Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Brooklyn Castle

On April 5-7, 2013, 5,331 chess players in grades K-12 competed at the SuperNationals V chess tournament. It was the largest chess tournament ever held in the United States. When not competing at giant chess tournaments, those thousands of scholastic chess players play chess at their schools. Educators and librarians are often asked by chess-loving students to sponsor chess clubs. Sometimes parents or principals push for chess instruction in schools, having read that chess helps with problem solving and other academic skills.

Consequently, chess can be found during the school day or in the extracurricular hours (before school, during lunch, or after school) at many public and private schools. Public libraries also frequently host chess clubs.

The award-winning documentary Brooklyn Castle provides a portrait of chess at one middle school in Brooklyn, New York. I.S. 318 students take up to seven chess classes during the week. Many also participate in after-school chess club meetings and in Saturday tournaments.

The Web site for Brooklyn Castle describes the film as telling “the stories of five members of the chess team at a below-the-poverty-line inner city junior high school that has won more national championships than any other in the country. The film follows the challenges these kids face in their personal lives as well as on the chessboard, and is as much about the sting of their losses as it is about the anticipation of their victories. Ironically, the biggest obstacle thrust upon them arises not from other competitors but from recessionary budget cuts to all the extracurricular activities at their school.”

Brooklyn Castle is rated PG. A full-length documentary (101 minutes), it holds the attention of children ages 8 and older. Its subject matter is of particular interest to middle and high school students, parents, and educators.

Brooklyn Castle is available in DVD format and will be shown on television this fall. The film’s director Katie Dellamaggiore gave the following information:

-The film will air on PBS this fall, as part of the POV documentary series. No airdate yet, 
but here’s the announcement:

-The Educational DVD is available for pre-order here:

About this blog post author:

Alexey W. Root was the 1989 U.S. Women’s Chess Champion and is a Woman International Master. She has a Ph.D. in education from UCLA. She is the author of five ABC-CLIO books on chess in education: 

Dr. Root is a senior lecturer in the School of Interdisciplinary Studies at The University of Texas at Dallas (UT Dallas). From 1999 to 2003, she served as associate director of the UT Dallas Chess Program, home to one of the top college chess teams in the world. Root currently teaches Chess Online courses for college credit via UT Dallas eLearning. She lives in Denton, Texas. Contact Dr. Root at alexey.root@gmail.com.

Monday, April 29, 2013

Practical Guidance for Teaching a Difficult Subject

One of the reasons ABC-CLIO created its newest online resource Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences is to help students better understand and help educators better teach this difficult and complex topic. Despite general agreement that the subject of genocide should be covered in high school and college classrooms in the United States, aside from coverage of the Holocaust, the larger topic of genocide is often omitted from textbooks, leaving educators with little support in tackling this sensitive subject.
The below excerpt is a sample lesson taken from the Support Center which is included with all ABC-CLIO Online Solutions. If you are not already a subscriber to the Modern Genocide online resource, sign up for a 30-day trial today to gain access to the articles in this lesson and much more.

In this lesson, you will learn about the problems surrounding the definition of genocide by examining key documents which are commonly used to define genocide and examining categories and wordings in these documents that complicate the matter at hand. You will also closely look at a genocidal event to examine the problems that have arisen in defining genocide.

Resources: Access to Modern Genocide, including the following:

•    Holocaust [Entry ID: 1771182]
•    Armenian Genocide [Entry ID: 1691734]
•    Rwandan Genocide [Entry ID: 1765743]
•    The Eight Stages of Genocide (1996) [Entry ID: 1771570]
•    Graphic Organizer: 3-Column Table.
     •     Available in the documents section of this lesson.

Activity 1: Day 1
At the beginning of the class session, read the following two documents closely.

• UN Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide (1948)
• The Eight Stages of Genocide (1996)

Consider the differences in how these documents define the concept of genocide. Also, consider the years these were written and the events that might have recently occurred during that time that shaped how the people who wrote these documents viewed or thought about genocide. Write the different categories identified in these documents regarding potential victims of genocide as well as the exact wording (i.e., Article 2 in the UN Convention) as to what criteria is necessary for an event to be considered a genocide.

