MAGIC AND WITCHCRAFT
Before we begin discussing the subject of magic it is important to reiterate a point made in the introduction. There is a significant difference between stage magic performed by illusionists or slight-of-hand magicians, and magic (often spelled magick to differentiate it from stage magic) as practiced by occultists and followers of Wicca. It is the occult magic we will discuss here and which is often referred to in Scripture as sorcery or wizardry. To better clarify we shall give the following definition for the type of magic under discussion:
Magic — the much disputed art that attempts to know and rule the human, animal, plant, and spirit worlds, together with the world of dead matter, through supernatural means with the aid of accompanying mystical rites and ceremonies.
Even though I refer to this as “real” magic as opposed to stage magic, I believe it safe to state at the outset that there is no objective evidence that the actual effects of magic are real. But such lack of evidence has not dissuaded huge numbers of people from actively engaging in various forms of magic. It is doubtful that many people alive today have not encountered or even attempted at one time or another one or more “folk charms” in an effort to remove warts, stop bleeding, cast a love spell, or such like. But aside from these supposed innocent forms of magic, there are many people today who are actively involved in formal, ritualistic magic. Most of these are people who practice either in Satanism or Wicca. (The two are not the same, and we will devote some time later on to discussing Wicca in detail as it is one of the fastest growing religions in America at present.)
First, let us recall that there are three principal kinds of magic: white magic, black magic, and sympathetic (natural) magic. Whence did they come?
In Genesis 1:28 God told man to go forth in a peaceful conquest of the earth and its natural powers. This is in accordance with the will of God. Man is to recognize God as the creator of earth and of all that is in it, and man is to subject creation to himself to the glory of God.
In opposition to this directive, Satan came forward with his temptation: “You will be like God, knowing good and evil” (Genesis 3:1-5). Essentially Satan was saying that man would become capable of knowing all things. Here we find the root of all magical philosophy. Man has an insatiable desire to know even that which he is not permitted to know, a desire to become a god in his own right. Magic reveals a hunger for knowledge and a desire for power in opposition to, rather than in harmony with, the will of God.
When man first was faced with this decision he had to choose between voluntary subordination to the will or God or rebellion against God’s word fed by greed for power and desire for knowledge. That is the crux of the whole matter: We either conform to God’s revealed way of salvation, or we rebel against it and try to rule the created world in opposition to God. Magic at its root is a rebellion against God. As Kurt Koch has written, “It is the climax of man’s revolt against God. Any talk of harmless forces of nature and neutral applications is criminal in the light of this scriptural fact.”
Obviously this can be seen to apply easily to black magic and even sympathetic magic, but what about white magic? White magic doesn’t call upon demonic forces or the forces of nature to effect its work but calls upon God and the holy angels. Is this also wrong?
Since there are more people involved in the practice of white magic than of black, this question deserves an answer. Let us then consider two passages of Scripture. In Matthew 7:15 our Lord said, “Beware of false prophets, which come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ravening wolves.” And in II Corinthians 11:13-15 St. Paul wrote, “For such are false apostles, deceitful workers, transforming themselves into apostles of Christ. And no marvel; for Satan himself is transformed into an angel of light. Therefore it is no great thing if his ministers also be transformed as the ministers of righteousness; whose end shall be according to their works.” White magic is simply a fulfillment of St. Paul’s warnings. Satan can best devour the righteous not by tempting them to embrace demonism but by disguising himself as an angel of light. White magic is therefore simply black magic under a religious disguise. How else are we to account for the innumerable passage of scripture that categorically forbid the righteous man’s participation in magic and sorcery regardless of its claims of source of power? Recall Simon Magus in Acts 8. He was a sorcerer who became a Christian. When he saw the miracles performed by the apostles, he yearned for the same power. I feel certain that his desire was to become a practitioner of what we today would call white magic, yet he was roundly denounced by the apostles and was told to repent even of the idea.
And since touching on the subject, let us distinguish carefully between the laying on of hands and the miraculous works of the holy apostles, and magic. The difference is the same as between our praying on behalf of a sick person that God will heal them, and going through a magical ceremony on the sick person’s behalf. As Koch has written, “In the true prayer of faith, the person concerned submits completely to the will of God. [‘Thy will be done.’] In white magic the idea is to compel God to act. With true prayer God is really involved, whereas in white magic the name of God is used only by way of a technical formula. Genuine prayer is inspired by the Holy Spirit. The white magician is inspired by the powers of darkness.” Inherent in white magic is the idea that there are laws of the universe which lie beyond God Himself, and that when certain formulae are recited God must act to effect the desired result. This is putting another god before the one God of all.
