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Evaluation of Traditions: Magic

February 25, 2010 11 comments

“There is no ‘black magic’, but rather sorcerers groping in the dark. They grope in the dark because the light of gnosis and mysticism is lacking.” (Meditations on the Tarot, corrected edition 2002 Tarcher/Putnam, pg. 43)

There are many different “traditions” of magic, though they all come down, more or less, to aesthetic differences over practical ones. Certain among these traditions do appear to be more consistently effective than others, but I’ll get to that. Given the preceding, I’m going to treat magic as a single subject for the purposes of this article, only referring to differences of magical systems when necessary for clarity. It is also important to define my parameters right from the start. Under the heading of magic, I include divination and psychism (psychic powers). Divination is simply the use of magical techniques to gain information, while psychic powers are magical powers usually distinguished by their untrained use. Within these categories are also included most New Age and New Thought practices.

“Psychic” means “pertaining to the soul”, from the Greek “psyche”. Let us briefly explore mystical psychology (study, or logic, of the soul) before moving on to the implications of such on magic. Each human being is composed of their physical body, their soul (personality, astral body) and mind (mental body). Nearly every mystical and religious tradition worldwide will agree on this scheme, or one very much like it. Some divide these three “bodies” yet further, while some consider the soul and mind to be two facets of a single entity. It doesn’t matter if these divisions are taken literally or not; while we are alive, there are no hard and fast divisions here, anyway. What is important is that we recognize these three levels of our living awareness: physical, emotional/personal, and mental.

There is still a subtler layer, though: Spirit. In much of Western esoteric thought, mind and spirit are often conflated with one another. Even the great Franz Bardon used the terms almost interchangeably (although with an often unnoticed subtlety that belies his acute awareness of the differences). The cause of the conflation is that most people will go through their whole lives with only a handful of truly, consciously, spiritual experiences. Under those conditions, experiences of the spirit seem to be explainable as simple overload of the mind-brain. This is not entirely untrue; the way we consciously learn to reach for spiritual experiences does involve a lot of mental game-playing (concentration) at first. Eventually, according to the masters, the games become unnecessary as mind melts into Spirit and becomes identified with It.

So what is Spirit? Without going too far with my words, Spirit is God. In Buddhism, Spirit and Nirvana are identical. In Judaism, Spirit may be called Ain Soph. In Hinduism, Spirit is the Atman which is Brahman, the Unknowable and Uncreated. For a Christian, we are talking about God’s Holy Spirit by which we attain to Union in Love with God the Father. Our bodies, souls and minds are of God, as we are each of our human parents, but our Spirit is that in us which is God. I cannot say “my spirit”, but only “Spirit”. Without Spirit, that which identifies itself as “Nicholas Graham” simply wouldn’t be. Spirit is the breath-of-God in which we live, move, and have our being.

All of that being said, we can move on to the relevance of this to an exploration of magic.

Magic is not, cannot be, a spiritual practice. It is mental and psychic primarily, and physical secondarily, but not spiritual. It is by virtue of Spirit that magic works at all, but that is true of everything, so magic is not uniquely “spiritual”. Magic itself cannot help us in drawing closer to Spirit, in the process of identifying mind with Spirit.

In fact, this is the very source of the prohibitions in most traditional religions against the practice of magic: it is not that magic is evil, so much as it is a distraction from higher pursuits. In both Christianity and Judaism, at least as far as the Scriptures are concerned, there is no prohibition against the practice of magic. The Bible only prohibits the use of specific methods of enslaving the souls of the dead (oboth and yideonim) in the Old Testament, and in the New Testament it prohibits poisoning with herbs (pharmakoi). In most English Bibles, all of these terms are translated “magic”, “sorcery”, “witchcraft”, “witch”, “wizard”, and the like, but none of those words actually mean “magic” or anything of the sort.

There is nothing inherently wrong with using magic to change the world in which we live, though any use of magic to attack or manipulate another living being is as unlawful as any other means of doing the same, with the added sin of doing so dishonorably, “behind the scenes” as it were. It is without question that using magic to help people with their problems is a good act, insofar as that aid actually removes barriers between them and God.

