true way.
I posted this meme on Facebook, I think he's right, and someone made this response about Alan Moore:
I'm going to ignore the fact that this is coming from a man who claims both that he is a wizard, and that the comic book industry was run by the mafia.
Now I'm pretty sure DC and Marvel do in fact count as a mafia. As for calling himself a wizard, that's clever. You don't do it because you believe it, that would be daft it doesn't even mean anything, you do it because some people will believe you and have faith in you which is powerful.

Personally I identify as a Witch, but that's just my religion. My favoured flavour of witchcraft is a syncretism of Druidism and The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn. Druidism is the religion of the land of the Britons, from the time of Boudica and now my land. The magical system of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn is based on Hebrew mysticism. I'm Jewish and lived in a Christian cult as a true believer, without money or personal possessions, for ten years. So I know Hebrew mysticism pretty well. So it seemed like a natural fit. According to the Romans the Druids practised human sacrifice. All that is written of the Druids comes handed down to us from the Romans, who got the secrets of the Druids from a traitor and were gleefully published by Julius Caesar. The legend is that it was after slaughtering the Druids, and ending the religion, in Anglesey the Roman legion marched on the Celtic uprising led by Boudica. Julius Caesar and Tacitus were both horrible liars though.

It's perhaps worth noting that Britain has a rich magical history. The term "British Empire" is said to have first been coined by one John Dee, court astrologer and occultist to Queen Elizabeth the First.

The contemporary druid movement is a re-imagining of the religion that has its roots in the nineteenth century European occult revival credited to Eliphas Lévi Zahed, born Alphonse Louis Constant, who wrote in impenetrable high French.

Alphonse Constant was a contemporary of Schopenhaur. Following on from Descartes, who famously in his second meditation concluded that the only possible certainty was I Am, Schopenhaur described all you could know of life as "will and representation". Your capacity to effect change and the forms of the mind. "Therefore despair" was his conclusion although he led a decadent life.

Alphonse Constant came to the same realisation, that all there is is will and imagination, but his conclusion was: therefore magic.

But the ancient gods are shrouded by millennia passed. The Druids now worship the old nameless ones who used to demand human sacrifice. Maybe.

Wizard and witch are both agender terms and are non-exclusive. I'm a witch by religion and a wizard by the practise of a magical system and the development of the same as theory. The study of magic in theory and practise is the purview of the wizard.

The trouble with the term Wizard being agender is that that like the pharaohs before us, in whose tradition we follow, a beard is a tribal identifier. The women pharaohs, of which there were not none, would wear a fake beard to honour the tradition. Hence perhaps the association of the Wizard with the male. (Further addendum. The pharaohs were odd and who knows where the magical tradition originated. The male pharaohs were clean shaven and also wore false beards.)

It was the Egyptian magical system that was defeated by Moses and the Hebrews in the ancient legend of Exodus. This makes it unsurprising that modern mystical systems such as those of The Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn follow in the footsteps of the Egyptian magical system via Hebrew mysticism.

I am a wizard in the order of Technomancer. Follower of Ganesha, the spiritual archetype of Engineering & Science. The remover of obstacles. As an ordained Dudeist priest I hold the office of Heirophant in the Cult of Isis. The Cult of Isis is a matriarchy, as is my witchcraft, but the Heirophant is a masculine archetype of moral rectitude and right thinking. Matched with a high priestess, of course.

You can trace much of modern Nihilism through Schopenhaur. I much prefer where we have ended up, with Positive Nihilism: the only meaning and purpose that can exist is the meaning and purpose we create amongst ourselves.


"Society is what doesn't fix climate change. Society is what allows homelessness. Society is what oppresses the poor, the non-white, the LGBT community the different. I'm not such a fan of society. I certainly don't feel like I owe it anything."

Vipassana Meditation

Interdisciplinary approaches yield insights

Vipassana Buddhism teaches us that the default state of mind is "monkey mind", jumping from one thing to the next. Vipassana means "insight" or "clear thinking" and is the path of wisdom.

In mindfulness we let go of distraction to return to the breath. After a little while we may enter "access concentration" where we are less distracted.

We may push distractions away so  far they do not return and all there is is breath. Time has stopped, flow state.

This is Dyana or Jhana. The place where you step back into the garden of the mind and the work of tending the garden is the same work as enjoying it.

Mindfulness is the practise of relaxed focus, alert but rested awareness. Mind calm like a still lake, reflecting what it sees. The aim of the practise of mindfulness is the cultivation of the habit of conscious awareness. Habits maketh a person.

I learned Vipassana meditation, both mindfulness of breathing and the Metta Bhavna as taught by the Buddha in his sutras, from the Friends of the Western Buddhist Order when I was in Cambridge at university. I also saw the beauty of Tai Chi as a form of worship with them.

I understood then how mindfulness of breathing worked and why and that it was beautiful. The practise of mindfulness is the practise of relaxed focus, of alert but still concentration.The Metta Bhavana I had a strange relationship with.

Around 2011, about the time of the birth of my first child, I sought to return to my spiritual centre. I pursued my search through the religious practise of mindfulness of breathing meditation, one hour a day, six days a week for seven years or so. Alongside Christian worship as a spiritual practise instead of the Metta Bhavana.

It was transformational.

Tai Chi is also self-defence and Christians see worship as warfare.

Zen is the Japanese form of Buddhism. The Zen meditation is Zazen, which I consider harder than mindfulness of breathing. Zazen is sometimes translated as "just sitting", because that's how you do it. You just sit.
"Not thinking about anything is Zen. Once you know this, walking, sitting, or lying down, everything you do is Zen."
     — Bodhidharma
Not thinking, being.
“Zen does not confuse spirituality with thinking about God while one is peeling potatoes. Zen spirituality is just to peel the potatoes.”
― Alan Watts
But really I think you should say, neither thinking nor not thinking is Zen. Zen merely is.