In the course of my lectures, many people often express an interest in learning about some of the rituals and ceremonies involved in Satanic worship and other forms of magic. I see no need to go into any great detail in this, but we will give some basics of practitioners’ ceremonies solely in order that the reader may know the kinds of things that can and do happen in these ceremonies and to demonstrate that it all is a mere mockery of true Christian worship.
There is a liturgy associated with magic that is the counterpart of Christian worship. As the Christian liturgy is composed of certain elements, so too is ceremonial magic. There are basically four constituents necessary in a magical liturgy:
- an invocation
- a charm
- a symbolic action
- the use of a fetish
In the invocation (which is a supplication or an appeal to an otherworldly power), one may call upon either Satan, the Holy Trinity, or some other spiritual entity, and it is this which shows the primary distinction between white or sympathetic magic and black magic. Other than this there is little difference between them. In white magic one invokes the name of God or the Trinity; in black magic one invokes the name of Satan or the demonic powers; in sympathetic magic one may call upon the “Daughter of the Moon” or some other power. This is a counterpart of the Christian’s invocation of the name of God in prayer at the beginning of the Liturgy.
The charm (or spell) brings the force of magic into play. This usually is a recited or read formula and imitates our use of Scripture in worship. (Remember that we said magic is simply a mockery of the truth — another proof that it is of Satanic origin.)
The symbolic action underlines and supports the charm. The action might be something as simple as lighting a candle or as involved as sacrificing a live animal. This type of action mimics such Christian actions as making the sign of the Cross or kneeling in prayer.
A fetish is a magically charged object, such as a special stick or wand, a drawn circle, a skull, or a dagger. These crudely correspond to holy water, blessed bread, or the Cross itself. Other fetishes commonly used in magical ceremonies are human bones, bats, urine or excrement, pubic hair, nail parings, wood from a coffin, or other disgusting items. The fetish can be any object that is believed to be charmed and therefore magically charged.
In concluding this part of our study of magic, let us cite a few additional Scriptures:
“Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live” (Exodus 22:18). While we are not commanded to execute witches (magical practitioners) today, it was a capital offense in ancient Israel. By reading the following verse (“Whosoever lieth with a beast shall surely be put to death”) and noting its proximity to verse 18, we may conclude that God views sorcery as the moral equivalent of beastiality.
“For rebellion is as the sin of witchcraft” (I Samuel 15:23a). Magic is as evil as rebellion, which makes perfect sense when we remember that the original source of magic is rebellion against God.
“And many that believed came, and confessed, and shewed their deeds. Many of them also which used curious arts brought their books together, and burned them before all men: and they counted the price of them, and found it fifty thousand pieces of silver. So mightily grew the word of God and prevailed” (Acts 19:18-20). God’s power is revealed when people turn away from magic, not when they invoke His name in its practice.
Clearly Christians are forbidden to involve themselves with magic in any form. But what shall we say of those who openly profess a belief in the rapidly growing religion of Wicca? Wiccans practice witchcraft, and their numbers are growing daily, particularly in North America and Europe. As Christians are called to reach out to all people, how are we to respond to them?
First, I believe it important to understand why they have chosen the path they have. When St. Paul reached out to the pagans round about him, he approached them beginning where they were. He did not commence his outreach by cursing them and condemning their beliefs but instead began by showing them respect and love. We should do no less when dealing with other people today, even those who have chosen a path we believe to be demonic in nature. This part of our study is a bit of a sidebar to our main subject as it does not pertain directly to the paranormal (though Wiccans often profess to call upon and utilize paranormal forces); but because of the rapid growth of Wicca in our society today it deserves to be addressed. It seems a good opportunity to do so at this point in our discussion. We introduce this subject here for three main reasons: (a) to present an overview of some of the basic beliefs and practices of the Wiccan religion; (b) to dispel many misconceptions that have led to discrimination and persecution of its adherents; and (c) to better inform us on how to approach and deal with these people in the hope that we might lead them to Christ.