There is also the question of the various traditions of so-called “ritual magic”. The practitioners of these traditions typically make great spiritual claims about them, citing dramatic visions and meeting with all manner of metaphysical entities. I do not doubt that many ritual magicians do achieve these visions. I have plenty of personal experience in this realm, myself. I also do not doubt the life-changing nature of the experiences involved. They, at the very least, provide experiential confirmation that the physical world is not all that there is. Still, these things are not “spiritual” insofar as they do not have anything to do with Spirit. They are experiences of the mind and soul. The masters and saints of all traditions, as well as the personal experiences of many seekers through the ages, reveal to us the fact that pure spiritual experience is without any sensory input from within or without. “For silence is the sign of real contact with the spiritual world and this contact, in turn, always engenders the influx of forces.” (Meditations on the Tarot, pg. 11)

There is one category of practice often related to magic which is genuinely spiritual, insofar as it leads to spiritual experience. This is known as theurgy. “Theurgy” means “God work”; that is, the theurgist seeks to make of herself a conscious and willing “instrument of God’s peace”. “The magus in sacred magic plays the role of the last link in the magical chain which descends from above, i.e. in order to serve as the terrestrial point of contact and point of concentration for the operation conceived, willed and put into action from above.” (Meditations on the Tarot, pg. 57)

I will not go into theurgy more deeply than this for now, except to say that theurgy can outwardly resemble magical rituals in many ways, including the use of ritual gestures, physical tools, incense, and the like, but the inner processes differ greatly and more closely resemble contemplative prayer. Theurgy is also sometimes known as “sacred magic” or “divine magic”. It is only magic at all insofar as theurgy may sometimes be used to effect a change in the mental, astral or physical worlds.

In theurgy, we do find the whole of the ethic of magic:

This is the aim of sacred magic; it is nothing other than to give the freedom to see, to hear, to walk, to live, to follow an ideal and to be truly oneself—i.e. to give sight to the blind, hearing to the deaf, the ability to walk to the lame, life to the dead, good news or ideals to the poor and free will to those who are possessed by evil spirits. It never encroaches upon freedom, the restoration of which is its unique aim. (Meditations on the Tarot, pg. 61)

Even the simplest sorcery will be judged upon this basis: does it enhance or diminish freedom? Does it liberate, or does it enchain?

So there is the crux: magic is itself not spiritual, but it can either aid or hinder the spiritual quest. It can create space in one’s life for Divine things, or it can become a means of abuse like any other. Magic is only lawful insofar as it creates that space and manifests true, perfect love; otherwise, it is the most foolish and vain of pursuits.

The Emerald Tablet of Hermes the Thrice-Great

1. True it is, without falsehood, certain and most true.
2. That which is above is like to that which is below, and that which is below is like to that which is above, to accomplish the miracles of the one thing.
3. And as all things were by contemplation of the One, so all things arose from this one thing by a single act of adaptation.
4. The father thereof is the sun, the mother the moon; the wind carried it in its womb; the earth is the nurse thereof.
5. It is the father of all works of wonder throughout the whole world.
6. The power thereof is perfect, if it be cast on to earth.
7. It will separate the element of earth from that of fire, the subtle from the gross, gently and with great sagacity.
8. It doth ascend from earth to heaven; again it doth descend to earth, and uniteth in itself the force from things superior and things inferior. Thus thou wilt possess the glory of the brightness of the whole world, and all obscurity will fly far from thee.
9. This thing is the strongest of all powers, the force of all forces, for it overcometh every subtle thing and doth penetrate every solid substance.
10. Thus was this world created.
11. Hence there will be marvellous adaptations achieved, of which the manner is this.
12. For this reason I am called Hermes Trismegistus, because I hold three parts of the wisdom of the world.
13. That which I had to say about the operation of sol is completed.

In praise to God for giving me to understand the Arcanum of which I sought, I pray as Hermes did to the Divine Poimandres (Corpus Hermeticum 1:30-32)

I have come, divinely inspired by the truth. Wherefore, I give praise to God the Father with my whole soul and strength:

Holy is God the Father of all.
Holy is God whose will is accomplished by his own powers.
Holy is God who wills to be known and is known by those that are his own.
Holy art thou who by the Word has united all that is.
Holy art thou of whom all Nature became an image.
Holy art thou whom Nature has not created.
Holy art thou who is stronger than all power.
Holy art thou who art higher than all pre-eiminence.
Holy art thou who suprasses praises.

