Friday, October 21, 2016

Foundations of Magical Practice: Divination

The last two monthly posts here on The Well of Galabes have outlined two of the three basic elements of magical training—ritual and meditation—and this one will predictably enough proceed to the third, which is divination. Here we pass from the relatively unknown onto familiar ground. Plenty of people who couldn’t tell a banishing ritual from a toasted bagel, and whose notions of meditation more or less amount to tying one’s legs into an overhand knot and chanting “Om, Om, on the Range,” know that astrologers are supposed to be able to predict someone’s destiny from the position of the heavens at the time of birth, tarot readers claim to do the same thing by dealing out funny-looking cards, and so on.

Such practices are extraordinarily common. To the best of my knowledge, there is not now, nor has there ever been, a human society that hasn’t practiced at least a few forms of divination. What’s more,  as societies become more complex, literate, and technologically sophisticated, the availability and popularity of divination go up, not down. Modern industrial society is a case in point. There has never been another civilization in recorded history in which so many different forms of divination were so assiduously practiced by so many people. It’s worth noting that astrology programs were among the first programs that became available once those original clunky home computers hit the market. I still have a copy of my birth chart made in those days, calculated on I forget which pre-TRS-80 machine and printed out on a daisy-wheel printer.

The popularity of divination, now as in past times, is entirely understandable. Most of us would like to get at least a few questions about the future answered in advance. In times of crisis—and when in recorded history have those been far apart?—the desire to glimpse the shape of things to come, and gauge the prospects of different courses of action in advance, is even more self-evident. Fashionable pseudoskeptics of the Carl Sagan variety have trotted out any number of ad hoc hypotheses and question-begging maneuvers to explain why divination, rather than other ways of gauging the future, is the standard human response to that desire. One possibility they haven’t considered, for obvious reasons, is that divination is so popular because it works.

Let’s take a closer look at that unmentionable possibility.  Every form of divination yields a sequence of symbols that have been chosen by some seemingly random means. The word “random,” to be sure, begs a boatload of questions; whether or not anything in the universe is actually random is one of the big questions of philosophy; the crucial point regarding divination, though, is that the sequence of symbols must not be chosen by conscious deliberation. They may be chosen by shuffling cards or yarrow stalks, by pulling pieces of stone out of a bag, by tapping a stick on the sand a random number of times and seeing whether the resulting number is odd or even; they may be determined by the state of the heavens on the moment a person was born, or the moment an astrologer is asked a question; they may be determined, for that matter, by the number and type of birds that fly past a given place—anything that’s outside the control of the conscious mind is fair game for divination.

That’s the thing, of course, that reduces fashionable pseudoskeptics of the Carl Sagan variety to spluttering incoherence the moment divination gets mentioned. It’s an article of faith these days that a sequence of symbols generated in any of the ways just mentioned, or anything like them, can’t possibly communicate anything useful about the future. Let’s turn that faith-based presupposition into a question: how can a symbol generated by what most people call chance yield useful information?

There are at least three relevant answers to that question.

First, it’s a commonplace of experience that human thought almost always runs in ruts, and that a vast number of the problems each of us faces in our daily lives come about because we’re stuck thinking about some issue in ways that make solutions invisible. Very often all that’s needed to solve even the most longstanding personal or interpersonal problem is a willingness to accept a different way of thinking about the problem. This, in turn, divination can readily provide.

Consider a Tarot reading in which the diviner turns up the Six of Swords upright in a position that relates to the querent’s employment. (A querent, in traditional diviner’s jargon, is the person for whom a divination of any kind is cast.) The Six of Swords upright has the traditional meaning of “journey by water,” and a competent diviner will take that in as metaphorical a sense as necessary to make sense of the querent’s situation: say, as an indication that the querent’s job is transitional, a way to move from one “shore” to another. It may well be that the querent has never thought about her job in that light, and the reframing of the issue allows her to see possibilities that had never occurred to her before.

More generally, John von Neumann showed in his famous study of game theory that a strategy that includes a random factor will generally beat a strategy that doesn’t, because the random factor makes it impossible for opponents to anticipate and counter your moves. Divination is among many other things a very effective way to insert a random factor into your actions, and since so many things in life depend on successful competition, the person who includes divination in his or her decision-making process will, all other things being equal, have a greater chance of success than the person who does not.

That’s the first answer. The second unfolds from a detail of divination that’s common knowledge to those who practice it, which is that the more mechanical the interpretation is, the less useful it is. A Tarot reading, again, that’s interpreted via the canned readings in the LWB (“little white booklet”) that comes with the deck is usually pretty useless; a Tarot reading interpreted by an experienced diviner is something else again. Clearly something more than the random dealing of cards is going on here.

Cognitive science has shown over and over again that we know more than we realize we know. The conscious, reasoning human mind, in evolutionary terms, is a late and still poorly debugged addition plopped down over the top of a superbly adapted social primate nervous system, which constantly processes far more information than the reasoning mind can handle in its more laborious way. As our imaginary diviner and querent sit facing each other across a table strewn with Tarot cards, for example, the diviner’s nervous system is picking up a torrent of information from the querent’s posture, movements, voice, pheromones, and much more.

Are these things important? Why, yes; as someone who has Aspergers syndrome, and so basically lacks access to these sources of information, I can tell you from direct experience just how much of normal human interaction depends on them! Under normal circumstances, though, the primate mind talks to the primate mind, and the reasoning mind only notices the emotional tone that results. In order to get more information up into the conscious mind, it’s necessary to do an end run around the normal ways by which the conscious mind gets (and filters out) data.

How do you do that? Ask any old-fashioned psychoanalyst, and he’ll tell you that free association based on arbitrarily chosen symbols is a very effective means. That’s what the diviner does when she deals out the Six of Swords in the place that represents the querent’s employment, considers the card, and calls to mind the traditional meaning of the card. The idea pops into her head: “the job’s not an end in itself, but a transition to something else.” Where did it come from? From a thousand little cues, some verbal, most nonverbal, that let her primate mind know that the querent is unhappy with her job and would be interested in moving to something else if she thought that was possible. So the diviner interprets the card in accordance with the intuition, and the querent’s eyes widen as the unexpected possibilities make themselves visible.

That’s the second answer. The third one moves all the way out past game theory and psychology into the territory that modern thought has marked with big red signs saying DO NOT ENTER and operative mages have marked with smaller signs saying this way to the party. At the core of modern magic is the theory of the astral light—the thesis that there exists a subtle substance not currently known to science that pervades the universe, affects consciousness in predictable ways, and can be deliberately shaped by means of magic. (Yes, we’re talking about the Force; operative mages, and a great many other people such as martial artists, were talking about it millennia before George Lucas was born. Where do you think he got the idea?)

The astral light, according to traditional occult philosophy, is the medium through which astrological influences shape life on earth; it’s the medium through which magical workings propagate their effects across space and time; it’s also the medium through which acupuncture and a good half of the other alternative healing modalities work, just as it’s the medium through which the subtler and spookier martial arts accomplish a good half of their techniques. It’s also something every living thing perceives all the time, but human beings in modern Western industrial societies are pressured, beated, and bribed into ignoring by the time they reach adulthood.

So we have at least three possible ways by which divination can work. Which of them is actually responsible? Why, all of them, of course, and there may be other factors feeding into it as well. The notion that every phenomenon must have one and only one causative mechanism is one of the most widespread superstitions of our time. Of the mechanisms I’ve proposed, the first two are probably the most useful for the casual diviner or the client of an amateur or professional astrologer, card reader, or the like. For the operative mage, though, the third is where the real payoff lies.

One of the central tasks of training in operative magic is learning to perceive the astral light directly, and one of the primary ways of doing that is the regular practice of divination. The mechanism here is the same one that gets a workout in the psychological dimension of divination mentioned above—free association based on a chance collocation of symbols—but the source of information is different; instead of tuning into body language, the diviner tunes into the flow of information through the astral light. What’s more, with practice, the astral light also affects the subtle movements of the body that control the outcome of shuffling cards, or what have you. (Lucas again: “You mean the Force controls your actions?” asks Luke; “Yes, but it also obeys your commands,” says Obi-Wan. Once again, operative mages were there long before the Jedi got around to it.)

It’s with this in mind that the operative mage in training makes regular divination a part of his or her half hour or so of daily practice.

Here’s how it works. Every morning, before you have to tackle the events of the day, you cast a simple reading with whatever divinatory oracle happens to catch your fancy, asking some straightforward question such as, “What do I most need to understand about the events of this day?” You then interpret it, and set it aside. That evening, when the day’s over with, you go back to the reading and interpretation, look it over, and see (a) what you got right, (b) what you got wrong, and (c) what you should have noticed but didn’t. You then do the same thing the next day, and the next, and the next, through the entire course of your magical training.

Please note that in doing so, you’re not trying to prove whether divination works. When you start learning to divine, for you, it generally won’t. You’re trying to learn how to do it, which involves the development of certain very complex skills you probably don’t have yet, and the opening up of certain subtle capacities of perception you probably don’t have yet either. That’s why you cast a reading every morning, and why you compare your readings to the events of the day every evening: the practice becomes a self-correcting process by which you learn through repeated experience what each divinatory symbol is trying to tell you in terms of your daily life.

Three things, broadly speaking, will happen as you pursue this practice on a daily basis. The first is that you’ll get very, very familiar with whatever set of divinatory symbols you happen to be using. Whether it’s Tarot cards, runes, Ogham letters, Lenormand cards, the obscure but fascinating Welsh bardic alphabet called the Coelbren, or what have you, casting a simple daily reading will teach you the symbols and their meanings more effectively than any other method I’ve encountered. This has uses that aren’t limited to divination; many forms of operative magic require a solid grasp of a set of symbols for nondivinatory purposes, and when you’ve cast daily readings using the symbols in question for a year or so, you’ll be more than ready.

The second thing that will happen is that you’ll get really good at casting and interpreting readings, and getting accurate information about the future from those readings. After a certain point—the length of time varies from person to person—you’ll notice that pretty reliably, when you look back over your daily reading, you caught the most important things going on that day. After another point—usually but not always further on—you’ll learn to guide your actions on the basis of insights from your divinations: if your Tarot reading turns up the Seven of Swords, for example, you’ll keep an eye out for dirty tricks on the part of some rival at work, and if it turns up the Two of Cups instead, you’ll know that tonight’s date has romantic possibilities you hadn’t expected, and act accordingly. As a result, your life will improve: not drastically, and not all at once, but you’ll find yourself dodging problems and making use of opportunities more often, and more effectively, than you used to.

It’s the third thing, though, that’s the real payoff for the operative mage. When you’ve been practicing divination regularly for several years, you’ll begin to find that you don’t always need to cast a reading to get the same sort of useful hints from the cosmos that divination provides. The sprawling assortment of human capacities that we lump together under the term “intuition” includes many things, but one of them is a sensitivity to the astral light. (Traditionally, this is said to be mediated through the pineal gland.) As you exercise that capacity through divination, you also develop the capacity to use it without benefit of oracles; you simply know what’s happening, and act accordingly. Am I talking about omniscience? Of course not; the astral sense is no more limitless than any of your other senses, but it can bring you information that your other senses can’t.

So there’s your sequence of basic magical practices: a daily banishing ritual; a daily discursive meditation; and a daily divination. Most people can do this in around thirty minutes a day, give or take a bit of wiggle room—five to seven minutes for the ritual, ten minutes for the meditation, and the rest to cast and interpret the divination. That’s all it takes to set yourself on the path of operative magic.

Sounds easy, doesn’t it? It isn’t. If you decide to give it a try, I promise you that your mind, your body, the people you live with, and the entire rest of the universe, right out to the comets of the Oort Cloud and the distant stars of the Magellanic Clusters, will spend the next year or so handing you every conceivable reason to do something else with that thirty minutes. It’s amusing in retrospect, though rarely so funny at the time, just how many obstacles get thrown up (in any sense of the phrase you prefer) in the way of those first tentative steps toward magehood. There’s nothing you can do to prevent it—fleeing to a hermitage and barring the doors has been tried, and no, it doesn’t help—and only one response that matters, which is to Just. Keep. On. Doing. Your. Practices. Eventually, if you keep going despite all obstacles, the obstacles fall away, the doors swing wide open, and the fun begins.

Resources:

Please note, before we proceed, that all the caveats mentioned in the last two posts apply to this one as well. The recommendations I’m making here aren’t meant as quasi-divine commandments that apply to every conceivable system of magic, and anyone who treats them as such will be fed to the first school of arthrodires I happen to encounter. They’re the advice of one longtime practitioner of magic to those who are considering taking up a specific form of that art—the ceremonial high magic of the Hermetic Order of the Golden Dawn and certain of its offshoots—and don’t have a qualified teacher handy.

With that in mind, I’d like to start with a simple note: if you’re working with a specific system of teaching, and it asks you to practice a particular kind of divination in a particular way, for heaven’s sake, do that kind of divination in that way. The curriculum of a magical tradition isn’t just thrown together at random; it’s meant to develop specific skills in a balanced manner, and each step along the way lays groundwork that will be needed later on.

If you’re doing this entirely on your own, on the other hand, without a specific tradition to follow, you really can apply the approach discussed in this post to any system of divination you like. I’ve used it myself over the years to get a good working knowledge of Tarot, geomancy, my ill-fated (so far) Sacred Geometry Oracle, the Irish Ogham alphabet, and the Welsh Coelbren alphabet, and I’m currently tracking astrological transits over my natal chart daily with an eye toward the same sort of learning process, with good results. There are literally hundreds of different methods of divination available on the market just now, so choose an oracle and get cracking!

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In unrelated news, a new translation of Eliphas Levi’s The Doctrine and Ritual of High Magic, by me and longtime Well of Galabes reader Mark Mikituk, will be released in early April of next year. I’m looking for podcasters and bloggers who would be interested in reviewing it. If this is up your alley, put through a comment marked NOT FOR POSTING with your name, email address, and blog or podcast URL, and I’ll see if I can pry loose a review copy for you.

162 comments:

Breanna said...

So this is the perfect opportunity to ask a question that I've wondered about since January: do you use any form of divination when making your annual predictions for the year, or for any other of the predictions you make on your other blog?

James M. Jensen II said...

I think you've mentioned this before, but one of the things I appreciate about geomancy is its capacity to clearly and firmly say "Oh, heck no."

Where a Tarot reading will certainly give me something to contemplate, there's nothing quite like asking a question and finding an unfavorable judge, unfavorable witnesses, and an unfavorable figure in the appropriate house that doesn't perfect and which passes to a square aspect. Oh, and the way of the points leads back to a figure that clearly points out some basic insecurity I'm harboring that kept me from seeing how clearly bad my idea was.

(OK, I haven't gotten anything quite that dramatic, but one reading was very close.)

It's actually quite a relief to not have to wonder if I'm interpreting the result correctly.

W. B. Jorgenson said...

Hi all,

I have a few questions for anyone willing to answer about what I'm experiencing as I try to work through Learning Ritual Magic. (again I will eventually get past the Watcher at the Threshold!) I think it's going pretty good so far, but there are a few things i'd like to ask. I'm on week three now, only missed a practice once, and I learned how to avoid making that mistake again from it, if that matters.