When discussing Wicca, it is important to keep certain general points in mind:
1. It is difficult to define Wiccan beliefs and practices uniformly as each Wiccan coven is autonomous. There also are thousands of adherents of Wicca who practice their faith as solitaries, not being affiliated with any coven or group. Wicca is not like, say, Roman Catholicism which has a clearly defined body of beliefs to which all its members are expected to adhere. Wicca instead is more analogous to the independent Christian denominations that recognize complete congregational autonomy. What I will endeavor to do in this section is to present what is generally true of Wicca and its adherents. But please keep in mind that there are many exceptions.
2. Despite the wide range of differences among Wiccans, there are a number of misconceptions many Christian hold about them that are almost universally baseless. Though one might find isolated exceptions to these, there are certain things that Wiccans as a whole definitely do not believe or practice. Among them are:
- Wiccans do not worship Satan. Satanism and Wicca are two very different religions. Most Wiccans do not believe Satan exists.
- Not all Wiccans cast spells, and very few cast evil spells or spells designed to cause harm. They believe that any spell they cast can come back on them with threefold power, so they are reluctant ever to cast an evil spell on someone else.
- Some Wiccans do not practice magic (spellcasting) at all.
- Wiccans do not kill and eat babies, boil infants for their fat, or use animal parts in their ceremonies. This misconception arose from the common names of herbs in the Middle Ages, i.e., dragon’s blood, baby’s fat, eye of newt, dovesfoot, lamb’s tongue, etc. (It also should be remembered that early Christians were rumored to sacrifice infants on their altars and drink their blood and eat their flesh in the Eucharist. Of all people, we should be sensitive to such gross mis-representations.)
- Though Wicca is non-Christian, it is not anti-Christian (as is Satanism).
Wicca (also known as “the Craft,” “witchcraft,” or the “Old Religion”) claims to be a pre-Christian religion, being the basic belief system adhered to throughout Europe and much of the rest of the Western world prior to the rise of Christianity. It is primarily a nature religion. Some elements of modern Wicca do in fact predate Christianity, but the contemporary rituals for the most part date only from the early twentieth century. Many of the rituals practiced today were composed by Gerald Gardner (1884-1964) who claimed to have recorded the practices of a coven of Old Religion practitioners in a remote village in Italy. Gardner became the leading figure in resurrecting witchcraft, and his followers today are known as Gardnerian Wiccans. Gardnerians are most renowned for placing a good deal of emphasis on nudism, believing that it brings one closer to nature.
Raymond and Rosemary Buckland, two of Gardner’s followers, brought Wicca to the United States in the 1960s where it was openly embraced by many in the counterculture movement of the time. The best known group among these early American Wiccans was one founded by Alex Sanders (whence Alexandrian Wicca is derived) who claimed that his form of Wicca was older than Gardner’s because Sanders was alleged to have been a descendant of Owen Glendowner, known in the fifteenth century as the “King of Witches.” Sanders placed more emphasis on the ritualistic side of Wicca, incorporating into it the traditional circle ceremony and sabbats which were ancient ingredients of Qabbalistic magic.
A great number of variant groups sprang up during the 1970s, some of which truly were bizarre and which contributed to giving Wicca in general a very negative reputation. One spinoff was neopaganism. Neopagans are, if anything, even more autonomous than Wiccans, many leaning toward anarchism. Generally speaking, neopagans place less emphasis on ritual and theology, and they do not typically practice witchcraft. Instead they seek to resurrect the worship of various pagan deities from the past, or even invent new ones from current mythology or science fiction. Druids also are a spinoff of the early Wiccan movement. The New Age movement (made famous by the actress Shirley MacLain) is another offshoot of the 1970s era movements. New Agers basically believe that we ourselves are god. But neopaganism, Druidism, and New Age philosophy are a bit of a departure from our main topic and are mentioned here only because of their historical connections to Wicca.
General overview of Wiccan beliefs
While the following points are generally true of most Wiccans and Wiccan covens throughout the United States, there are many exceptions. As a rule, however, we can say that Wicca holds to a greater or lesser degree to the following basic tenets:
Theology. The majority of Wiccans adhere to a polytheistic world view, most being duotheists, believing in a god and a goddess. These deities are often referred to as the Mother Goddess and the Horned God. The god and goddess are each known by many names, but Aphrodite and Diana are the most common names used for the goddess, and Pan the general name for the Horned God. The goddess is seen as the goddess of moon, earth, and sea, while the god is the god of woods, the hunt, and the animal realm.