Receive pure offerings of speech offered to you by inner mind and heart, thou who art unutterable, vast, beyond description, who art spoken of by silence.

I beg you that I may not fall from the knowledge that leads towards our essence, and endow me with vitality; by this grace, I shall enlighten those of the race who are in ignorance, my brothers and your sons. Wherefore, I have faith and I bear witness. I go to life and light. You are blessed, Father. He who is your man wants to share in your holiness, as you have given him all authority.

Seasonal Power

Halloween falls on October 31st every year, and is the evening before Hallowmass (Hallow’s Eve). Samhain, or true Halloween, however, falls on November 7th this year (and a different day every year; check a good Witch’s calendar or astrological calendar), the Saturday following the secular Halloween. How does true Halloween (which I will call Samhain through this article, for the sake of clarity) differ from the secular holiday?

The first answer depends upon your current religion, and your religious background. For most adult Americans, Halloween is just a way to indulge in the “dark and spooky” without social stigma, and for children to indulge their sweet teeth during the increasingly cold and dark half of the year.

For those who practice magic, divination, ancestor veneration, or anything similar, Halloween is an effective time for all of the above due to its cultural associations. The actual tides themselves have not changed to suit modern proclivities, but enough cultural energy has built up around the night of October 31st (and the day of November 1st for Roman Catholics) that it serves as a particularly effective time for all of those aforementioned activities. It is also close enough to the actual date of Samhain (which, again, changes yearly, but which is never far off of Halloween) that it naturally partakes of some of the Samhaintide energy.

Samhain itself is, of course, an even better time for magic and all things “dark and spooky” (as defined by modern Western culture). The natural tides are in motion at this time of the yearly cycle, when the Sun enters 15 degrees Scorpio, in such a way as to very literally thin the veil between the planes. The planes, it must be remembered, are not separate in the same way that one room is separated from another by a solid wall. Instead, they are segments of a continuum which runs from the physical to the spiritual. The segments are useful for defining the areas of the continuum which tend to interact more directly with one another, but are not absolute. For instance, the “lower astral” and “higher astral” are just the more and less dense sections of the astral plane; as different as they can be, they are still just “the astral plane” because they have more direct interplay with one another than either of them has with, say, the spiritual plane. Ultimately, though, everything is made out of the same “mind-stuff”, so neither the physical plane nor the spiritual plane, nor anything between, is firmly separated off from the rest.

I will be honest in saying that I don’t really understand the mechanism by which the planes “become closer”. Maybe the lower planes become less dense, or maybe the higher planes become more dense, or maybe something totally different happens; I don’t know. Experience shows, though, that this is what happens, and because of it many different metaphysical operations become a bit easier to perform.

Divination is the traditional activity for this time of year. Tarot readings, scrying, rune-casting, whatever it is that you do (or whatever you can have done for you) should bring you clearer answers with less effort this time of year. Take advantage! Samhain is not the only good time for divination, of course. Any time of year will do, with waning moons typically best. Still, Samhain, Yuletide, and Beltain are typically the best times for it. Along with divination, astral projection should also be easiest at Samhain, and easier throughout the dark half of the year than the light half.

General spellcasting can also be done to better effect at this time of year. The energy is flowing more freely all around, and messages get here and back with less resistance, so go ahead and do some magic (or have your friendly neighborhood spiritual worker do it for you).

Of particular interest on and around Samhain, too, is evocation. Because the planes are in closer communion, it is far easier to evoke a being to either astral presence or physical appearance. The higher beings, such as archangels, angels, and the greater spirits of the elements and of nature, are generally not too difficult to a well-trained summoner at any time of year. Samhain, then, is best for the evocation of “lower” elemental entities and demons, as well as for necromancy (the evocation of the dead). Now is a great time to set up a shrine to your ancestors, or to begin to befriend the spirit(s) of your home and the surrounding land.

The created gods, especially the earthy variety, are also much closer to us at this time. Cernunnos, Herne, Herodias, Habondia, Aradia, Osiris, Hermes Cthonos, Hel, Hades, Pluto, and so on are much easier to contact around Samhain, and throughout the dark half of the year. Light candles to one or two of them to whom you seem to be drawn in particular and ask them for their presence in your life. Don’t ask for anything until you have a real relationship with them; just talk to them and try to become friends. Friendship is its own reward, apart from any favors you may do one another.

