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THE DARK MOON CHALLENGE for the WITCH’S NEW YEAR
October 25, 2022
Theme: Prepare the Soil—It’s Planting Day
Ancient people saw magic
everywhere. There’s plenty of evidence
to suggest that they shared an animistic
world view, the belief that everything
In earlier times, the natural cycles of growth and decay were the most notable features of life. In modern neopaganism, we reclaim this world view. Our ‘Wheel of the Year” marks times to plant, nurture, harvest, and rest. If we look at farming as a metaphor for the new moon ‘seed-planting’ of intentions, then the health of the soil symbolizes the medium for holding and nourishing your seeds. Integrity is important to the health of the soil,
Please don’t misunderstand me. This is not about becoming a goodie-two-shoes or a better rule follower. Integrity goes much, much deeper than living up to some external standard of ‘goodness.’ Use the following visualization and questionnaire to get ready. Your seed planting instructions are at the end,
Energy Exercise 1
Sit or lie in any position you choose, but make sure your spine is straight. Relax as much as you possible can.
Now, imagine that you can reach down into the center of the earth and pull up the energy from the molten core. Imagine bringing it all the way up to your tailbone. Let it flow up through your spine all the way to the crown of your head. Now send it out into the universe, and allow the celestial energy of the universe to flow back down into you from your crown, through your spine, all the way to the center of the earth.
Cycle the energies from earth and sky as you continue to relax. Experience yourself as part of the energy flow between heaven and earth.
Turn back the clock. Remember what it was like to be a child. See if a specific experience comes to mind. If not, create an imaginary scene that represents your childhood relationship with ‘being in trouble.’
Get as real and as sensory as you can. See if you can remember sounds, smells, sights, sensations of touch or taste. You probably didn’t have the word ‘integrity’ in your vocabulary. That’s okay. Use the feelings you have about it now as a lens for looking back.
BTW, on a personal note, I’m noticing that my childhood relationship with integrity was quite unhealthy, so don’t be afraid to get real with this.
Don’t worry about getting the answers exactly ‘right.’ Work with what you get. If you can’t fill in every question right off the bat, sit with the blanks and see what comes to you later.
1. When I read or hear the word ‘integrity’ If feel
d. Something Else, namely, __________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________________
2. Some of us got away with a lot as kids, and others were strictly raised and closely supervised. Do you think you have an overactive conscience, did your upbringing make you too cavalier, or did you get lucky and land in the Goldilocks spot where it’s ‘just right?”______
3. It has been said that integrity is how you behave when no one is watching, and you know you won’t get caught. On a scale of 1-10, how would you rate your integrity? ________________
4. Do you wrestle with intense feelings of shame, regret, or blame? (We’ll work with this tomorrow)
5. I was taught that you can’t get to transformation without going through integrity. It’s the gateway to joy and the foundation of a life well lived. What’s your response to this assertion?
Sound is vibration, and language is sound. “In the beginning was the Word…and the Word was God.” Keeping your word and being the kind of person whose promises you can take to the bank, these are the hallmarks of integrity.
Seed Planting Instructions
- Have you chosen your intention(s) from the brainstorming list in the prep questionnaire? If not, take a few minutes to choose one, two, or three ‘seeds’ from your aims for the 2023 harvest.
- Timing ~ The moon is considered new for 24 hours before and 24 hours after it reaches 0 degrees illumination. This means that you can plant them anytime today. We’re not fundamentalists. As long as you do your ‘seed planting’ before the end of the day on Tuesday, you’re golden.
- This can be imaginary, or you can symbolize it with real seeds and soil if you want.
- In your mind’s eye or in real life, dig down into some dark, rich, soil and plant as many seeds as you want. They represent the harvest you want to bring to fruition in the coming year. You can spend as much or as little time on this as you like.
- When you feel complete about planting your seeds, relax and let go. There may be action steps you need to take. Do so in an easy-going style, and forget about manifesting your intention as much as possible.
- You have transferred your desire into the seeds and soil. Don’t keep digging up your seeds to see if they’ve sprouted. Let nature do her work.
Here’s a good article about tapping into the power of the eclipse. If you want to follow these instructions instead or in addition, please feel free. This piece makes an especially valuable point about using astrology to take responsibility for your life.
THE DARK MOON CHALLENGE for the WITCH’S NEW YEAR
Congratulations on signing up for the Challenge! I’m so excited to have you on board!
I want you to get as much as you can out of this. As you know, what you get out of anything is in direct proportion to what you put into it. There are five parts to this document. 1) This intro 2) Energy Exercise P1 3) New Moon seed sowing explanation 4) Prep questionnaire 5) Optional short reading about the value of practice and preparation.
Take an imaginary journey with me through time and space. We can do this right now if you have a few minutes. If not, go ahead and read through the exercise, figure out when you can give it your full attention, and put it on your calendar.
Energy Exercise P1
Travel with me to a different time and place, where everyone knew that everything was alive, and that life began in
Let go of your focus on the here and now. Repeat the rhyme and engage your imagination. Let the words weave their magical spell around you like cartoon smoke, and whoosh you away from the mundane world you know into a time when Celtic clan chieftains and Druids ruled the British Isles.
I release and let go
In sweet surrender to the flow.