Having read these documents, answer the following questions:

·    UNCG Article 2 states that genocide requires the "intent to destroy"? What might be some of the problems in regards to proving "intent"?
·    Article 2 also stipulates that there must be a concerted effort at the destruction of "in whole or in part, a national, ethnical, racial or religious group." What might be the issue with the phrasing "in part"? How does the Eight Stages of Genocide model engage these issues?
·    Consider other items discussed in UNGC Article 2. What would be some challenges in attempting to prove any of these acts? For example: "Deliberately inflicting on the group conditions of life calculated to bring about its physical destruction in whole or in part."
·    Why would groups based on political affiliation, gender, or sexuality not be included in the UNCG definition? Consider the time it was written. How does the Eight Stages model discuss these groupings?
·    Why is it important to continue to study the causes and consequences of genocide in the 21st century? Considering the wording of the Eight Stages of Genocide model, how has the definition of genocide continued to evolve over time?

After a few minutes, your teacher will bring the class together to discuss the answers to these questions.

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Osama Bin Laden's Legacy Defeated in Boston

As our need to know motivations for the brutal attack spurs questioning of the surviving brother of two who ignited pressure cooker bombs at the Boston marathon, we should also look to Al Qaeda's ongoing campaign recruiting youths to inspire such acts. Teenagers and young adults are especially vulnerable to being lured into that fatal fold. Al Qaeda’s appeal has a unique “fit” with normal adolescent rebelliousness. What would be normal adolescent rebellion and protest for some young people, becomes terrorist action under Al Qaeda’s tutelage. The Arab world’s turmoil creates many young adults who are in the phase of what psychoanalysts call “prolonged adolescence.” 

In addition to enlisting well-educated youth, radical Islamists also recruit poor and less-educated Muslim “foot soldiers” through religious Madrassah schools and young-adult mosque programs and activities. The Madrassah-type “schools” offer economic advantages and spiritual inspiration to families and Muslim communities that have few alternatives. 

The recruiting techniques of Al Qaeda and its metastatic subsidiaries are clever, creative, and diverse in their applied theology.  

Al Qaeda woos Muslim individuals, families, and communities who see membership in Al Qaeda and participation in Jihad as a high calling. 

But the courage, compassion, and leadership shown in Boston speaks volumes about the higher power of God's love. 

The Cult of Osama: Psychoanalyzing Bin Laden and His Magnetism for Muslim Youths

PETER ALAN OLSSON, M.D., is a Psychiatrist at Monadnock Community Hospital, an Assistant Professor of Psychiatry at Dartmouth Medical School, and an Adjunct Clinical Professor of Psychiatry at Baylor College of Medicine. He practiced Psychiatry and Psychotherapy in Houston for 25 years and in New Hampshire for eight years. His training and residency was completed at Baylor College of Medicine.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Creating Young Martyrs: What Leads Young People to Resort to Violence?

The accused Boston Marathon bombers, Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Dzhokhar Tsarnaev, grew up in my home town of Cambridge and went to the high school my kids attended. They look like kids my children would have gone to school with, and their friends and family describe them in ways that make them seem normal and good. How could young folks we might easily have known and loved act intentionally to create carnage, terror, and radical disruption of lives and psyches? As President Obama asked: What would lead them “to resort to violence?”

Dr. Samuel (Justin) Sinclair and I set out to answer an eerily similar question when we researched kids at risk of recruitment to the Tamil Tigers, a terrorist organization (now defeated) in Sri Lanka, research we wrote about in our 2008 book Creating Young Martyrs: Conditions that Make Dying in a Terrorist Attack Seem Like a Good Idea. Our findings help explain this apparent contradiction. What we learned, both from reviewing others’ research and combing through our own findings, is that many kids who engage in terrorist actions, or who aspire to do so, think that their actions are going to bring attention to the grievances of their people, which they perceive, rightly or wrongly, as legitimate, and to begin to address a highly asymmetrical distribution of power, a distribution that disadvantages the group they identify with. The ultimate goal then, the “end” that, for them, justifies the means, is to help their peoples’ cause. Aware that they will die in the attack, or soon thereafter, they see their action as dutiful or, in western terms, altruistic.

I realize that this idea, that young people committing actions that result in killing, maiming, and disruption, do so with altruistic intent, is highly counter-intuitive, but it comes to my attention over and over again in our own and others’ data and the words of family members of kids engaged in terrorism. In the award-winning documentary film “My Daughter the Terrorist," where filmmaker Morten Daae and director Beate Arnestad follow two Tamil girls trained to be Black Tigers, prepared to blow themselves up in a terrorist action, the mother of one of the girls speaks about her daughter, saying “She was different. She dreamt of becoming a nun.”