1: What is the point of the Qabalistic Cross? I have no idea what I'm supposed to be getting out of it. I have the motions and imagery down, and I've begun to feel something (yesterday's practice), I have no idea how to explain it though.

3: JMG mentioned "karmic culmination", so I want to know if my experience with it is normal: I had some feelings I wanted to ignore, and I've been ignoring for years. I started doing the exercises and then found myself in a situation where I had no choice but to confront it. Later I realized it had been of my own making. Is that the normal form it takes?

4: Finally, is it normal for the sentences you're supposed to think of over the course of your day to influence your day? I keep running into situations that match whatever sentence I'm thinking about for the day, and it's getting a little weird.

5: With this post, it also occurs to me to ask, why is the divination the last element introduced? I'm working with a (very basic) form of meditation and a ritual, but no divination. I'm working with tarot cards, but currently just looking at them and comparing them.

Clark said...

Thank you for taking the time to explain these things. Even though my practice is a blend of daoist and toltec traditions, this blog has helped me to understand and organize my practice much more clearly. And just as you have explained, the most challenging thing is to return daily and do it regardless of the excuses/distractions. Thanks again. I have been reading this blog since day one. Brilliant!

Karim said...

Greetings all!

Thank you for a really clear account of divination.

One question: In geomancy, how is one supposed to generate the string of dots used for divination?

Thanks!

John Michael Greer said...

Breanna, nope. My predictions are made without benefit of divinatory methods. Mind you, I've been practicing one or another form of divination since I made my first set of hand-drawn Tarot trumps at the age of fourteen, so it's entirely possible that a fair amount of intuitive input is getting in there somehow, but it's not deliberate.

James, that's one of the things I like about geomancy, too! Horary astrology has the same very pleasant feature -- either the chart perfects or it doesn't -- and as I get better at astrology, I plan on putting a lot of work into horary charts.

WB, 1. Don't worry about what's supposed to happen or what you're supposed to get out of it; fixating on that can actually get in the way. Simply do the practice, pay attention to what you experience, and you'll get where you need to be.

(Was there supposed to be a 2. in there?)

3. That's one of many, many forms that it can take.

4. Carl Jung called that "synchronicity," and he and his physicist friend Wolfgang Pauli wrote an interesting little book on it. It happens all the time; the difference now is that you're noticing it. With practice, you can direct it; in a very real sense, operative magic can be described as the art of getting the coincidences you want.

5. I had to do them in some order, and divination drew the short straw!

Clark, you're welcome and thank you!

Dwig said...

I asked a few questions on the "Myth of the Anthropocene" post over on TAR. Your response to a couple of them was "As for your other questions, those are definitely fodder for the other blog!"

Encouraged by that, I'll apologize for being off-topic, and ask them here. (The relevant context was the "expanded view" of evolution over deep time.)

"Have the inner planes, and the life forms they contain, been going through a similar history over the eons? Would it be appropriate or necessary to create or rework some magical systems to deal with the forces involved in the Pleistocene-Neocene transition?"

Paul Kervale said...

Thanks for another enlightening post!

What do you think of Fortune's advice to do some sort of working after a divination to ground the subtle forces you stir up, to keep them from causing trouble? I've found that things turn out better when I do this, but it also increases the time commitment of a reading.

I've gotten in the habit of making an infusion with herbs whose correspondences connect with cards representing desirable influences, but it's hard to imagine doing this on a daily basis (I have to do the research, acquire the right herbs, etc). Maybe I just need a lighter-weight form of grounding.

Do you ground your divinations in any way?

James M. Jensen II said...

Just thought of something. One system of divination that I think often doesn't get enough credit is simply flipping a coin.

I've found a good amount of the benefits of divination come from simply formulating the question, forcing me to be clear and in the process often explore some of my motivation in asking the question.

I find the effects of this can be especially pronounced with a coin flip. Which option I'm inclined to assign to Heads (my favored side) tells me a lot about my feelings about the situation.

And on the other side of the flip, if I'm tempted to want to go "two out of three," well, that tells me an awful lot, too!

Ynnothir Coll said...

I've been following the AODA curriculum for going on two years, so when I read the previous two posts I nodded, gleaned a little new insight from the somewhat different perspective with which you've discussed the practices of ritual and meditation here, and wondered what the third leg of this cauldron might possibly be.

Divination? I must admit, I didn't...(ahem) see that coming.

It makes perfect sense to me, but I'd like to request clarification on a fine point, if I may. You pointed out that the symbols of a given system of divination, once internalized, can be put to other magical uses. Do you know of any reason why this process of reinforcement might not work so well if it were reversed?

Specifically, I've been using the Elder Futhark runes for magical purposes for about three years. (I've done next to nothing in the area of divination.) I'm fairly familiar with the range of associations, patterns, and energies the runes encompass. But many of them (maybe a third) have also become somewhat fixed in those qualities through use.

Learning the Ogham has been lurking on my to-do list for a while now. Would you recommend learning these new symbols in conjunction with my beginning practice of divination? Or would I be better served by sticking with the familiar runes?

Or might this decision just as well be relegated to the astral light in the form of a coin toss?

Nightsoul said...

JMG, thank you for this blog, these posts, especially this one on divination. It gave me a clearer and deeper understanding of it as I make my way through the Celtic Golden Dawn course. Druidry and magic feel like home to me. I was recently diagnosed with Aspergers which has given me a whole different perspective on my life, like maybe I'm not so weird. Anyway, I've been looking for Druidry all my life, and I've known magic was real since I was a child.

Peace,

Philip

Greybeard said...

Brilliant post! A couple of thoughts:

Firstly, surely they is nothing random about astrology so how is there influence from the 'Force'?

Secondly, I don't get why the time of birth is the key point in astrology rather than time of conception other than it being infinitely easier to find out. It's a difficult question to ask of one's parents...

Brigyn said...

Dear Mr Greer,
I'm almost through Inside A Magical Lodge. I've finished A World Full of Gods and After Progress months ago. I think they are all excellent. They definitely are the most scholarly of your writings, which I can very much appreciate. Combining some of your work, I can easily imagine a Green Wizardry-based Lodge, or a Celtic Golden Dawn-based Lodge...

Thank you very much for the volumes of work you have produced, as well as all the countless additional pages of free content and discussions you host on your blogs. It is much appreciated.

On a side note: I own most of your books on Druidry and Magic hard copy...
Inside A Magical Lodge is the first one of your books I can't (easily) get a physical copy of. Bookdepository.com doesn't stock it and my local Dutch booksellers ask the equivalent of 65 dollars for it (bol.com). I could order it from Llewellyn themselves, but the shipping costs outweigh the price of the book itself... which feels wrong. At least for books I don't have to pay import taxes, those can get quite ridiculous for some American items... So I might end up ordering from Llewellyn regardless.

I wonder, I'm aware Amazon cuts very deeply in the profits of the Author, but do you have any idea if Bookdepository.com is as bad?

andrewbwatt.com said...

I can attest to the value of doing a daily divination. I've been doing a mostly-daily geomancy reading now for a little over 1200 days, give or take a few dozen; and one of the more difficult events in my life occurred during a rare patch of days when I was 'too busy' to do a divination. Otherwise, I do a pretty good job of avoiding all kinds of mischief.

The elegant thing about this work is that you start off using the LWB (little white book) and a pre-printed pack of tarot cards (or a set of DOGD druids wands, in my case), and all your readings are very rote and dull. And then there comes a day six months in or so when you suddenly realize that the day went very smoothly and people think you're a wonderworker for how easily you navigated a number of challenges. And then there comes a day like yesterday, when someone shows you a layout of figures, and you say, "Oh, you're looking for a new lover?" and be able to give wickedly precise advice.

Barrabas said...

Have any of you guys seen Terence Malicks " Knight of Cups " film ?
There is a woman doing a tarot spread for the narcissist in chief who is the alchemical subject of the film . Another girl is seen doing the LBRP and the storyline follows the travails of said narciasist around the lower levels of the tree of life before an abyss crossing rebirth born of pain and suffering , both for the subject and audience . Still, i found it quite magical , and unusual for our times , and it is a total and utter commercial flop , so it must be authentic !
Cheers

Neo Tuxedo said...

I would submit, as a fellow aspie, that you have perfectly good access to all the ways of reading human behavior that you believe you don't. So do I. It's just that we're taught to doubt them by the allistics* around us, because when we apply them to allistics and allistically-socialized fellow-autistics, we learn things about people that they would rather not know about themselves.

Also, in case you didn't know, the late great Douglas Adams makes a similar point to this post in Mostly Harmless, the last Hitch-Hiker's Guide to the Galaxy book he got the chance to write. The person saying it, one Gail Andrews, is a former Presidential astrologer putting up a defense of astrology, but she herself acknowledges it applies to divination in general:

"The rules just kind of got there. They don't make any kind of sense except in terms of themselves. But when you start to exercise those rules, all sorts of processes start to happen and you start to find out all sorts of stuff about people. In astrology the rules happen to be about stars and planets, but they could be about ducks and drakes for all the difference it would make. It's just a way of thinking about a problem which lets the shape of that problem begin to emerge."

(* An alternative term for neurotypicals which I've adopted as conducive to my long-term goal of defanging the notion of "normal" anything, at least in terms of the supposed One Right Way to Be.)

Bogatyr said...

Given that my (admittedly rambling) previous comment wasn't put through, I'll keep this short! Thanks for this, JMG. Although previous comments here have convinced me that I'd best not work on this path while I'm still trying to learn Daoist neigong, what you're writing here is still extremely valuable. This post prompted me to start consulting the I Ching again, getting very useful feedback. This is something I used to do regularly over a decade ago, but I'd fallen out of the habit. Thanks for giving me the push to get started again.

Neo Tuxedo said...

James M. Jensen II skrev:

And on the other side of the flip, if I'm tempted to want to go "two out of three," well, that tells me an awful lot, too!

The Loomis household view is, if you discover that the result of a coin flip wasn't what you actually wanted to do, that's the Universe telling you something, or possibly you telling the Universe something.

John Michael Greer said...

Karim, there are easily a hundred different ways to do that. The original approach involves tapping a stick a random number of times onto smooth sand, counting the number of marks, and marking one dot if it's an odd number or two if it's even -- repeat fifteen more times and you've got your four mother figures. You can use dice -- in some parts of the Muslim world, where geomancy is still much practiced, you can get dice with a single dot on three sides and a double dot on the other three; four of those give you a geomantic figure. There are geomancy cards; there are "Druid wands" -- basically flat pieces of wood (popsicle sticks will do) with a single dot on one side and two dots on the other; toss four of them and you get a figure; there are computer programs; you can even get four coins of different denominations -- in the US, a quarter, a dime, a nickel, and a penny will do -- and four tosses with all four coins give you a figure. Take your pick!

Dwig, the short form is that nobody knows. Traditional occult philosophy holds that there have definitely been changes in the inner side of reality across the span of deep time, but when is the next round of changes expected to arrive? That's quite another matter, and subject to massive disagreement. My point of view, for whatever it's worth, is that the Age of Aquarius -- ruled by Saturn, lord of limits and harsh retributive judgment, let's remember -- began in 1879, and the modern magical tradition set in motion by Eliphas Levi, and brought into full force by the Golden Dawn and its heirs, is in fact the new magic we need for that age. Of course I could be completely wrong!

Paul, I've never found that to be necessary at all. Still, your mileage may vary.

James, that's the simplest binary divination there is, and yes, it's useful!

Ynnothir, in your place I'd work on rune divination first -- since you already know the symbolism and meaning of the runes inside and out, you'll be able to get proficient at divination much more quickly. I know of very few people who can use both runes and Ogham, btw -- nobody seems to know why, but it's common for people to be good at one or the other but not both. It'll be interesting to see if you turn out to be the exception that proves the rule!

Nightsoul, I had the same experience on encountering magic and Druidry. Welcome home!

Greybeard, there's nothing random in astrology, but you'll notice that every planetary configuration has a vast number of different potential interpretations. Which one is the right one for any given chart? That's where the Force comes in. As for the birth chart, a child doesn't have its own energy body until it leaves the mother's body, and it's when the newborn's energy body forms that it takes on the imprint of the heavens that -- along with heredity and environment -- will shape its personality and its life.

John Michael Greer said...

Brigyn, thank you! I don't happen to know whether Bookdepository takes the same kind of massive cut off authors' earnings that Amazon does; if they offer discounts off the cover price, it's a pretty fair bet that those come out of the author's pockets' though.

Andrew, that's very often the way it happens!

Barrabas, nope -- I'll consider checking it out, though.

Neo, one of the things I've learned about being on the spectrum is that no two of us have exactly the same set of deficits and counterpoised strengths. In my case, no, it's not a matter of perceiving what other people don't want me to perceive; I've had to learn, consciously, how to maneuver around all the little nonverbal games that make up so much of ordinary conversation,and my social skills are still by no means flawless. Still, your mileage may vary!

Bogatyr, your previous comment never got to me -- I assume Blogger must have been hungry, and eaten it. I don't mind rambling comments. As for sticking to neigong, I'd heartily agree with that: don't mix that and western magic. I've encountered too many examples of the combination going haywire. On the other hand, the I Ching ought to fit very well with anything Taoist!

Patricia Mathews said...

I guess Aquarius is ruled by Saturn in classical astrology. My astrologer, going along with the later attributions, said Aquarius is ruled by Uranus - to which revolution is attributed, especially ideological based revolution. That's scarier than Saturn. In the later astrology usually seen these days, Pisces is ruled b Neptune, whose attribute is illusion; and Scorpio is given to Pluto.

How they'll handle the demotion of Pluto to one dwarf planet among many in the Oort cloud is probably worth buying a ticket and a bag of popcorn for.

But one thing the modern astrology called on the nose is the "Pluto in Leo" cohort of my generation, a.k.a. "The Wannabe Boomers." The "Pluto in Cancer" ones were the "Wannabe Greatest." Both were disappointed, but I think the Plutos in Leo had more fun and even made a faint mark on the history of the Crazy Years. (Starting date in my estimation, 1968. Presidential years often do serve that purpose.)

faoladh said...

I've noticed that you tend not to discuss the other sort of divination: scrying, dream interpretation, etc. It seems to me that these constitute a different approach to the same end of getting the conscious mind out of the way, using various tricks and "mind hacks", as it were, to access subconscious information relatively directly. For example, the classic "dark mirror" scrying method group (such as the art of Almadel or the Greco-Egyptian method of staring at the scryer's own oiled thumbnail) relies on the "strange-face illusion" and similar properties of human perception, combined with hypnotic or other altered states of consciousness, to create a sort of waking dream state. There are similar methods known from all over the world, such as the Scottish and Irish Gaelic methods of poetic "incubation", various methods of spiritual flight or "astral travel" - certainly including, though hardly limited to, entheogenic (usually hallucinogenic or deliriant) drug use, and so on. From what I've seen of it, the "Coordinate Remote Viewing" techniques developed (and apparently abandoned) by the US military relied upon methods similar to a more regimented and formalized type of automatic writing. Various sorts of spirit communication might fall into the same general category, such as trance mediumship, spirit possession, and so on.