Moving through time
Moving through space
With a magical rhyme
To a mystical place
Picture you and your clan living in harmony with nature, camping out all summer. Danu, the Earth Mother, has been radiating energy and producing vegetation all summer, but now she gathers her life force back unto herself.
‘Liminal’, or in-between times, are golden. At summer’s end, or ‘Samhain’ in Gaelic, the Celts believed the old year dissolved to make way for the new. This ‘thinning of the veils’ gives you a powerful and amazing opportunity for a new beginning.
It’s the season of spirits, and modern Halloween celebrations prove that we still feel its spooky energy.
Tune into this vibration now. Spirit is the fifth dimension. See if you can feel a little something extra in the air at this time of year. As the forces of growth and expansion turn inward, another kind of energy seems to take their place. It’s almost like a low hum, too soft to be heard, but you can sense it.
Are you having memories of those who have crossed over? Can you feel them reaching out for you? Are you feeling your love and longing for them?
In nature we sense death and emptiness where there was form before. Can you sense the coalescing vibrations of future potentialities forming around the vacuum left by the dying vegetation? These sensations can be subtle, but once they touch you, you will begin to notice them more and more every year.
Feel free to journal about the exercise and/or repeat it as many times as you like.
Sow Seeds by the Dark of the Moon
Both of my grandfathers were farmers—good Christians who rejected anything to do with Witchcraft or magic. But there was one old tradition they honored, “Always plant by the dark of the moon.”
In October of 2022 the moon is new just six days prior to Halloween.This gives us an ideal opportunity to plant our own seeds of intention this new moon. What do you want to harvest in 2023?
You can plant seeds for anything, but don’t choose some worn our objective you think you should be running after. What makes your heart sing? Imagine yourself a year from now.You have had an incredible harvest, and you’re over the moon about what you’ve grown. What sparkles for you, lights you up? Magic is most powerful when tied to your emotions.
Your intentions can be specific, like, ‘An extra $3,000 a month in the bank before the end of 2023’ or general, like, ‘Harmonious and joyful time with friends and family.’
Brainstorm now. Plant your seeds on the dark moon. You can check the internet for the exact time in your area, but generally speaking, you can do your seed-planting any time on the 25th or 26th of October. It’s theoretically possible to plant seeds for as many things as you want, but in order to keep track or your results, I recommend between one and three.
Complete the following statements as honestly as you can.
1. I signed up for this challenge because _________I wanted to succeed at something and prove to myself that I could get people get people to participate.
2. I hope to ______________________________________________________________________
3. When I think of having a metaphorical harvest in the coming year, I picture _______________
4. What I want most to change in my life is__ ____________________________________________
5. I’m thinking of sowing seeds of intention for (Brainstorming, list as many as you can think of right now)_________
You will choose one, two, or three of these ‘seeds’ to plant on the new moon.
A Story About Preparation—well, about practicing, actually, but the principle applies.
Johnny and the Piccolo
Paraphrased from a story I heard as a child
Johnny was a little boy who wanted to play the piccolo in a marching band. His mother bought him an instrument and signed him up for lessons, but he never went. She told him he would need to practice, but he refused.
“Listen to that bird, Mother,” he said. “She sings a beautiful song, and never wastes her time with boring old practicing.”
The day came for Johnny to audition for the marching band. He had never taken his piccolo out of its case. It was lucky that he had a friend who played the flute.so somebody could show him how to put it together. Johnny put his piccolo to his lips, but couldn’t even make a sound. His friend taught him how to blow across the mouthpiece.
When Johnny went into the band room to try out, he thought of the bird’s song, and imagined nature’s own music flowing through him and his instrument. He blew into his piccolo, and sure enough, the sound that came out was closer to the tweeting of a bird than any song composed by a human,
“That’s a good trick,” said the band teacher. “Now, can you play this?” He handed Johnny a very simple piccolo part.
“I can’t read music,” said Johnny.
“I’m sorry, Johnny,” the teacher told him. “We have no need for a bird in the band. We only need students who can read and play music.”
The moral of the story? If you’re a wild creature, you don’t have to practice. But if you’re a human and you want to play in the band, you have to prepare. Some things are intuitive, and others are skills that take practice. Magic and music require both.
Are YOU BRAVE Enough for the Witch’s Dark Moon New Year’s Challenge?
October 25-29, 2022
What is it?
A free, transformational opportunity based on five ‘E-Z-peasy-U-Can-Do’ sessions that will offer you the opportunity to:
- Rocket yourself into the fifth dimension of present moment consciousness. 🚀
- Experience magical living ⚡️
- Get a jump start on the holiday season as you honor the old Celtic New Year☘️
- Forgive yourself and others. Start November with a clean slate ✌️
- Lay the solid foundation for an unimaginable future. 💎
How does it work?
Each day starting Tuesday, October 25, 2022 and continuing through Saturday the 29th, you will receive a questionnaire with instructions for completing it and complementary energy exercises designed to facilitate a visceral experience of the area under discussion.
You will carve out a few minutes each day to complete the questionnaire and work on the exercises.
Ends with a live communication session through Zoom, FaceBook, or Discord.
Why should you do the Challenge?
1. It’s FREE.
2. You risk nothing but time, probably five to ten hours total. (Of course you can put in as much time as you want).
2. It only lasts 5 days—days that will come and go in a flash whether you do something life-changing with them or not.
3. The questionnaires are designed to allow you to quickly look deeply within.
4. It’s flub-proof! I promise. You can’t mess this up.
5. This will give us a chance to get to know each other better.
How do I sign up?