ALICE LOCICERO is Past President and Co-Founder of the Society of Terrorism Research, as well as Chair of Social Sciences at Endicott College. She is a certified Clinical Psychologist, and has been a faculty member at the Center for Multicultural Training and Boston Medical Center, as well as at Suffolk University. In earlier roles, LoCicero served as Senior Psychologist working with families at Children's Hospital, Boston, and as Clinical Instructor at Harvard Medical School. A member of the Massachusetts Behaviorial Health Disaster Responders, she provides mental health services to family members of victims of terrorism and other man-made and natural disasters. She traveled to Sri Lanka in May and June of 2007 to learn about conditions that make terrorism an appealing idea to some youths.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

The Boston Marathon Bombing and the Truth About the Chechen Threat

With the revelation that the two suspects of the Boston Marathon Bombing are ethnic Chechens, there has been a rush to learn more about the troubled North Caucasus region in order to find answers to some hard questions. But before people rush to judgement, it’s critically important to remember that this is a very complicated region, insurgency, and situation—and the "right" answer is often found in the nuances.

Although we don't hear about it much in the Western press, there is an active and very deadly insurgency taking place in Russia right now—less than 200 miles from the site of the 2014 Sochi Olympics.  It is where Chechnya fought two wars of independence against Russia since the fall of the Soviet Union—one of which resulted in a de-facto independent Chechen republic from 1996–1999.

The second (modern) Chechen War (1999–2006) made the career of Prime Minister-President Vladimir Putin, who was handpicked to be Mr. Yeltsin's successor and subsequently conducted a brilliant, yet brutal campaign to take Chechnya back. Most significantly, he changed the very nature of the conflict: before Putin, the Russians referred to the Chechen separatists as criminals, brigands and bandits; after Putin, the conflict was re-branded as an existential battle against international terrorists—a theme that was solidified even further after 9-11.

Since then, the once secular, democratic Chechen independence movement all but died, and the remnants metastasized into the Caucasus Emirate (CE), which has adopted many of the goals, ideology, and rhetoric of similar Muslim reactionary-traditionalist insurgency movements that desire a shari'a-based government. Spreading beyond Chechnya, the insurgency and its terrorist cells have spread to neighboring Russian republics, and the epicenter of the conflict is now in Dagestan, where the Boston suspects both lived for a short time before emigrating to the U.S.

As part of their battle against the Russians, the Chechens have been responsible for some of the most infamous terrorist attacks in history—the Beslan School Hostage Crisis of 2004 (over 300 dead, mostly children), or the rash of terrorist incidents in Moscow in 2002, culminating in the Moscow Theater Attack (Nord-Ost; 130 dead), and numerous train, airplane, and other terror attacks.

On the other hand, the Russians have consistently used indiscriminate methods to fight the insurgents and terrorists, and the number of missing civilians in the region is frightening. During the land battles, the carpet bombing used by the Russians reduced entire villages to dust—and the capital of Chechnya, Grozny, was declared the most destroyed city in Europe since World War II. Moreover, the characterization of all the fighters as "international terrorists" has lead to a misapplication of counterterrorist tactics that not only failed to quell the Chechen resistance movement while the wars were being fought, but have allowed it to regroup over the past few years.

Yet, what most people do not realize is that the Chechens, Dagestanis, Ingush, and other North Caucasus peoples have been regularly fighting the Russians ever since the first Russian patrols moved through their homelands in 1722—and almost continuously once the Russians occupied the North Caucasus in the 1800s. It was only after mass deportations (1860s and 1940s where millions were resettled and died) that there was a break in the fighting that lasted more than 15 years. Stalin so hated the Chechens and the Ingush that when he deported them, he had Chechnya erased from the map—as if it had never existed.

And Sochi, the site of the 2014 Winter Olympics, also happens to be the site where, 150 years ago, the Russians dispossessed the Circassians, another North Caucasus Muslim nation that fought against the Russians for just as long as the Chechens and Dagestanis. The Caucasus Emirate is fighting to reclaim all the former Muslim lands of the North Caucasus—which is almost the entire region between the Caspian and Black Seas. Vilayat Cherkessia is the name of the Emirate's military sector operating in and around Sochi.