W. B. Jorgenson said...

JMG, 1. Okay, I won't worry too much about it then. I assume there's something, and it'll happen when it happens. Or a later ritual will be introduced in some way based of this one. In the cases where things from lesson 1 didn't make sense (Namely the tarot work), it did later, so I trust that'll happen here again.

There was a 2, but I figured it out myself. I forgot to fix the numbers of the ones after. The library was closing, so I didn't have time to look over it as much as I'd have liked.

3. Okay, as long as it's not unusual in some way I won't worry too much about it. Me making situations where I have to confront things I've been avoiding has been making my life quite interesting lately! I'm sure, say, a year from now I'll be much happier for it, but right now, it's quite challenging. This raises another question, but one I'll probably have to answer myself: why this time? Why not the other times I tried to work through magical practices?

4. I always noticed it, a little bit. I've also always known I could direct it a little bit (I have some great stories where I pull off some things that "shouldn't be possible", like the story of how I got my top hat [basically, some of my friends joked I'd get one on a trip to London. We got off the plane and the first thing we saw was a guy had set up a stand and was selling top hats]), but it's a little weird to start seeing it in action all over the place, and without trying to do it.

5. That makes a lot of sense. I'm not worried about it, since I've tried using Ogham cards for divination before, and I'm apparently ahead of most people: I got a fair bit out of it right from the beginning.

Bogatyr said...

JMG, perhaps you could shed light on something that's bothered me for a couple of decades regarding divination.

I've tried two methods in the past: Tarot, and the I Ching.

I used the Tarot cards while I was at university (using the LWB), and consistently got good results.

I started using the I Ching at around the same time, and also got consistent good results.

The difference is that the Tarot's answers delivered clear brutal truths, delivered in way that felt uncaring, even disdainful. The I Ching, though a bit more cryptic, seemed to come from a caring mentor, who wants to give good guidance, but didn't want it to be either too clear nor too difficult.

Unsurprisingly, I stopped using the Tarot. (If it's relevant, I was using the Tarot of Marseille).

Given that I was using both tools at around the same time, what explains the difference? Is it in the nature of the tools? Were the different tools responding to different parts of my psyche?

luna said...

Ah - this is the issue I had in mind when I asked about magical safety a while back. My experience is that yes it works, but I got horribly addicted in a way that was quite unhealthy. I couldn't resist asking questions where I strongly desired a particular outcome, especially matters of the heart. I would be terrified of seeing the reverse position or one of the "difficult" symbols (interestingly, I was fluent in both runes and ogham), and then feel devastated when one appeared. And then keep repeating the question to try and get a different answer - which I didn't get! And no, I wasn't doing any ritual or meditation to balance things out.

I've since gone cold turkey - I've found it better for me to let the future unfold as a mystery, as I don't seem strong enough to use these things wisely.

Karim Jaufeerally said...

Presumably, dowsing is also a form of divination? If so how would you rate it?

Barrabas said...

Yeah sorry if i sound like i am off the reservation but Malick attempts to demonstrate the wisdom of the tarot as it weaves throughout peoples lives in practice while retaining the sense of presence of spirit . I have never seen the Tarot so artfully embodied , the overall impression of this and his other film " Tree of Life" , is of an astral dreamscape . For me it is an attempt to represent the true essence and purpose of divination and magick , though i am not sure he pulls it off at times , it is nonetheless an admirable attempt ( no pun intended ).

Synthase said...

In what circumstances is this a more useful tool than either unmediated intuition or rational methods?

Maria Rigel said...

Funny, before I came to check this month's blog, I was thinking of maybe saying something about divination. I must have divined (by intuition) that divination was a relevant theme. I wasn't consciously aware that the foundations of magic are ritual, meditation and divination, though. I suppose there would be advantages to picking a good standard manual of magic and trying to go through it. The main problem with this idea is that it is most definitely my learning style. I'm more of the sort that likes to pick tidbits here and there, whatever I feel interested in at the time, and eventually, after I've picked enough bits, I get the whole picture.

I'd like to share this method of divination with Tarot cards that I've tried and has worked for me. The essence of it is that, instead of picking a spread and then laying the cards, you first lay the cards and then choose the spread.

How is this done? Simple. You need a full tarot deck for this. You lay then, face down, on a grid of four rows (for the four elements) and nine columns (for the nine digits). Well, that's what I do, you may find you prefer a different number of rows and/or columns. I also prefer laying the cards in the order of nine columns, rather than four rows, but that's just me.

Then, with the grid of cards in front of me, I ask: "What's the best spread for this occasion?" And then I turn face up only the cards relevant for that spread.

A few spreads that came to my mind:
1. The chess piece spread. I saw in my mind a chess piece on one of the corners of the grid. Then I asked: "Which corner is it?" I went through North-West, North-East, South-West or South-East until one felt right. Then I uncovered the corner and all the cards that the chess piece could go to. I've done it several times, and I find that powerful pieces, like the queen and the rook, give a spread with a lot of cards that can be pretty confusing. I much prefer bishops and knights. Pawns give you a two-card spread that is often too simple to be interesting. But I try not to cheat and think only of "nice" chess pieces!
2. The number spread. A single number came to my mind. Let's say it's 5. Then I turn up every fifth card. If it's a low number, like 1 or 2, I stop at the 10th card, otherwise I go on till the end of the grid. The good thing with this spread is that it will produce an interesting pattern, which itself can be a source of inspiration.
3. The one-card spread. I saw an intersection. With eyes closed, I ran a finger of my right hand along the direction of the rows, and stopped when I felt like it. The same thing with columns. That picks a row and a column. The card at the intersection is the one card to turn up.
4. Traditional spread. I know some traditional spreads, like the Celtic cross. I also like the spreads in the Quareia course. I'm fond of the tree of life spread, though to fit it in the grid I describe you have to look at it sideways. Sometimes a traditional spread is what came to me.
5. Pentacle spread. This is something I've done when the spread in the grid seems unclear, it's another way of looking at it again. I draw a pentacle in a piece of paper. If the spread is more than five cards, I draw a second one, and put it upside-down (inverse pentacle). If it's more than ten, I usually dismiss the extra cards, but you could go on with pentacles pointing East and West. Then, I put the cards of the spread, in the order I turned them up, on the points of the pentagrams. I like putting them in reading order (start at the top, then the left arm, then the right arm, etc), but you may prefer starting at the bottom and going clockwise, or some other order. Whatever comes naturally to you. Looking at the same cards in this new configuration can bring up new inspiration.

Well, that probably has been a serious overload of ideas to try, so I'll leave it there.

Urban Harvester said...

Thank you for the clarification of misogi and kegare, I did have my terms muddled! So it would follow that kegare and "stagnant nwyfre" are somewhat analogous then right? I am enjoying this series of posts and find the cross-system analysis and discourse very helpful. I have been casting the Ogham with a five token elemental system, drawing once for the aicme and once for the few- this is to reinforce my memory dwelling for the ogham which has a 5x5 structure, and to build a sensitivity for how the energies of the five elements manifest in combined energies throughout my days. The tokens are two-sided and on the second draw it will give an upright/reversed result (as I figure that the initial element/aicme is not ever reversed or upright as the few can be). It seems to have worked well in the last 18 months or so.

Mark Mikituk said...

Dear John,

As it happens, just last night I was reading about divination in a book whose author mentions you. One of the things Patrick Dunn writes about is omens, which got me thinking about significant omens which have occurred in my life, how they occurred, and what is the feeling that came with them. I believe divination through omens touches on quite a few aspects of your post. Here is how I see an omen; something unusual occurs in your environment, or you simply notice something that catches your interest in a strange way (this could be birds flying accross the sky, a cloud pattern, a plane's exhaust, a garbage bag blown by the wind, an apple dropping from a tree etc. etc.). This occurrence is accompanied by a presentiment; a feeling of forboding or its opposite. Somehow, someway, something or someone is trying to get something across to you, and now its up yo you to figure out what. I very much suspect that this occurs quite a deal more often than I, or many others are aware of, and it would be a good idea to be a bit more receptive to what the objects around us might be telling us!

Unknown said...

Great post. A couple of "synthesis" immediately jumped out as I read what you wrote:

1. Resistance when you start a practice such as divination, seems very much like the "thrust block" Dion Fortune mentions in Cosmic Doctrine. Or it physics, an opposite and equal reaction is necessary for equilibrium and motion to conserve energy.

2. Consistent daily practice versus "Watchers of the Gate". There's a similar saying in business "High achievers consistently do what normal people occasionally do".

3. The concept of "ruts" perhaps has roots in neuroplasticity and archetype conditioning. Many practices including divination and meditation seems to merely get us to "see" beyond what we "think we know".

Keep up this great series of posts JMG, I am a really learning a lot from them even as a non-mage.

Seb Ze Frog said...

Good Morning.

Bogatyr, I think that this little experience of mine might fit into what you are asking. I don't have a clear answer of what it means though... And I won't even start pouring ourselves a serving of ontology. I don't drink that early in the morning.

When I started with Tarot, my first pick was Crowley's deck. I found it by walking to a quite distant neighborhood during a professional travel to USA, and didn't actually put much thought into what deck I was getting. Yes, that's the amusing part of my story... For professional and social reasons, my fist dwellings with magic, and ergo acquiring my first tarot deck were very akin to walking into a porn shop to acquire a naughty book. Looking back, I find it utterly amusing... But I swear that at that time, I was probably red in the cheeks and walking with the kind of stiff nonchalence that you might be imagining right now. You are welcome to chuckle ;-)

Anyhow, I started using it following the Learning Ritual Magic procedure which includes meditating on the cards as well as using the deck for divination. After a few months, I started developing a feeling of weight and unpleasantness. As if my deck had a kind of towering, obnoxious attitude. I consider this "encounter" as being part of the very important first lessons I learned there.

I then parted with the deck (that I still keep safe somewhere, for I might have a little chat with him some time) and turned to the Riders-Waite deck. Since I was almost looking for it, I quickly found a similar emotional/relationship response, finding it gentle and more feminine.

I realize that this matches well the history of the two decks, but my learning of their creation came after the fact.

Also, I read (I think in Mary K Greer 21 ways of reading the tarot) that she/someone made a survey of the readings made using different decks. Crowley's deck seems to systematically yield more reading about difficulties and hard times, while Riders-Waite deck seems to be avoiding them and providing more gentle readings directed towards self-knowledge (you should read the chapter if you are interested, this is only my recollection of the reading).

I thought that this little story was fitting into the discussion...

Seb



















UtopiaBorderPatrol said...

Thank you for this post, JMG! I'm just starting out on my path, but I found even my early attempts at Tarot (a few dozen readings) frightfully coherent/consistent. Will def. keep it up.

I'm also getting more interested in Astrology and would like to ask you and experienced readers for recommendations for good astrology introduction books for operational mages. https://astrolibrary.org/ebooks/ contains several free ebooks, but I'm not yet qualified to say which ones can be recommended for contemporary newbies.

Tyler August said...

So, re: astrology...
(and please forgive me, because this comes from the absolute ignorance of an Astronomer,)
The stars qua stars don't really matter, do they? It's about the randomness your interpretation injects into decision making?
Is this is why (most) astrologers can get away with not seeming to notice that the Precession of the Equinox over the last 3000 years has changed when the Sun is in each house?
And how they can ignore major Kuiper Belt objects in Pluto's class, because it doesn't matter that they are, physically, as important as Pluto? (etc, etc, various Astronomy-based complaints about Newspaper-grade astrology -- or are the Newspaper astrologers just charlatans?)

If that's too many questions, just answer the first one. The others are corollaries.

ARTHVR said...

Hi John,

My main question re divinition is this: how do we ensure that, for serious want of a better expression, we act in a way that is 'adaptive' rather than 'maladaptive' to our divination results?

How do we avoid ending up like Nikias before the gates of Syracuse?

For a more mundane example, I wake up, throw a spread to forecast the proceedings of the day and the results are dire. If subsequent events do turn out to be a disaster, how do I know that is not this was not because I was affected by the results of the divination, turning them into a self-fulfilling prophecy?

In other words, how do we ensure that when applying the results of divination 'in real life' we do so properly?

Eric S. said...

Another element to divinatory practice (though it may count as a subset of number 3), is that regular divination, combined with daily ritual, meditation, and devotional prayer/offerings is a way to set up a constant dialogue with the powers that be (however one’s tradition might define them). In addition to my general morning reading and afternoon review, I often also do a much shorter reading related to my ritual work: the reactions of the spirits present to what I did, what they have to offer me, and what they want from me next time.

My grove also uses our seasonal divinations as a basis for planning most aspects of what we do between high rites, with the omens we take usually feeding into our decisions regarding prayers and ritual themes, and even sometimes suggesting workshops and projects or pointing out needs for major course-correcting in something we’d been doing. I know that aspect of Divination as a means of maintaining a line of communication with the Divine is much more relevant to traditions like ADF than to the more hermetic styles of magic being discussed here, but I still think it’s relevant, and is one of the more useful things I’ve picked up from that side of the Druid fence.

Another aspect of that that points out a big advantage of systemic divination over the use of things like channeling, scrying, prophecy, and so on (especially when doing readings for someone else, or conducting omens in a group setting), is that it provides an in-built form of damage control against intentional deception. I’ve known both Charasmatic Christian leaders, and Pagan leaders who have used various forms of channeled pronouncements from deity as a form of control, when in fact everything coming through was pure ego being presented as something from a higher source… which is exactly how religious communities can turn into Heaven’s Gate. With divination, there’s some room for discussion, since the original reading is still there, and other people who know that system can bring some of their own experience to the table, or be able to speak out if something really doesn’t make sense. Even with the wide wiggle room provided by intuition and interpretation, divination systems are still languages, and the sentences they form say things, which can be understood by others who speak that language, which means you’re not completely at the mercy of one person and the things going on in their head.

Nicolas Costa said...

Today during my morning discursive meditation (I'm still focusing on the avocado tree) Y suddenly started to see an image of a thin trunk growing upwards non-stop, and sprouting three leaves, shaped like the one in the Canadian flag, on each layer. Then I heard the phrase "nadie frena porque quiere" (nobody stops because they want). This has been the most fruitful meditation so far.

Curtis said...

Regarding divination with Druid wands: mine are homemade (wish I'd thought of popsicle sticks, would have made it much easier!), and since I'm not exactly a master craftsman, they are rather unevenly shaped. Personally I like the way they look, but it occurs to me that they're not exactly evenly-weighted, which means that, based on random chance, it is probably statistically more likely (to what degree I don't know) that they will land on one side rather than the other. Is this lack of "randomness" an issue? Or does the astral light work just as well through my rough-hewn wands as it would through wands made to factory precision? Thanks!

Steve Thomas said...

JMG--

If no one else is going to ask it, I will-- Why 1879? And do you have any idea about the start/end dates of previous ages?

This post helped me make a tiny bit more sense of some of my struggles with the DOGD practice. I noticed after I had been practicing magic for a month or two that its symbols had started to become the language in which I did my thinking about and relating to the world. Doing classic Golden Dawn work, that meant Qaballah, Tarot, Astrology, classical elements, angels and archangels. Later on I began learning qigong, and the language of Chinese philosophy also began to shape how I perceive the world, how I thought and how I interacted with others. But even though I've been doing near-daily work with the Celtic Golden Dawn for almost 3 years(!), the symbols specific to it haven't shaped my consciousness in the same way. This is despite finding the actual ritual practice very powerful and effective, for the most part.