Leave me a comment or message me. (If you send a message, and if I don’t already know you by name, please mention The Samhain Challenge, I usually ghost DMs from people I don’t know).
Leave me a comment or message me. (If you send a message, and if I don’t already know you by name, please mention The Samhain Challenge, I usually ghost DMs from people I don’t know).
feels like being a fetus whose amniotic fluid is thick gravy. I can move, but barely.
“God, why am I so tired?” My friends and I say.
“The world is vibrating at a higher frequency,” they tell us. “Our bodies are catching up.”
And I believe them, partly because that’s exactly what it feels like.
An Apologist for Woo
I happily accept the explanation. In my circles, we’ve been talking about the unfolding new paradigm since the 70s. Since then, I have become an unapologetic apologist for woo. I like it because it is what it purports to be, woo—subject to vagaries, misunderstanding, disagreement, and misapplication. You never have to deconstruct your woo. You just move on to the next thing that calls you.
It delivers, if you know how to work it. Bliss, spiritual enlightenment, and communities of people committed to living in alignment with their higher values. Even among such stellar compatriots the normal human frailties arise. All we can do is to have compassion for them, and be as respectful of each other as we can without sickening sweetness. Of course, my taste for sweetness between people has changed over the years. I’m so grateful for those in my life who have shown me how delicious humans can be with each other, and how I have always longed for that flavor.
People of every culture must have moments of merely putting on the show. We in the West were blown away when we discovered what ‘namaste’ meant on a spiritual level. I have been told they throw it around like they’re saying ‘hi’ in India. There’s ‘aloha,’ too. In this case, though, the Hawaiians have done well to communicate what it means. To greet you or to tell you goodbye is to say I love you.The point is, these populations hold a shared value as the starting point for their social practice. That value is connection,
Now, I don’t really want to believe in woo. I, who am fond of saying, “I don’t believe in believing.” But I chose it. Maybe you don’t choose your gender or your sexual orientation, but I got to choose this world view, and I continue repeat that choice over and over. It seems woefully naive and unsophisticated of me. I would really like to be more scholarly. My ego wants to hold court and discuss philosophies, theologies, and all sorts of grand theories–and to do so on a sound academic basis. But alas, I choose joy, and woo is where I find it.
Atheists, Woo, and Those on a Continuum from Agnostic to Woo
I live a happier life in a community dedicated to joy than in one dedicated to ideology. The people I hang out with fall into the categories delineated in the section title above. We are not people of the book, unless it’s a songbook. How much about the forces that created our universe are we capable of understanding with our advanced primate brains? You see, once you open your mind to the possibility that everything you see is a trick done with smoke and mirrors, it’s game over. You’ve won.
Start looking at the world through the eyes of woo, and what wonders you will see. There even comes a time when there are no more coincidences in your life. I like living this way. So I buy into the narrative that this elevation to the new frequency is sapping my energy. Because my energy is surely sapped.
But here I am, happily ensconced on my couch-throne where I live my life. Where I’m going to make a video, and I don’t even care if you see what a mess I am. I’m writing my truth, thus fulfilling my life’s purpose. And I don’t even care that I was too tired to do anything I needed to do today.
It is well with my soul. Maybe I’m like that weird little fetus floating amongst the planets at the end of the movie, 2001, A Space Odyssey–a brand new possibility in the universe? What if you’re that, too? Maybe we could even work together towards building a world culture whose shared value would be ‘connection.’
My grandparents on both sides were farmers. I grew up hearing the old tried-and-true advice that my Christian forebears swore by–for a good harvest, plant by the dark of the moon.
When I became a Witch, my HPS Neta taught me to meditate and not to do magic on the dark of the moon. Then my Feri oath mother held a large, public dark moon ritual in honor of her mentor who had crossed over, and did a seed-planting ceremony. Later, another friend introduced me to the practices of cleaning your personal altar and working with chthonic deities at that time.
I find it timely on this dark moon to post some excerpts from my book, WITCHCRAFT, POWER, AND TRANSFORMATION, A MAGICAL MYSTERY SCHOOL FOR THE 21ST CENTURY. Working with the courses of nature is central to our Craft. But I want to start with the first paragraph from Chapter One where I explain why my book teaches you how to design your own spells instead of giving you spell recipes.
WHAT IS WITCHCRAFT?
The Craft training in this book compares to the instruction you would get in order to become a master chef. If this were a culinary institute instead of a magical mystery school, and you came to study with me, I wouldn’t hand you a cookbook and tell you to follow recipes. I would teach you the basics of food preparation so that you could fully develop your cooking talents.”
Spells you create are always more powerful than the ones you imitate based on something you read. My book contains everything you need to know in order to start creating effective spells and much, much more. The end of this blog will give you an overview of the topics covered.
Now, for this dark moon, here are some words from my chapter on lunar esbats:
“The Farmer’s Almanac says to plant by the dark of the moon. Green Witches (those who work with plants) also follow this advice. Imitative magic tells us that a good time to plant seeds is also a good time to plant metaphorical seeds, in other words, to do a spell for something new…
For our purposes, we might define manifestation as nudging the direction of an ongoing issue, whereas “seed planting” magic means bringing something new into your life.