The Buddha taught living in the now as the path out of suffering, as did another great spiritual teacher.
Matthew 6:34 Therefore do not worry about tomorrow, for tomorrow will worry about itself. Each day has enough trouble of its own.


"People wield their moral code like weapons. But judging them against their own code usually undoes them. Don't tell them your moral code. None of their business."

Thursday, 2 April 2020

A Few Books that Have Shaped Me


A rigid mind that is unable to change will eventually break.

From when I was a child there were Billy Bunter, Just William, Jennings, Roald Dahl, The Famous Five, The Secret Seven, Swallows and Amazons, The Hardy Brothers, Narnia, The Magic Faraway Tree, The Hobbit, The Stainless Steel Rat, and pretty much all of Robert Heinlein. Those were the days. Wouldn't go back for all the money in the world.

Fast forward a few years and I think my favourite book of all is On the Road, the beat generation classic, the great American novel, a travel book. For a handful of years I would read it every year and I still want to go to Denver. On the Road has my heart but Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas has my spirit.

Then there's Lord of the Rings, Catch-22, anything by Neil Gaiman or Terry Pratchett (I have a copy of Good Omens signed by both and I've read all the Discworld novels and do I get to count the Sandman series as a book?), 100 Years of Solitude, anything by William Gibson (Neuromancer is a work of genius but I like the newer work too - he aged well), Ian and Iain Banks (Excession and The Bridge are my favourites, or possibly Feersum Endjinn, I didnt really enjoy Wasp Factory), anything by Neal Stephenson (starting with Snowcrash), Slaughterhouse Five, and The Plague by Camus. Oh, plus Charles Stross (I might be a cyberpunk geek - Halting State is excellent). Stross used to be a programmer so he gets his tech right and his near future projections can be just the right side of scarily plausible.

Philip K Dick and William Burroughs I adored, but I don't actually recall anything specific of theirs I've read. Naked Lunch and Bladerunner are classic movies and William Burroughs has a sterling walk on part in On the Road (orgones for the win).

Then of course there's Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, which I can still quote passages from. All of the work of Douglas Adams plus Dune are considered by the Technomancers to be amongst the sacred texts of the geeks.

For non-fiction Bill Bryson A Short History of Nearly Everything and Stephen Hawking A Brief History of Time are superlative.

Too many worlds to reminisce over...

Here's a shorter esoteric reading list.
  • The Variety of Religious Experience by William James
  • Essentials of Mysticism by Evelyn Underhill
  • Thinking Fast and Slow by Daniel Kahneman (yes I think the topic is esoteric)
  • Celestial Heirachy by (pseudo-)Dionysius the Areopagite
  • Beyond Mindfulness in Plain English (best book on meditation and Buddhism that I've read by a country mile)
  • The Celtic Golden Dawn - not least for the introduction chapter that gives a history of the modern Druid movement
I really loved Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance when I was young. I tried to reread it recently and couldn't stand it (technophobe snob).

The Schrodinger Cat Trilogy and The Illuminatus! Trilogy by Robert Anton Wilson and Diary of a Drug Fiend by Aleister Crowley are great esoteric fiction.


"We're all a collection of habits and neuroses steered by complex and powerful emotions in an uneasy balance."

Wednesday, 1 April 2020

Conversations with the Holy Guardian Angel (or How I Ended Up in Prison)

There's a degree to which fear is a choice. To that degree, choose wisely.
For more tales from the past, short horror stories from my life, see the links and the stories here:


It transpires I've never told the story of how I ended up in prison. Like most stories it's hard to know where it begins, but maybe we can pickup the thread in my darkest hour in Verulamium. There, like the Romans before me, I faced a savage and wild horde of natives before whom I genuinely feared for my life. That is at the Verulam School for Boys in St Albans, the new school I had started at having moved from the northern industrial town of Macclesfield where what childhood idyll I knew remained behind to the commuter town of Harpenden. Full of estate agents and Italian restaurants and a higher class of savage natives than we'd known before.

I had been taught not to fight back, and although I'd been in a few fights I'd always brought them to an end fairly quickly and refused to fight, so I hadn't practised fighting much. When cornered by three savages, who were doubtless brutalised themselves and finding revenge on the world in me, I knew logically I couldn't defeat them and they could kill me. I was so ashamed of the crawling coward I became in those moments of terror.

A mere handful of years later in Cambridge I was falling into madness, my life out of control and my mind merely an observer in the strange chaotic ruins my life was becoming. I was afraid of everything and under magical attack by a Buddhist priest and a couple of punks who were trying to steal my soul. As the curse took hold I knew I needed to defeat it by overcoming my fear of violence stemming back to those days, I needed to punch someone.

For months every contact with every person felt like I was dying spiritually and emotionally, my soul and life eking and ebbing away and all because I wouldn't take the steps I thought were necessary to save my soul. I did try punching a couple of people, but it didn't really work. I spent long day after day for months walking the streets trying to find my way out of that maze.

Eventually something in my mind couldn't cope with that level of constant fear and paranoia and decided I'd been enlightened and that I was going to fulfil revelation. So I walked back to Cambridge from Luton where I was staying in a flat that I hadn't paid any rent on anyway. Needless to say my old friends at Cambridge weren't very excited to see me, so I settled into being the Archangel Michael as part of the homeless community in Cambridge City Centre. I didn't tell anyone I was the Archangel Michael obviously, they would have just assumed I was crazy.

For a little while whilst I walked the streets of Cambridge being Michael, and occasionally begging, a funny short gentleman wearing a green tweed suit and a battered white scooter helmet, on a scooter, would follow me and thrust papers at me wanting me to take them. That seemed odd, so I didn't take the papers. On about the third time this happened he said something and then threw the papers at me. I decided I was better off not knowing and ignored them.