I say "for the most part," and one aspect of the DOGD that I haven't been able to get that much out of is geomancy. And thinking about it, I realize that the geomantic figures haven't come alive for me, haven't shaped my way of thinking about the world, in the same way that the symbols of the other traditions I've worked in have. Neither have the Welsh divine powers (though it feels disrespectful to admit it). The elemental stuff, yes, but the elements aren't specific to Druidry.

I don't know if I've explained this well; I'm feeling kind of inarticulate. But it seems like the languages of both Hermeticism and qigong quickly took up residence in my mind, while the language of Druidry hasn't really. I'm not sure if this is important or not, though it feels like it is... Do you have any thoughts?

Francis Cooke said...

Hello JMG,
I was quite thrilled to see that you addressed divination. Your recent book on Geomancy was the first book on "magic" that absolutely compelled me to buy it. For some reason the system really resonates with me in ways astrology, tarot and the ogham do not (this said with a deep respect for all of them). Once I finish working my way through the meditations in Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth, my plan is to dive into the meditations of the figures of Geomancy to get at this more deeply. As you mentioned in this post, I was stunned in my first few readings that the charts triggered realizations about the question at hand that I had not considered. I am not sure that I would have had these realizations by writing about it or through discursive meditation. I am reminded of the way William S.Burroughs discussed his "cut-up" writings in that they reveal "what you know but don't know that you know".

Now for a couple of specific questions if I may. Firstly, you seem to be of the opinion that the method for generating the figures is not of much importance. I began by making dots on paper as is traditional. I then had the realization that I could use dice corresponding to the platonic solids that represent each element (being a former D&D player, they also are a bit closer to my personal trajectory). I found that the readings from the dice seemed to be a bit more accurate. Is this some placebo effect, simply getting better at interpretation or might the dice actually have something to do with it?

Secondly, Of the many different types of charts and questions that you discussed in your book, I don't recall using the following structure. "For a given issue "x" what aspect (figure) should I embody to bring things to balance?" Is this too direct, limited or else-wise off the mark?

Finally, having read your book and then Stephen Skinner's book (am I ever so glad I came across yours first . . . .) What would your recommend as a next step?

I greatly appreciate any insights you may have.

PS- If your Sacred Geometry Oracle ever pans out, I look forward learning more about that as well. Being an architect, geometry is my stock and trade. Being able to "read" geometry by other means would be deeply fascinating.

Thank you again for your voluminous efforts on all fronts, we are all blessed to live in a time with the likes of you.

Best,

f

Cherokee Organics said...

Hi JMG,

Far out, time is getting away from me... Sun Tzu employed a diviner as a random tool for his activities. I always thought that that was a great idea. He was a smart bloke.

Thanks too for sharing how you read people as I was wondering how you picked up on those cues because of your Asperger’s and was going to ask about it. I’ve spoken to people with Asperger’s and they struggle to read other people, I often see them as living in a fog – anyway that is what it looks like to me. As a contrast, I spent so many years learning how to read peoples emotional states that I can just tell now and I watch it flow and change in the people. I use it as a self-defence strategy and that has evolved and been honed over a very long period of time.

Long ago I once worked for a really nasty sociopath and he was an absolute nuisance. After that experience, I took up a new hobby to further develop my cold reading skills and it does sound a little bit weird but it involves guessing the actions and motivations of very unpleasant people based on snippets of information in the newspaper. I sort of use that information which is gleaned so as to understand the patterns that those sort of people employ so that if I see weird behaviour in the flesh I can sort of know when to run and what some of the likely outcomes for interactions with those people will be. And very occasionally I have used some of their techniques as a strategy when I've been in a sticky situation. Other people get a bit weirded out when I tell them what I see, so usually I keep my thoughts to myself.

As to divining, I do that all of the time as a method of being able to look outside the various options that are presented to me - and they are presented, I believe that is the correct term. The interesting thing is that the world opens up before you and there are a lot of opportunities where some people see none. They're trained to see none.

I haven't yet cracked the daily meditation though. I'll get there, but I'm not there yet... It is such a long long road...

Cheers

Chris

Kelvin said...

I think that any activity pursued on a regular basis is bound to meet with internal resistance that one can project as emanating from the external world, and often does emanate from the external world in the form of random interruptions or disturbances to one's routine. It could be the case that the resistance to one's new-found resolve is foregrounded by one's new endeavor, that in the act of taking up a new tack one becomes instantly aware of the gales opposing it. It's what William James found to be the case in the formation of habit, as expounded in his illuminating, even now, treatise on psychology. The initial stages of habit formation are fraught with difficulties that can only be overcome with perseverance, although a good teacher, such as yourself, can accelerate the leaping of hurdles.

But, John, although you didn't mention it, are you implying that the development of magical abilities is uniquely fraught with difficulty? If so, I would have to agree because of Western civilization's hard-won attachment to rational certainty. What need of magic when you have the magic of progress, technology, science and experiment? (I'm not really questioning the effectiveness of magic, just posing a query).

PhysicsDoc said...

An interesting post as always, here are some comments and questions for anyone.
Randomness is an interesting mathematical, physical, and philosophical topic. There are many mathematical tests for statistical randomness but they tend to be of the required but not sufficient nature. There is no definitive or absolute test for randomness and such a thing might not even be meaningful. In physics quantum systems are said to produce the purest random signals in that there is no known fingerprint (Johnson electrical noise for instance carries a classical thermal fingerprint).
Regarding the three magical practices, ritual, meditation, and divination, some paths seem to be lacking one or two of these, for instance:
Gnostic Christianity seems to have ritual and meditation but not divination (does anyone know of a gnostic divination practice?),
Nordic paganism seems to have divination (runes) but not meditation or ritual similar to Western traditions (e.g. Elemental cross, SOP etc.).
These questions likely just reflect my ignorance of these different belief systems. I welcome any thoughts and corrections.

Breanna said...

So, what do you do if you get a difficult reading for your day? I just tried the procedure described, asking "What should I know about today" and laid out a 3 card tarot spread for morning/midday/evening. It was: 3 Swords, 10 Cups, 5 Pentacles - so quite the emotional whiplash. What exactly should I do to make a reading like that work out well in my life?

Isaac Hill said...

I think my first comment got lost, but oh well. So I'm about 6 month through my practice now, working through Thorsson's 9 Doors of Midgard. I am almost done with door 2 and will start daily divination in 2 weeks when I've finished all of the runes (making one a week). I didn't comment last month because I was on tour when the last blog came out, but I am happy to say that I kept up my daily ritual and meditation while sleeping on floors and playing shows every night! This was just me and my sister and for only a week and a half though, gonna be going for 5 weeks with the whole band in the winter, so that will be the real test. Do you have any advice for people on the magical path who are travelling around and such?

Roberta said...

After reading your book, we are determined to create a lodge that shares in a kinder and more ethically consistent egregor than the one that my chapter was forcibly ejected from. Are you familiar with Peter Lamborn Wilson? While watching Lon Milo Duquette videos, I ran across some interesting talks by Wilson. This is all while doing research to learn more about lodges in general. What I'm finding so interesting is how the very mild level of occult allusion in the former group has, as its source, some shockingly radical history. The outward appearance of (seemingly) mundane conservatism combined with populist progressive ideals is not consistent with this story of magical and Masonic history.

It was amusing imagining the members of the Carbonari or Eulusinian celebrants flipping eggs and bussing tables at the Ordo Templi Orientis pancake breakfast. Did all the good/naughty bits get removed or otherwise sanitized? Were they ever really there to start with? Do those 7th degree initiates have a clue what this was really about?

More to the point - which is moving forward, not just looking back - it seems that we have our work cut out for us. Starting from scratch, without a lifetime of Masonic, Celtic, Kabbalist or other tradition, we will have to determine when we know enough to create something that will be meaningful, will work, can actually be taught. One obvious way to winnow down the choices (for me, at least) is to avoid any "cultural piracy" in the form of adopting anything from remote or indigenous cultures I have no knowledge of. The next step, it seems, will include your three steps, but even with restricting to western magical traditions, there are so many directions to chose from, it's like a never-ending smorgasbord and I have such a small plate.

avalterra said...

Speaking of the CGD is Geomancy the required form of divination, the preferred form or merely one of many one might choose?

AV

Diotima Mantineia said...

@Tyler August -- I'll leave the randomness questions to JMG, but as for the precession question, this should answer it for you. http://www.uraniaswell.com/the-astronomy-of-astrology/

You might also find this of interest: http://www.uraniaswell.com/you-dont-really-believe-in-astrology-do-you/

Dean Smith said...

@ Steve Thomas and JMG

I’ve had a similar experience with the imagery of the HGD versus CGD / Druidry. Although I have started to connect with the Druid symbolism, it certainly wasn’t there for a long while. Some personal thoughts...

I felt more of an immediate connection with the HGD / Christian symbolism also. I think it was because I was just so familiar with Christian imagery and had some familiarity with Egyptian stuff. However when I think about it, it was like hanging out with relatives that I don’t really like. Sure I know them pretty well, but I don’t really enjoy their company.

Druid symbolism and the Welsh Powers has been like meeting a whole new group of people. I like them and we’re getting to know each other, but we don’t have the connection yet that I had with ones I grew up with (Christianity/Egyptian). I didn’t know anything about Druidry getting into the DOGD, I just liked the nature spirituality approach to it.

I think if I was still at all interested in pursuing Christianity, I would probably go the HGD route. I have to admit there is a part of me that still sort of likes the idea of Christ and the whole mystery surrounding the resurrection, however the cross has started mysteriously growing branches and sprouting Oak leaves, turning into something else.

On another note, I feel like their might be some kind of connection with Christianity and Revival Druidry that I feel on some kind of intuitive level, but I have no idea what that might be, and I could be completely wrong. I know that early revival Druids were probably Christians on some level.

JMG is there a history of “crossing the streams” so to speak?

John Michael Greer said...

Patricia, I'm far from certain we know enough about Uranus and Neptune yet to really understand their proper rulerships. As for Pluto, I'll be talking about that in a future post -- it's happened once in the past, with Ceres, that something was discovered and identified as a planet, and then demoted, and the parallels are fascinating. More on this soon!

Faoladh, I don't discuss those here because they aren't part of the standard basic training program of the kind of magic I mostly practice and teach. Scrying comes in a bit later, and not really as a divinatory art.

WB, good question. Maybe because you've reached a point at which you're ready for things like that to happen.

Bogatyr, different oracles have their own personalities -- and that goes all the way down to individual decks. Different diviners get along more or less well with this or that oracle, just as different people get along more or less well with each other. If you and the Marseille deck don't get along, try a different deck or a completely different oracle -- as of course you've done.

Luna, and that's an issue as well. You have to have, or learn, the self-discipline to use these tools wisely -- but then that's true of everything, of course.

Karim, I know people who get really good results with it. I don't have much of a talent for it -- and it's also not much used in the kind of magical training I'm discussing here.

Barrabas, so noted!

Synthase, depends on the person and the circumstances. As a method of magical training, certainly, it's more useful than either.

Maria, interesting. I've met some other diviners who cast readings more or less like that, so you're not entirely alone.

Harvester, it would probably require a long discussion between a Druid and a kannushi (Shinto priest) to settle the exact relationship between kegare and stagnant nwyfre, but it would be an interesting discussion to have!

Mark, omen divination is another very ancient and effective tradition; in a way, oracles such as Tarot, runes, etc. can be seen as ways to get an omen even when the universe is being slow to provide one! Certainly, though, attention to omens is a valid path.

Unknown, three good points. Thank you.

John Michael Greer said...

Utopia, I'm partial to Llewellyn George -- his original A-Z Horoscope Maker and Delineator, any edition before Llewellyn Publications started editing it, is a very good textbook -- and Ivy Goldstein-Jacobson. Both authors' books can be found quite readily on the used book market.

Tyler, the stars do matter. It's just that the influence of a given planet in a given sign is a very broad thing that can take many forms in a person's life, and intuition is useful in narrowing that down -- though it's not the only way to do that by a long shot. As for precession of the equinoxes, er, did you know that most of the oldest surviving accounts of that phenomenon are in books written by astrologers? Please repeat the following mantra 25,920 times, or until it sinks in: The astrological signs are not the astronomical constellations. The sign Aries is a 30 degree wedge of the ecliptic beginning at the point the sun occupies at the moment of the spring equinox, not a constellation, and it has, has had, and will have the same influence on the planets that occupy it no matter what bunch of background stars precession drags through it. (I apologize for being crabby, but this is one of those canned chestnuts that people who don't know much about astrology keep on waving around as though (a) astrologers didn't know all about precession -- Age of Aquarius, anybody? -- and (b) it somehow disproves astrology to challenge a claim that astrologers don't make. More on this in an upcoming post.)

With regard to Kuiper belt objects, there again, you're showing your lack of knowledge; you really ought to learn something about astrology before you try to criticize it! There are already ephemerides for Eris available, and the other Kuiper belt objects will be added in as exact calculations of their orbits become accessible to the astrological community. Mind you, it's going to take several centuries to figure out what influence each of them has, since that's worked out by watching their influence in tens or hundreds of thousands of birth charts, ingresses, and the like. Astrology evolves by proposing, testing, and rejecting hypotheses, just like every other science!

Arthvr, you don't ask "what is going to happen to me today?" You ask something like "what do I most need to understand about the events I'll experience today?" Then, when you get unwelcome cards, you know that the cards are warning you about trouble in the offing, and you take steps to avoid the trouble. That's the thing about divination -- it's a guidance system, not a decree of fate. If the cards show trouble ahead, you can take evasive action; if they show an opportunity, you can change course to make the best use of it.

Eric, yes, and there are still more benefits beyond those! I was simply trying to sum things up as clearly as possible in a single post.

Nicolas, good. Keep going; there's much more ahead.

Curtis, do your readings seem accurate? If so, don't worry about it.

John Michael Greer said...

Steve, the 1879 date was worked out by Trithemius in the 16th century and was taken very seriously by late 19th and early 20th century occultists; certainly the changes in society, culture, and human affairs starting shortly after that time give it a fair bit of credibility to me. As for the relative impact of different magical systems, to some extent it's a simple matter of how many people have been doing them for how long. Christian Hermeticism goes way back and has had lots of practitioners; Taoism goes much further back and has had godzillions more. The modern Druid revival is both recent and relatively modest in terms of total numbers, so it takes more patience and effort to establish a relationship with its symbolism.

Francis, I have a set of four d6 in the four elemental colors that I use quite often for geomantic readings, and I know people who use D&D dice for the same purpose. There are literally hundreds of ways to generate the Four Mothers, and all of them seem to work pretty much equally well. I suppose you could do it by sampling cosmic rays, or something!

With regard to your proposed reading format, I know of only one way to find out whether it's a good idea or not: try it, and see what results you get. Finally, there really isn't much of a next step; geomancy was never developed anything like as thoroughly as, say, astrology or the I Ching. I suppose that in some sense the next step, once you become good and familiar with all the kinds of geomantic readings Skinner and I discuss, is to choose something that hasn't been tried yet and see what you can develop in that direction.