Here are some examples: If you’ve been married to the same person for years but feel you need a little magical boost in your relationship, you would probably get better results by waiting until the moon is new—visible and waxing, unless it’s an emergency, in which case you could use the clock hands as described earlier.
However, if you’re single and you’ve met someone new, a spell for increasing love in your life would be the equivalent of planting a seed. Notice the wording of the intention, “increasing love in your life.” Don’t do “love spells” to manifest a relationship with a specific person. Infatuation can distort judgement, and violating the free will of another person has dire consequences. Leave the details to the Goddess.
Say you’ve been struggling with a health-related problem and want to add some oomph to your healing. This is an ongoing issue, not something new, so the dark moon would not be the best time. On the other hand, suppose you’ve just received a frightening diagnosis about yourself or a loved one. You could plant seeds for health and well-being, or you could cast a spell for banishing disease, at the dark of the moon.
Chthonic, or underworld, magic also works well at this time. Dark gods and goddesses, spirits of the dead, and many races of beings dwell there. Working with the netherworld offers a source of power not accessible elsewhere, but I recommend developing some magical skills first.
When you do underworld magic you open a portal between this plane and the realms of twilight and darkness. Some beings who want to cross this threshold may not be benevolent. In addition to strong shielding and protection, you need to be able to cast and seal a solid circle so unwanted entities can’t get through. When in doubt simply clean your altar and meditate when the moon is dark. It’s always a good use of your time, and you can’t go wrong.”
You can find the book by clicking the ‘Books’ tab on my website and click on the image, or copy/paste the long link below. (NOTE: Free Preview button isn’t working at the moment. Sorry. Some issues with Amazon.)
Please feel free to comment or email me at firstname.lastname@example.org if you have any questions or anything else you want to communicate to me, and blessed be the new moon.
Here are some of the many topics covered in the book:
- What is Witchcraft?
- Pagan History
- Foundations of Magic (What types are there? What makes them work?)
- The 5 Elements
- Flowing with the Tides of Time
- The Wheel of the Year and Witches’ Sabbats
- The Esbats and Phases of the Moon
- Allies and Helpers (From Animal, Vegetable, and Mineral Kingdoms. Familiars, Stones, Herbs, and assorted practical stuff)
- You Are Your Magic (How to design a spell)
- The Charge of the Goddess
- How to Take a Spiritual Bath
- History of the Tarot
- Sample Sigils
- How to Create your Own Liturgy
Tables:1–Elemental Correspondences, 2 & 3 Basic Tarot Meanings, 4–Cleansing Methods, 5–Full Moon Names, 6–Magical Timing by Lunar Phases, 7–Magical Timing by Days of the Week, 8–Eight Herbs and their Uses, 9–Thirteen Stones and their Traditional Uses and Correlations, 10–Elder Futhark Runes and Possible Meanings, 11–Color Correspondence.
#Wicca #Witchcraft #Moon Magick #Magic #Magic Spells
By Janus Blume
© June 1, 2021
We stare into the depths, you and I, because we will not be bought off, will not sell our souls for surface things, like identity–that part which feels torn, shredded by self-imposed separation from the whole. Yet not entirely self-imposed. The notion of sin, separation, and the loss of the garden is handed down from parent to child and embedded in Western culture. But even so, something in your heart is singing, “Union, peace, and joy exist.” Let’s quiet our minds and listen.
Other words may bubble up, and that’s okay. If they do, let them slip through your mind like sand through a sieve. Feelings may also barge in. They will not be denied, and why should they? They were earned through life experiences, so we honor them, though not their well-practiced narratives. Let us have no more patience for silent internal works of fiction.
“Fiction?” You may hear your mind counter. “It’s complete non-fiction. It happened to me. It’s real.”
And it would be right. We all suffer from slings and arrows of the past. Yet if you look at the thought-loop you associate with any perceived emotional trauma, you will find a great deal of judgement and recrimination folded in with history. Researchers who study human memory tell us that our recollections change over time, that we remember our most recent memories, not the event itself. In other words, your recall distorts the past like a funhouse mirror.
The Limits of the Mind
People tend to think they can figure life out and protect themselves from harm. This approach seems to be part of human design, but the underlying principle is incorrect. Life simply has too many variables. No matter how hard we think or how carefully we plan, things still go wrong.
It’s very strange that an inappropriate response to life’s challenges appears to be hardwired into our behavior. We could speculate on how this came to be. Maybe it helps if we understand that evolution only requires a certain percentage of us to live long enough to produce offspring who also reach adulthood and procreate. Although it’s probably accurate, this conclusion is too pedantic for me to accept as the complete explanation.
We live in a culture rooted in the illusion of loss and separation as expressed through the story of Eden. It’s painful, yet the narrative of being driven from paradise rings true. It’s as if we’ve inherited an ancient grief. Perhaps at some point in human development we went through a separation from our place in the order of things. Our eldest human ancestors transitioned to Homo sapiens to become the dominant species here. Did they lose something, or trade it away—something we long to reclaim?