I did make at least one more visit to the college and one occassion a very nice gentleman asked me to pose for a picture.

From that point I got picked up by the police a couple of times, who kept me for a little while and would murmur about papers not being ready and then let me go. In retrospect I think they were giving me a chance to get out of dodge. A chance I didn't take.

It was when wearing roller blades I was picked up for the third time that I learned the story. The college had taken an injunction out against me in civil court. As I'd refused the papers they could proceed without my involvement. After I broke the injunction I didn't know about they went back to the court and had me sentenced to three months in prison, go directly to prison in a G4S van, do not pass go, do not attend a court. I only stayed there for half of it though. Six weeks in Bedford nick.

After that I joined a cult.


"You can't know yourself until you've seen your own shadow. Once you see your shadow, so long as you're willing to be that person, all of your faculties and capabilities are there for the taking. The deepest dreams of the heart can come true."

Monday, 30 March 2020

With mine love I doth attack thee

Friendship is the highest and truest love

With mine love I doth attack thee.
Love returned thy defence,
or flee thou must.

For love doth see,
and if thou canst not love,
wouldst thou be seen?





Back when I was mad, when I thought I was the Archangel Michael and I hung out homeless in Cambridge town centre, I had an acquaintance who was a punk. He was a similar age to me and also homeless and the epitome of punk from the skinhead to the leathers to the inquisitive but densely impenetrable attitude. I remember sitting on stone steps with him, probably not far from the slightly fancy McDonalds that they finally permitted in the cobbled and hallowed lanes of Cambridge town centre, we'd just been to one of the several regular food handouts for the homeless that existed in the mid-nineties.

He punched me in the jaw. Hard enough to notice, but not that hard really all things considered. He seemed to be wondering what I would do next. His company wasn't that bad and he didn't look like he was going to do it again. So I ignored it.

It only happened a couple more times over the few weeks I knew him. Then he decided he didn't like me and told me to leave town. I didn't, but I didn't see him again and not long after that I was picked up whilst roller blading and taken by police prisoner transport van directly to Bedford prison and an entirely new phase of my adventures began.


"The work of a life is finding healing from the trauma of a life."

Saturday, 21 March 2020

Speaking Up for Anger and Other Short Meditations

AFAB, AMAB, ACAB, AHAB

Speaking Up for Anger

Anger wants to be heard. If anger feels not listened to it gets louder. Telling anger you can't hear, won't listen, because it's too loud doesn't work. The volume might go down but the anger is still there. If your'e afraid of anger you can probably still feel it. Anger that's not dealt with, not expressed and not heard, festers.

Try not to be afraid of anger. And being angry at anger just because it's loud might be a mistake. Something deeply heartfelt is really upset that nobody ever seems to listen to it. And you're telling it to shut up again. To be quiet and go away, nobody wants to see that.

Let people be angry and listen to anger. It might take a bit of untangling, strong emotions always do. People do use strong emotions, of all kinds, to manipulate and intimidate, but it's so easy to mistake strongly felt anger for aggression.

Anger, like sexuality, can be so hard to control and so easy to cause harm with. Which makes constantly repressing either, and not learning to deal with strength of feeling in either case, a bad idea and not a good idea.

Codicil: expressing strongly felt emotions including anger with great intensity at low volume is possible but very hard. Expecting people to be able to do that is unreasonable. If you do it really confuses those who use "stop shouting" to prevent people expressing emotions that make them uncomfortable. You're not shouting and their goto manipulative tool feels like it should work but doesn't.

Preventing people, especially children, from expressing anger and strong feelings including aggression can make them cruel. They'll find an outlet for those feelings one way or another, whatever society permits. By this means the suppression of anger in young people is a tool of the patriarchy. Only certain "permitted" outlets for anger and aggression are tolerated, especially against those who violate common decency. They're fair game. This is the violence inherent in the system.

On Guilt

Guilt is such a difficult emotion, but when you align it just right it can be the crack that sorrows flow out through. Sorrow, even grief, can be such a healing rain. Where you find sorrow compassion is never far behind.

It's why some people protect their pain as the dearest part of themselves. Pain and sorrow and guilt all wash together in compassion, for ourselves and for each other.

COVID-19

The invisible enemy that lurks in everyone, maybe. Contagious for two weeks before symptoms. Social distancing, wear a mask, don't look at strangers, never cough. Hide inside and pray.

The slow motion wave of mass hysteria, rising, rising. And rumours of horrors in places not so far away.

This is the scariest movie ever.

When the times become extraordinary
The normal changes
And those who have had to walk broken
Who couldn't hide their scars
Who could see the pain in every eye
And wondered why no-one thought it was strange
Who never thought normal was anything to aspire to
Find themselves in a strange place

No-one is trying to pretend things are normal
And for once the world makes sense
Because it has gone completely mad.
For once, they feel normal. At home. Not afraid.

The Psychological Matriarchy

Don't forget that the foundational parts of the psyche are formed in the early years of a child's life from their major influences. As the primary caregiver is more commonly the mother; the patriarchy, the behaviour and thought patterns that cause men to treat women badly, is primarily inculcated into boys by their mothers.

As women rise up, this changes.

This would be a psychological matriarchy which is in accordance with some of my religious beliefs, my witchcraft and worship of Isis.  Due to the unique relationship between mother and child the psychological substrate is substantially a matriarchy. Unfortunately currently a matriarchy enforcing the patriarchy under fear, since the product of the patriarchy in the characters of all peoples is the perpetuation of fear.