Finally, a new edition of the Sacred Geometry Oracle is in preparation, with cards that are attractive rather than, ahem, butt-ugly; I don't have a release date yet, as there have been a number of production delays, but I'll be sure to announce it here once I know when it'll be available.

Cherokee, yes, it's a bit like living in a fog -- there's all this communication going on that you can't hear, and everyone assumes you can, so solitude generally becomes a more comfortable option. With age, it becomes easier to fake it, but it's still less awkward for me to handle as much communication as possible by methods that don't rely on face-to-face cues.

Kelvin, I don't know that it's uniquely difficult, but magic poses difficulties most other studies don't, because it forces the student to question some of the basic presuppositions of our culture. The idea that the world is "out there" and our senses simply take it in passively is one of those; it can be a massive shock to someone to realize just how much active work the mind puts into constructing the world of lived experience, and how powerfully that construction job is shaped by unexamined assumptions and old emotional baggage.

PhysicsDoc, no, you're quite correct. The three elements are, as I've tried to point out, specific to the main currents of modern, post-Eliphas Levi ceremonial magic in the western world, and should not be treated as universals in any way.

John Michael Greer said...

Breanna, simple. You face the morning knowing that any unpleasantness you experience then won't last; you enjoy the events of midday; and as evening approaches, you adjust your plans to avoid doing anything that could cause you a financial loss, and more often than not, you'll dodge it.

Isaac, you do what you can. I have a set of really basic practices I do when on the road, since I can do them even when I'm in a sleeper compartment on a train or sleeping in somebody's spare bedroom; you may want to see if you can sort something out that you can do when you're traveling with the band. Iirc, Jimmy Page is supposed to have kept up magical practices while touring with Led Zeppelin, so it can certainly be done!

Roberta, you do indeed have you work cut out for you, but it can be done. See if you can find information on some of the other fraternal orders that have existed in the US and elsewhere -- there were something like 3500 different orders in 1900 -- to get some idea of the range of possibilities. While you're doing it, no matter how serious the work becomes, be sure that everyone has a chance to have fun; and don't knock the pancake breakfasts -- that's a good way to raise funds and get some public visibility!

Avalterra, in the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn, geomancy's one of the required studies. I'll be bringing Tarot into it as the necessary material gets worked out and tested, but geomancy will always be central.

Dean, ah, you've brushed up against the Green Christ. I don't know that much about him myself, but a lot of people in various corners of the Druid scene have been getting that sort of imagery and sensibility for a while now. I suspect that something is trying to come into manifestation...

Roberta said...

JMG, I just had to respond on the important issue of pancake breakfasts. We do a monthly breakfast which is awesome - it's a 50-mile meal for the most part - for $7 a plate! Definitely a good thing for the community, and has kept the hall afloat. It just struck my as so amusing listening to and reading about Knights Templar, Crowley and Christian anarchists. Here in rural No. Calif. we have had some serious debates over whether we can increase the percentage of whole wheat in the French toast bread.

I really appreciated Dean's comment and your response. I personally have the same not-so-great feeling about the traditions I have had the most contact with over the years. It seems like a good thing to start looking for specific ritual. If our interest is more towards nature spiritual paths, would the book Learning Ritual Magic be a good place to start?

Tyler August said...

@ JMG,

Thank you, and I apologize if I offended -- or would frustrated be more apt? In any case, I see I have struck a nerve, and am sorry for that; I was, of course, speaking out of ignorance, and not aiming for any such thing.

I realize now my questions look very much like the canned "gotchas" of Sagan, Tyson and other "skeptics", but my intent wasn't to criticize. Those sorts of things are always false and I wanted to know why. Thank you for enlightening me, in part. I shan't need to repeat your mantra 25,920 times ; it's a simple enough concept that I can only believe my fellow Astronomers are willfully ignorant, as perhaps I was.


@ Diotima Mantineia

Thank you for the links. They explain much.

Nicolas Costa said...

@JMG: It was definitely interesting getting that image and the phrase out of "nowhere". And nice to know that geomantic readings can be done with Dice. As an avid roleplayer I have a nice collection of dice at home. So I'm probably going to use them, would you be kind to provide the knowledge to use them as I'm just starting to read the second lesson before I move forward?

In a different but related topic, I always keep mixing you and the most famous Archdruid of a popular fantasy setting (the long beards help). So I hope you don't mind if I use the phrase Shan'do (revered teacher in the language of the Kaldorei) from time to time.

Patricia Mathews said...

@Roberta - who said "It was amusing imagining the members of the Carbonari or Eulusinian celebrants flipping eggs and bussing tables at the Ordo Templi Orientis pancake breakfast. Did all the good/naughty bits get removed or otherwise sanitized? Were they ever really there to start with? Do those 7th degree initiates have a clue what this was really about?"

I used to be a fan of Suzette Haden Elgin back when she was alive and writing. In one of her novels, she had a teenaged mystic (named I think ... memory is bad) Starlight McDaniels) and the Grannies were consulted about her. Their recommendation: set her to doing kitchen chores such as peeling potatoes. And in Dion Fortune's novel The Winged Bull, a sensitive and high-strung young woman in the clutches of the evil magician was set to scrubbing floors. Her guardian/older brother comments "That's the first sensible thing I've heard about the man. It's exactly what she needs."

And then there's the delightful parable about the novice monk who came up to the abbot and expressed his desire to be the best monk possible. The abbot said "Did you have breakfast yet?" The monk nodded and the abbot said "Then start by washing out your bowl."

The older I get, the more sense these prescriptions make to me, though if anyone had imposed them on me when I was the age of these heroines (and one hero), I'd have felt very badly imposed on!

Oh - @JMG - I now *have* the sniffles and they've proved to be nothing to sneeze at. Not around here this year. The farmers in the South Valley are burning off the chile fields, making matters worse. And I'm bypassing the meditations in favor of doggedly staying on a chores-and-routine track for the duration. And thanks for answering my question about that earlier.

Patricia Mathews said...

@JMG - THANK YOU! For the explanation on the astrological signs. I copied it into the notebook from the astrology class I took from my astrologer back in 1995 - the woman who is THE astrologer for our local pagan community - as an addendum to the introduction. By coincidence, there was just enough room on the page.

This notebook - which includes the results of my own reading on the larger cycles - has been by reference on both astrology and on my own chart for better than 20 years and your explanation is extremely welcome. And no, she did not go into that, or if she did, I don't remember it. OTH, she was teaching a 101-level class.

John Michael Greer said...

Roberta, if I'm ever in northern California I'll make a point of dropping in for the pancake breakfast! As far as nature-centered paths, no, Learning Ritual Magic is classic Judeo-Christian Golden Dawn. The books of mine you'll want to look at are Mystery Teachings from the Living Earth and The Druidry Handbook.

Tyler, sorry for growling -- it's just that, yes, those are two of the standard canned thoughtstoppers that pseudoskeptics always haul out when they want to bash astrology. I discussed a few years back some of the reasons why so many astronomers are not merely willfully ignorant about astrology but carry around a great deal of rage toward it -- which is unfortunate, and not just because observatories could probably pay for themselves by casting horoscopes! But you've definitely convinced me that I need to do a couple of posts on astrology in the near future.

Nicolas, casting a geomantic figure with dice is the easiest thing in the world. Take four dice, decide which one stands for which of the four lines, and roll them. An odd number equals a single point; an even number equals a double point. As for the popular fantasy setting, I'm further behind the times than I thought, as I've never encountered the Kaldorei or their language, but I'll certainly accept the compliment.

Patricia, sorry to hear about the sniffles! May recovery be prompt and complete. As for astrology, I know; it's really simple and straightforward and yet most astrology teachers never get around to discussing the theoretical basis of the tropical zodiac. I plan on writing some astrology books down the road, as my own skills ripen and my ideas get idiosyncratic enough to justify appearing in print, and I'll be starting with astronomical basics of the sort I mentioned to Tyler.

Nicolas Costa said...

@JMG: Thanks, the need to learn first from an expert, have a solid ground to stand on, before I explore on my own is a core aspect of my personality, and I get the best results that way.

Urban said...

Mr.Greer, could you please provide more details on your road practice? Vibrating words is really loud, how do you work around that?

Urban said...

And since we are already here, is it possible to use the dice instead of the Druid Wands in the Celtic Golden Dawn? What modifications would be needed for the consecration ritual?

faoladh said...

@Tyler: It's also worth mentioning that there are several methods of approaching astrology. There is, for example, "sidereal astrology", which does indeed take into account the fixed stars rather than the vernal equinox (that sort, more commonly used in the West, is called "tropical astrology"). It should be noted that sidereal astrology prefers traditional signs and so does not make use of the IAU constellations, though, so things like the pseudoskeptical arguments about Ophiuchus and such still don't hold water. Sidereal astrology is commonly used in Vedic astrology, and sometimes in Western astrology. (Here is probably also a good place to mention heliocentric astrology, which operates by placing the Sun at the center of the chart and mapping all of the planets including Earth around it. These are not the only variations, either. The point is that pseudoskeptical astronomers who know little or nothing about actual astrology are hardly qualified to critique it any more than, say, a molecular biologist is qualified to critique religion.)

Nano said...

@Isaac - when the need to be silent is a must, try tightening your anus as you exhale during your rituals.

Greg Belvedere said...

This series has made me consider expanding my magical practice. But I'm kind of conflicted. I currently have small children which makes it very difficult to find time first thing in the morning. They need attention from the moment I wake and up and I don't know how my body would deal with getting up earlier than I already do. I could easily find time in the evening when they go to bed, but that dynamic might not work.

I also practice Baguazhang everyday and that might conflict with the tradition I had in mind (Tarot, Christian Prayer/discursive meditation). Though I do the occasional Tarot readings and that has not caused any problems. I have cast the I Ching in the past, but I find it less accessible than the Tarot whose symbolism I'm well versed in and I have more experience using for divination. It might make sense to stick to Bagua for the time being, but I think I could benefit from discursive meditation and divination if I could find a way to integrate them into my life sensibly.

John Roth said...

@faoladh, Tyler

I know a lot of Sidereal astrologers are going to disagree with this, but sidereal zodiacs are simply Tropical zodiacs that got fixed at the time they were in use, and weren't allowed to precess. Most sidereal astrologers swear by one or another of them, and claim that their results demonstrate the efficacy of their choice above others. The tropical zodiac at least has the advantage of being anchored to a well-defined astronomical point.

Ron M said...

Hi, JMG. I’m loving this current series of posts! You’re on a roll!

This month’s comments re: each oracle having its own personality and the relative impacts of magical systems based on their age/population of practitioners have been most instructive. These help to explain the different experiences I have had with geomancy vs. ogham.

For me, geomancy was “love at first sight”. I very quickly absorbed and put into practice most of what you taught in The Art and Practice of Geomancy, with impressive results! Interestingly enough, while I found its links to astrology appealing (already having a fairly good grounding in astrology), it was geomancy’s focus on the “elemental” nature of the figures that really thrilled me.

I therefore figured that studying another element-based oracle, namely ogham, would be a similar experience. Surprise! – it hasn’t. After a year of studying ogham divination, 10 months of daily readings, and a couple rounds of meditations on each few, I still find it a tough slog because the ogham fews seem to “mumble” to me while the geomantic figures “sing” loud and clear! Not to say that practicing ogham as a form of divination has not had its rewards and insights.

I’m not sure if the fact that I have never stopped practicing geomancy (because I love it and quite a few people regularly ask me to cast charts for them) and vedic astrology (because I am literally surrounded by vedic astrologers and like it despite [or is it because of?] its maddening complexity) has been an obstacle to me tuning into ogham-based divination. But I do feel that at some point I will likely stop using ogham as a divinatory tool and return to geomancy as my main form of divination – even though I am practicing Druid ritual magic.

Ron M

Maxine Rogers said...

Dear John Michael Greer,
I have been pursuing a divination practice sort of by accident. I had a shallow bowl filled with pieces of sea glass and water on the banister of my deck. The water made the glass prettier and the birds drank from the bowl.

A witch friend came over and was admiring the Angelica, vervain and other magical plants in my garden and then she said, "And there is your scry bowl!"

I thought I would try it. I pray to Apollo (I know how weird it is for a trainee Druid to pray to Roman State Gods but they are the ones I love.) and ask for him to give me a subject for meditation. I close my eyes and turn the glass pieces 3 times clockwise and look at the shape. Usually, I just get one word such as: harp, exultation, angel and blossoming all came up.

Is this a system of divination you would recommend for me? I can easily change the question I ask. What do you think?
Yours under the red cedars,
Max Rogers

Brother Guthlac said...

Divination as method of "learning to perceive the astral light directly" makes much more sense, is more useful, and certainly more interesting, than the popular notion of "fortune telling".

Eric S. said...

I ran across this series that's getting kicked off on daily practice within an ADF context (it looks to be the first part of what will eventually be a four part series like this one). I thought people here might find it interesting, since there is heavy overlap with what we've been discussing here. The essential elements of daily practice listed here are Devotional offerings, energy work, mental discipline (meditation), and divination, so it's pretty much the same as the ritual, meditation, divination triad we've been discussing here only with.

One thing that does bring to mind though for my grove-mates next time the topic of daily practice comes up, ADF uses the ritual purification model of ritually washing hands and working spaces with saltwater or using a cleansing smoke, which does appear to fill the same role as the banishing rituals in the hermetic traditions. You compared hermetic style banishings with ritual purification in Shinto and other temple traditions in part 1 of this series. How would you compare and contrast the two techniques? (I ask this on behalf of grove mates who, due to the efforts of me and the senior Druid of my ADF grove are finally starting to take the importance of daily practice seriously).

http://rev-davin-mac-lugh.tumblr.com/post/152298633425/daily-practicepart-1

Myriam said...

I am not finding the Ogham alphabet intuitive at all (neither the fews themselves, the categories, the trees and plants, or what have you). I am struggling to connect with it in the way that I could with the Tarot and the I Ching, and to intuit their meaning.

Having said that, I intend to continue to struggle with them for precisely the same reason that I cannot connect with them: they are foreign to the way my mind works. This goes beyond "accepting a different way of thinking about a problem" (JMG) and is more like learning a new language or growing a new mind to be able to handle the messages from the astral light in this symbolic language.

The reason that I want to do this, is that my mind is a product of my culture, and its ways of thinking of hierarchies of authority, the masculine and feminine, roles in life, and so on, is deeply embedded in my mind, and is mirrored in the Tarot. It's intuitive and easy, but very limiting. If I want to move beyond this to a completely new way of facing the challenges of my life, with hopefully better choices, then another "language" may just take me out of the rut enough to do that.

My mind is all I have to work with, however, and I am tempted to reword the meanings in ways that make sense to me. I note the irony of getting Uilleand reversed fairly frequently: "the information you need is not available to you."

It got that right.

Agent Provocateur said...

JMG,

I'd like to suggest to your readers that they also keep track of how many of their divinations prove to be correct. The idea would be to gain an appropriate level of confidence in their divinations and to see what works. I'd also like to share some of my results and conclusions along these lines as well as my reaction to these as such may prove helpful to others. With your indulgence I'd like to split this into two linked comments. Normally I try to respect the character limit, but this issue is hard to compress due to the math.