This is not a simple conflict with easy answers, and the world of counterinsurgency warfare is riddled with paradoxes, like: the insurgent wins if he does not lose. And until the people of the North Caucasus stop being more afraid of their own police and security forces than they are of the insurgents and terrorists, the Caucasus Emirate will not lose.

Robert Schaefer is a U.S. Army Special Forces (Green Beret) and Eurasian Foreign Area Officer. For over 25 years he has served in a variety of special units and participated in virtually every U.S. overseas operation since 1990. He has extensive experience with counterinsurgency and counterterrorist operations around the world and has lived and worked in many countries in Eastern Europe and Central Asia as a diplomat and adviser to foreign governments and militaries. He is uniquely qualified to analyze the conflict in the North Caucasus because of his first-hand experience planning and executing counterinsurgency and counter-terrorism operations in the Caucasus region. LTC Schaefer is the 2001 recipient of the U.S. Special Operations Command (SOCOM), and the Office of Strategic Services Society's Award of Excellence as the U.S. Special Operations Command Person of the Year for his historic achievements with Russian airborne forces. He obtained his MA from Harvard University's Russia, Eastern Europe, and Central Asia program, and is the host of National Public Radio's Memorial Day Special 2007–2012. He is a member of the Editorial Board for the Caucasus Survey, a consultant to several government agencies and a frequent commentator for news programs and seminars focusing on the North Caucasus insurgency. His critically-acclaimed book The Insurgency in Chechnya and the North Caucasus: From Gazavat to Jihad (Praeger, 2011) won multiple national awards and was named to Kirkus Reviews "Best of 2011," and the "Top 150 Books on Terrorism and Counterterrorism" by the journal Perspectives on Terrorism.

Monday, April 22, 2013

It’s Earth Day, Every Day!

Today we’re celebrating Earth Day to recognize and celebrate our beautiful world. But Earth Day is every day – you can lead healthier and happier lives by making green choices throughout the year.

Here are my favorite suggestions for “everyday green” – they are simple to do and really add up to make a difference in your carbon footprint (the measured impact you have on the planet)! 


Top Ten Things to Do on Earth Day and Every Day

1. Reduce, Reuse, Recycle – Yeah, I know; you’ve probably heard this a million times before, but it’s an easy mantra to remind yourself to use a little less, extend the life of an item, and make smarter choices. Our trash provider offers a bi-weekly recycling pick up as part of their service; the recycling truck weighs the contents for points on Recycle Bank (https://www.recyclebank.com/) – we can then turn in the points for coupons and other discounts. We also have a recycling center near our home -- research the options and resources available to you.

2. Manage bills and other accounts online – You can save on stamps and envelopes and better track your accounts by setting up “paperless” or “e-accounts” online.  It’s easy and painless (well, except for the having to pay the bills part).

3. Go through closets and drawers and donate or sell – The changing of the seasons is a great time to go through your things and weed out anything that’s no longer needed.  But before you dump it in the garbage, consider whether or not someone else can use those things. You can sell stuff on E-bay or Craig’s List, or you can donate them to a variety of organizations seeking clothing and household items. For furniture or larger items, my old standby is to kick it to the curb. Someone in my neighborhood is bound to find some use for it. Another option to reimagine objects and make them into art pieces.

4. Plant a tree – Adding to the greenery of the world is always a good thing.  It doesn’t have to be a tree –plant flowers, herbs, and vegetables. It doesn’t have to be fancy – any small patch of ground will usually do. If your space is limited, try planting in containers or create a vertical garden. Your local county extension office has master gardeners who can offer advice.

5. Replace old bulbs with energy efficient lights – Change out your regular light bulbs for energy efficient ones that save money and energy. According to the Energy Star program, “If every American home replaced just one light bulb with a light bulb that's earned the ENERGY STAR, we would save enough energy to light 3 million homes for a year, save about $600 million in annual energy costs, and prevent 9 billion pounds of greenhouse gas emissions per year, equivalent to those from about 800,000 cars.”

6. Be mindful about your food If you are able to, purchase organic fruits, vegetables, and other products to avoid the pesticides and chemicals that are harsh on both your body and the environment. If “all organic” is out of your budget, be selective; do some research on the fruits and vegetables with the most pesticides in them, and use a portion of your budget for some organic items. Visit your local farmer’s market for fresh and healthy options. Food that has to travel long distances has a negative impact on the environment – consider the gas used in an airplane or commercial truck to move the food to your store as well as the packaging and refrigeration to preserve food until it reaches you. Learn more about the benefits of farm-to-table options that bring food more directly to your plate.

