Tag Archives: Nonfiction

‘Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times’ by Thomas Waters – review

Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern TimesCursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times by Thomas Waters

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

Witchcraft as popular belief system may sound anachronistic, if not extinct, in our age of the Internet, Satellite TVs, and planned colonization of the Moon, in the same way that people in Renaissance regarded the Medieval times culturally backward and religiously superstitious. Yet, it has survived the leaps of time and waves of persecution, withstanding like a flickering candlelight in hours of stormy dark nights and remains in modern landscapes of buildings, cars, airplanes, and people with mobile phones on their hands.

Thomas Waters in his Cursed Britain: A History of Witchcraft and Black Magic in Modern Times tells us how this ancient belief system of faith-based healing at its lightest and of maleficent bewitching at its darkest has kept its vitality from the rural areas of provinces to the bustling streets of cities in Great Britain throughout the centuries based on his extensive research of historical documents and scholarly analysis on the uncanny but very real phenomena that grips your attention on every page of this fascinating book.

If you are keen on historical facts and anthropological evidence of human nature in relation to the ancient esoteric knowledge that looks so appealing and tempting, this is an excellent book.

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Better a witty fool, than a foolish wit

Shakespeare said that fool thinks he is wise, but the wise man knows himself to be a fool. This also means that a wise man knows what and when to speak. In this respect, simulation and dissimulation according to English Philosopher and statesman Francis Bacon is wisdom providing you with a strong heart to discern the opportune time to tell truth and to do it in protect of yourself against derisive remarks and false opinions on you by whom you talk to at work and any other social occasions. In Other Words: you take false shadows for true substance lest you should lose yourself under the misapprehension that revealing all of yourself will develop rapports for socialization.

In this “Express Yourself” era that lionize glory of show-it-all and tell-it-all in the form of memoirs and selfies, vying for a legion of followers cossetting juvenile mentality of the authors, Bacon’s tenets of veiling yourself may be deemed anachronistic and unreconstructed. However, it would contradict the importance of self-respect if we let ourselves peddled by the melee nitpicking someone’s weaknesses.  That said, the advantages of simulation and dissimulation and how to do according to Bacon are as follows:

  1. Advantages
  • To quiet opposition and to surprise
  • To reserve a fair retreat to yourself. By concealing yourself to a certain degree, you can protect yourself in a situation that you fee inappropriate to you.
  • The better to discover the mind of another by letting the other party open him/herself without sacrificing yourself to disclosing your inner thoughts that might be incompatible to the other, and that will generate a false impression on you.

2.  How-to-do

  • Have openness in appearance, such as smiling countenance and civil manner of listening to another.
  • Keep your true feelings and thoughts to yourself. I have read that the former British Prime Minister David Cameroon was good at being canny enough not to speak of his opinions on politics during his university years, lest he should ruffle other students of different political opinions.
  • Pretend to be what you are not if there seems to be no other way than to speak your mind in a setting where your true opinion will be unwelcome.

The aforesaid may seem boring or passé, but then there’s good reason why a wealth of wisdom shared by great minds of history still ring true, resounding through the leaps of time and borders of nations and boundaries of cultures. The prudent keep their knowledge to themselves and speak their minds when their ripe judgment of Reason deems the time apropos. Maybe it’s high time we got off the bandwagon of “Follow Me” and took a nice long walk alone around in romantic solitude and reflection thereof.

Dialogue on Five Ages of Man

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Horatio (L) and Larry (R)

Larry: I wonder what age we are currently in.

Horatio: How do you mean? You sound like a peripatetic thinker like Aristotle.

Larry: I mean the age according to Hesiod, the father of western narrative history. The name may sound Greek to you, my dear friend.

Horatio: So, you think I am a philistine because of my patently plebian appearance and mercantile profession? I take false shadows for true substances, buddy. I have read about Five Ages of Man according to Hesiod and can tell you that we are in Iron age to which Hesiod himself also belonged. In this age, we human beings must toil away for livelihood, get old quickly, are besotted by troubles and more troubles under constant stress and pressure. In fact, it’s not our mortals’ faults but those Olympians who continued a cycle of creation and destruction of a human race on their whims and caprice in epicycle. In the first place, Zeus and his ilk drove away the benevolent race of the golden age after Titanomarchy, a ten year war against Titans, then began a recycle of the races for the silver, bronze, heroic and iron afterwards because they did not like what they saw in the races on the grounds of morality and maturity. It’s like the Olympians regarded us humans as a sort of puppets or marionettes. Or they are playing chess of our destiny with our beings used as pieces to be moved on a chess board. Yes, we live in the iron age, but I reject the idea that we are all living in a doomed scenario because we human beings have amazing intelligence with its general multipurpose learning strategies to triumph against the outrageous Olympian pandemonium. So, my friend, fear not. Boldness be our friends. For as Shakespeare encourages us that “true hope is swift, and files with swallow’s wings.”

Larry: My dear friend, Horatio. Thank you for your sagacious thinking and brilliant advice on humanity. And let’s just say that for all what’s worth, mankind has resilience to spring back from the ashes of destruction with its fortitude and instinct for survival. It’s our human nature. And let us also remind ourselves of the dictum of Hemingway: “Man can be destroyed but not be conquered.”