The beauty of life abounds on planet Earth. Monarch butterflies hang from eucalyptus trees like so many dead leaves until the sunlight dries the dew from their wings. Then they burst into flight, hundreds at a time. Lines of pelicans traverse the shoreline, flying low enough to easily make a meal of the fish in the shallows. Behind the birds we see the splendor of cherry pink, orange, and dark mauve in the sunset. You would think we would be able to let go of our worries and concerns long enough to vibe with it, to let it in and rejoice at our good fortune to be part of such exquisite artistry. Sometimes we can. Maybe there’s a way to bask in that light more often.
It has been reported that Jesus spoke of a ‘pearl of great price,’ a jewel of such value that a wise merchant would sell everything he owned to get his hands on it. What was he talking about? Since he spoke in parables and used metaphors for teaching, the pearl would represent a non-physical treasure. Let’s see if we can figure out what he might have meant.
We, the conquering animals at the top of the food chain, learned to plant, to harvest, to build homes and cities. We invented art, written language, poetry, and music. But there is more to us than that–another ‘something’ that can be named in various ways, but never completely captured in language. Maybe we gave it up when we uttered the first word, built the first shelter, or planted the first crop. Have we been inventing religions ever since then, to try to get it back?
Each of us defines it differently. Many people call themselves atheists, and remain certain that scientists will someday understand the very source of creation. Some put their faith in a superhuman being called God or Goddess. I’m a mystic. I know and cherish a relationship with a divine Oneness expressed through many images and stories, but belief seems overrated to me. That might put me in the category we label agnostic.
I value living in the question. Think about it. Our minds crave answers, but questions open doors, and answers close them. Definitions draw lines around things and restrict them. As long as I relate to the ultimate mystery without definition, anything is possible. I can touch eternity.
As Above, So Below; As Without, So Within
Scientists estimate the universe to be 13.7 billion years old. My predicted lifespan is less than 100 years. What business do I have even talking about eternity? I can only answer that question by telling you where I’ve found it. In present-moment consciousness. In the moment of now there is no need, sorrow, or death. I know about them through language, and they relate to the remembered past or the imagined future.
I relate to the universe as a living being, and the source of life as infinite possibility. I think it’s my birthright to experience the invisible mystery at the heart of existence, and the sacred stories of all cultures can help me do that. Life is truly fulfilling for me when I sit in silence, looking through the lens of nonmaterial reality.
Hush now. The voice in your head is drowning out the song of your heart. Quiet your mind and be fully present so you can hear it. You are part and parcel of the mysterious source of the universe. The iridescence of peace, joy, and union shine like subtle rainbow colors gleaming from the surface of a pearl. Shatter the illusion of separation, and know yourself truly. The shallows are fine for pelicans finding fish. Give me the depths of spirit where presence dwells. From there I can see forever, and it is well with my soul.
Diva Drop #1
March 8, 2021
Big news from Janus, your spiritual diva. I got my second vaccine!! As I write this, I have no idea how the second dose will affect me, but I know this: either it will be as easy as the first or not. If it’s not, I’ll get through it–none the worse for wear and knowing that in a couple of weeks I’ll be huggable again.
Soon we’ll be looking at the pandemic in the rear-view mirror. From the beauty of the present moment, life, though punctuated with sad news here and there, looks phenomenal. On a public level, it feels as if awareness continues to grow as current events cast spot lights on opposing points of view. I found out one friend is in the hospital, and we lost another unexpectedly due to a sudden heart attack. Someone said his death was linked to the COVID vax. His significant other says it wasn’t. Well, that’s today’s social climate, isn’t it? One person says something and another says the opposite. The beat goes on.
I’m learning to live with the sad fact that many of the people I love and admire believe in suppositions which seem absurd, even harmful, to me. Now is the time to practice radical acceptance. Human minds are susceptible to confirmation bias, and I’m no exception. I have to admit that I don’t know everything or have all the answers.
“But…but…” my mind screams.
Certain facts add up logically and make sense to me. So far, I see no credible evidence to the contrary. I trust my judgements and perceptions and live as I have lived for the last 50 plus years. As the line in the old Pagan song says, “My skin, my bones, my heretic heart are my authority.”
The arm where I got my injection just gave a twinge. Nothing else yet.
I’ve got big plans cooking in my head. Regular Diva Drops for sharing my life with you. A book and self-help course called “The Key of Life” emphasizing the double meaning of key as both the home-tone of a musical piece and the bit of hardware that opens a door. It’s all about harmonizing with life, floating downstream instead of fighting the current, and personal freedom through mindful living.
2021 is shaping up. My arm quit hurting. And scene.
Until next time,
THE TRUTH WARS
Epistemology and Why We Need It Now
Let’s talk about the truth. I started writing this a couple of weeks before the historic breach of the US capitol building on January 6, 2021, Though the events of the day have seared themselves into the memories of all who lived through them, the battle began decades earlier with politically-based disinformation wars.
After spending most of my adult life committed to global transformation and a new social contract, I am watching the old one ripped apart before my very eyes. Dovetailing emotions and thoughts spin me about as air currents curl smoke. Torn between wanting to believe in all the prophecies of a new golden age and feelings of fear as my homeland grapples with harsh reality, I spent the weeks between insurrection and inauguration collecting scraps of news to assure myself that the star-spangled banner yet waved.
I present here the second installment of a series I’m calling “My Conservative Values.” In the first, I called for a return to communication, alleging that there must be values that we hold in common with those who disagree with us. The search for online validation led to this quote:
“There are still things worthy of our love. Honor, decency, courage, beauty, and truth. Tenderness, human empathy, and a sense of duty. A good society. And a commitment to human dignity.”