7. Go for the natural products in your home and yard In my view, you don’t need cleaning products full of harsh chemicals to have a fresh home. You can make your own non-toxic cleaners with good old water and things like lemons, baking soda, and white vinegar. Lots of brands on the market offer natural and non-toxic cleaners.

8. Replace inefficient appliances with Energy Star-rated ones – We had a water audit last year (provided by a local non-profit organization) and was shocked to discover that our old toilet uses a whopping 5 gallons of water with every flush!  Also, our energy company offers a rebate to switch it out with an energy-efficient model.  Similarly, we thought we were being smart by keeping our old refrigerator; instead, we found that it was actually using significantly more energy; our new energy-efficient refrigerator saves us a lot of money in the long run and keeps food ten times fresher than the old one creating less waste.

9. Use less hot water – Take shorter showers (rather than baths); use the cold or warm setting on your clothes washer. Save even more energy by hanging out your clothes to dry instead of using the dryer. Consider replacing old appliances with energy-efficient, Energy Star-rated ones.

10. Be smart with your thermostat – just lowering your heat by one degree can save 10% on your energy bill. Our energy company offers a “Saver’s Switch” that uses remote control to turn AC units on and off for brief intervals during the highest usage days to help conserve energy.

What other suggestions and ideas do you have? Small changes can make a huge difference for the environment.

Kim Kennedy White, PhD, is an independent folklorist and acquisitions editor for ABC-CLIO’s American Mosaic. She’s the editor of America Goes Green: An Encyclopedia of Eco-Friendly Culture in the United States.

Monday, April 15, 2013

Interview with Veronica Tiller, Author of Culture and Customs of the Apache Indians

What prompted you to accept this project from Greenwood Press?

A chance to make a difference in how Native American History, especially with regard to Apache Indians, was taught in high schools, was incentive enough for me to agree to write the book on the Apache Tribes. When Andrea Hernandez Holm, my friend and editor from Tucson called me, “Tom Holm, Editor of the Culture and Customs of Native Peoples in America, is looking for Native writers for a tribal series. He is working with Greenwood Press, ” I jumped at the chance to be one of the writers. I quickly emailed Tom and  learned that the book would be directed at the general reader and high school students. It is my belief that one’s views of history is formed in high school. I couldn't believe my luck in having the opportunity to help shape Native American history. 

Did this book have a personal significance to you?

Definitely. This book had personal significance for me for several reasons. First, I am a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation of New Mexico. Secondly, I am a Native American historian. Between these two identifiers, I believe I had an extra duty to present a portrayal that was accurate, that it was written from the Apache perspective, and scholarly enough to ensure its academic credibility. It meant a lot to me to write about a subject that I know about and a subject I love to write about. 

What challenges did you face in your research or writing?

By far, the hardest part for me to write was about Apache religion. It was a real balancing act to present my religion as I knew it on the one hand, and using the best written sources on the religion of the other Apache tribes on the other hand. I knew there were more similarities than differences between the eight Apache Tribal religions, so I had to “watch” how I was presenting this most difficult topic. I think it is more difficult to write about one’s own people. The standards of judgement are different, in that, any praise, accolades, and compliments from my own people mean so much more. At the same time, negative criticisms are more keenly felt. In a sense, they are also counting on me as a Native American historian to tell about our religion in a truthful way without touching on areas that we feel is none of the rest of the world’s business. 

In the course of your research, did anything surprise you?

I was surprised how much I did not know about Apache baskets. I guess I always took them for granted. My maternal grandmother was a basket maker and I grew up with her baskets around our house, but I never asked about how they were made. In writing about Apache baskets I came away with a greater appreciation of Apache women who are basket makers. They are on the forefront of preserving our artistic culture through their creativity, skills, and their hard work. I admire them and their efforts.

What do you want readers to learn from your book?

Apache people have been vilified by history, victimized by historical circumstances beyond their control, yet they came through victorious. Today as a group they still have a very large land base compared to other tribes. They maintain their core social values, still speak the language, and have done quite well economically. Like all Americans they have their problems but, all in all, they are proud to be Apaches and to be Americans living in modern times.

What was the highlight of your research?