‘The Great Fire of London in 1666’ by Walter George Bell- review

The Great Fire of London in 1666The Great Fire of London in 1666 by Walter George Bell

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

The great city of London was burning. The noble and the humble were all in together in the face of furious fires that looked something of the eternal flames of Inferno. It took from September 2 to September 6, 1666 for Old London – Shakespeare’s London- to disappear into the past. It was a scene to behold, it was a scene to record. The medieval City of London inside the old roman city wall became a gray detritus of ashes and more ashes, which changed the face of London forever – in a far better way that improved the conditions of living in the scandalously popular city, the city that had no regards for the lowly and the lowest. For out of the detritus of the devastation, came a phoenix hoovering over the gray skies of London with golden opportunities for the contemporary Londoners and even better for the progeny and the citizens of the world as magnificently illustrated in this telling book by Walter George Bell.

It all happened on the morning of Sunday, September 2nd, 1666 at the shop and house of one Farynon, King Charles II of England’s baker, stood in Pudding Lane, ten doors from Thames Street due to his lack of due care of the oven. Although the baker later vehemently disavowed such negligence that caused the Inferno, Bell confirms the tortious act on the part of the baker on the ground of “a calm consideration of the evidence” collected afterwards. However, at the time of and the immediate aftermath of the Fire, the public fueled by the demotic uproar of the angry mob decided that it resulted from a concerted plot of the Roman Catholics and Frenchmen. In fact, the unanimous vengeance upon Catholics and subjects of any Catholic countries was all the rage under the misbelief that they set fire on the city as punishment for the impudent English heresy against the Papacy. Even the supposedly judicious members of the Council were prejudiced against foreigners and Catholics in London despite the King’s speech to the homeless in effort to assuage such outrageous public agitation. In consideration of the ethos of the period, the speculated causes of the Fire related to religious motivations that all called for God’s punishment for heresy (especially Catholicism) and other cardinal sins that looked particularly rampant in “sinful London”.  Nevertheless, the Council finally relented by proclaiming that the cause of fire was no other but “God’s will, a great wind and the seasons so very dry.”

What seemed to be a scourge of God turned out to be a seismic labor pain of birth of a new city that was beneficial to those at the low rungs of a social ladder because the ecclesiastical city of bell towers and spires would be transformed into a commercial city of work and more work in new salubrious environment. Bell expounds that post-Fire London was a new breed of commercialism, making London culturally vibrant and famously cosmopolitan as a uniquely quaint city where modernity and traditionality were fashionably blended. Moreover, Bell points out that rebuilding of London after the Fire also improved living qualities of the inhabitants in terms of unhealthy housing and inconvenient pavement conditions with the reconstruction of the streets of London designed by Sir Christopher Wren. It also generated a plethora of trades that contributed to the betterment of economic conditions of people living in and coming to London for better life.

This book is at its most compelling when assessing the consequential events of the Fire drawn on a multitude of historical records and the author’s calm objective analysis of the Fire without a hint of religious proclivity or partisan social commentaries. It doesn’t turn out to be a stuffy history book that the topic indicates but an engaging nonfiction narrative that combines Orwellian journalistic perspectives with Thucydides’ standard of historical realism, all in the perspicacious use of plain English communicative to all. All in all, if you are curious about post-Shakespearean London or want to know about the history of London, this book will not disappoint you.

Loveliness blooms in Logotheraphy

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A thing of beauty is a joy to them. Its loveliness increases. It never passes into nothingness. Oscar Wilde, who extolled physical beauty as a form of virtue manifested in a physical form, once flamboyantly remarked: “Crying is for plain women. Pretty women go shopping.”  Although Seraphina Rabitte and Mathilda Beare demur at such uncharitable notion of meritocracy of women’s appearance, they love visiting beauty stores in a way that little children love going to candy stores (or toy stores to be more realistic these days). For the ladies like to keep themselves prim and proper in the belief that presentable appearance (not a physical symmetry per se) indicates how one takes cares of herself by realizing her creative, attitudinal and experiential values in everyday life.

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The belief is grounded in Logotheraphy, one of the three Viennese School of Psychotherapy founded by Dr. Viktor E. Frankl, a neurologist, thinker, psychiatrist, but above all, a remarkable human being who endured personal experiences of Promethean hardships and suffering in Nazi concentration camps and conquered them in triumph of will to meaning. Fashionable and knowledgeable Matilda and Seraphina are students of Logotheraphy, the theory that human nature is motivated by search for a life purpose that is unique to each individual. Unlike other schools of psychotherapy and many other subdivisions thereof, Logotheraphy encompasses a wide scope of the humanities and of course, neuroscience, making it a brilliant multidisciplinary school of thought. In fact, it is a paradigm of the consilience of the knowledge of the humanities and that of science. So, in the context of regarding Logotheraphy, the fashionable ladies’ attitudes toward appearance betokens their ways of preventing noogenic (existential) frustration by engaging themselves in activities to dispel a hint of depression or inertia from their minds, even if it means only going to shopping.

img_0601So, you see it isn’t a symptom of conspicuous consumption as a result of our hyper industrialized social environment that Matilda and Seraphina like pampering themselves with cosmetics. Besides, who can blame them for having none other than a woman’s reason? Didn’t Queen Elizabeth also proclaim herself to have a lion’s heart in a woman’s hide? Also, did the Queen not show fierce attention to fairness herself by putting the most fashionable make-up and dresses and hairstyles of her time? Well, these modern ladies are no less different them from their loyal member of sisterhood in the race of Humankind. In fact, Matilda and Seraphina have aristocratic bearings in appearance and manners due to their fine upbringing and sweetness of the mind by nature, so whenever they go, they give admirable impressions on people whom they encounter. They are the paragon of a virtuous woman as John Milton extolled in Paradise Lost: “Those graceful act, those thousand decencies that flow from all her actions and words.”

Author’s Note: Many thanks to the attendants at the Cosmetic Company Store in Camarillo Premium Outlets who kindly permitted me to take pictures in their store.