Friday, January 28, 2011

Missing an old friend

During this holiday season, as in the season of 2009, we received a post card from an old colleague and co-conspirator. I'll call him just Frank so we don't out him in case he can't afford to be outed. Anyhow, in 2009 he mailed us from somewhere in Ohio; in 2010 it came from the greater Chicago area. We welcomed those messages so full of meaningful bulletins. The drawback? He showed no return address whatever.

Hey, Frank, where are you? We'd love to resume auld acquaintance--not in New Bern but from here in Hinton. Do please let us know a return address so we can pester you as of old, won't you? Old friends can be cherished friends.

So for now, blessed be. Know that we are eager to exchange updates. GY

Thursday, January 27, 2011

History (not as wished for)

Reference blog titled "To Every Thing There Is a Season, and a Time to Every Purpose under the Heaven"

Source Science of Metaphysical and Occult Philosophy --
We urge everyone to read John R. deLorez' blog referenced above. de Lorez has given us a survey of where the thing loosely called "the community" finds itself today. As he points out, the community has become (to use a courteous euphemism) eclectic.
As often happens, there are two sides to the coin. The good side is that everyone is enjoying themselves without too much mental effort. The bad side--in our curmudgeonly opinion--is this: A lot of people are skimming some kind of surface without realizing the harm they can do to themselves and to others when they play Witchy-Poo. To put all this into perspective, we ourselves often give a presentation we call "99 Ways Good Witches Go Bad" based on our book "Good Witches Fly Smoothly."
Gavin received his training in England from an old-line coven in Cornwall. It took a small group of neophytes almost two (2) years of quite rigorous training to qualify for initiation. That training required attendance at various lectures both in London and in the provinces, given by noted figures in many fields, as well as other assignments fine-tuned to each student personally.
The quality of those lectures was amazing. Some were held at the British Psychical Research Society's quarters; some were at colleges and universities. He cannot remember any that were held in someone's living room. Thus he witnessed from the get-go the value of learning from people who had been specialists for years in their respective fields.
In the United States in 1968, when we first founded the Church and School of Wicca, there was a high level of genuine interest in exploring a spiritual path. We rapidly went from zero to an international student body of 2,000 enrolled in the School's correspondence course. About 70 percent of them dropped out when they found that we expected them not only to read a lot of obscure books, but also to do experiments. The books were so difficult to obtain that we imported many from Europe and started a School lending library from which students could borrow the texts we recommended.
As the years have passed, fewer and fewer students are willing even to read the required texts. So we simplified the course by allowing two tracks: one for those who sought to earn initiation, one for general information. Today about 70 percent of the students do only the general-information sections--that is,with the notable exception of foreign students and American inmates. They still want to learn everything they can. In the United States the instant-gratification phenomenon has (at least in our curmudgeonly opinion) ruined what had been a good thing with a high level of esoteric scholarship.
Today every self-respecting bookstore has a shelf of easy-read paperbacks explaining multifarious "Wiccan" "traditions" and how-to books on the occult, often from authors who have had maybe one minor spiritual experience. This means that many good people never do much experimentation and rarely dig deeper. In working with groups at our presentations, we are repeatedly dismayed when attendees simply don't know even the most axiomatic of basic procedures and guidelines.