First a few words on “keeping score”. The biggest issue here is confirmation bias. This can be mitigated by only scoring divinations that have an unambiguous objective criteria against which one can determine that yes, the divination was correct (score 1) or no, it was not correct (score 0). So over time one obtains a long string of 1s and 0s. The overall length of the string is n. The overall number of 1s (correct divinations) is x.

Clearly there are many questions which cannot be scored. Nonetheless, if one is trying to determine how effective one's divinations are, only objective criteria will help insure you are not fooling yourself. This is not to deny the value of divinations with open questions such as “What is most important for me to know about today?” Its just that these cannot generally be objectively scored. So don't. Do these divination too, just don't score them.

Though before even starting to keep score, it really keeps the math simple if the divination system is balanced. That is to say that statistically (assuming the null hypotheses is correct i.e. divination doesn't work) there is a 50/50 chance the oracle will give the answer “Yes, x will happen by time y” as that it will give the answer “No, x will not happen by time y”. If you are using such a divination system, great. If not, its still possible to do an analysis but it is far too complicated to explain fully here.

Part 2 to follow

Agent Provocateur said...

Part 2 of 2

Given a balanced system, you can easily determine the statistical likelihood by first determining the standard deviation s. It is equal to the square root of n then divided that by 2 e.g. If n = 100 then s = SQRT(100)/2 = 5. Now you will want to determine how many standard deviations your cumulative score is from the mean (i.e. n/2). If your number of correct divinations is 65 out of 100 (n=100, x=65), you are 3 standard deviations (z) from the mean (i.e. z = (x – n/2)/s ... 3 = (65-50)/5). A given z corresponds to a given probability. You convert z into a probability (p) by looking it up in a table for normal distribution. In the case of 3 standard deviations from the mean (i.e. z = 3), you have a p = 99.87% meaning that there is a 99.89% chance of having an x =< 65. Thus p = 99.89% means there is less than a 0.11% chance (i.e. 100 – 99.89%) of x >65. In practice z = 3 is considered effectively 100%. Basically a z >= 3 means there is really no practical chance that the null hypothesis is correct. A typical threshold is p = 95% giving z = 1.65. This means there is a 5% chance the null hypothesis is correct. The higher the sample number (i.e. n) the better your confidence level. An n >= 100 is plenty.

So I did all this. I kept a running total of n and x and calculated z and p. The results were disturbing. They were too good once I got into a sample size that meant anything (e.g. n>= 50). So I went through all my divinations again and marked as 0 any divination for which the results were slightly ambiguous to see if the results still held. I figured if the phenomena was real, it could take the non-confirmation bias. Basically, “when in doubt, score 0”.

The results were still disturbing. As of this date they are n = 145 , x = 118 (x/n = 81.4%), z = 7.56 . Most statistical tables don't give a probability for a z values beyond 5. Basically I'm off the scale. So I calculated the odds. The odds that the null hypothesis is correct are 1 in over 100 trillion. Admittedly I didn't go to the trouble to learn a divination system and then score my results if a part of me didn't wanted the results to be good. But its one thing to approach this in a spirit of open inquiry. Its quite another to get results that frack your worldview.

Still a word of caution is appropriate. The system may work for me but this does not mean there are reptilian space aliens among the British royal family. Maybe there are but my results do not support this. That at least one divination system works does completely undermine a materialistic worldview though.

Beyond proof (if you are willing to accept the facts you created), are the practical applications. The raw score (i.e. x/n) will give one the ratio of correct divinations. This is the confidence you can place in you divination results. Looking at how this changes can also be instructive. Are you getting better? Did you change anything (coins vs yarrow stalks; counting beans vs throwing dice)? Did this affect the result? In my case, one can note that though the statistical analysis may prove the phenomena to me, the confidence I should place in my divinations is a modest 4 out of 5. For big issues in my life this is good but not great. I still have a 1 in 5 chance of being wrong. Its worth stating that the errors can be as much my interpretation as oh, I don't know ... a disturbance in the ether. Still wrong is wrong whatever the reason.

I expect there may be some resistance to this sort of approach from the more traditionally minded. My view is that if a phenomena is real, there is no insult to the universe to approach it in a spirit of honest inquiry and put it to the test. So, once you have a reasonable handle on the divination system you are using, score your results and see what happens. And be honest with yourself. The results will only be proof to you.

Patricia Mathews said...

Oh, dear. NOT a good idea, I think.

http://qz.com/822080/feminist-witches-are-casting-hexes-on-donald-trump/

Though if you read the story, they aren't hexing him, they're casting spells of peace, love, and feminism .... even so. Though it's likely the energy raised will vanish into the huge amount of magical noise out there around this election.

Maria Rigel said...

Did anyone here watch "Dr Strange", the latest Marvel movie about a superhero than can do magic? What are your thoughts? And yes, I know it's a Hollywood movie with all the standard issues of the Hollywood movie version of anything, but if you can imagine what it would be like in real life, does it match to some extent your personal experience of magic? I'm asking because for me it does, except that my interest in magic started for different reasons (no terrible untreatable medical condition, thank the Universe for that).

If you haven't seen the movie, the trailers give you the flavor of it pretty well.

. said...

It just occurred to me that the idea of the energy body not being separate from the mother’s one until after birth is something that obviously can never come up in current mainstream debates about abortion. Ireland has a never-ending abortion debate and it gets really bitter (partly thanks to American Christian fundamentalists sticking their noses and money in). In the whole question of when life begins, a society that has no concept of life other than either the mind or the physical body is at a big disadvantage isn’t it. I wonder what the debate would look like if people were talking about life as a question of levels of being.

I’ve been praying for a while now but no god/s are talking to me yet. Is there any way to ask them to kind of hurry it up?! Oh and lately I’ve been getting a strange, hot, pressure feeling in my forehead, my pineal gland, I think it’s called, when I pray and am watching the white misty shapes doing their thing. It’s like something is being done with it. Is that maybe going to be a way for me to see an answer once whoever is finished doing whatever they’re doing with it? Or am I likely to be imagining that do you think?

How do you go about prioritizing one thing over another when you really don’t know what your purpose here is? I have a million and one projects and ideas on the go, and they’re all important to me, but there just aren’t enough hours in the day. But I also have a habit of making myself overwhelmed and I don’t quite understand why I do that.

It would make most sense to prioritize magic in my free time because that would help me with all my other plans, and keep them all in perspective in a way too. I am scared but I know that keeping going is the only answer to that. Ok, I think I just answered my own question, rambling over!

Neo, as an allistic, if you want to call me that, I see things about people that I don’t want to see all the time (in their faces) and sometimes I see things they wouldn’t want to see about themselves too. But I don’t ever go telling them about it (well except my little girl, but she’s small and I’m her mum so that’s different – but even then you have to have boundaries and sometimes pretend you don't see things).

If you’re getting a bad reaction, maybe it’s because you have been telling people what you see? I can’t quite explain to you why that’s a bad idea but I know for a fact that it is.

The way I look at it is that the things I see in other peoples’ faces are for me to deal with, they’re my business, not theirs, and what I see isn’t an unfiltered truth either – hangry, tired me will read things into someone’s expression that happy, well rested me wouldn’t – so it would be arrogant to treat what I see as absolute Truth and share it with them as such. And they didn’t voluntarily show me what I see, they have no control over what shows on their faces, any more than a burp escaping at dinner, so it’s just a bit rude to let them know that you've see it. It’s like invading their privacy. My only job is to deal with my own reactions to what I see and respond appropriately and that’s enough work for a lifetime I find!

Mallow

faoladh said...

@John Roth: And, of course, the sidereal astrologers would counter that it's the tropical zodiac that has become fixed at a certain point and prevented from accounting for precession. It's an ongoing debate and one that is unlikely to be resolved definitively, since each is based on different fundamental assumptions of whether the fixed point of the zodiac should be based on the Solar cycle or on the fixed stars. Then there is Arabian astrology, which gives far more weight to the Lunar cycle (as do Vedic, Egyptian, and Babylonian astrological methods). Heck, from my current, limited understanding the Chinese base the fixed point on some sort of reconciliation of the Lunar and Jovian cycles, so it can get even stranger out there.

PhysicsDoc said...

@ Agent
Since you are taking a scientific approach to your divination, I am curious if you have done a control study where you use your divination method without asking any questions. If you just run the divination method "uncharged" do you get the null result? This would test if you are working with a "fair coin", balanced die etc. The other question is whether the questions you are asking have an equal likelihood of happening or not. These two factors could conspire to give results that appear to violate the simple coin tossing binomial distribution assumption. It should also be noted that it is much harder than expected to truly randomize a system, like shuffling a deck of cards.
On a more occult vein there seems to be a pattern in the universe that favors initial scientific verification. Repeated attempts are often less successful. It is kind of a luck of first experimentation. If I remember correctly Yung referred to this as the work of the trickster, in regard to his attempts to validate astrology.

Nicolas Costa said...

@Everybody: No spoilers for Doctor Strange please, the movie is not going to be played in my country until the end of November. And he's my favorite Marvel hero.

@Agent Provocateur: well, the only thing I can say is: dang. You certainly left me speechless. I only know the very basics of statistics, but dang.

Synthase said...

Agent Provocateur: I'd like to commend you on taking a statistical approach but please check your working and try again. Your definition of stdev is incorrect.

hints:
p = proportion of successes in any one trial, 0 < p < 1 eg for 50%: 0.5
q = 1 - p = proportion of failures
n = sample size

Binomial model:
mean of number of successes = n * p
stdev of number of successes = sqrt(n * p * q)
X = number of successes in n trials
Probability that number of successes in n trials is exactly x: P(X = x) = n C x * p^x * q^(n-x), where n C x = n! / x! * (n - x)!

Normal model of p', the sample proportion of successes, if n * p > 10 and n * q > 10:
mean of the normal = p
stdev of p': sqrt((p * q) / n)
z values = (p' - p) / stdev of p'

(or, yaknow, do it in a computer package such as excel, calc, or R)

Mind you, since we're talking magic here, you could philosophically bite the bullet and say even if the null hypothesis is true and any benefit you get out of divination is 100% coincidental, you can chalk it up to synchronicity that is undetectable to science and that applying statistics to it is missing the point. I've definitely gone mad. I'm sure of it now.

Varun Bhaskar said...

Archdruid,

Okay, these three articles have put so much into perspective and I've managed to reorganize my ritual-meditation-divination so it's more effective. I've been using your Druidry Handbook for the past year and a half, and the whole process seemed clunky.

I would like to second the idea of druidry as a feeling of coming home. The cross between hinduism and druidry just seems to click. Curiously, as I started practicing I began learning the names of gods and goddesses that are rarely invoked anymore, including one of the deep forests and the beasts that dwell within. Her name is Aranyani.

I look forward to seeing where this goes once I become more dedicated in practice.

Regards,

Varun

PhysicsDoc said...

@Synthase
I don't think you are saying anything different mathematically and have probably made it a bit more confusing to most. Agent made it clear, I think, that he (or she) was referring to a balanced system which is more like a coin toss where the probabilities are equal. I pointed out that that assumption may need to be tested. If it is like a coin toss then a significant departure from a 50% success rate for a large sample (e.g. N=100) would indeed be very unlikely.
Oddly as a scientist I have no interest in trying to scientifically test divination or similar methods. I tend to think that their significance and usefulness probably lies outside of the realm of quantitative deductive science. To me that is what makes these topics interesting (i.e. science is not all there is).

Patricia Mathews said...

Serious question for this night -

- there is a lot of loose talk around my circles of contacting and talking to one's ancestors. Mine on one side of the family were Appalachian-variety Presbyterians, and while there's a lot of ghost-lore in that culture, I'm not sure Presbyterians are usually supposed to hang around, barring unforeseen circumstances. And I sincerely doubt they'd be anything but offended by either neopagan or Mexican Catholic rituals, altars, etc. On the other side, we have Yankees, Episcopalian for I'm-not-sure-how-long (Dad converted while I was in my teens, in fact), and I know zilch abut how they'd take to any Samhain or Dia de los Muertos rituals either. In either case, even Holy Communion is simply a remembrance in both faiths.

So, while I'll give them the nod and remember them in meditation after the local little kids have collected their last candy bit, I feel a little like a central rite of my existing faith would *not* be pleasing to those who have gone before.

Any comments?

Agent Provocateur said...

Synthase et al,

Good lord man (or woman as the case may be)! Lets not confuse people with the facts ;) I was aiming my comment at an audience with an assumed degree of mathematical literacy much lower than your comment implied.

Your definition of p and q made me go back to the books with the cold sweat of embarrassment beading on my brow. Well only one (wonderfully obscure) book: Richard Burington of the Department of the Navy in his 1969 “Handbook of Mathematical Tables and Formulas” page 357. Your definitions of p and q are close. I think you meant to use the word “probability” not “proportion” in both cases. The probability of a correct answer for a given trial (divination) is defined as p, assuming the null hypothesis is correct. Similarity, the probability of an incorrect answer for a given trial (divination) is defined as q (so q = 1 – p), again assuming the null hypothesis is correct.

Regarding my definition of stdev: My starting point was that the divination system was “balanced” meaning that I used the special case of p (as defined above) = q = 1/2. For that specific case sqrt (npq) does in fact equal sqrt(n)/2. Similarly the mean also becomes n/2 and so z = (x – n/2)/stdev. All are special cases of a balanced system. For any reader who has doubts that things get more complicated without a balanced system, they can re-read your comment! ;) Still, for those with the math savy, it may be worth a try. The real problem with such systems is that they are often a moving target i.e. the values of p and q change (as defined above) on each trial (i.e. divination).

And yes, excel, open office spreadsheet, etc. all have binomial functions that do the math effortlessly. Indeed that is what I actually did myself. I suggested the manual method (get a z value and look up the probability on a math table) because those with minimal math skills can do this, while actually knowing what they are doing, and still get an adequate answer. Plus this approach is right up our resident green wizard's alley. No computer needed, just an old fashioned statistical chart on paper. I thought he might like it.

Some points of refinements for the manual approach. Typically what one looks up is a probability of getting a specific z value or less. Typically what you really want is the probability of getting a given number of correct divinations or greater. In that case, determine a z value for n and x – 1 and look up the probability from the table. 1 less this probability is the probability of getting x correct divinations or greater out of n divination. It should be less than 5% to be considered statistically significant. This is the so called “p value” often given in statistical reports. If the p value is not <=5%, do more divinations until it is or accept failure (say after n > 100).

Agent Provocateur said...

Synthase et al (part 2)

Your last paragraph was very interesting. Not least being the issue of your sanity ;). But you seemed coherent enough! No its about synchronicity. I did some tallies to check for bias in my data. Basically, if I was tossing dice, I added up all the heads I got out of 145 throws (divinations). I got a number of “heads” (71) that suggested absolutely no statistical anomaly (49% vice mean of 50%). The “law of large numbers” had not been violated in any way.

The anomaly is not in this side of the raw data. Recall that for any divination asking if an event will occur or not occur, there are 4 possibilities as follows: You get an answer that says Yes, the event will occur, and this does occur (1,1). You get an answer that says the event will occur, and this turns out to be incorrect (1,0). You get an answer that says the event will not occur and this turns out to be correct (0,0). You get an answer that says not an event will not occur and it turns out to be incorrect (0,1). You score 1 (a “hit”) for (1,1) and (0,0) and 0 (a “miss”) for (1,0) and (0,1). The initial raw data is just the first number in each pair. One would expect the law of large numbers for a truly random input (by definition) to apply and it did in my case.

