16. Blow up the world with strange magic – Acquisition

Acquisition

Weeks went by, with Jeannie still living with Juston. They kept separate beds but spent most of their spare time together. Juston told Jeannie more about Chaos Magick, and even had a few mage friends over for dinner. Jeannie went to Magic Universe drafts but didn’t play any games, afraid that she might inadvertently use her magic to win. MacAllan got the federal contract, and Juston hired Jeannie to be the AI team lead.

Both of them were at a loss as to how Jeannie could control her power. Jeannie, for her part, was so paranoid about accidentally using magic, that she carefully examined all her reactions to other people, hoping to tamp down her emotions. When stressful situations came up at work or with other people, Juston would helpfully whisper or text her, “Foolish Chaplain says chill.”

Jeannie joined the First Church of Christ, Scientist on 16th Street and started taking Primary class instruction from a healer named Christy. She had to swallow hard to assent to some of the teachings but embraced and was moved by one of them: “And we solemnly promise to watch, and pray for that Mind to be in us which was also in Christ Jesus; to do unto others as we would have them do unto us; and to be merciful, just, and pure.”

Jeannie promised herself that she would learn the religion’s healing practices, and not attempt to use her power until she had thoroughly understood and mastered them.

After her initial instruction, she attended and later participated in Scientist healings. Although she tried to keep skeptical thoughts from her mind, after seeing many patients, she observed that, although some were helped, they tended to be those afflicted with either psychosomatic or mild mental diseases. She thought, am I really learning anything? Try as she might, she couldn’t quite bring herself to fully embrace the church’s healing techniques. However, she did notice that her successes tended to be with patients she felt a high degree of empathy with. As her training went on, she tried to increase the empathy she felt for her patients. But it was hard sometimes.

Not long after she had this breakthrough realization, she developed a stunning track record of successful healing. Empathy seemed to be the key to controlling and projecting her power. After she completed the requirements to become a healer, the church recommended she continue to practice at the church facility. Jeannie wondered if this was because the elders were suspicious of her success and thought that perhaps she was sneaking medication to her patients.

The elders and other healers began to talk about her behind her back, calling her satanic and an evil witch. Instead of regarding her success as reinforcing their healing practices, they dehumanized her in their minds to justify pushing her to the side. Nobody had ever been as successful at healing the sick as she was. And the real problem appeared not to be just that she was successful. While that was galling to the others, especially the men, it was her gender that really bothered them, despite women being the majority in that church. What Jeannie was doing, real healing of real disease, not psychosomatic problems, flew in the face of women’s suppression and oppression in religious life. She was trying to push back the patriarchic reality of 2,000 years of theology.

One day, as a test they were sure she would fail, the elders gave her a psychotic patient to treat. Others in the healing place had given up on him. He had been living there for a year and could no longer be restrained, even with chains. A bodybuilder, he had broken chains and shattered shackles with almost superhuman strength. He was kept locked away in a padded cell behind a strong door in the mental wing at a Christian Science Sanatorium. The poor man moaned and cried night and day and cut himself with pieces of the plastic utensils they gave him with his meals. The best of the healers had tried, but all thought the man was hopelessly possessed.

Jeannie interviewed him through the barred window in the thick door of his cell. “What is your name?” she asked.

“My name is Legion,” he replied, “for we are many.”

Ah! Psychotic and obsessed with the Bible, she thought. Well, there aren’t any pigs around, I hope. “Why do you think you are locked into this place?” she asked.

“Because we know a secret that no one should know.”

OK, Jeannie thought. He’s not following the Bible story verbatim. “What is the secret?”

“You shall perish if we tell you.”

“We? Who is there with you?”

“We are Legio X Fretensis, legion of the pigs!”

There it is, Jeannie thought. I figured pigs would be involved here somehow, just as in the Bible story. And he thinks he’s a famous Roman legion. She decided to try to bluff the man. “I am a goddess of great power. No secret you can share with me could possibly harm me.”

The man shrank away from the door and retreated to a corner of the cell. He was obviously thinking over what Jeannie had said. Jeannie could see fear and doubt cross his face, replaced ultimately with rage. The man leapt to his feet and charged full force at the door. Jeannie didn’t flinch as the man rebounded and fell dazed to the floor.

Once he regained his feet, he grabbed the steel bars in the window and tried to pull them apart. “It seems to me you don’t believe I am a goddess, and that I can hear your secret. Lie on your bed and calm yourself. When you are calm, I will enter your cell and you can tell me your secret.”

“I will tear you limb from limb!” the man said, baring his teeth.

“You shall do no such thing. You will do as I have said and calm yourself!”

The man was cowed by her forceful speech and laid down on his bed. Jeannie went to the front desk and asked the man there for the key to the cell.

“I can’t give you that!” said the man. “He’ll rip you apart!”

“Don’t worry,” Jeannie said. “Jesus will protect me.” She held her hand out for the key and the man got a stunned look on his face but gave it to her.

Jeannie unlocked the door, leaving it open, and knelt beside the man’s bed. She felt she needed to know more about him to make the empathic connection that would release her power.

“What is the name your parents gave you,” she asked.

“Christian,” replied the man.

“That is a beautiful name. Tell me, what was your favorite stuffed toy as a child?”

“A bear.”

“Wonderful. Did you love the bear?”

“Very much.”

“Did the bear love you?”

“Yes, he did.”

“I love you, too. Tell me your secret.”