Getting men properly involved in doing the vast emotional work of raising children (at all levels including as teachers who ought to be paid more and more highly respected irrespective of gender identity) would make such a difference to everything. In The Cult of Isis the Heirophant is a masculine archetype, the high priest matched with a high priestess, and the symbol and seat of moral rectitude and right thinking.

Fear and Human Behaviour

Humans often have interesting self-defeating behaviour around people they're afraid of. This is especially true of those who defer to group-think for their decisions on who people are and how to treat them.

When people are afraid of someone a common choice is to be mean to them to keep them away or in an attempt to make them change. This includes ostracisation and exclusion from social groups.

But when you're mean to people it is entirely fair for them to be mean back to you. When you're afraid of someone creating a situation where the normal and appropriate response is for them to be mean to you seems unwise. It doesn't seem like you're going to come out on top of that one. As well as the fact that being a mean person is an unfortunate life choice.

It's the perfect recipe for living in fear, fear enforced by social convention.

In my experience of getting to know people I'm afraid of, the person I'm afraid of usually only exists in my imagination.

Computer Camp

When I was a kid I went on a Christian computer camp a couple of times. It was a mix of indoctrination and messing around with computers. I really enjoyed it, I had friends which I didn't really at school and I was quite into both computers and indoctrination at the time.

In one of the Christian bits I remember one of the helpers, an older lad a young man really, giving his testimony. He been exploring the occult and spirituality and he said "the problem with the occult was that as soon as you thought you'd found the truth or got near to understanding something it would ping away from you". Then he found Christianity and everything was nice and definite.

The computer camp was one of things my parents took away from me as punishment for being depressed when I was a teenager.


The Winds of Wilder Probability

I think this is a beautiful symmetry. From Descartes' second meditation on certainty you can conclude that you can't know anything with absolute certainty, only degrees of probability (except I Am).

And at the moment one of the deepest ways humans have attempted to understand reality, quantum mechanics, says that at the most fundamental level we can't really know anything with absolute certainty. Everything appears to exist only in degrees of probability. At least as far as we can tell, but quantifiably so.

Who knows what happens out there, out in the winds of wilder probabilities. Is it a worm hole or a rabbit hole?


Your Shadow

You can't know yourself until you've seen your own shadow. Once you see your shadow, so long as you're willing to be that person, all of your faculties and capabilities are there for the taking.

The deepest dreams of the heart can come true.

Thus shadow work. Take the negative, dark and difficult aspects of your character and turn them to your advantage. Find positive outlets for your darkest most destructive urges.

Alternatively you could live forever afraid of yourself and who you might really be once the veneer of civilization is stripped away.

We're animals. That's what we are. Taxonomically speaking.


Hide Your Hate Where You Can't See It

People want to hide their feelings from you so they can lie about them and they want you to be careful of their feelings. People don't make sense.

people hide their feelings as a matter of course, as a habit, out of fear.

What you won't give conscious expression will have unconscious expression. Basic psychology.

So you're ruled by feelings you won't/can't express. That's how we're brutalised. Oops, I mean socialised.

Hide your hate and spite away from yourself and you won't be able to see it in others too. But it's there like a constant bad smell that no-one can ever find the source of and eventually you stop smelling it.

Tune your hate into the right things and become friends with it. Like anger hate is a great power, partly because people are so afraid of it and ruled by it. Love what is right and hate all evil.


Other People's Feelings

Not saying things that might hurt someone's feelings, so they never have to face their feelings and can carry on living afraid and never having to change, is a coward's way to live.

Being unpleasant to people when they say things that hurt your feelings, to teach them not to hurt your feelings so you can stay afraid, boils down to being an unpleasant person.

We're all inextricably intertwined and the question of how much responsibility we bear for other peoples' feelings can never be satisfactorily resolved.


The Social Contract

The Coronavirus makes me think about the social contract and the duty of the individual to society.

Unpopular opinion: the social contract goes both ways. Those whom society has treated disgracefully owe society nothing. Quite the reverse.

The unemployed, the chronically sick, the mentally ill, the homeless. Want them to follow your social rules and conventions for the benefit of everyone?

Maybe that's reasonable in a society that looks after the vulnerable. Why should they follow our rules, what do they owe us?

Given my own personal journey I don't feel much of a debt to society. I feel a great debt to some people however. Friends are everything. Society mostly seems to suck.


Depression and COVID-19

Depression is very common, normal I reckon. There are many ways to deal with depression and to cope. I'm a great believer in talking therapies and understanding yourself and being a person you're able to respect by being true to yourself as the ultimate cure for depression. That's a very long road with many twists and turns and changes of points of view.

One common way to cope with depression or other normal mental illnesses is to keep moving fast enough that they never trouble you except as background anxiety. That doesn't play well with isolation.

I really wonder what the psychological impact of isolation will be. It could be an opportunity for dealing with issues, letting it all hang out, dropping pretences, self-reflection, self-care, building relationships.

My heart particularly goes out for those trapped in isolation with abusers and to those feeling truly alone. I'm sorry.


Personal Moral Integrity

When we contravene the moral code by which we judge others we excuse ourselves. We have reasons. But we neither know nor permit the other to have reasons, so our worldview has lots of little inconsistencies all over the place. It doesn't really work, best not to look too closely.

My moral code lets other people do what they want and says what I do is my business. It's pretty hard to contravene that anyway.

I reserve moral judgement for those who make moral judgements on others.


To Do What is Right

To do what is right, that is all that is asked of anyone. The curse and the gift of a life is that every person has to work out what that means for themselves. 

You can let other people tell you what's right, they'll be only too keen,  but you risk being wrong. That would be a shame for at least one life, probably more.




"We may look back on this as the beginning. The point where it became clear it was the end of the world."