Some Wiccans believe in intermediate beings, some believing only in good spirits, others in both good and evil spirits. Angels are the most common intermediates accepted, but they are not the same as Christian angels in that they are not viewed as servants of an omnipotent God.
Many Wiccans hold to a shamanistic world view that is very similar to animism (the belief that all objects possess some kind of soul or spirit, including animals, trees, rivers and streams, and even inanimate objects like rocks). This is one reason most Wiccans are deeply concerned with ecological and environmental issues — and it is also why they become extremely upset when someone accuses them of the ritual killing of animals. (Except for a few fringe groups, Wiccans do not perform animal sacrifices.) In this respect modern-day Wicca has evolved beyond the pre-Christian religion of Europe, since both animal and human sacrifices were common in ancient European religion. Present_day Wiccans eschew this practice.
Some Wiccans believe that the god and goddess are real, personal beings, similar to how Christians view God’s existence. Others believe that they exist, but only in a Jungian sense (as universal symbols existing in the minds of people who believe in them). Others see them as representations of spirituality but not as actual beings. Still others do not believe in them at all but simply go through the motions — much like an agnostic who goes to church or synagogue each week simply because of his family tradition or for other reasons not associated with actual faith.
Eschatology. Most Wiccans believe in reincarnation, though it differs from the Eastern view. Whereas a Hindu believes he may be reborn as a higher or lower species, Wiccans generally believe one is reborn only as a human in order to continue spiritual evolution. For most Wiccans there is also no ultimate absorption into Nirvana as is common to Eastern thought, but reincarnation is viewed essentially as an eternal cycle. However, some do believe that in order to reach the highest level of spiritual consciousness one must learn and experience all things and, having done so through a series of lives, they eventually will return to the divine source.
Wiccans do not believe in either heaven or hell in the Christian sense. Most adhere to a concept of “Summerland” where the soul goes to rest for a time before each reincarnation, but there is no ultimate paradise of eternal rest. Neither is there a hell or place of punishment ... and thus no devil.
Soteriology. Wicca does not have a system of soteriology (salvation) because in Wiccan philosophy there is no concept of sin in the Christian sense. To most adherents, the Wiccan rede is the only controlling factor: “An it harm none, do as thou wilt.” To a Wiccan there is neither salvation nor condemnation, only rebirth.
Ethics. The whole of Wiccan ethics can be generally inculcated in the Wiccan rede and the “law of three.” This law of three is what governs their moral views, because it is believed that whatever one does, good or ill, will come back upon them three times over. This acts as a rather strong incentive not to engage in manipulative or exploitative magic or to be dishonest or cruel in their moral lives.
While the rede and law of three govern the majority of Wiccans’ behavior, it cannot be denied that there are some practitioners who lean toward hedonism in their ethics, so long as all parties involved are consenting. These are typically the groups that make the headlines and tend to give more mainstream Wicca a bad reputation. Many Wiccans adhere to very strong family values; nevertheless there also are some who practice the 1960s version of free love/free sex. And since sex magic is also practiced in some covens, there can be a tendency toward excess in this area among some practitioners. (It should be noted, however, that even in the covens where sex magic is practiced, it is usually engaged in only between a priest and priestess who are married to each other — though not always the case, it seems to be the general rule. And also remember that not all covens observe sex magic.)
Anthropology. Many Wiccans tend to be rather strongly feminist in their view of humanity (particularly the Dianic Wiccans), largely because their primary deity is a goddess. Most also hold to an “Aquarian” view of human destiny (the idea that people can evolve spiritually through their own efforts and ultimately attain enlightenment).