The anomaly is not in the other side of the raw data either (the second number in each pair). One doesn't normally ask a question in divination for which the answer is certain to either occur (p = 100%) or not occur (p = 0%). The probability of the event occurring is more likely to be closer to 50% than these two extremes. In my divinations 63 events out of 145 queried actually occurred (43%). No statistical anomaly here either.

The statistical anomaly is the high rate of “matching” of events predicted to occur with those events actually occurring (1,1) and the “matching” of events predicted not to occur with those events actually not occurring (0,0). This really is synchronicity, or “meaningful coincidence”, in its truest sense.

Agent Provocateur said...

PhysicsDoc,

I read you question after replying to Synthase but I think I have indirectly answered your questions in part 2 of my reply to him. I'll run through it just in case I missed something:

Q1: I am curious if you have done a control study where you use your divination method without asking any questions. If you just run the divination method "uncharged" do you get the null result? This would test if you are working with a "fair coin", balanced die etc.

A1: I used a modified form of geomancy that used dice to generate the figures. I relied on the “Judge” generated by 4 throws of 4 coloured dice to determine if the oracle predicted whether the outcome was favourable or not. Their are 8 judges figures possible in geomancy split evenly between 4 favourable and 4 unfavourable. The raw data from this was 73 fortunate Judges out of 150 divinations (5 have not occurred yet hence the different number than in previous comments). Thus the dice on their own gave me 49% favourable Judges. This strongly suggests a “fair coin”.

Q2: The other question is whether the questions you are asking have an equal likelihood of happening or not.

A2: This is an very important question. Thank you for asking it because I slipped around the real reason why a divination system must be balanced to be tested rigorously. Given your blogger name I figure you can handle the math. A hit, i.e. (1,1) or (0,0) (see my last comment to Synthase), is a factor of two things. The oracle's answer (the first item in the pair) and whether the event occurred (the second item in the pair). The probability of a hit (assuming the null hypothesis) is as follows:

p(hit) = p(1,1) + p(0,0)

If we define po(1) = p(oracle saying the event will occur)
and pe(1) = p(event occurring)
Similarly for po(0) and pe(0)
Then, since the probability of two things happening is the product of their individual probabilities,

p(hit) = po(1)*pe(1) + po(0)*pe(0)

By substitution, since po(0) = 1-po(1) etc.

p(hit) = po(1)*pe(1) + [1-po(1)]*[1-pe(1)]

Simplify

p(hit) = 1 + 2po(1)*pe(1) – po(1) - pe(1)

The problem here is that one of these two variables in all but unkowable with any degree of precision. If one really knew that pe(1) was, one wouldn't be consulting an oracle. One would already have the answer one sought. Fortunately there is a tidy backdoor. If (and only if) po(1) = 1/2 (in other words the divination system is balanced), the equation above reduces nicely as the following:

p(hit) = 1 + 2(1/2)*pe(1) – 1/2 – pe(1)

p(hit) = 1/2

Thus having a balanced divination system eliminates the problem of knowing the likelihood of the event in question occurring so as to determine the likelihood of a hit i.e. (1,1) or (0,0). Basically, in a balanced divination system, your question is irrelevant because pe(1) has no influence on p(hit) (under the null hypothesis). In any other system its a big hole in determining what p(hit) is. If, for instance the divination system is skewed to give positive answers (e.g. using modes of perfection in geomancy rather than emphasizing the Judge) and one asks about events that are likely to occur, then one will get highly positive results that say nothing of the efficacy of the divination system.

Q3: Concerning initially positive results that disappear.

A3: Damn “reversion to the mean”! Yes. All statistical proofs are provisional. All that I can say to my self, or any one else, is that the running z values have largely trended upwards from the start. Of course every error brings it down an notch. The highest value was 7.8 at n = 123. At n = 145 (completed divinations) z = 7.6. What can I say. I will continue and do my best not to tick off the divination pixies.

Scotlyn said...

@Nicolas, if I may, I wonder if there is an important distinction between "frenar" (to brake) and "parar" (to stop)... because between braking (application of the intention to stop) and actually stopping, there may be a large gap filled with momentum already set in play. Saludos.

Nicolas Costa said...

@Scotlyn: in informal Rioplatense Spanish (the dialect of the Buenos Aires region) they are interchangeable and both meanings apply. The meaning I got at that moment during the meditation was about people don't change their course (completely stopping, diverting, changing directions, etc.) without good reason.

Allan Elder said...

I could be off base here, but concerning the analysis of divination: Statistics looks at the past. Probability attempts to predict the future. Statistics begins with data and creates a model. Probability begins with a model and generates data. If the input data is wrong, statistics won't generate valid answers. If the model is wrong, probability won't generate valid data. If I have a model of a Lego race car, the model predicts the pieces required to succeed. If all I have is a box of Lego, the data (pieces) predict the types of things I can/will create.

Divination devices do not have data. They are fixed models. Therefore, they should predict the data (but only to the extent the model permits). So, divination devices cannot be used statistically (if they are, the statistics are run on the cards, fews, or figures themselves, not reality). I can figure out the odds of getting a heads or tails, but not that heads is a good decision to follow. That is, probability predicts the coin, not the decisions based on the coin.

Statistically analyzing the geomancy figures or tarot cards only analyzes the data of the cards, not reality. YOU have to input the data of reality based on the cards. That's what interpretation is all about (I think).

In terms of probability analysis, the method of divination is the model and supposedly creates data. That data still must be interpreted. Still, we can't do a probability analysis using divination because we don't know all of the possible outcomes (usually). We can know the probability of getting Pobl as a Judge or getting the Ace of Wands in a reading, but not the probability of that being the outcome of an event outside the reading.

If your divination said you will succeed in a negotiation and therefore you didn't prepare, then the divination will most likely be proven "wrong." This is because before divining the outcome, you may have intended on fully preparing yourself. After predicting your success (based on one set of parameters) you changed the outcome by measuring it and behaved differently, thereby altering the parameters of the divination.

If you win anyway just because that's how it was going to happen, no matter what, then divination is a waste of time as the outcome is always fixed. The only difference is you know about it in advance. In contrast, if the future is not fixed, divination cannot give a certain prediction. For all you know, your opponent is doing a divination at the same time you are and is preparing based on his or her outcome. If you both do this, you might change the outcome divined.

Seeing the bigger picture, perhaps your divination says the negotiation will be a big success. You then fail in the negotiation and "lose" completely. However, six months later, your loss turns out to be a big gain because winning would have put you in a bad position at this later time. The inverse holds as well. The divination was "right" but perceived as "wrong" based on your limited view of the situation. If you are resilient and turn your loss into a gain, you can then say the divination was right even when it was wrong.

Bayesian statistics might be of interest to diviners.

I spent a lot of time logically analyzing divination and JMG jumped in my chili for doing so. I don't think you will get far with your statistical/probability analysis.

Allan

Sister Crow said...

@ Patricia Matthews: well, the obvious response is that recent Christian ancestors of blood are not the only ancestors we have. There are the Ancient Dead, those who lived long before Christianization, the Mighty Dead, which I've seen variously defined as the ancestors of our Pagan traditions or as culture heroes...I've even seen a ritual that honors our prehistoric ancestors, all the life forms that eventually gave rise to modern humans. Consider them if you're too uncomfortable dealing with the Protestants in the graveyard!

I've found out a couple of things by dealing with my own Lutheran and Methodist dead. One is that they like being remembered and spoken to, and their things (jewelry, photos, china, etc.) handled. The other is that they seem happier with small daily rituals, like receiving a cup of coffee or tea, than with a big formal rite. Except for those who died in the last year and who get specifically mentioned, my named dead tend to fade back at Samhain to make room for the Ancient Dead. I'm sure other people have very different experiences of their own dead, so as with most things, YMMV.

tolkienguy said...

First, thanks to JMG for doing this series of posts! I found them really helpful.

Right now, I've just been working with the stuff in Gareth Knight's Experience of the Inner Worlds. So far I'm only up to the first two exercises, the Sphere of Light and the Spear (nice tongue twister!), and feel like its good to go slow, especially considering what JMG and Knight (in chapter 3) mention about dangers. I haven't noticed anything overtly "magical" yet, though both exercises are good at concentrating the mind, and bringing a feeling of, well, peace (sounds lame, I know, but that's the best I can come up with). Honestly, the feeling reminds me of the one really "supernatural" experience I ever had-when I was an aimless graduate student depressed about a whole bunch of things that seem quite trivial now. I let the depression spiral to the point where I began to contemplate suicide, then formed a plan to do so and almost went through with it, but got scared at the last minute, fell into my chair, and prayed to God for the first time in a very long time. Immediately, felt a feeling I cannot, even now describe-a sort of massive, profound happiness, like I was in wordless contact with a being that loved me and was somehow pouring that love into me. It lasted for about five minutes, after which I felt a feeling of profound contentment and peace. What I've felt during Knight's two exercises (esp. the Spear) reminds me of this experience, though not nearly as strong. (Also, when I first started doing the Spear exercise, I felt a strange tingling in my spine for a few days, before it mostly went away.)

In addition to Knight, I've read several other books on Esoteric stuff, including large parts of Manly Hall's The Secret Teachings of All Ages, Richard Smoley's books Hidden Wisdom and Inner Christianity, and lately I've been going through Chic and Sandra Cicero's The Essential Golden Dawn, which has been...rather interesting. A couple questions:

1. The Ciceros give some basic Golden Dawn Rituals (Lesser Banishing/Invoking Ritual of the Pentagram and the Middle Pillar Exercise), and I kind of want to try them...should I, or should I finish Knight's stuff first?

2. Is there anybody here who's into Martinism, and could you point me towards a good introductory book on it? (Amazon has been less than helpful, and I find what I've read about it on the internet and in Smoley's book interesting)

3. For someone who, a year ago, would have thought of Harry Potter when the word "divination" came up, what's the easiest practice to get into, and is there some kind of introductory book that would maybe give you basics on several practices? (Enough to try them out)

4. Does anybody know of a Golden Dawn temple or other occult group in Richmond or DC? (I actually live in the vicinity of Lynchburg, VA, aka Falwell-land, so I can't really imagine this place having anything of the sort)

5. I've seen the Ciceros and JMG talk about "vibrating" words-how exactly do you do this? Is it hard to learn? (I have a bit of a speech impediment-I had to go to speech therapy in elementary school to learn to stop pronouncing "L" as "Y", and never could properly roll an R in Spanish, despite every teacher telling me it was the easiest thing in the world.) Also, is it loud? I can sometimes hear my downstairs roomate's TV from my living room, so she can probably hear me-letting people you don't know very well around here that you practice magic is a Bad Idea.

faoladh said...

@Patricia Mathews: People are different, and the Dead are not unusual in this respect. The best thing to do would be to ask them, and either listen for the answer in your heart (as they say) or perform a divination for more objective-ish certainty. The latter is probably preferred, simply because one can easily be blinded by wishful thinking. One can still be so encumbered when interpreting divination, but at least it provides an external reference point to minimize that.

Agent Provocateur said...

Allan Elder,

Since I think you were addressing my comments, please let me respond.

Concerning: “Still, we can't do a probability analysis using divination because we don't know all of the possible outcomes (usually). We can know the probability of getting Pobl as a Judge or getting the Ace of Wands in a reading, but not the probability of that being the outcome of an event outside the reading.”

We agree on “... we don't know all of the possible outcomes (usually)”. The probability of an outcome cannot normally be known with precision. The only way to get around this is for the divination system to be balanced as I detailed in my response to PhysicsDoc above. So we almost agree that “ ... we can't do a probability analysis”. I understand that this is generally true except in the special case where the divination system is balanced.

Your following comments touch on:

1) self fulfilling or self defeating divinations;
2) the values of divination if the future is fixed;
3) the value of divination if the future is not fixed;
4) (implicitly) Is the future fixed or not?;
5) the value of divination (and implicitly magic generally) given the uncertainty of ultimate outcomes;
6) Bayesian statistics might be of interest to diviners; and
7) chili and JMG

Our host could do a full post on each of these items. No doubt his responses would be more thoughtful than mine, but here goes anyways:

1) Yup. These exist. Avoid them. Still, there are plenty questions for which one could divine that are not self fulfilling or defeating.
2) Well, knowing ahead of time can be useful sometimes. The weather is a good example. You might profitably carry an umbrella or profitably not bother. Still useful either way. Granted there are a great number of things I don't want to know ahead of time. I don't ask about those.
3) & 4). Many events have a preceding chains of cause and effect that have such momentum that their future is reasonably fixed, at least in the short term. The definition of “short term” is determined by the scale in space and time. The weather for the next 3 days, global warms for at least the next 30 years, continental drift for the next few millennium, the course of the planets till our sun starts to die etc. Other events are perhaps inherently random and so any correct divination on these would be pure luck. The trick is to get the scale right. Some have said “Divine short, enchant long” for greatest success. Nonetheless, I am certain that success in predicting future events is never assured of complete success. Myself, I never got much better than an 80% success rate. Still, right 80% of the time can still be useful. I place some faith in their ability to predict the future but certainly not complete faith. They are plenty of other judiciously weighted factors one would use in any decision about the future.
5) Clearly magic is not the only (or even best) way to achieve one's goals. Yet we all strive to obtain our goals even when we do not know the ultimate outcome if we were successful. Indeed, the best consolation for failure is the knowledge that we ultimately have no way of knowing if obtaining our goal really would have been the best thing for us. So I could divine for the weather or check the forecast. I pick the means best suited for the objective. Still I will never know whether being prepared for the downpour that happened was best. Perhaps I could have shared an umbrella with someone who would change may life incalculably for the better.
6) I don't know enough about Bayesian statistics to comment.
7) Thank you for the warning. I staying away from chili just in case.

PhysicsDoc said...

@Agent,
Thank you for your thoughtful and carefully derived answers to my questions. I cannot see any flaws in your math but I could have missed something. One trick in math and physics is to consider limiting cases. imagine that the outcome was always yes to the question (event always occurs). The probability of a correct answer for a balanced oracle or divination system would still be 50%, as your math shows in a more general sense, assuming only random effects.

An interesting thing to try other than deriving the math is to carry out simulations which can be done in Excel. This can also give a feel for the likelihood of certain outcomes even though pseudo randomness is used.

Regarding the odd luck of first experimentation, I was thinking of something that goes beyond mere reversion to the mean since that would only explain initial deviations less that and greater that the mean not primarily positive results. Recently it has come to light that an embarrassing number of scientific results that passed initial statistical tests with a high degree of confidence, have failed to be repeatable. This was after fraud and statistical errors were ruled out.

PhysicsDoc said...

@ Allen Elder
JMG has pointed out that magic and divination are ways of changing or influencing coincidences. My interpretation of this is that it implies that one is changing the probabilities or odds that coincidences or certain coincidences will occur. Alternatively one can say that the frequency of coincidences can be made to change or increase. In any case this seems to be something that could be measured and even quantified if it were repeatable. I think the repeatability element might be the sticking point.
I think we would agree that the usefulness of these techniques is not limited by the degree to which they can be analyzed mathematically.