When we founded the School of Wicca, we made a conscious decision that Wicca was for everyone and thus should be, if you will, hidden in plain sight. The Craft should not be the sole property of a self-appointed aristocracy of occult "leaders". That meant we advertised in widely-read media ranging from Cosmo magazine to the National Enquirer.  We summarized our thoughts on this topic in the last lecture of our correspondence course, that became the nucleus of Chapter 12 in our infamous book "The Witch's Bible". That chapter is essentially a rant. It asks, "Whom can you believe? Surely not the people who make a profit from having you kowtow to their almighty will." The rant included priests/clergy paid by one conventional church or another; it included physicians paid by Big Pharma to push new products; it included publishers; it included many other people who, though they purport to be sincere, in fact make a profit from keeping you in the dark and by using "innerspeak", the jargon of the inner circle, to maintain their precious us-over-you situation.
For all of recorded history, there have been persons who manipulated others by claiming, "I know something you don't know" and "You're not ready to know that yet." The ploy works on the second-grade playground, and it works all too well in the field of spiritual/magical/occult pursuits.
Based on this statement, any thoughtful person can see immediately that people should be very suspicious of our words; and we told seekers that the only person whom you can trust is yourself. Then we quoted Mohandas Gandhi:
"Divine knowledge is not borrowed from books; it must be realized in oneself. Scriptural texts cannot supersede reason. The principal books are doubly distilled: They come from a human person and have now been interpreted and translated."
So you might think that we immediately condemned ourselves and our thinking. In response as our defense we have to say that
(1) our work is not just our work but also the work of over 40,000 students and
(2) the School has never made a profit and
(3) indeed we live under a vow of poverty.
Recently we have been encouraged when people whom we meet on the festival circuit ask for some of our older presentations. Those seekers are highly interested in such topics as Hinduism, the Sephiroth, multifaceted meditation, and astral travel. Perhaps more people will continue with their eclectic path but will add time for experimentation and having their own epiphanies without longing for whiz-bangs and blue balls of fire, or for thumb games.
Regrettably another phenomenon has seemed to overtaken part of the community. It can be variously described as smooth-below-the-waist or Christo-paganism. We see it in people who have failed to distinguish between reality on the one hand and on the other hand the cultural assumptions in which so many are trapped.
In time past much of the community followed the old ways and had great success with astral travel and with sex magic (the use of natural energy to affect future events); though now, of course, to be politically correct we should call that force "gender-difference" energy--and even this term doesn't work for our GLBT friends. Ay de mi! Sorry, troops.
This current trend has gone way too far. Currently many Wiccans are so smooth below the waist--so politically correct--that they have changed even the Charge to the Goddess, removing politically incorrect phrases such as "Ye shall be naked in your rites and ye shall make the game of love."
How often do Yvonne and I have to sit in lectures which are quite frankly trash? Those self-important utterances include such blatant falsehoods as these two:
(1) Jules Michelet's book "La Sorciere" was titled "The Sorcerer" and
(2) Wicca was founded by Gerald Gardner and i am a member of the oldest Wiccan group founded in 1975.
Because of our objections to these most glaring of the "mistakes", many people decided "those Frosts" are dangerous and should never be invited back.
                                                     There's no market for truth.
As Yvonne and I sit here in our living room dictating these thoughts, without even standing up we can look around and see hundreds of books, ranging from shelves of dictionaries, to philosophy, to maps ancient and modern, to a whole shelf of our own books. None are trash. All are dog-eared from continuous use. Unless there comes an upsurge in scholarly and experimental work, then the community has lost it. Do we want that to happen? Or are you willing to ditch the yellow-press books and the woohoo internet sites, and listen and try things?
We have hopes. We are seeing some small groups around the country who will listen and will strive; but they're few and far between. In fact we two can successfully do more experiments with Christians, in their church basement meetings which are alternatives to the official service, than we can with many self-styled pagans. What a sad state of affairs.

