Monday, October 19, 2009

Divination Theory

This is an exceprt from the article on divination I'm working on for the Nine Moons project. I should finish that article today, and with it the first three months of that magical practicum training. I have been surprised at how difficult this bit of writing has been for me. The fact is that while I have practiced divination all my life I have never undertaken to write more than the simplest guide before. This piece is much more theoretical, and has more advice on doing readings, etc, than anything I've written before. For example, here's the bit on how and why divination works.

In the course of your retreats you will be doing divination regularly. As you begin to become familiar with the system you’ve chosen and the details of performing a reading, it may also be worthwhile to consider some of the metaphysics and meaning of divination.
Divination is the use of personal intuition and spiritual inspiration to interpret the patterns and signs of the natural world, in such a way as to reveal knowledge or information. In some cases the patterns interpreted by seers are cyclical, such as in astrology, but more often symbols are observed or generated at random. The mix of lots in a bag, the shuffle of a pack of cards, even the unpredictable movements of a column of smoke or of wildlife may appear meaningless to the common mind, yet the diviner’s vision sees patterns that convey meaning beyond common understanding. If we want to consider theories as to how this can happen I might propose three central themes.
First we can look at what might be called the “classical” metaphysical or occult theory. This draws on two traditional laws of magic – the principle of reflection and the doctrine of signatures. The famous maxim “As above, so below; and as below, so above” is remembered from late Hellenic Paganism, but it expresses an Indo-European principle so widespread as to be universal. This doctrine holds that the many layers of the world all reflect one another, both in their forms, and in the events that occur within them. In this model causation occurs in all directions – events in one realm influence all other realms, though the intentions of sentient beings can direct that to some degree. What occurs in the Underworld has reflection in the Mid-world and the heavens and vice-versa, throughout all the worlds. This produces what we might call a ‘holographic cosmos, in which the whole is present by reflection in every part. A number of corollary laws come from this, the most relevant for us being the ‘doctrine of signatures’.
Since all spiritual forces produce their likeness and distinctive signs in the material world by reflection, the wise have sought to understand which spiritual forces are associated with which material things. This has led to lore that concerns the meanings of colors, directions, stones, herbs, trees, etc. In the same way, an image of a spiritual power, created by humans, will natural partake, by reflection in that power if made with the proper colors, shapes, symbols, etc. A divination system is an attempt to create a symbol system that effectively contains the whole of the worlds in its symbols, a balanced structure that can accurately reflect the structure of the cosmos and its variations. The clearest example of such a system is astrology, in which the stars, planets and sections of the heavens make an eternal wheel reflecting life’s possibilities. In the same way augury from natural things always contains the whole world, because it is in fact drawn from the world as it is. Symbolic divination systems, such as tarot, Runes, Ogham or other lots, attempt to create systems that accurately reflect the worlds. By reflecting them they participate in them, and thus when such symbols are randomized, the magician expects them to fall into patterns that reflect the world as it is. From those patterns the diviner reads her answers.
While modern thought will tend to see all of this as a mechanical process of impersonal forces tradition has always held that the spirits are closely involved. It is entirely consistent with tradition to see divination as a process by which the spirits guide the relevant symbols into their relevant positions for our readings, using their superior vision and understanding to see the forces surrounding our questions. While we can attempt to work our magic by our personal power and wisdom alone, any such efforts are greatly enhanced by appeals to the proper spirits. The simplest means of doing this is to invoke the aid of the deities proper to system in use. For the Ogham the proper deities are Ogma, for whom the alphabet is named, and Manannan, who is said to be the keeper of the letters. There is an invocation given in the ritual section which can be used as is or can be inspiration for your own words.
The third basic principle of divination is the native power of intuition of the human mind. Whatever the mechanism is which produces the pattern of symbols in a divination it is human intuition that allows us to turn a series of hints and reflections into a coherent narrative that reveals truth. Some modern magicians assert that intuition is the whole reality of divination. It is true that when the mind is “tuned in” strongly, divination could be done with M&Ms or varieties of bottle caps. However both tradition and experience teach that omens are clearer when the symbol system if properly constructed and well understood by the diviner. So even as you are learning the intellectual meanings of your symbol system you should be carefully pursuing your meditation, offerings to the spirits and trancework, and the cultivation of the Open Eye trance.
The Open Eye
The skill that you are developing in Open Meditation can be directly applied to the work of seership. You are learning to allow your thoughts and mental impressions to flow freely through your mind without attachment. This attitude can also be applied to your sense perceptions. It is simple to begin at your Home Shrine. When you have settled into Open meditation, open your eyes and gaze upon your Shrine. Allow your visual input to simply rest upon your mind. Maintain your focus on your breath, or whatever focus you employ. Let your gaze widen, to see the entire surface of the Shrine at once. Do not focus on any one element of the Shrine; do not fail to see any element of the Shrine. Do not allow any thinking about the Shrine to cling in your mind. It may be that useful ideas will occur to you – note them and return to simple focused attention.
After a little practice you should try the same thing out of doors. In the same way, find a place where a vista of several elements is visible. Find your center and focus into your meditation. Open your eyes and experience the reality of what you see without consideration or evaluation. In this state of mind you may be shown omens, and it is in this state of mind that we seek omens, open to the flow of event.
As we will discuss in our instructions on practical divination this same Open Eye is useful when you are evaluating a reading. Once you have thoroughly assimilated the symbols of a system, observing the pattern with the Open Eye can allow your deeper awareness to form patterns and understandings about a reading beyond the simple meaning and sequence of the symbols.

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