I’m sure that other people have a lot of different ways of taking advantage of the season, things that I’ve never thought of. The above should give the interested some ideas, though.

Happy Halloween!

Review – “Spiritual Cleansing” by Draja Mickaharic

Spiritual Cleansing: A Handbook of Psychic Self-Protection
Draja Mickaharic
2003 (Expanded Edition) 1982 (Original Edition), Weiser Books
10 out of 10

Draja Mickaharic is among the best living occult authors, and is one of the last remaining genuine professional magicians. He keeps things simple, without bogging his books down in a ton of theory. His work is all written with the assumption that the reader has access to a spiritual worker or a teacher who can answer such questions one-on-one. Even so, his material is useful right out of the gate.

He moved to the US from Bosnia in 1939 and has spent much of his life working as a magician (though he calls himself a “witchdoctor”), collecting the lore of natural magic from around the world, and writing it down in manuals like Spiritual Cleansing, and collections of notes and short essays like Magical Techniques.

The present book, Spiritual Cleansing, is the single best book I’ve seen on the topic of practical psychic self-defense. Dion Fortune’s Psychic Self-Defense is, of course, an unrivaled classic, but it is mostly a collection of anecdotes and theories with only a handful of immediately applicable techniques. Mickaharic, on the other hand, provides what may be described as a companion volume to Fortune full of baths, spells and herbal treatments suitable for the cleansing of oneself, one’s friends and family, and one’s home. Included also are programs for “basic maintenance” which anyone can implement to improve their own spiritual, mental and emotional lives.

Mickaharic himself admits that his book is more of a “first aid” manual than anything, and is not intended to take the place of either one’s regular spiritual and religious practice, nor of professional magicians and spiritual workers who can go into much greater depth than an untrained individual could do for him- or herself. Still, first aid and basic hygiene are as important spiritually and psychically as they are physically and this is the perfect manual for it.

There is still a lot of useful material in Spiritual Cleansing for even the experienced magician. It can be extremely useful, for example, to have a pre-mixed herbal preparation to quickly and simply accomplish the same goals one would normally leave for a complex cleansing ritual. Such tools also make it very much simpler to prescribe “treatments” to your friends, family and coreligionists when they ask for help with a specific problem. Instead of having them to teach them a ritual, all that is required is to give them a pouch of a bath mixture and send them on their way. Above all this, the “recommended treatment” program given at the end of the book is very good, and will serve even the most practiced of magicians well in their daily lives.

All in all, I cannot recommend this book enough to just about everybody. Magician and layman alike will find a lot of use in these pages for their own general psycho-spiritual wellbeing.

A Commentary Upon the Middle Pillar Exercise

Anybody familiar with the more traditional side of Western occultism has probably encountered the Middle Pillar Exercise (MPE). The Golden Dawn’s official papers placed little emphasis upon this (see Regardie, The G0lden Dawn, 6th edition, Llewellyn Publications), one of their finest and simplest technical methods, but Dr. Israel Regardie (and others) gave it the attention it deserves and expanded upon its essentials until the MPE alone comprised a fairly complete magic-mystical methodology. (See Regardie, The Middle Pillar, as well as his The Art of True Healing.)

The core practice is, for those with kabbalistic knowledge of even a very basic level, simplicity itself: the magician formulates the middle pillar of the Tree of Life diagram within her spirit, astral body, and etheric double, and then circulates the energy thus set in motion through and around all layers of her individual being. The core techniques are visualization and vibratory vocalization, both of which facilitate the awakening of the microcosmic Tree of Life, the linkage of same with its macrocosmic analogy, and the conscious manipulation of vital energy. (For the actual technical methods in full, see Regardie’s The Middle Pillar.)

The purpose of the basic Middle Pillar Exercise and its contingent circulations is not merely to become a willing and conscious channel for vital energy; this task can be accomplished much more simply and quickly with other methods. The primary function of the exercise is the conscious communion and eventual integration of the various levels of spiritual and psychic functioning. When approached from this angle, the MPE performs its duty admirably and becomes a magnificent training tool.