Monday, January 24, 2011

You Too Can Make a Difference

Did you know that the American industrial complex regards the mountains of eastern Kentucky and southwestern West Virginia as just an inconvenience, a nuisance? We've all heard about mountain-top removal, and most of us have seen the moonscape photos of the land after its rape.
It's not only the coal companies who have that attitude. Last year we Frosts visited Logan in the center of the moonscape. We found that Walmart had calmly removed a mountain and filled in a valley for a new store. If anyone downwind from the site had raised any objection, we certainly had not heard about it. Why should a tyrannosaurus rex bother about a ladybug, anyway? Just squash it and get on with things.
The arrogant raping of the mountains is poignantly illustrated most recently by the attitude and activities of Arch Coal Company. Arch gained a permit form the Corps of Engineers to take over 2,000 acres of mountain top (what they call the overburden) and dump it into several handy streams. Various groups in West Virginia, notably the Highlands Conservancy, had been protesting such action since their formation in 1965. In more than 50 cases the EPA had negotiated with coal companies to ameliorate the damage that they were causing; but this time the coal company (again arrogantly) refused to change their plans by so much as a comma. The EPA finally got enough cojones to cancel the permit.
This was to be the largest mountain-top removal mine ever permitted, involving as it did the burial of miles of high-quality stream under a minimum of 110 million cubic yards of waste. The waste would have poisoned not only the remaining water downstream; the poison would have gone all the way down to the Mississippi River and eventually out into the Gulf, resulting in large areas where no fish swim and no birds sing. It's enough waste to bury downtown Washington thirty feet deep--There's an idea.
Once in a genuinely Zen moment, late on a sunny morning, we had the privilege of watching a mother pelican floating maybe ten feet out from a pleasure beach. The hatchling that sat on her back frequently hopped off under her prompting to dive and catch some version of a mini-fish just below the surface. As we watched, she coached it several times through the skills it was developing to support itself as it matured into autonomy. We wished them both well: simple creatures of Nature, doing what they were designed to do, harming nobody but three or four of the millions of fish in the school.
The coal companies are already protesting (quelle surprise!) to this effect: "You will lose 250 jobs!" Yeah, and how many lives will we save? Charleston on the water downstream is already popularly known as Cancer Gulch.
Coal companies have such little regard for human life that they are the highest eradicator of it in the mining industries. They have such a clamp on governmental agencies that they routinely ignore mine safety regulations, resulting in such catastrophes as the one of Massey's last April at Upper Big Branch. Eventually that one meant 29 fatalities. Each of the individuals lost had an extended family, had responsibilities, had lives that would have gone on. The official death toll was 29; but the loss and grief extended far, far beyond that stark number, and will not diminish for decades.
Arch Coal claimed that West Virginia will forgo $250 million in investment. Of course the industrialists will weep into their champagne about the billions of dollars in profits that they stand to lose from the sale of the coal--which at the present time is at its highest price in history. Of course little or nothing of these profits will flow to West Virginians except perhaps as political bribes.
The companies will also weep into the laps of the congressmen whom they've bought fair and square. The companies will foot the bill for government/congressional/agency employee tours to far-away places (maybe Australia in Australia's summer which is our winter) "to see how coal mines work there"--and by the way, just peripherally influencing the outcome of this vote or that. It's all insultingly transparent. This is what our tax dollars are paying for.
Just now, we taxpayers have in Congress two opposing factions. One faction wants to castrate the EPA and take away its veto powers; another wants to stop mountain-top removal. The EPA has clearly shown that mining companies willing to work with the agency can redesign their operations to make them more sustainable, and can eliminate most of the impact on streams--while at the same time they increase production.
The fight is not over yet, and we should remember such people as the late Judy Bonds, whose voice has now been stilled. And we should gratefully congratulate the Highlands Conservancy and thank them in the way most of us know best: send them a (tax-deductible) donation: An e-mail of thanks should also go to the EPA: It won't take you a moment, but it will add to their file of interested protesters for the future battle in the courts and in Congress.
You can make a difference. This arrogance has got to stop. It was bad enough when James Watt, once Secretary of the Interior, said, "Don't worry about global warming. The second coming is at hand."
By the way--this is kind of a PS--burning raw coal causes vast areas of pollution, causes mercury poisoning with its accompanying birth defects, and causes acid rain. That's old news. But coal producers have known since the 1700s how to prevent these problems. It's called coking: heating coal in closed containers, tapping off the fumes, turning them into various chemical products--useful products--and using the clean-burning by-product--the coke--as fuel. Additionally we know how to capture the flue gases from a coal-burning generator, pipe them back through the flame, and reburn them, making the furnace more efficient and removing the pollutants. We can even burn the coal underground if we really have to, and leave the mountains essentially alone.
Wake up, people out there. You know how to do it.
We wrote this blog after listening to the rant of one knowledgable person. Thank you, Marilyn.