As should be obvious from the above, it is easy to see why Wicca would appeal to many people of the hippie generation of the 1960s and why so many involved in the counterculture movement of that era embraced its precepts. But a new generation also is now growing up in or being attracted to Wicca. The religion itself has evolved somewhat over the last few decades, and there is more effort being made to make it a more socially respectable religion. Many Wiccans are eschewing the often bizarre and “in your face” stunts performed by some of the “new generation” Wiccans of the 1960s (many of whom have moved on into neopaganism or have abandoned all forms of religion altogether) and are concentrating more on the spiritual and ritualistic side of their faith. Silver RavenWolf, for example, is a renowned Wiccan author who stresses morality and family values in her writings. Authors like RavenWolf have made Wicca more attractive to many young people today, and rather than appealing mainly to social misfits who often embrace outlandish cults in order to express their dissatisfaction with the status quo, modern Wicca now attempts to attract young people who are genuinely searching for something to believe in and are seeking a genuine spiritual experience rather than merely something weird and bizarre.
General overview of Wiccan practices
Organization. There is no central governing authority or heirarchy within Wicca. Many (perhaps most) practitioners are solitaries and answer to nothing but their own conscience. Those who do organize into groups form covens (also sometimes known as “groves,” “circles,” or, in a few cases, “churches”). The word coven is derived from the French word couvent, which means “gathering.” Typically a coven is comprised of a priest and/or priestess and no more than 13 members — though there is no hard and fast rule about this. Generally they do not have a permanent meeting place but meet in one another’s homes or yards. When weather permits, they frequently meet outdoors to be closer to nature. Coven rules are set by the members themselves and vary greatly between covens since each group is thoroughly autonomous.
Scripture. Wiccans do not have a holy book like the Bible or Koran. The nearest comparison would be their grimoires which are collections of spells and rituals. Even these are not authoritative. Wiccans also usually construct their own Book of Shadows. This is a collection of writings that express each individual’s own religious experiences as they progress along the path of wisdom and spirituality. Generally each coven also puts togther its own collective Book of Shadows which reflects the spiritual growth of the coven as a whole. While these writings may be looked upon as containing wisdom and other useful information, they do not compare in quite the same way as the Bible stands in relation to a Christian or the Koran to a Muslim. To the Christian, the Bible is objective (it is given to man by God and is that to which the believer must adapt his life). The Wiccan’s Book of Shadows is subjective (recording and defining the individual’s religious experiences as he progresses spiritually).
Magic and witchcraft. Magic (or magick as most Wiccans prefer to spell it in an effort to differentiate their version from stage magic) is an integral part of Wicca, though not all adherents actually practice spellcasting. Meditation and ceremonial magic are important, but to many Wiccans spellcasting is little different from the Christian concept of prayer. This varies, of course, from practitioner to practitioner, and some do in fact believe they can control and alter events through magic; others, however, believe that their spell-casting may be efficacious toward the desired result but does not automatically ensure its action — just as Christians believe their prayers may influence God’s choice of action but do not require Him to act according to their own desires.
Not all Wiccans like to call themselves witches, and certainly not all witches are Wiccans. Nevertheless, most Wiccans will accept the use of the term witch, and it is used for both male and female practitioners. (“Warlock,” a term non-Wiccans often mistakenly apply to male witches, actually means “oath breaker” and is considered an insult.) Wiccan witches are not black witches, and as such they do not call on Satan or evil spirits to effect their spells, nor do they often perform negative or harmful spells (since they believe these would come back on them threefold). Many witches hardly ever cast spells, some refraining from it altogether. It is not true (contrary to Hollywood’s portrayals) that whenever witches gather or enter their circle they are doing so in order to cast some kind of spell.
Worship. Covens generally convene for sabbats and esbats. An esbat is a regular meeting and is usually held either on each full or new moon; thus, there are 13 esbats in all each year. Most esbats are open to outsiders who wish to attend, and it is in the esbats that general business, teaching, and various rites and rituals are observed.
The main ceremonies, however, are held during the year’s eight sabbats, four greater and four lesser. The four greater sabbats are Samhain (also called Halloween), Oct. 31-Nov. 1; Candlemas (or Imbolc), Jan. 31; Beltane (ca. Apr. 30); and Lammas (ca. July 31). The four lesser sabbats are Yule (celebrated at winter solstice, ca. Dec. 21); Ostara (or Eostar — from which the term Easter is derived — spring equinox, ca. Mar. 21); Midsummer (summer solstice, ca. Jun. 21); and Mabon (fall equinox, ca. Sept. 21). These sabbats are feast days and are major celebrations within the Wiccan faith. Because of some of the more hedonistic groups that have made the news headlines in the past, there is an assumption that these celebrations degenerate into sexual orgies. While this may happen in some fringe groups, most respectable covens observe the sabbats as family celebrations.