Peter Wehner, The Atlantic 12/20/20
Fact v Opinion
Mr. Wehner is a conservative writer, and though I agree with all of the values he named in his statement, the word ‘truth’ stands out to me. Truth is essential to a government of the people, by the people, and for the people, yet it is under assault in our country today. We must learn how to recognize what’s factual and separate it from opinion.
The word ‘truth’ sounds solid, like ‘brick’ or ‘rock.’ But as we look closer, that which appears to be concrete turns to fog. Your verities sound like baloney to me and vice versa. We all know that beauty is in the eye of the beholder, but what about truth? In reality there are two kinds of truth; fact, or objective reality, and opinion, otherwise known as subjective reality.
The tendency to confuse fact with opinion seems to be baked into the human psyche. and our truths often collide. Some people say there’s no such thing as absolute truth, but I disagree. Facts represent objective reality. Snow forms when the temperature is below freezing, for example. In our numerical system three is greater than two. There is a correlation between burning fossil fuels and air quality. The goal of science is the discovery and sharing of objective truth.
Religious leaders, philosophers, and politicians deal more with subjective truth. Personal preferences, religious beliefs, and ideologies are all examples of opinion. Some people may think blondes are prettier than brunettes, but this is preference, not fact. The world is home to over two billion Christians. If you ask a true believer whether the virgin birth is opinion or fact, most would defend their faith as fact. We all have the right to believe anything we choose, but believing doesn’t make it so. When we argue with others about our opinions, we might as well be children saying, “My dog’s better than your dog.”
Ideologies fall into the realm of secular thought, usually political. I think Jesus’ sense of humor has been underrated. Just think about his word picture of people who “strain at gnats and swallow camels.” Pretty funny when you think about it, but it’s all around us these days. Disinformation fuels conspiracy movements. It stretches my credulity to contemplate this, but recent polling, as reported online, indicates that millions of people currently believe the following: “Democratic politicians and Hollywood stars are part of a global network that tortures and sexually abuses children in Satanic rituals.” Here’s the link if you’re interested.
Barriers to Knowing the Difference: 1) Bias
Human thinking tends toward bias, a trickster that can cause us to confuse fact with opinion. We’re predisposed to accept or reject ideas based on how well they line up with our pre-existing beliefs. Bias can be validated and reinforced by disinformation, religious doctrines, and political ideologies. One’s social environment and conditioning shape preferences on such a deep level that they become as invisible as the proverbial air to the bird and water to the fish. People who have escaped to freedom from a communist country, for example, are apt to have a bias against socialist economic policies.
Scientists must always beware of their own biases when designing experiments and interpreting outcomes. Prejudice can also affect the scope and design of research, limiting our knowledge base. For example, doctors currently know much more about how disease manifests and how to treat it in men than in women. This is because most studies throughout the history of medical research have focused on males.
The enticement of disinformation feeds on bias, seducing you to swallow fake stories you already want to believe like a fish taking the hook hidden in a worm. Make no mistake, there are movements invested in playing to your preferences. If you’re blind to them, you’re setting yourself up to fall for lies. We want reality to line up as neatly as a row of baby ducks, but in a global society as complex as ours, truth is far more nuanced than anything presented on the six o’clock news, let alone your favorite corner of the web.
One’s social environment plays a role, too. We’re all affected by the ‘group think’ of our communities. If you don’t know a single person who voted for the other party in the presidential election, (and many people in small-town middle America don’t) it might be hard for you to believe your candidate lost. This is only one of the many reasons millions of people believe that the 2020 presidential election was fraudulent.
Barrier 2) Propaganda
We all want to think state propaganda doesn’t exist here in the land of the free, but if you paid attention in history class you know better. An old saying alleges, “Truth is the first casualty of war.” Governments have used misinformation to control the masses since the beginning of civilization. The United States is no exception.
This is a two-pronged problem. The first is obvious. For example, before the US invaded Iraq in 2003, our intelligence agencies knew that there was no credible evidence supporting the assertion that they had weapons of mass destruction. Yet the media became the megaphone for insistence from the White House to the contrary, persuading public opinion in favor of invading. The cost has been tragic. Both sides have suffered the loss of many thousands of lives. Veterans come home with physical and psychological injuries. We still spend billions on warfare while saying we have no resources for basic human needs or infrastructure at home.
The second prong of the propaganda problem is less obvious, but perhaps more dangerous. People who find out they’ve been lied to feel betrayed by their own government and mainstream media. As they struggle to make sense of a world in chaos, they become susceptible to anti-establishment disinformation. It doesn’t help to know that all corporate media outlets are owned by half-a-dozen companies. This is something conspiracy theorists point out, and they’re right.
As a ‘boomer’ I have lived through so many events shrouded in corruption, conspiracy and conjecture that there isn’t room here to narrate them. I resort to bullet points to mention a tiny percentage of topics in truncated subject headings:
- JFK’s assassination
- The Pentagon Papers
- Iran Contra, Oliver North et al
- International Trade Deals/World Trade Organization/The World Bank
Human minds want answers, especially explanations that line up with their own biases. When the official story seems questionable, people will connect the dots on their own. Disinformation sources take advantage of the vacuum, filling it with fantasy and conjecture. Social media allows for the uninformed to comments and share, thus further shaping a false narrative.