Saturday, January 15, 2011


     Start with a fanfare of trumpets, or perhaps with the opening bars of "Send In the Clowns", to herald the invention of EnviroChicken, now replacing EnviroPig in the news headlines.
This GM chicken supposedly cannot get avian flu--yet, we are again told, its meat and eggs are "indistinguishable" from that of real/natural/traditional/unimproved chickens. Again, let us echo Michael Pollan's finding*: Chickens raised semi-wild on open pasture rarely get diseased; whereas those kept in close confinement on factory farms do have problems.
     The question now arises: How long will it be before we have EnviroBaby? Surely in a lab somewhere--though of course not in the United States--someone is genetically modifying the human genome so that the baby will be ... will be ... you name it. Taller, a future NBA star? More brainy, a future super-Einstein? Courageous, fodder for the military? A little girl succulent to see, to win pageants and live out the dreams of the frustrated "mother"? A boy (if a boy is what's on the order form) born pre-circumcised? Of course all such babies will be immune to every loathly disease currently known (emphasize currently).
    Maybe Hitler just didn't know enough to get it right; otherwise we would all be his version of Aryans--blue-eyed blonds.
      How long will it be before would-be parents demand the latest modification in their child? How does this differ from the computer age, where it is but a short step from latest-and-best to obsolescence?
   We can imagine some white-coated scientist somewhere getting it "right". Then the question will be: Should he or she be allowed to continue down that path?
- - - - - - - - -
* Pollan, Michael Omnivore's Dilemma

Thursday, January 13, 2011

The Gasper du Jour

     Today's gasper centers around the question of the consequences of meddling with animal genetics. The Enviropig has its genes manipulated, we are told, by the addition of a mouse gene and a piece of E.coli bacteria. The amended pig is able to convert more of the phosphorus* in its unnatural grain-only feed so that it doesn't have to be fed extra phosphorus when kept in a confined environment. Thus, we are told, its feces don't smell bad and don't put extra phosphorus into the groundwater from the huge containment ponds--the ‘lagoons'--that are an essential part of the environment at pig-factory farms.
    The meat is said to be indistinguishable from real pork. We've heard that before:
                 "Genetically modified soy and corn are indistinguishable from the ‘real' grains."
    Awkwardly, tests have shown that they are not. In a case in point, GM soy fed to mother rats resulted in a 10 percent reduction in brain size in the babies. Even U.S. chain restaurants such as Taco Bell and McDonald's refused to use GM corn in their products, so it is either shipped overseas or used as animal fodder. (See rats above.)
     For three years spent on a steep learning curve, we Frosts kept hogs, on open pasture. Their feces don't smell that bad. Their feces don't contain high concentrtions of phosphorus. So the only purpose of the Enviropig is to make pig factory farms tolerable to individuals who find themselves downwind from the farms.
                                                  In my head I hear a squealing of brakes.
What if, just for the novelty of it, we started at the right end of things and stopped twisting our hankies about shortages of food and water and habitable land, about conflicts over international and ethnic boundaries?       
    What if we put all that on hold while we thought instead about limiting human reproduction? What if we addressed the real cause of the destruction of the planet: blind, purposeless overpopulation? What if for once we were to emphasize quality--not quantity--in breeding more like ourselves? There's radical novelty if ever I've heard it.
    Stop the mad, insane, self-destructive pace of reproduction. If China can do it by imperial command, decreeing flatly, "this is how it will be", even a gentler method might work. And in the case of world populations, even something is better than nothing.
I mean it.
    And a further thought: What if government agencies were to say, "If you're too feeble or too disabled or too indolent to support yourself, okay, we'll give you welfare--up to two children ... though Goddess knows why we should. More than two kids? Tough. Feed 'em yourself. It's not the taxpayers' problem." Might we not then see a change in population curves?

* Phosphorus does several things, we are told: It prompts the growth of algae, encouraging death of fish from anoxic conditions. It degrades the quality of water in the world's aquifers.