Sunday, 26 January 2020

My Father and the Pathfinders

Neither belief nor disbelief are to be preferred. They are both delusions.
My father is very British. My grandmother disowned me as a teenager due to my waywardness, my grandfather was very loyal to me but was not my biological grandfather. My grandmother was a stern and hard woman, well regarded in the community, a magistrate.

My Father was sent to boys boarding school from a fairly young age, Stowe. That makes him a Stoic by tradition. He enjoyed it, despite breaking his back whilst he was there. He was disowned by his family for marrying a poor Jewish girl, daughter of an academic and well below his station. They were reconciled.

My real Grandfather died when my father was young. He was called Mr Curry and my Father knew very little about him until after his mother died and he found some old family papers through which he tracked down many cousins and other relatives he'd never known.

His father was a fighter pilot in the second world war, in the pathfinder squadron. In the early parts of the war the average British bomb was something like seven miles off target. This was partly due to bombers having to unload early due to heavy anti-aircraft fire but also due to how hard it was to bomb targets from the air.

The pathfinders, whose average lifespan was measurable in days I believe, were formed to help solve this problem. They flew ahead of the bombing raids, flying low and dropping flares on targets. After this the average distance of a bomb from the target went down to only a couple of miles I think. It was said they could land a flare on a target the size of a barn door.

My Grandmother spent the whole war certain he wasn't going to come back. He did come back, but then two years after the war he died as the copilot of a plane that crashed in a memorial parade.

Grandmother was then the single mother of two young children in post war Britain. My father still remembers rationing. She met John Foord and married him, he raised my father and his sister Jill as his own and had two more children with my Grandmother. He was a difficult man, hard to love, but he was good to me. My name is Michael John Foord.

That gentle flush of happiness
Rising effortlessly
Ending in a smile
And I smile back

Friday, 24 January 2020

Tales From the Past: Pungent Effulgent, The Serbian and Nightmare on Watling Street

Pungent Effulgent

We've just passed the thirty year anniversary of the release of Pungent Effulgent by Ozric Tentacles. It's epic.

I've seen Ozric Tentacles live twice, several years apart and both times on their "last ever" tour. Once in Cambridge and once in Northampton.

On the Northampton occasion I sneaked out of the commune, against strict orders and with no money to go and see them. My "shepherd", the one to whom I was accountable, demanded I didn't go with a command "as if from the Lord". I told him I didn't see it like that and cadged a lift with one of the brightly coloured minibuses taking volunteers from the farm to the various town commune houses.

A lovely woman who liked me bought me the ticket. After the show I told her I wouldn't go out with her (I had already told her that!) and had to find a different lift back home to the commune.

The first occasion, Cambridge about 1994, was at the Corn Exchange, when I was at university and prior to going mad. There was no ecstasy around at the time so I swallowed an eighth of hard slate hash in order to get high. I'm pretty sure it went straight through me. I didn't get high but Ozric Tentacles were good.

The Serbian

We're en-route to Croatia. Still a hundred miles to Turin where we're stopping for the night.

I don't think I've ever met a Croatian, not a memorable one anyway. I worked for several years for a charity, which mainly helped the homeless and disadvantaged, run by the cult I lived with for ten years. There I met people from many Eastern European countries, but not Croatia.

I've met a Serbian. She was very attractive, a sharp kind of beauty that I admire but am not particularly drawn to. I was high on LSD at the time, this was some years ago and at the Niagara Falls. Night may not be the best time to see the falls, all lit up like cotton candy, but you can feel the power of the place and it makes for a great trip. I was with a couple of friends, this was the expedition of the Delaware biting flies. One of my friends was coming to terms with a hard thing, which is not best done on LSD, so we drank whisky too. In large enough quantities alcohol will eventually overpower acid. I had no money, nor access to money as I'd left my wallet on a train on the way to the flight, so I drank on other peoples' dime.

In the bar we met an old friend of one of my companions. She lived and worked in the falls and took us to a dive bar where the few locals drank. There we watched two transexuals fight in the street and get barred from the pub. I made friends with the father/mother of one of the transsexuals.

Many of the locals, friends of the friend of a friend who brought us there, were Eastern Europeans traveling and working in America for as long as their visas would permit. I played pattacake with a pretty Hungarian, at furious pace, and then we settled round a table to play "I have never" and drink vodka shots. I sat next to the Serbian beauty and managed to spit most of a vodka shot straight in her face.

So I know I've definitely met a Serbian. I'm not sure if I've met a Croatian person though. I guess I will soon.

Nightmare on Watling Street

This road, the A5, has haunted me for most of my life. Well, not this road, this is the A5 in France.

In the UK (how much longer will there be such a thing?) the A5, also known in parts at least as Watling Street, is a Roman Road which goes from London to Wales. Along the way it goes through Towcester (Lactodurum) and St Albans (Verulamium) both of which I've lived near.

As a youth I lived in Harpenden and went to school in St Albans. Veralum School for boys. Or the torture house as I called it. Every day I would walk along part of the A5 to get to school.

Doing GCSE English Literature we read a book called Nightmare on Watling Street. A short and distressing (much like my stay at Veralum) story of a truck driver in the days before speed traps, when the word of a cop was enough for a speeding conviction. This driver is one conviction off losing his livelihood and is plagued by a mean cop the truckers despise. The trucker deals with the cop in a tragic and ingenious way. Anyway, it takes place on Watling Street is my point. The grey and gruesome tone of the book matched my experience of life at the time and it stuck with me.

Fast forward a bunch of years and I'm living on goddam Watling Street, just past Towcester in a cult commune called "River Farm". Two nightmares on Watling Street in one lifetime.

And now I'm on a different A5, in a different country, homeward bound and reminiscing.