There were many highlights of my research, but what comes to mind, is the willingness shown by my extended Apache family members to work with me. My oldest brother is very knowledgeable about our Apache religion. He was so nice to shared his views and wisdom. In many ways he made my job a bit easier when I was writing about the topic. One of my sisters was also helpful in describing some of our Apache ceremonial practices and even the traditional dresses worn by the women. Many of the photographs in the book were shared with me by members of my extended family. All their assistance reminded me of what makes us an Apache family. 

What have you been working on since the publication of Culture and Customs of the Apache Indians?

In 2012, Mary M. Velarde, also a member of the Jicarilla Apache Nation, and I teamed up and published a photographic history of our tribe entitled: The Jicarilla Apache of Dulce, under Arcadia Publishing’s Images of America series. This pictorial history has over 188 photographs, some that are the ‘standard’ photographs used by authors writing about Jicarilla Apache people. What we were able to obtain were photographs from little known collections, like the Mathers Museum of World Cultures at Indiana University, and those from the private of  Jicarilla Apache people. The tribal photographs are not found in any public collections and they added to making our book a very special one. 
In this year I am working on a biography of four Puyallup Indian women and their role in the Indian treaty fishing rights in the State of Washington during the 1960s and 1970s. Their efforts led to the U.S. Supreme Court decision known as the Boldt Decision in 1974. This decision reconfigured the way the salmon catch in the waters of the Pacific Northwest is divided 50/50  between the Indian tribes and the rest of Washington’s citizens. By late April, 2013, I will have an author website: VeronicaTiller.com where anyone can find out more about my books and writing and speaking schedules. Thank you for this interview. 

Veronica E. Velarde Tiller is a Jicarilla Apache writer of Native American history and editor and publisher of the award-winning economic reference guide Tiller's Guide to Indian Country: Economic Profiles of American Indian Reservations, which covers 362 modern Indian tribes. She is CEO of Tiller Research, Inc., in Albuquerque, NM.

Thursday, April 11, 2013

Interview with Nevill Drury, Co-author of The Varieties of Magical Experience

Why is the publication of The Varieties of Magical Experience important at this moment in history—that is, how does it relate to today's news headlines or connect to contemporary questions or issues?

With the rise of militant Islam in various regions around the world and also within the context of the recent media coverage given to Dr. Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens in the international "atheism versus fundamentalism" debates, I think we have to confront the inherent dangers associated with fixed belief systems. When a person adopts a religious belief system as an article of faith, they are basically drawing a boundary around how they perceive the world. If they embrace some sort of divine revelation or exclusive sacred text that defines their belief system, they are unlikely to consider other spiritual perspectives that may challenge their position. Nevertheless, I think we are now in a position to move forward to a situation where science and spirituality can begin to move closer together. The scientific study of near-death experiences is just one example where the medical monitoring of altered states of consciousness provides profound insights into the nature of spiritual experience. Understanding the experiential dimension in shamanism and visionary forms of magic can also help us with this type of understanding because in their own way, they too are pointing towards the sacred aspects of the human condition.

What drew you to the topic of The Varieties of Magical Experience?  How does the topic relate to you personally?

I had long been aware that there was no magical equivalent to William James’ classic text The Varieties of Religious Experience, but I also doubted that writing such a text was something I could undertake by myself. With this in mind I asked Lynne if she would be interested in collaborating on such a project, and I was delighted when she agreed. We drew up a contents list and decided to write different chapters that reflected our interests and specializations. Because our writing styles are somewhat similar the fusion of texts is relatively seamless. I have been researching and writing about the Western esoteric tradition for around forty years, and I am pleased that Lynne and I were able to collaborate on a project that I think should have relevance for some time to come. 

What did you learn in the course of your research; what discovery surprised you the most?

One of the things that is emphasized most in the Western magical tradition is the nature of human will—will is utilized in order to make things happen both in the physical world but also within the magical dimension—which in turn involves altered states of consciousness. Now that we know more about quantum physics, it is clear that intentionality itself is fundamental to the very nature of existence – from the sub-atomic level through to the physical realm in which we find ourselves. One discovery that has been important to me is that the emanationist principle in the Jewish Kabbalah—the idea that consciousness eventually produces form – is also an idea that is emerging as fundamental in quantum physics. The emanationist concept is discussed in The Varieties of Magical Experience in the Gnosis section of our book.

What challenges did you face in your research or writing?