It is as well to remark at this point that the MPE seeks to draw the Ketheric Light, or Divine Light, from the macrocosm to the aspirant’s highest center of consciousness, then on down through successively lower phases and finally into mundane awareness. This scheme self-consciously differs substantially from most methods involving the chakras, wherein consciousness is raised from mundane awareness to the highest heights and “left hanging”, as it were, beyond the pale of this world. As Regardie pointed out in his The Middle Pillar,

In a word, the Western ideal is not to escape from the body but to become involved more and more in life, in order to experience it more adequately, and in order to obtain a mastery over it. The ideal is to bring down godhead so that one’s manhood being enriched may thereby be assumed into godhead. Always does this system begin from the real centre of working—the higher Genius which, by definition, is in contact eternally with whatever infinite deity there may be. (The Middle Pillar, second edition, by Israel Regardie, 1970 Llewellyn Publications, pg. 122)

In those systems based in Greek, Egyptian, Hebrew, Christian and even shamanic sources, everything must ultimately be brought back to Earth if it is to have any value.

There are numerous uses for even this most basic method aside from mystical attainment. Regardie himself used the Middle Pillar Exercise in therapy with his patients. He would use the vital energy so generated as an aid to massage, similar in spirit and technique to Reich’s orgone therapy, and would use the psycho-spiritual integrating power of the MPE while holding hands with this students and patients in order to influence their inner economies toward greater health and wholeness.

A number of outgrowths exist, as well, which expand upon and even complete the MPE. These include the addition of appropriate colors to the visualization, the formulation of the complete Tree of Life, the use of Archangelic names, and the Vibratory Formula of the Middle Pillar.

The basic form of the Middle Pillar Exercise uses only white light. Once the ritual has been mastered this way, the student is to visualize the Sephiroth in their appropriate colors. This practice enlivens the Sephiroth further, differentiating the Ketheric Light into its various phases of manifestation and bringing the spheres of Light into closer sympathy with their macrocosmic counterparts.

Once the basic exercise has been mastered with the specific colors, the student begins to work on enlivening the other two Pillars and their correspond Sephiroth. This can be done in several ways, but the one I recommend is as follows: on one day, add Chokmah in its gray color. The next day, add Binah in black, while maintaining Chokmah; add Gedulah the next day, then Geburah, and so on, in order, until the Tree is complete each time the exercise is performed.

To this scheme I would add that once Binah has been included, and ever after whenever more than just the Middle Pillar are employed during the MPE’s performance, the pseudo-Sephirah of Da’ath should be omitted. Da’ath is in actuality the lowest manifestation of Binah or, rather, Binah as “viewed from below.” When practicing the MPE using only the Middle Pillar itself, Da’ath serves as a vital link between Kether and Tiphareth, translating the Light of Kether across the Abyss (which itself only exists when viewed from lower phases of awareness) and into the realm of individual experience. Hence its name, Da’ath, which translates as “knowledge in English, indicating that it is the very human intellectual knowledge of Divine reality as opposed to the gnostic understanding of Binah proper. When Binah itself is recognized, Da’ath becomes redundant and even distracting.

At this point, the names of the Archangels may be added to the practice. They are simply vibrated after each Divine Name, otherwise carrying on just as before. It is important to note that when using only the Middle Pillar with the Archangelic names, the Archangel of Binah is to be employed for Da’ath, just as Da’ath shares Binah’s Name of God.

In theory, the student could eventually add the Angelic Choir and the Mundane Sphere of each Sephirah, and each magician is welcome so to experiment. In experience, though, this practice does not seem to add to the effectiveness of the MPE. Still, much can be gained through meditation on the associations of the Angelic Choirs and Mundane Spheres with the Sephiroth.

With time, it becomes possible to simply activate the sphere of Light itself in order to bring into effect the Divine Name, Archangelic power, Angelic Choir, and other associated powers. Even a rudimentary attainment herein can be a powerful experience. This complete microcosmic Tree of Life is known as the Body of Light (or Luminous Body), though this title is somewhat of a misnomer. It is not a body, but rather a psycho-spiritual garment of purity and protection identical to that which lies behind and empowers the magician’s ritual robe. In fact, the establishment of this Body of Light completely obviates the need for a robe in evocation and spheric magic.

The final phase of practice with the Middle Pillar Exercise is a mystical method of consciousness-raising that, when practiced in a methodical manner, amounts to a technique of self-initiation. Known as the Vibratory Formula of the Middle Pillar, this method is so simple yet so powerful. The initiate first performs the MPE itself. It is only necessary to work with the Middle Pillar. The side Pillars may be omitted, as this technique deals only with grades of consciousness; where the side Pillars are concerned with the magic powers, the Middle Pillar concerns only the levels of consciousness as such.