The Senior Apostolic Leader of the Cult

Save the planet, bump off a billionaire. I'm with the Joker.
I'm a cult survivor. I joined the Jesus Army in 1996 when homeless. I lived in the "all things in common" communes until 2006. There are more stories and information on the Jesus Army Survivors blog.


I remember what in retrospect is an even odder occasion than what already seemed like an odd thing at the time.

I no longer lived with the cult but had retained my association with them, and some sincerely held faith, whilst being a programmer on the side.

Whilst living with them, seven years single and three years as a married man, I had reached the lowest echelons of male leadership as a Leading Serving Brother. An LSB. Mr Stanton was fond of acronyms. And he was in charge of everything.

This story is from some time after Mr Stanton was dead. Someone else was in charge. We had, what later turned out to be the very last of the "leaders meetings", an all male affair and a tradition of the cult stretching back beyond my two decades of association with them.

I had my leadership officially stripped away when we moved out of communal living with the cult. I was allowed in to this meeting as a kind of honourary leader. A gesture towards my more honourable past, perhaps. There were murmurings amongst the progressives of which I was one and possibly not even the most disreputable.

I think it was in this meeting we finally cracked and agreed that women should be permitted to drive minibuses. I left the communal part of the cult in 2006. So this was well past then.

After much discussion and explication of both sides and their scriptural arguments we had a question and answer time with the leader of the cult. The most senior of the apostolic five. The senior apostolic leader of the cult.

I asked him if, given the talk of permitting women a role in leadership which had actually started to happen, we would drop the testicle requirement for attending this meeting.

The senior apostolic leader of the cult replied, without hesitation, that we were feeling our way forward.

The place was uproar for some short while. Lads and aspiring lads to a man.

They did not have a leader's meeting of that kind ever again, and I was not invited to any of the meetings of the new power structures that emerged.


"If you dance with the demons they're angels.
If you flee they're demons.
That's how they tell your nature:
resist the devil and he will flee from you.
And flee we do, devils that we are.

Thursday, 23 January 2020

Crimes of the Cult



Content warnings: mentions of child abuse

I'm a cult survivor. I joined the Jesus Army in 1996 when homeless. I lived in the "all things in common" communes until 2006. There are more stories and information on the Jesus Army Survivors blog.



There was a man in the cult who it later turned out was a paedophile who abused some of the children brought up in the cult. We watched his personality crumble until he became a kind of shambling tramp. And then he was arrested for the abuse, which kind of explained the change.

I knew him from my early days in the cult. When I first arrived, homeless and broken, I was set to work in the chicken huts collecting eggs from the thousands of free range chickens at the farm. All the "guests" were put to labour on the farm or the cult businesses. I went on to work for nearly ten years at a Builder's Merchant owned by the cult. I learned a great deal in that time and made many friends, both colleagues and customers of a rural builder's merchant.

Collecting eggs from the chicken sheds was the second worst job on the farm. Not quite the very worst, the very worst job was collecting "floor eggs" (and dead chickens - pecked to death by their comrades as humans are also wont to do on the internet). But the chicken sheds stank and the eggs were frequently covered in blood or shit or both. What made up for it was the woman who ran the egg cleaning and packing shed. She was a saint, beaming only compassion, and had been in the cult for many years even when I arrived. Working in the cleaning and packing shed was balm to any soul.

On the third day or so I found a saviour. Not in the form of Jesus Christ, I sort of knew where to find him if I wanted and hadn't yet decided if I wanted although I couldn't actually see any other viable option, but in the form of one of the orchard workers. One of the few paid employees on the farm he was slightly strange but also slightly angelic. Just being in his presence caused me constant cognitive dissonance. He rescued me out of the darkness of the chicken huts and into the light of the orchards.

And I spent a summer partly sleeping in fields and partly picking fruit. Sometimes among the blackcurrant rows was a short, slightly portly and smartly dressed gentleman from Preston. Visitors from cult houses all across the country would come and provide volunteer labour at the farm.

I don't recall much about him until years later he moved back down Northampton way. A changing man. Preston was a weird scene anyway and he was a weird person. You didn't survive long in the cult without establishing a fairly firm "avoid the weirdos" policy. Lots of harmless nutters, some lovable some not so, and some you just didn't want to talk to. The dangerous nutters you hoped moved on quickly, they usually did.

Anyway. This particular horror did awful things. Some of which he confessed to, eventually, and some of which he denied and was found not guilty. He's now in prison and I shudder at the memory of him. There are others who will do more than shudder, alas.

He wasn't the only person from the cult that I knew who went on to abuse people and go to prison for it. There was only one other that I know of. I knew a murderer, but he was a really nice guy.

Codicil: I knew two people who went on to abuse children in the cult and go to prison for it. I knew a leader who sexually assaulted a young woman and went to prison and then returned to live in the cult. My best friend for years was the son of a paedophile (not in the cult) and another best friend for a few years was sexually assaulted by a leader in the cult. He only went "public" with that, and the ex-leader is now in prison I believe, a few years ago. I know a woman who was sexually assaulted at the farm, was blamed for it and made to move to another household. I only found out a few years ago, many years after the incident. I shared a room with a member who raped someone from a local village. He went to prison and came out again. A friend who returned to the cult from years earlier, now traumatised from working as a mercenary in Afghanistan, eventually revealed that the start of his trauma was being abused as a young man in the cult. Plus lots of strange and disturbing stories I heard. All still jumbled and jangling in my mind.

Wednesday, 22 January 2020

Dealing with it

No hell but what they make
The only time that I've been involved in drug dealing it was with the Director of Communications for the Church of Scotland. Let's call him John to protect the guilty. We were both at Corpus Christi college, Cambridge university. I was doing a law degree and going mad, he was doing a sociology degree (widely considered to be a drinking degree) and getting laid a lot. We both smoked a lot of weed. He was into out of body experiences and history. I was fairly convinced that whatever career path he wandered down "diabolical genius" was the job title he would end up with. I wasn't too far wrong as it turned out.