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Randy's Rant

At the Unitarian Universalist fellowship we often attend, some Sundays are given over to open forums: perhaps on a named topic, perhaps completely free-ranging. On such Sundays everyone gets to express their opinion. The other day Randy talked about inequality in the world; he mentioned specifically the rising influence of China and the effect China is having and will have on the economy of the United States. His point was that the tremendous famines of the 1930s and onward, and the terrible poverty of the peasant classes in China, are gradually being alleviated, and that this alleviation may cost everyone in the United States something in their opulent standard of living.
In the United States, even the poorest of the poor have a standard of living far above that of the majority of the hundreds of millions of Chinese peasants. But the peasantry is being lifted out of that grinding poverty.
Should we as human beings and as members of a world community feel shortchanged? or jealous? or fearful that because those millions of people are being helped we will have to lower our standard of living a trifle?
Yes, we all realize the vast inequality that is getting worse between the rich and the poor in the United States. And we realize that our cost of living continues inexorably to climb out of sight. Where are our priorities? If we were to stop buying Chinese products, our standard of living would automatically drop because many products would then become more expensive.
There is a balance that we must think about when we criticize China for its trade policies and for its treatment of its people, especially its dissidents. We Frosts have been following with interest a series presented on BBCAmerica's evening news. A rural Chinese community called White Horse Village is the subject. A government fiat decreed that the entire village be razed to make a new town. The villagers were promised a better school and new apartments. Sure enough, the apartments were built, but were so shoddy that many villagers refused to move into them and tried building their own houses; but those houses have been demolished, leaving the villagers with essentially nothing. Still the government has sent word down the chain: the new town housing tens of thousands of people shall be called a "success".
At the time of writing, China is Number 1 in world population. Because of its one-child-per-family decree, though, it will shortly be overtaken by India. Then Hinduism, essentially a pagan religion without centralized power, will have the world's biggest head count. Fortunately it has been an article of faith for Hindus for more than 5,000 years that God-ess is in everything and that therefore you should not critize or denigrate anyone's spiritual path.
Unfortunately Judaic, Christian, and Muslim leaders will try their best to denigrate Hinduism and convert its followers to monotheism.
Where will the spiritual balance come to rest? It may not be pretty. But it's going to happen and it's going to happen within in the lifetime of most of us. Can we as a group be joyful at this time of year for the emergence of the Chinese peasantry and for the rise of the Hindu ethic and of pagan spirituality? Or must we criticize and strike a negative attitude?

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


    The physician has just told her she has two weeks to live. People may assume she will display anger, perhaps terror, perhaps despair. But many of us in the Craft envy her and wish her well. For in the Craft, knowing so surely that reincarnation is a rational, orderly sequence of learning and of increasing wisdom, we can feel only happiness for those who are judged complete, those who leave the rest of us behind to continue our learning and our assignments. What a joyous day it is when the spirit is allowed to lay aside the worn-out body and rise weightless to join those who wait on the other side.
    Should she cut short the last few days and commit a deliberate suicide? No. Suicide is equivalent to playing hooky; it will inevitably result in another lifetime in another body. She would have to learn all over again how to tie her shoes, how to blow her nose, how to discipline the untidy human emotions. She accepts serenely the fact that her time of discomfort is finite now. However unwelcome it is, the discomfort is the means to her desired end: Graduation.
   The assignments of this lifetime are completed, and those who guide our path have approved her work. She is cleared to go on.
   Soon, soon she will be reunited with friends whom she has missed keenly during her separation from them. Soon she will talk freely with the Guides, gaining understanding of all she learned through the sorrows, the pain, the discomfort, the plain hard work she experienced in the body. Those who witness her transition may feel sorrow; it is only natural to do so. Their sorrow is for themselves, for the vacancy she leaves behind, for the silence when they used to hear her voice. Their happiness is for her who will depart for the place she longs to be. When they weep, they know their tears represent healing. They reflect on the little verse first written in German:

Just as a leaf falls from the bough,
so goes a life from out the world.
The birds cease not their singing.

   As usual, we invite your comments. We are not trying to offend anyone or scorn their tradition, so please be constructive. Our hope is that we all may arrive at a shared understanding of what we are doing. If you know a better way and can articulate the reasons behind it, please share that better way with the community.

Blessed be. Gavin and Yvonne