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Loosing My Religion 1: Sabbatical/Non-Practicing Pagan & The "Science" Of Witchcraft

I've recently decided to take a "religion sabbatical" to discover why I "need" to believe and to decide what I believe (if anything). I emailed the four people I have worked with the most over the years to let them know. I have gotten supportive responses. I'm posting the email below (with a few edits due to my friends). 

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"I have decided to take a sabbatical from religion for some time. I don't know how long. I figure I'll "know as I go.

This isn't just a sabbatical from the Craft as it is, as I said, a sabbatical from religion. I'd like to sort some things out, think on them. Things such as: why does it seem that humans have a need to believe in something? Why is that need so great that some kill or die for it? All religions are human made. Again, why the need for something to explain the reason we are here? Is it simply the community aspect, the need for something binding to bring us together with like minded people? And again, why religious/spiritual beliefs? If it's simply a desire for community, it seems that a belief in something that can't be proven, and no religious/spriritual belief can be proven, hence the term faith, is a poor reason. 

As far as the Craft, I do have some things to think on. Why, after twelve years, am I still at what would be a beginner level? Why have I not taken the training needed to become more knowledgable? Why have I held off? Why haven't I even memorized a basic circle casting and element calling? Probably because I lot of the things that are very accepted in the Craft I have either no interest in or feel it to be total garbage, or mix of the two. I find trance work, psychic ability, divination, astrology, reincarnation, chakras, out of body experiences, etc to be primarily junk. I believe that's why I've had a tarot deck for over ten years yet never got "out of book" with it. I think it's a person's subconcious at work, like I believe near death experiences to be. Each religion has their own form of psychic ability, even if they don't call it that. Faith Healings or whatever. Most people see what they want to see, extentions of their own beliefs. If there is something, someone(s) out there, and we can tap into them in some way, wouldn't we see what really is out there? Of course, there is the theory that we see what we want to see because we are not ready to see what is really there, which may be true, and may be us pulling the wool over our own eyes. 

I guess I am beginning to find it disturbing that I am in a religion were I believe quite a bit of it is just good instincts and the abiliity to read people being called psychic/supernatural and that bothers me. Actually it bothers me that all religions in some way do this. Why do I need to try and believe (in any religion)? Why do I need to call myself Wiccan/Witch? Why has it come to define me so much yet a lot of it I just don't buy? Since I don't believe in a lot of it should I even call myself Wiccan/Witch? I don't think that a person can be a Christian Wiccan/Witch. I do think the two could be combined into a brand new religion which would require a different name: after all it's not Christian Judaism or Judaic Christianity and Christianity came directly from Judaism. I consider people who call themselves Christian Wiccans/Witches to be insulting Christians, Wiccans/Witches and their own intelligence. So then, how can I, who doesn't believe in over half of the beliefs that are part of Wicca/Craft call myself a Wiccan/Witch without being just as hypocritical and wrong as those calling themselves Christian Wiccans/Witches? Sort of like how I've always thought: tarot cards - maybe, maybe: ouija boards - nonsense (not Oh it's just not for me - my type of divinatory tool, I mean its garbage). It's a double standard, a hypocrisy. 

I would like to plan some afternoons or even weekday evenings where we might be able to get together just as friends. Hang out and chat and watch a movie or go to dinner."

January 24, 2007

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A few of the Wiccan friends I emailed the letter above to asked what I thought about the science of witchcraft and specifically Laurie Cabot (the official Witch of Salem, MA, USA) Tradition The Science Of Witchcraft. My answer to them is below.

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Greetings

I've done a bit of research on Laurie Cabot's Tradition the Science of Witchcraft which you brought up at the Bullshit 'n' BBQ.

First I think I should say what I think science is and what a scientific theory is and what it takes for something to become a science/scientific theory (or at least definitions that I agree with written by smarter, more experienced people).

Science is a search for basic truths about the Universe, a search which develops statements that appear to describe how the Universe works, but which are subject to correction, revision, adjustment, or even outright rejection, upon the presentation of better or conflicting evidence.

A scientific theory is a well substantiated, well supported, well documented explanation for observations through completely natural causes which has yet to be proven wrong despite efforts to do so.

A hypothesis to be scientifically researched must go through the processes of scientific trials and reviews before it can be a scientific theory (like the earth revolves around the sun or evolution, both of which are scientific theories): a clinical trial or randomized controlled trial and peer review are the two major components of the process.

Clinical trials must contain a control group that receives a placebo or a control procedure (depending on what is being tested).  The control group and those in the test group must be blinded, i.e., keeping all the test subjects in the dark about the process to remove any chance of personal biases consciously or unconsciously effecting the outcome of the testing as well as to take into account any placebo/nocebo effects in the testing.  A single blind means that the participants don't know if they are in the test group or the control group.  A double blind means that the participants don’t know if they are in the test group or the control group and those administering the test don't know if they are giving the placebo/control procedure or the actual test.  A triple blind means that the participants don’t know if they are in the test group or the control group, the administers don’t know if they are giving the placebo/control procedure or the actual test, and the statisticians are also blind (those doing the stats will be given the results in code like: administer A gave subject B substance C resulting in a 13% improvement, etc).