It is believed that the powers of magic are strongest during esbats and sabbats, so these are the days on which magic most often will be worked. Even solitary practitioners generally observe esbats and sabbats in some way.
Although it is clear that Wicca is not a Christian belief system, it is not anti-Christian. Wiccans typically do not seek to proselytize from other religions, and most covens will not even admit anyone under age 18 (unless they are children of coven members). Wiccans definitely are not Satanists and do not engage in Satan worship. Because Wicca is a faith that leads one away from the Church, some say that makes it Satanic. To be consistent with this idea, however, one also must label Buddhism, Hinduism, Islam, and all other non-Christian religions as “Satanic.” While in a sense this may be true, to my mind a religion should be classified as Satanic only when it purposely and actively calls upon or otherwise elevates Satan and his minions.
As Christians, we are called to reflect the beauty of God in our lives and to recognize that every other human being, Christian and non-Christian alike, is made in His image. We cannot fulfill these callings by maltreating, persecuting, or otherwise belittling those who do not hold to our beliefs. While we cannot embrace Wiccan beliefs and practices, this does not mean that we should shun or disdain its adherents.
In my local community we have prominent Hindus, Buddhists, and Muslims living among us. We do not accept their religions, but we certainly accept these individuals and treat them with respect and compassion, as they also do us. The Wiccans in our community are no different: They practice a different religion, but as a rule they are not evil people, and they certainly are not to be feared as they mean us no harm. (Remember, there is a very big difference between being non-Christian and being anti-Christian.) They do not even attempt to convert people from our faith — quite unlike militant Islamists, for example. (On a personal note, I can truthfully say I would feel more comfortable living next door to a family of Wiccans than I would to a group of fundamentalist Muslims ... or even to some Christians I know!)
In summary, Wiccans are people. There are good Wiccans and there are bad Wiccans, just as there are good Christians and bad Christians. We should not judge them collectively by what a few bad eggs have done. And we definitely should not judge them by what we see in the movies or read in the tabloids. Remember that sensationalism sells, and while one may indeed encounter the occasional misfit, what most Wiccans are about is practicing their faith in a quiet, solemn manner, attempting always to achieve balance within themselves and between themselves and their fellow man. They often are honest people who are seeking a genuine spiritual experience, and as this is what they seek, who better to offer them a way to the truth than we?
Suggested further reading on Wicca
For those with an interest in working with Wiccans in an effort to influence them to Christianity, I recommend below several additional sources that will help one understand their faith and why they have chosen the path they have.
Books on Wicca from a Wiccan perspective:
Grimassi, Raven. The Wiccan Mysteries: Ancient Origins & Teachings. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1997. (Probably goes into more detail on rituals than most readers would care, but it provides a very good history of the religion from a Wiccan point of view. It also contains an excellent discussion on the different branches of Wicca, i.e., Alexandrian, Gardnerian, etc.)
Morwyn. Secrets of a Witch’s Coven. Atglen, PA: Whitford Press, 1988. (Contains a good discussion of Wiccan theology.)
RavenWolf, Silver. Teen Witch: Wicca for a New Generation. St. Paul: Llewellyn, 1999. (This and other books by the same author present probably the most easily understood summaries of modern Wiccan belief and practice in a very down-to-earth fashion. RavenWolf’s focus often is on family and high self-esteem rather than on the antisocial or bizarre attributes some people associate with Wicca.)
Books on Wicca from a Christian perspective:
Hawkins, Craig S. Witchcraft: Exploring the World of Wicca. Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Book House, 1996. (Probably the most comprehensive book available on the subject from the Christian viewpoint. It discusses the differences between Christianity and Wicca in both a scholarly and compassionate manner. The author goes out of his way many times to try to explain all varieties of Wiccan beliefs and practices and covers his bases quite well.)
Schoebelen, William. Wicca: Satan’s Little White Lie. Chino, CA: Chick Publications, 1990. (The author is a convert to Christianity from Wicca and as such provides some interesting insights into the inner workings of certain groups. Unfortunately he was involved with one of the more bizarre, fringe groups of Wicca that even embraced Satan worship, so his experiences do not appear to reflect more traditional Wicca. His tone also is rather strident at times, but the book is worthwhile reading nonetheless.)
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