Down the Rabbit Hole
Is it any wonder, then, that millions of people follow breadcrumbs down a rabbit holes that leave them believing absurd allegations? Believers don’t get there overnight. It usually starts when someone you care about shares something you question, and they’re more than happy to provide you with the links to their sources. If you already feel disaffected and powerless it’s easy to get sucked in.
It’s tempting to think that it happens to those with less than top-notch critical thinking skills, but in my circles, it’s the most intelligent who fall the hardest. This, in spite of the fact that some conspiracy claims have ancient roots. The Q-anon allegation that liberals feast on the blood of babies, for example, repeats assertions made against witches and Jews in the middle ages.
If you’re lured by a friend or relative to read one of their introductory offers, I suggest you read up on the response from more widely trusted sources before getting in too deep. Unfortunately, believers dismiss anything that contradicts their bias as ‘fake news.’ This is true regardless of the political track record or party affiliation of the person who dares to disagree with the lies they believe.
The cost is huge on all levels, from personal to national. Those who invaded the US Capitol building on January 6 believed themselves to be heirs of the American Revolution of 1776. Most remain convinced that they were true patriots acting to defend the country from a stolen election. There’s a truth crisis behind the historic insurrection and coup attempt that happened on January 6, 2021. We know how it came about.
Months before the 2020 presidential election the incumbent started saying that he couldn’t lose a fair election. He would repeat this statement hundreds of times. When he lost, his most loyal followers had the only evidence they needed to prove him right. What irony that His lies became their gold standard of truth, making it impossible to counter their belief with facts. After 60 court cases presented to 86 judges, many of them conservatives, the administration failed to present credible evidence confirming allegations of election fraud. Thousands of people stormed the capital to ‘Stop the Steal’ based on unfounded allegations.
This is the cost of living in a society that treats truth like chewing gum. We don’t value it, and toss it aside or stick it under the table when it doesn’t taste good anymore. Whistle-blowers are subjected to incarceration and punishments more appropriate for murderous mafia bosses than truth-tellers. The little boy who cried wolf paid the price for playing games with his words. In our case, the cost could be our democratic republic.
The antidote is honesty. Regardless of your beliefs, you can tell the truth as you understand it, and acknowledge your own bias. But, like a vaccine, it will only help if enough of us take the medicine. All of us need to play by the same rules. If you seek good faith communication while the person you’re talking to only wants to dominate and win an argument, the angels cry for both of you.
Allowing bullies to win the day serves no higher purpose. This conversation brings to mind an episode of the original Star Trek TV series in which Captain Kirk becomes divided between his kind but weak self and his aggressive but evil aspect. Our society sees human relations through this flawed dichotomy. We can and must take a stand for compassion as well as truth, for mercy as well as justice. The future belongs to the peaceful warrior.
It hurts too much to keep things the way things are. I, for one, am no longer willing to tolerate the damage and the pain. Perfect communication is an ideal, and no one is perfect. Some topics arouse so much passion that objectivity seems out of reach, but we can make a start. We all need to learn to say what we mean and mean what we say, but to say it in a way that isn’t mean.
The more we communicate honestly with each other, the closer we can come to operating from a healthy shared reality. Let’s all practice separating fact and opinion. Our thinking will become more flexible, and we’ll get better at making informed choices. We’ll be less likely to fall for the rhetoric of those who appeal to our emotions with agendas which may not be in our best interests.
There is a word which describes the study of truth, epistemology. We need it now. Only when we take this challenge to heart will we be able to create a win/win world. Learning to communicate honestly from truth is the skill that will lead us from the slums of dysfunction to the alabaster city shining on a hill. Please join me in the quest to Make America Honest. We have nothing to lose and a government of, by, and for The People to gain.
Do your own research and use your judgement. Here are some resources you might use for starters.
My Conservative Values
Part One ~The Case for Communication
By Janus Blume © 2020
“Conservative, n. A statesman who is enamored of existing evils, as distinguished from the Liberal, who wishes to replace them with others.”~Ambrose Bierce
In spite of our differences, I think we share core values we can use as a basis of communication~Janus L. Blumë
As I sit down to write this my mind goes back to a day when I participated in a human potential course. This happened a few years into my fourth decade of life, a pivotal time for me. With my youth behind me, I hoped for a life of contribution and satifsfaction. We were assigned to look deep within and identify a possibility, a core value that would make it worth getting out of bed every day for the rest of your life. For much of the afternoon, I drew a blank.
When my turn came, I went up onto the stage with trembling knees and declared, “My name is Janice Blumë. I am the possibility of a world with adequate nutrition, housing, and health care for every child born on Planet Earth, and I am the possibility that the United States of America is truly a government of the people, by the people, and for the people.” No lesser vision could spark my soul. I have neither deviated from it nor turned my back on it since that day.
Devoting my life to the kind of social transformation it would take to achieve the vision I spoke of has guided me to a focus on my own personal transformation. This in turn has led to a deeply satisfying life, but manifesting my vision is not going as well. Children in the US currently experience food insecurity at unprecedented levels. Globally, the world allows over three million children to die of malnutrition each year while producing enough food for one and a half times the global population. The United Nations estimated that 168 million people would need humanitarian aid to survive 2020, “due to conflict and disasters, natural and manufactured.” This came out prior to COVID-19.