One of his acquaintances had come into "quite a lot of weed" and we were both aspiring entrepreneurs and fed up of paying retail price for weed.

The standard unit for buying "not small" quantities of weed was still a nine-bar, nine ounces imperial units. This was about 1994 or thereabouts. A nine-bar usually referred to a nine ounce slab of hash. The hash in Cambridge in those days was glorious, sticky black, morrocan, gold seal, lebanese. All Indica and brought with it the heavy blanket of night, starless and void. Hash cost £15 for an eighth of an ounce. I smoked it with rolling tobacco or neat in a pipe. When I smoked cigarettes it was Marlboro with their distinctive red and white packet, now gone in the UK, and their harsh but distinctive taste. It was rumoured that Marlboro was partly owned by the Ku Klux Klan, the white triangles in red on the top of the packet conceivably making a KKK. Smoking was clearly evil and if you were going to do something evil why not go all out.

It was harder to roll joints with cigarette tobacco, but I was proficient with both.

Weed was rarer, usually Sativa and prized and £25 for an eighth of an ounce. You could usually score an ounce for £120, a great deal of weed. We could get a nine-bar for £700 and knock out seven ounces at £100 each, below retail, and score a free ounce bag each. Knocking out seven ounces of weed at a discount in the hallowed halls of Cambridge was pretty easy.

We went to collect the grass. It was a large flat in the Cambridge suburbs, term time home to several fairly well off students it seemed. The multi-windowed living room on the first floor was laid out with blue tarp and about six foot by six foot by six inches of compressed weed still left on the tarp.

The dealer, a pleasant guy clearly in it purely for the money, the drugs and the lifestyle, made small talk whilst he carved out nine ounce bags of weed for us.

Having made the collection we retired to John's third year college room at Botolph court in the early afternoon. The logical thing to do was skin up a joint and John had a cold so I did the honours and as we had two ounces of weed between us I rolled pure grass joints. Normal in the US, extravagant in the UK. We talked the normal crap we talked whilst getting stoned and I rolled another joint.

By the third joint it was nearly time to go down to the college bar, centre of our social lives and source of cheap and free alcohol until the fired the hippy barman who made favourites of his hippy customers. John started to roll another joint, and then we realised. We were hammered already and the evening was only just beginning.

Love is a Superpower

For most people, adults and children alike, something extraordinary happens when we feel very loved. The defences drop, the eyes go clear and bright, a light turns on. And beauty shines.

That's the best sight in the world. The most remarkable feat of nature. Natural goodness.

Do you know how to tell how to love people? You listen to them. Do you know when most people will feel loved? When you listen to them.

Listening to people to work out what makes them feel loved, and proving you've listened and seeing if you're right, and watching people open up and grow. That's the most fulfilling thing I know to do. Given the choice that's how I'd spend my days.

For myself, and others I know like most cats, my love language is respect. I observe in myself that when I'm treated with respect I feel loved and that makes me grateful. So I try to do the same for others

My favourite reason that love is a superpower. When you love people it's hard for them not to open themselves up to you. If you genuinely love you learn really quickly. Fascination is an aspect of love.

So people show you who they are and you're able to learn from that. And if you catch it just right, that dance is the most fun thing in the world.

So we grow and change together.

Fascinating.

A Travel Tip for Visiting New Cities

Here's one of my travel tips for visiting new cities. Mostly an excuse to tell a story really. Part of my ongoing auto-hagiography.

When I was twenty I was homeless for about a year. I slept in squats, cars, hostels, night shelters, shop doorways, car parks and a whole bunch of other places. The concrete multi-storey car park, woken up at 6am by a security guard every morning and with cardboard for a mattress if we were lucky, was the worst. The cold of the concrete seeped right into my bones and I swear some still resides there in a numb part of my leg.

I was involved with a charity working with the homeless for about eight or nine years, six of them employed part time doing service development and community liaison. The cult I was part of had a particular "ministry" of serving the homeless and vulnerable. During the ten years I'd lived in the cult commune at "The Farm" we'd had homeless people, ex homeless people, and about to be homeless people with us all the time. Not always on the run from the police or doing cold turkey from heroin, but frequently. Only one person died of a heroin overdose on the premises whilst I was there, in his car overnight. He was my friend. I didn't see the body or got to his funeral. Anyway, all fodder for other stories perhaps. I've known a lot of homeless people.

I often travel to new cities where I'll stay for a few days or a week. For fun, for conferences, giving training or other work. I do the same in cities I visit regularly. Which means London, that's the only city I visit regularly (ooh plus maybe Birmingham and Brighton these days). I always give some money to homeless people. I consider it paying my local taxes.

Not money to all of them, not a lot but not nothing, something worth having if I can or just my change. And not money every time, although maybe a few times to someone on a regular route. Because I do it regularly I don't ever feel like I owe anyone anything, I do it because I can and because I like to.

I always smile at homeless people and say hello. I have a conversation with them if I have time, I don't always give money with the conversation. I often talk of when I was homeless in Cambridge. I was pretty well looked after really and begging was easy, lots of rich people around. And they'll tell me their story, or some of it.

This is very good karma. Particularly in a city I'm new to. I don't need to be afraid of the streets. As I walk around in an unfamiliar city I have people to smile to and people happy to see me again. And if I'm ever in any trouble there's a good chance I have a friend nearby and possibly another one watching my back down the road.

Tuesday, 21 January 2020

The Occult


When I was mad in Cambridge, all those years ago, I visited a synagogue. I'd never been in a synagogue before. I have a strange relationship with my Jewish heritage, somewhat distant, having grown up as a Christian. My mother's parents weren't religious, the holocaust having killed any semblance of faith, but her father still regarded it as something of a betrayal as he felt that Hitler had done what he'd done to the Jews in the name of Christianity.