I think our main challenge in writing this book was to present complex ideas simply and lucidly. I hope we have succeeded with that, but of course it is up to the reader to decide…

What do you want readers to learn from your book?

I’d like readers to realize that the study of magical experiences is not the same as the study of superstition. I can’t speak for Lynne here, but I am not at all interested in superstition, which in my view is based on misplaced information and false cues. High magic, on the other hand, is the experience of sacred realms of awareness, and poets and artists attracted to the magical traditions—especially in the West—have drawn on this dimension to inspire their creativity. How many university students studying Western literature are taught by their lecturers that William Butler Yeats was also a ceremonial magician?

If your book inspired one change in the world, what would you want it to be? 

That the universe is essentially a place of mystery and the realities we consider tangible are not as solid as we think they are. Quantum physics teaches us that at the sub-atomic level matter consists mostly of space. If more people realized this they may have a different take on life.

Where might others focus their energies in following on your work in this area?

Some academics currently specializing in the study of magic and religion have begun to mount a concerted argument against the usefulness of "insider" (or "emic") accounts of spiritual and magical realms of awareness. Personally, I feel this approach is totally misguided, and readers of The Varieties of Magical Experience will soon appreciate that Lynne and I greatly value insider accounts. After all, where do authentic religious and magical experiences actually originate? The answer can be found by exploring the psyches, or "consciousness," of the practitioners and devotees themselves. If we move beyond the analysis of belief systems to the actual essence of religion and magic, we often find ourselves entering a domain characterized by profoundly transformative spiritual experiences. These are experiences associated with altered states of consciousness, not intellectual conceptual frameworks imposed by theoreticians at a distance. I think this debate will continue in academic circles for some time to come.

Nevill Drury is an independent historical researcher whose specialist interests include modern Western magic, shamanism, transpersonal psychology and visionary art. Apart from The Varieties of Magical Experience, his most recent publications include Dark Spirits: The Magical Art of Rosaleen Norton and Austin Osman Spare (2012); Stealing Fire from Heaven: The Rise of Modern Western Magic (2011); Homage to Pan (2009); The Dictionary of Magic (2005); and The New Age: The History of a Movement (2004). He also edited the multi-authored Pathways in Modern Western Magic (2012). Nevill received his Ph.D from the University of Newcastle, Australia, in 2008 for a dissertation on the visionary art and magical beliefs of Rosaleen Norton. Born in England in 1947 but resident in Australia since 1963, Nevill has worked as an international art-book publisher, lecturer and magazine editor. His books have been published in 26 countries and 19 languages.  Website: www.nevilldrury.com 

Tuesday, April 2, 2013

10 Things You Can Do During Genocide Awareness Month

10. In ABC-CLIO's Modern Genocide: Understanding Causes and Consequences  database, read Dr. Gregory Stanton's "The Eight Stages of Genocide" to better understand the framework of genocide and how it can be prevented.

9. Sign the pledge to prevent genocide at the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum website. http://www.ushmm.org 

8. Read about upstanders such as Oskar Schindler, Miep Gies, and Paul Rusesabagina in Modern Genocide. Think about how you could be an upstander in a conflict going on today.

7. Support a cause or a group of people in need and post about it on your Facebook and/or Twitter page or on the ABC-CLIO Facebook page.

6. Read Anne Frank's Diary of a Young Girl or Elie Wiesel's Night to learn about personal experiences during genocide.

5. Create a glass panel for the Kristallnacht Project wall http://www.kristallnachtproject.org/

4. Sign-up to create your own bone(s) in the One Million Bones Project, a global challenge to make 1,000,000 handmade bones as a visible petition against humanitarian crises. http://www.onemillionbones.org/students-rebuild/

3. Write a letter to someone who bullied you in the past, and tell them how it made you feel. If you saw someone being bullied and did not say anything, write a letter to that person. Were you the bully? Send an apology letter to the person you bullied.

2. Join a "walk to end genocide" such as this one: http://www.kintera.org/faf/home/ If your community does not sponsor such a walk, you can still join and raise funds as a virtual walker.

1. Read the reference entry Paper Clips in Modern Genocide. Propose a similar project for your school or community to create awareness of genocide.

In support of National Library Week and Genocide Awareness and Prevention Month we are offering FREE access to this important resource for the month of April. Go to www.abc-clio.com/genocide to gain access for your institution.