My mind cannot picture 168 million people, and certainly not three million children. If we were confronted with a single starving child, instead of numbers too big to comprehend, we might be moved to some sort of action. Pictures on the news seem distant, two-dimensional images with captions that focus on policy disagreements rather than the human crises they represent.
Facing problems of such national or global scope will require an unprecedented level of cooperation, yet the USA remains deeply divided. Conflict and disagreement go hand in hand with the democratic process, but it seems we have reached a stalemate. How can we survive as a democratic republic if we can’t work together?
On a personal level, I can’t even have a conversation beyond small-talk someone very dear to me. When my parents adopted me, my mother had a best friend with a teenaged daughter named Janice. They named me after her. I always looked up to her as a role model while growing up. She and I can’t have a heart-to-heart about current events because we’re on opposite sides of the conspiracy wars. Our relationship is too precious to threaten with discord around political ideology.
“What we have here is a failure to communicate.”
The famous line from the movie Cool Hand Luke might well be applied to the current culture of the US. I’m using ‘we’ as in “We the people,” the populace, the voters, the only legitimate source of governmental power recognized in our founding documents. It has become difficult, even impossible to agree to disagree. But If we have no ‘we,’ from where does our government derive its powers? It’s as if the Grand Canyon now exists in two forms. One, a vast chasm runs through Arizona. The other separates friends, neighbors, and families as surely as if we were standing on opposite sides of the Colorado River with cliffs a mile deep between us.
It’s painful, but that’s mere discomfort. The real problem with our dissension is that it stands in the way of actual progress. We need to address the problems of our nation. Given our military influence, we have a major impact on policies around the world. We can’t have a democracy without conflicts, discussion and compromise, but we seem to have lost the art of negotiation. I would love to engage in productive conversations with my fellow citizens. If we can’t discuss specifics now, maybe we can start by talking about the deeply-held values that unite us as a nation.
Don’t we all want to preserve the best aspects of our society? Democracy will fail unless we can effectively wrangle over public decisions which affect all of us. I dream of a country worth handing on to future generations—one which reflects our shared core values. It’s tempting to give up and conclude that there are none, but I’m not buying the cynicism. It’s too expensive.
My Conservative Values
Since one of my core values and the goal of this piece is communication, it might be most productive for me to start by sharing those I label conservative. One definition of conservative is “…traditional, handed down from generation to generation.” What values do I mean? One of them is democracy. I how my mother explained our system of government to me.
“We don’t have a king; we have a president,” she told me. “Every adult gets to vote, for who they want, young and old, rich and poor, men and women. When you grow up, you’ll get to vote, too.”
I was thrilled. How did I get so lucky? I lived in the land of the free and the home of the brave. As a child, you don’t question overtly. Somehow it seemed almost too good to be true. Sadly, it was. The promise of America shone for me as a precious jewel, yet there was much I didn’t know. We learned about slavery and the Indian wars in school, but the mindset of American exceptionalism, the threats of Godless communism, and the words in our textbooks painted White America as the good guys, the torch-bearers of Western civilization.
I came of age during the era of Viet Nam, the Watts riots, and Woodstock, but I didn’t start to wake up until the late 80s. I came to comprehend that this nation was built on land stolen from her original inhabitants, land that produced great wealth. Yet those riches were coaxed from the soil and harvested by slaves, the victims of human trafficking and their offspring. But we don’t need to deny our history to maintain our status as a great nation. In fact, facing reality might go a long way toward healing and uniting us.
Democratic Ideals in a Changing World
Although our history contains horrific events, I want to think that we can evolve. I want to see our future to better fulfill the ideals for which we would like to stand. If we agree to seek common ground so that we might learn to talk to each other again, we might start with our founding documents. Our founders risked life and limb to institute their new form of government. These opening words of our Constitution and the preamble to the Declaration of Independence still stir my heart.
“We the People of the United States, in order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defense, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.”
~The Preamble to the Constitution of the United States of America
“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness.–That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed, -“
~The Preamble to The Declaration of Independence
We can’t ignore the gender specification in The Declaration. “…all men are created equal…” and “Governments are instituted among Men…” (emphasis mine). The word choice reminds us of the social changes this country has seen in its relatively short history. When the nation was founded, the idea of citizenship for women, black men, or native Americans was unthinkable. In fact, enfranchisement for every land-owning white male was a radical idea. We still grapple with the details of extending equality to all adults regardless of gender , sexual preference, or ethnicity. Protestors in the streets remind us that we have fallen far short in our attempts.
A concept called the ‘paradox of tolerance tells us that when we tolerate intolerance, the intolerant will inevitably take over. As it now stands, intolerance and obstruction keep us from conducting the business of the nation. This has to change if the bold experiment in democracy that we call the United States will ever live up to its potential. We need to grow up, respect each other as human beings, and learn to communicate cleanly, powerfully, and ethically. I wonder if we’re up to the task?
As stated in the title, this has been part one of “My Conservative Values.” In “Part Two—Starting Points.” I will name more ideas I consider conservative, and look at Abraham Lincoln’s call for re-dedication to a people’s government. In addition, I plan to write about Gandhi’s words and ideas relating to the self and the world. I hope you will join me. Please feel free to leave comments or email me.