Anyway, that's a part of the story I didn't really mean to tell. It had fascinated me, all part of my descent into madness, that the mystical foundation of much of what was called "the occult", at least by the occultists I admired, came out of Jewish mysticism.

The tree of life, numerology and the Hebrew alphabet hold, in these systems of thinking, some of the most powerful expressions of the deepest secrets of the nature of reality. These elements come from the Kabbalah, not something I know much about, but it's essentially medieval Jewish mystical thinking. So Christianity and the Jewish religion both have their foundation in the same mystical roots, as it turns out does the modern occult movement. And I'd never even been in a synagogue.

So I arrived towards the end of a service, people were milling around. I was very obviously homeless, but also apparently harmless, and they were really nice to me. I ended up wondering how I could learn anything here, and I found some children's books on the Hebrew alphabet and sat on the floor and read those.

Paradise Mill


I remember not long having started secondary school, Tytherington High School, but before we moved from Macclesfield to Harpenden for my Dad's new job when I was 14.

I was probably about ten or eleven. We lived on Tytherington Park Road, a leafy suburb of the northern industrial town Macclesfield. Once the termination of the international silk trade. Silk caravans ended in Macclesfield. Last I knew there was still one working silk mill in Macclesfield; Paradise Mill.

Nearby were saltmines, once worked by the Romans about a couple of millenia ago. Lion Salt Works still operated then, with huge evaporation pans for the rock salt dug up there.

I knew a girl. A lovely young lady, she was as shy as I but very pretty and went to the same church as we did. I think we may have played together on occasion. Her mother died and her father remarried, almost "suspiciously quickly" was the general consensus. I don't think I saw her very much after that.

She inspired strange feelings in me that I didn't recognise. I wanted to rescue her from a helicopter. Those imaginings amused me so I allowed them to linger.

Accidental Millionaire

An acquaintance of mine once won a million pounds on the lottery. He was sitting on the toilet doing the scratchcard when he discovered. It was January. He was a nice chap, I'd met him in the cult. Him and his mrs and kid. He spent quite a lot on trainers and watches, and a great deal more than that on mdma and cocaine. He was paying full whack, retail, on the mandy and charlie too. By the end of the year the money was gone but he still owned his house, and he'd had a great year.

He hired a limo for us all to go to a rave in Manchester or Liverpool or somewhere. He had infinite mandy. I'd done more than a gram by the end of the night and wasn't really functioning. His brother and his girlfriend both kissed other people and had a furious fight on the way back. She said her love bite was from a girl so it didn't count. Turned out it wasn't from a girl anyway. Scott and I went on one of those catapult ball things which was reckless and astonishing. I saw strange magic in circles of people dancing. Every now and then a really nice black woman would come and clasp my hands and jump with me and then go away. I mostly danced alone. Everywhere I went they called me Jesus.

Someone from the cult came that night, sneaked along whilst living in the commune. None of us knew him very well and he didn't stay around long after that. On the way back we were kept up by two rather odd young folk, who also no-one knew very well, yabbering all the way home. I met the two of them months later in a train back from London. We recognised each other but didn't say anything.

We started one night, maybe that one, in the bar in his basement he'd had built. He actually bought the basement conversion company that did it as the builder was retiring. As far as I know the company never did a stroke of work from that day. Later on he had the bar ripped out as it was bad for his health. I nearly got in trouble for letting on how much his watch cost when not everyone there knew he was loaded. Luckily I was wearing a £5 Casio watch at the time - so any watch was expensive compared to that one. I still have the Casio watch.

I met a woman who is now a dear friend at a gig he'd put on as promoter at the Picturedrome because he wanted the Dub Pistols to come to Northampton. Then we went to some classic rave, Fantazia, at the Roadmender, with a tag-along drug dealer mate of ours (apparently) complaining about £25 to get into a rave. And I lost my mandy. And I didn't give her a lift home. She got water for all of us and I mostly ended up dancing alone. We went back to the flat separately. Richard, of course, had disappeared and Scott was ill and went home.

I remember standing on the stairs in the Picturedrome watching her sort of dance and wondering who she were. She was clearly someone. Richard kept offering me some of his mandy and not giving it to me. Then I think he actually had lost it. Metaphorically and literally.

The accidental millionaire was in his element. I think he had a hat. His mrs had this habit of gently touching my arm with her boob when she talked to me. It was so lovely. I liked her. For a minute maybe I thought my new friend hated me and everything I stood for. And maybe she'd stolen my mandy. Richard told me she probably didn't and I worked out that she probably hadn't. We talked about religion and she told me she had been known to stand in a stone circle or two. That told me everything I needed to know about her.

Sheol: A Little Poem on the Christian Concept of Hell

No hell but what they make
A little poem on the Christian concept of hell. There is no word "hell" in New Testament Greek. The words translated as hell in the New Testament are either Hades (the Greek underworld) or Gehenna. Gehenna is The Valley of the Son of Hinnom, where the Kings of Judah are said to have sacrificed children to the god Moloch and which the prophet Jeremiah cursed.

No hell, it's just a place.
A place where bad things happened a long time ago.
Gehenna, that's what he said.
All those years ago.
Not hell.
No hell but what they make. 
And we are the unmakers, the cocreators, the divinely mad.
Holy Fools.

So when Jesus warns their bodes will be thrown in Gehenna and the worms will eat them, he wasn't necessarily talking about hell. He could have been prophesying the revolution that happened after his death, in 70AD, where the bodies of many of those he was speaking to may have been cast into the burning rubbish pits of Sheol.

If any of it happened at all.