Once the MPE has been performed, and the circulations completed, the student intensely visualizes the Name of God pertaining to the Sephirah to be contacted, composed of appropriately colored flames or electricity, floating directly ahead of her. This Name is then breathed in using the technique of pore breathing (see Initiation Into Hermetics by Franz Bardon, 2001, Merkur), and condensed in the area of the solar plexus. It is then vibrated aloud and simultaneously projected outward to the ends of the universe, then imagined to speed back toward the initiate. At the moment of impact, she is to enter a state of mental vacancy and allow the energy of the Name, now empowered by the Supreme God beyond the Void, to integrate with her and affect her as It will.

A few points deserve attention. First of all, it is a good idea to work this method in a relatively open area with carpet, grass, or padding about. The Vibratory Formula can be very disconcerting and may well cause the student to stumble or fall, especially during the first few performances. No benefit is to be gained from smacking your head off of a wall or table!

It is also well to work up the Tree, from Malkuth to Kether inclusive, and in order, first, perhaps over the course of ten days, then to work back down from Kether to Malkuth over a similar period of time. This ensures that the initiate experiences the Tree in a balanced manner from the outset. Once the Vibratory Formula has been used to “ascend” and “descend” in this way, the initiate may return to the Names of God in any order she desires. Even so, it is to be suggested that she not work with any Sephirah or Sephiroth to the exclusion of the rest, and that work with any Sephirah on the side Pillars be followed up within a week by its opposite to maintain healthy equilibrium.

Finally, it is worth mentioning that traditionally the projection of the Name is accomplished with the Sign of Projection, while the mental quiescence as the Name “strikes home” is accomplished with the Sign of Silence (the two Neophyte grade signs of the Golden Dawn’s initiatory system). While these signs are effective for the Golden Dawn magician, there is no reason why others may not use similar signs and motions or simple visualization and energy work techniques from other systems.

All told, the Middle Pillar Exercise is among the finest of magico-mystical tools available to the beginning student of Hermetics and Kabbalah. It eventually becomes obsolete for intermediate to advanced practitioners, but can hold a central place in daily work for months to years, and serves to speed the student toward those heights in the meantime. I hope that these comments and applications provide some small help upon the path.

Learn to live with questions

As a Hermetic, I’m often in touch with sources of information that many people do not have ready access to. Still, a lot of information is withheld. It seems like humans aren’t given a lot of answers on purpose.

Many people of faith (of every faith) have a hard time with this. The very fact that we aren’t capable of knowing everything is, in part, what produces fundamentalism.* Some people are utterly tortured by that lack of knowledge; their worldview relies upon constants, and when the ideas thought to be constant are frequently moving, shifting, and outright changing, we humans can come to crises. It is important, therefore, to carry several tools in your faith kit along your spiritual path.

First of all, be skeptical. This does not mean that you shouldn’t believe anything; frankly, that’s impossible in any case. Instead, be careful about the ideas and answers that you do accept. Always ask questions; the Socratic method is nothing to be ashamed of.

Second, love the questions. Learn to accept uncertainty as a gift from the Divine, ever leading you to explore His mysteries and His creation. Questioning the assumptions of your faith is not a sin, but instead a great compliment to God as it displays your willingness to use your divinely-gifted talents and intellect. We are here, in part, to learn, so learning is never wrong of itself.

Third, Occam’s razor! This one gets thrown around a lot, but it really can be helpful. In essence, any answer you come to should make the fewest number of assumptions possible to the situation. That will tend to keep you on a reasonable track. Of course, in matters of spirituality, we often have to run full-bore held aloft by unproven hypotheses, but we need to be fully conscious of the fact when we do and understand the limitations of our situation. As Galileo Galilee said, “Religion teaches us how to go to heaven; science teaches us how the heavens go.” Faith has its place.

While it sometimes makes me feel uneasy, I really enjoy the search. I get to exercise my intellect, along with my intuition, gut instinct, and my heart. Body, soul, and spirit get involved in equal parts and the whole process is exhilarating.

*For a fascinating historical and idealogical analysis and account of the rise of fundamentalism in the Abrahamic faiths, see, The Battle for God by Karen Armstrong (2001, Ballantine Books)