Peer review is usually done by the publishers and funders of the research, editorial staffs of scientific journals, panels of experts, basically a mix of reputable scientists/journals with long standing histories of viable work, none of which are chosen by those doing the actual research and have nothing to gain or loose in the outcome (again, to avoid personal biases consciously or unconsciously effecting the outcome).

Now, pertaining to Laurie Cabot and her Tradition.  I checked her website and her description of her Tradition and the science she is referring to is healing through the alpha brain wave state, which is also known as psychic diagnosis and intuitive healing (as well as other names).  I did not see any references to Institutes that have done research on the subject, names of any Doctors/Scientists who agree with her or have published papers on the subject, etc.  Now I can understand that no teacher would want to give out all the information about her class on a website but stating names, institutes, etc would only be a matter of good marketing and advertising (and let's face it, who wouldn't want to do some bragging about that).  I couldn't find an email address for Laurie Cabot/The Cabot Tradition on any of the pages of her website or I would’ve emailed her and asked her if she could provide some information along those lines.

Also, she mentions a research project that is testing the ability of a person who is paralyzed to move things like a computer cursor using their mind.  Actually, the project is not researching the power of the mind to move objects as Laurie Cabot’s writing infers but is studying brain electrical activity and it’s compatibility with other electrical type machines like computers (to help those with spine, arm, leg, mobility damage).  It’s about electrical compatibility between two different types of machines (living and non-living) not the power of the mind and inanimate objects.  The wording is subtly different but the meaning is hugely different.

Laurie Cabot also mentions that light carries information that we can tap into through the alpha brain wave state and manipulate. The electromagnetic spectrum, from gamma rays with the shortest wavelengths and highest frequencies to radio waves with the longest wavelengths and lowest frequencies, with visible light near the center, is not effected by alpha brain waves or anyone in an alpha brain wave state, and that most of the information carried is generally seen by open eyes or heard via radios.

I did some internet searches on Laurie Cabot, The Cabot Tradition, psychic diagnosis, intuitive healing, healing through alpha state, alpha brain waves, etc, etc, basically all the variations of the above I could think of.  I found huge amounts of information, books, classes, etc, run or written by people who often had some kind of degree in energy healing, parapsychology or something like that (although generally not medical) siting uncontrolled clinical observations which are also called anecdotal evidence or testimonials (which do not have any types of safeguards against personal biases or the placebo/nocebo effects influencing the outcome) but nothing along the lines of clinical trials, peer reviews (by reputable people/sources with long standing histories of viable work with nothing to gain or loose in the outcome and not by those who have also only done uncontrolled clinical observations), etc.

As far as I can tell, psychic diagnosis, intuitive healing, healing through the alpha state, etc, is not a proven science, not a scientific theory, and has not even begun the first stages of scientific clinical trials but went ahead with direct media announcing.  This means that it is not as of yet a science or scientific theory.  This also means that no one teaching this can honestly say it is a science or a scientific theory at this time.  That would be misleading/dishonest marketing/advertising.

Not to mention that fact that if psychic diagnosis (or whatever name the subject is under) was proven a scientific theory it would change the world as we know it.  The researchers would win Nobel Prizes for Physics and Peace and Physics and Science would have whole new areas to research.  No one is going to sit on a find like that and there is no way any one or thing could keep it quiet.  It would be like a cure for cancer; there would be no hiding it, someone would talk.

In Laurie Cabot's particular case, if she said something like "Healing through the alpha state is a concept we hope will one day be accepted by the scientific community as a viable theory to be offered in hospitals, etc, etc" (you get the idea) about her Tradition that would be more to the honest point, not to mention the fact that she really does need to drop the “Science of Witchcraft” moniker as it is inappropriate and misleading.

You've heard me use the expression "Magick is Science we don't have the Math for yet" (yes, I know I'm probably butchering the terms math and science according to actual mathematicians and scientists but it gets the idea across to lay people like me).  The operative word in that sentence is "yet.”  I am all for anything that helps me stay healthy or heals me quicker if I am sick (of course, who wouldn't be, duh, haha).  I am not all for claims about concepts or procedures that claim to be a science or proven scientifically and haven't gone through the scientific process.  If someone is going to claim their proposition is science they've got to play by the rules of science.  Can't go into a football field and play baseball.

Maybe things like psychic diagnosis aren't in the realm of science, perhaps they are part of way of being or learning we don't have a name for yet.  The point would still be that it isn't a science or scientific theory and it shouldn't make any claims as such.

Okay, that's my take on Laurie Cabot's Tradition of the Science of Witchcraft.

Thanks for letting me get my ideas all together before answering.

2007

Loose (loos), adjective, looser, loosest, adverb, verb, loosed, loosing:
free or released from fastening or attachment,
free from anything that binds or restrains; unfettered.