Christian looked puzzled. His eyes darted back and forth as he tried to remember. “I have forgotten my secret.”

Suddenly, he sat up in the bed and lunged at Jeannie, grabbing her by the neck. He forced her to the floor and placed a knee on her chest, making it hard for her to breathe. He began to slap her face with both hands. Jeannie bridged her body, rocking the man forward toward her shoulders. As he threw his body backward to try to regain equilibrium, she wrapped her legs around his head and slammed him to the floor.

Christian quit moving. Jeannie scrambled up and checked his pulse. He was dead with a broken neck.

By this time the front desk man and an armed guard had rushed into the room. The guard dropped to check Christian’s pulse and looked up at Jeannie. “What happened? You killed him!”

“No,” said Jeannie. “He lives.”

Christian’s eyes popped open and he sat up, bewildered and scowling.

“Now, heal!” Jeannie commanded.

A transformation came over the man’s face. He looked at his bloody hands like he had never seen them before and then looked at Jeannie’s face, which was cut and bleeding from the blows. A look of sorrow came over his face, and he asked, “Did I do that to you?”

Jeannie said, “Don’t worry about that. You are now healed in body and mind. Go now, Christian, into the world, and do good deeds.”

Christian looked astonished. “What, how . . . what did you do to me?”

“I healed you,” Jeannie said, and then hastily added, “By God’s grace.”

The guard aimed his gun at Christian as he turned to leave the cell. Jeannie sprang to her feet. “Hold on! There’s no need for that. Christian is healed and may now leave and go back to the world.”

“I’m sorry,” the front desk man said. “We can’t allow that.”

“Yes, you can,” Jeannie said. “Please let him pass.” Astonished, the men fell back alongside the door and let Christian walk out of the cell.

This incident received mixed reception among the church members, who were evenly divided between those who thought Jeannie was reckless and those who thought she was a witch. The criticism became so heated, Jeannie left her healing practice, figuring that she had learned enough and didn’t need these small minds trying to drag her down.

Without her healing studies to occupy her spare time, Jeannie turned all her attention back to the AMEBA project. She asked herself, with what I’ve learned about my power, and about empathy, how can I imbue technology with morality and empathy and help heal the world? Just as important, can I handle this power properly? Am I gonna end up a superhero or a villain? It’s obvious that empathy is the key to using my power without needing to get into an agitated emotional state. And that really makes sense. After all, empathy was the foundation of the teachings of Buddha and Jesus. Religion properly designed is total applied empathy. And yet I work for an apparatus that has neither morality nor empathy. Jeannie felt she had to use her current opportunity to change that.

At home, she discussed with Juston the dichotomy between her work with the DoD and her newfound understanding of her power.

“Ah!” he said. “Oh, goodie! I get to help. Let me find my Liber Null.”

“If that’s a body part, I’m not interested in helping you,” Jeannie said.

“No, no, no. It’s Peter Carroll’s book. You remember I told you about him. Now, where is it?” Juston ran into his office and Jeannie could hear him mumbling to himself. He returned with a book with a mostly black cover featuring a drawing of a blue three-eyed figure.

“Now let me find it. Ah, here it is, page 17.”

All attempts to reorganize the mind involve a duality between conditions as they are and the preferred condition. Thus, it is impossible to cultivate any virtue like spontaneity, joy, pious pride, grace, or omnipotence without involving oneself in more conventionality, sorrow, guilt, sin, and impotence in the process. Religions are founded on the fallacy that one can or ought to have one without the other. High magic recognizes the dualistic condition but does not care whether life is bittersweet or sweet and sour; rather it seeks to achieve any arbitrary perceptual perspective at will.

Consider laughter: it is the highest emotion, for it can contain any of the others from ecstasy to grief. It has no opposite. Crying is merely an underdeveloped form of it which cleanses the eyes and summons assistance to infants. Laughter is the only tenable attitude in a universe which is a joke played upon itself. The trick is to see that joke played out even in the neutral and ghastly events which surround one. It is not for us to question the universe’s apparent lack of taste. Seek the emotion of laughter at what delights and amuses, seek it in whatever is neutral or meaningless, seek it even in what is horrific and revolting. Though it may be forced at first, one can learn to smile inwardly at all things.

Jeannie was perplexed. “What am I to take away from this? Laugh more?”

Juston smiled. “No, what you really should understand from this is that often we try to understand the world through dualities. For example, you may say that the mission of DoD—which I argue is to keep Americans from being killed by our enemies—is incompatible and antithetical to empathy. I think that’s wrong. I think you can use empathy to achieve that goal you told me about: healing the world. You can do it by seeking empathy even in the horrific things that keep us safe. Chaos Magick encourages adepts to develop a better way of seeing. You need to see a pattern in the Universe that enables you to cast spells, or whatever you call your healing impulses.”

Jeannie sat quietly for several minutes, absorbing what Juston had said. Finally, she said, “Thanks, Juston. You’ve given me something to think about. How to fit my desires, and my power, into a framework to use empathy to reach my objective and my destiny. Empathy is obviously the key. So far, to use the power in other than a fraught emotional state, I’ve had to use empathy to enter and channel the experience of my target. But I have so far failed to affect more than one person at a time, unless you call Legion more than one person.” Jeannie smiled wryly. “I can’t possibly heal 7 billion people one at a time. I have to unlock a method of broadcasting my healing power.”

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