Alex Blaidd said...

Interesting, thank you. It's the divination aspect that I am most drawn to, so it's the one I need the least willpower to practice! All makes sense in this post, I hadn't thought of specifically asking myself a simple question each morning and then interpreting the results at the end of the day, so will start to do that soon. Quick question - I'm guessing you don't always use such a wide open question? Sometimes you'd ask a slightly less open open question? For example, could I one morning ask, "what will the cows teach me today?" or if you had a particular event - you could ask a question based on that?

Secondly, going back to last month's topic. Can I practice discursive meditation as a walking meditation as a way to keep my restless body from driving me insane whilst meditating? Long term I realise I need to work on the restless body but it's hard combatting both a restless body and a restless mind at the same time! I don't see why I couldn't, but then you say above about not altering the process when you're still a novice - but I hoped this may not be too much of an alteration.

Allan Elder said...

PhysicsDoc, you hit my point. It seems to me that statistically analyzing the cards or figures of a divination analyzes the wrong end of the stick. The cards are a fixed model and thus should not be statistically analyzed. The geomancy figures offer 16^4 possibilities, so it's possible to over 65,000 readings before they repeat. It's possible they won't repeat in a single lifetime. But even a few measurements will demonstrate the model is "within control limits" statistically. As an example, I find that Judges tend to repeat about 3x in a 23 day period with a fairly even distribution. There are 7 possible Judges (I think) so you do the math. But, the shield tells a story and there are only a few stories that tend to repeat in human lives, so maybe it works. My thinking can be way off, but that's where it is for now.

Agent Provocateur said...

PhysicsDoc et al.,

Concerning: “ Regarding the odd luck of first experimentation, ... Recently it has come to light that an embarrassing number of scientific results that passed initial statistical tests with a high degree of confidence, have failed to be repeatable. This was after fraud and statistical errors were ruled out.”

My mistake. I thought you were referring to the situation of an experimenter's results eventually reverting to the mean after an initially very positive statistical anomaly. If there is no correlation, the z values should eventually trend to zero in this case. Nonetheless, in the non-mean time, one has publishable results and that's what counts! If a p value of = 5% is the threshold, then in every 100 statistical studies where the null hypothesis is correct, one would then expect 5 to have a type 1 error i.e. the null hypothesis is incorrectly rejected. Those who did studies with failed results don't publish. The first with “good” results publishes first. Only 1 in 20 subsequent studies confirm the first published “good” results. Often no subsequent studies are done (who gets a Nobel prize for coming second?). If they are, not confirming the initial study, they are not submitted for publication. Publishing bias.

These two situations are not necessarily unrelated since one could consider subsequent experiments as a continuation of the initial experiment or study. Do enough studies and you get reversion to the mean if the null hypothesis is correct.

Then again, perhaps the initial experimenter was doing magic without knowing it. Yes, I'm serious (unless I'm wrong). Lets suppose the initial experimenter had a great deal invested in the results. Subsequent experimenters generally don't. Her desire skewed the results?

The recent discovery of a high number of non-reproducible experiments does not suggest pure statistical randomness coupled with publishing bias as their cause. The reason: Are there really 20 to 100 separate groups doing virtually the same experiment in the same field and none of them discussing their work until one trips upon “good” results and rushes to publish? And this is happening in all fields of the so called soft sciences including medicine? I think not. What are conferences for?

There is some evidence to suggest the expectations and desires of the experimenters can influence statistically based experiments in ways other than the obvious ones of fraud, poor method, etc. Naturally such evidence is “debunked” by the usual suspects. Good debunking could be magic too.

A third option is that the universe is just perverse. There really is no reason for it to always be consistent; being mostly consistent is probably good enough for a workable universe. On a large scale we have to expect this consistency most of the time because otherwise we would not be here to observe it. On a small scale this need not (and demonstrably isn't) the case. In other words: the Trickster as you stated.

If magic is involved, I'm inclined to think the first situation (the initial experimenter is doing magic unknowingly) is more generally the case because I suspect subsequent experimenters are generally approaching their subject of inquiry impartially except in deliberate cases of debunking. Also I don't think the universe is perverse. If it is, it seems to be selectively perverse. We don't see the same crisis in physics, chemistry, and engineering. These rely on statistical studies as well. Why would the social sciences, medicine, and parapsychology be the exceptions? Because they involve individual minds (as opposed to the cosmic one(s))? Minds susceptible to magic? Just a guess.

Agent Provocateur said...

Allan Elder,

It might help if I clarified what I did. I used geomancy ... but in a very stripped down form. I relied on the Judge (there are 8 such figures) to give a favourable or unfavourable reading overall. These figures are evenly split between default favourable or unfavourable meanings. Four Judges are favourable and each has its opposite unfavourable Judge. In some cases, depending on the nature of the question, the default meaning does not apply and so a Judge and its opposite Judge reverse their status as indicating favourable or unfavourable outcomes. Even still, the oracle remains balanced.

There are indeed a great number of possible configurations for a complete geomantic chart (2^16 = 65,536 different charts). But I did not use the entire chart for the very reason you gave. I would have to go through these 65,536 different charts and sort out favourable from unfavourable. And even worse, the sort would be different for every question and no sort would necessarily be balanced.

Using geomancy in the way I did was a bit like delivering a pizza in a limo. I could have just flipped a coin except reversal of default meaning of the Judges allowed an element of interpretation (established before the divination by the type of question being asked) not possible with a straight coin toss.

I expect that other divination system do much the same, or can be used in much the same way: one figure gives the overall answer if “favourable/unfavourable” is essentially the question to be answered and the rest of the spread or chart just provides colour commentary.

temporaryreality (Wendy) said...

Sorry, this is off (this post's) topic. I nonetheless thought you might be interested to know that the kind of attitude toward/acceptance of thought policing evident among the Wildermuth faction of Neopagans has a corollary among north American herbalists. Being a total novice with herbs I am mostly just picking up what I can from books, am not involved in any group nor do I really know any herbalists personally, but I do subscribe to email updates from a few, including Kiva Rose/Jesse Wolf Hardin. This showed up in my inbox the other day, one herb teacher's reaction to increased factionalism and divisive politics. I guess it's nothing new where humans are concerned... but the topic reminded me of April's "A Wind that Tastes of Ashes" post and affirmed (for me) the perks of accepting dissensus:

http://bearmedicineherbals.com/binary-disease-herbalist-rancor-election-madness-kindness-protocol.html

Alex Blaidd said...

JMG, hurry up with those books on astrology ;) There seems to be a dearth of books aimed at the absolute beginner. Found myself one I like but no idea where to go to next. Any recommendations would be greatly appreciated.

John Roth said...

@Allan Elder

The point of statistical tests is to disconfirm the null hypothesis, which is that the results are completely random and have no relationship to future events.

It's a difficult thing to do, since you'd need a neutral judge to determine whether the prediction matched the outcome. This is very hard to come by.

Eric S. said...

Re: all the statistics stuff: One of the things I think is being missed here is the exact purpose of divination. When I look through a Tarot deck, a Rune set, an Ogham set, or even a list of Zodiac signs or Geomantic figures, what I see are symbolic archetypes... things that don't exactly have concrete interpretations to them, and instead offer broad themes and narrative images that can't necessarily be contained within the parameters of objectivity. Divination isn't designed to dictate the future, but rather to guide a lucid live and deepen intuition and self awareness. In a comment above, I saw JMG point out that it's a guidance system, not a preview... It's really hard for me to figure out how say... The Moon card in Tarot... can be worked into an objective framework. It also seems to me that, in magic, confirmation bias is one of those things like Apophenia, or the Placebo Effect, that is a major problem in objective sciences, but is something mages work to hone and direct.

Scotlyn said...

@Nicolas, well and good. :)
My own Spanish is "Tico" (costaricense)... the language of the place of my childhood.
The terms are also interchangeable there.

Still, it seems to me that once we set in motion the *intention* to stop (ie - once we hit the brakes, however much we never wanted to - an important insight!) there remain many other things that are still in motion and need to be dealt with before a complete stop may be achieved.

Thank you for sharing your insight. And of course, the words are only the container in which a brimfull measure of meaning is served directly to the heart.

Maria Rigel said...

@Agent @Phys Doc and others

I see that people are getting all probabilistic on divination! As somebody that (1) Can follow your mathematical points without much trouble, (2) Has practiced divination with a degree of success I found satisfactory and (3) Considers herself a beginner magician, I'd like to say that, in my humble opinion, you are barking up the wrong tree.

Of course, if you are trying to do any sort of forecast of anything, it's good to know your statistics and check that your forecasting method works. In my experience, divination is NOT forecasting. Here is how I would describe the difference: forecasting is trying to predict stuff that is measurable. Divination is mostly about trying to predict things that can't easily be measured. If something can be measured, there are plenty of mathematical models and methods that you can apply to attempt a forecast. Divination methods are most useful in the sort of situations where forecasting is more or less impossible. Yes, the typical questions like: "Is *that special person* going to be *there*?"

That makes it intrinsically difficult to establish one's rate of success, except by gut feeling. You can try, of course, but if you start going down that route, it is going to lead towards trying to divine things that are easier to measure, which is using divination for purposes that aren't the best target for it. That can be pretty irritating, from a scientific point of view, but from the practical point of view, it doesn't need to be an issue. Basically, if you think that divination works for you, or at least it makes you feel better, do it. It certainly is unlikely to do much harm. But in my experience, trying to go statistical about it doesn't improve it and can lead you away from its best applications.

The above goes for divination by intuition, which in my experience works. Divination by magic is, as JMG points out, something else. What you get with divination by intuition is a gut feeling. What you get with divination by magic is usually much more precise. My experience of divination by magic has been limited (I'm a beginner) and it hasn't been so much about predicting the future, but about being pointed to study specific authors, for example, in order to improve my knowledge on magical subjects. And I'm talking about names I had never heard before and I had to search on the Internet to find out who this person was.

John Michael Greer said...

Okay, now I've cleared away enough of the wreckage elsewhere to get back to the pleasant quiet around the Well of Galabes! Thank you all for keeping it friendly and thoughtful.

Nicolas, fair enough -- if that's how you learn best, it's good to know that.

Urban, once you've learned to vibrate, you can learn what one of my teachers called the Great Voice: speaking a word of power silently and still generating the vibration. To do that, you need to work on the tactile equivalent of visualization -- would "tactilization" be a helpful term? Just as you imagine seeing something when you visualize, imagine feeling the vibratory sensation when you speak the word silently. It takes some practice but, once you've learned to do it, you can do a ritual with good effect even when you can't make a sound.

You can also do rituals on the inner. Imagine yourself standing in a magical temple, and then go through the entire ritual process in your imagination, seeing, hearing, feeling and otherwise sensing everything that would be involved if you were doing the ritual in a physical temple. That's really good as an exercise, and it also allows you to do a complete Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram and Middle Pillar exercise, say, while sitting quietly on a seat on the train with your eyes closed and nobody else the wiser.

As for dice vs. Druid wands, if you're going to follow a system of magical training, follow it exactly as given right down to the fine details. That's important to get everything out of the course of training that you can, and it's also training for the magical will -- everybody loves to tinker; forcing yourself to do it exactly as written requires the development of willpower, which you'll need as you pursue work in magic.

Greg, hmm. I don't know that discursive meditation and Tarot would be problematic if you're doing baguazhange, but then I didn't know that neigong and ceremonial magic would interact destructively, either! I'd encourage you to be careful.

Ron, that sort of thing happens all the time. I can't get anything out of the runes, though I know people who get excellent results with them; Ogham came very naturally to me, though I know people who can't get anything from them at all. As for geomancy, though, it fits very well with Druid magic -- it's the core divinatory system we use in the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn -- and its basis in elemental patterns make it a natural for any Druidical path.

Maxine, if it works for you, and you're not pursuing some specific system of training that explicitly requires some other form of divination, then go ye forth and do that thing. It's your bowl, and you'll scry if you want to... ;-)

Brother G., why, yes, it is indeed.

Eric, ADF ritual is religious in nature -- you're making offerings to the Kindreds, basically -- and so it has very different requirements in terms of purification from, say, ceremonial magic. Salt water and smoke are standard for many religious traditions -- your basic Christian ritual formula uses holy water and incense in exactly this way, and to good effect -- so I see no reason why you should need more in an ADF daily ritual. If you're working ceremonial magic, on the other hand, more is necessary, because the work you're doing is much more sensitive to disruption.

Myriam, good. That's a very productive attitude. In the long run, you may decide to focus on some other mode of divination for regular work, but the abilities and perspectives you'll get by wrestling with a mode that doesn't come naturally to you will remain with you, and so will the strengthened will you'll get by pushing ahead with it despite the difficulty. That way lies many good things.

John Michael Greer said...

Agent, I'm going to suggest that they do no such thing. It's important to remember that it takes one set of skills to perform a complex activity, and a completely different set of skills to study that activity from the outside, and trying to do the latter while learning the former generally bollixes the whole thing up good and proper. To divine effectively requires trust in the oracle you're using and a state of mind in which, for the duration, you're not worried about "getting it right," just in reading the patterns and following the story they tell. To study divination requires a different set of skills entirely. What's more, since beginners normally make a lot of mistakes in interpretation, piling on the statistics is a very good way to convince yourself that you're no good at divination -- which then becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You've pointed out, as I recall, that to make this sort of analysis work, you have to use a drastically simplified method of divination. That's a very good idea if you want to study how divination works from the outside, and not a good idea at all if your goal is to become a good diviner! The complete geomantic reading, with fifteen figures each of which has its own place and indications, is an extraordinarily rich pattern of meaning, from which any halfway decent diviner who finds geomancy easy to get along with can extract an immense amount of useful information. The simplified form is useful for the kind of research you've done, but it's not useful for the diviner in training; thus I'd encourage students of divination to read what you've said, take that as evidence that this stuff really does work, and keep going with a more traditional approach.

Patricia, if they really are casting spells of peace, love, and feminism, they should be fine. If they get into conflict, hatred, and androphobia, well, we've already discussed what the likely results of that sort of thing will be...

Maria, I go out of my way to avoid movie magic these days, because it has less in common with real magic than cheap porn has to do with real relationships!

.Mallow, one thing everyone agrees on about the gods is that they take their own sweet time, and they don't respond to demands or to pressure. If you aren't experiencing anything as a result of prayer, you might want to reflect on what your expectations are, and if necessary, give it a rest for a while.

Varun, I'm delighted to hear it! One of the advantages of a really rich polytheism such as Hinduism is that you've got deities related to pretty much anything imaginable, and appropriate methods for invoking them; if those mesh will with the Druidry you practice, all the better.

Patricia, good question. I don't work with ancestral spirits, for a variety of reasons, so I'll leave that to those who do.

Allan (if I may), the reason I asked you not to drag the statistical stuff into your divination practice was the point I tried to make to Agent Provocateur above -- you can learn to practice divination, or you can study it from outside, but it doesn't work well to do both. Furthermore, as I noted to Urban above, if you're going to do a specific system of magical training, it's crucial to do that system as given, by the book, and not stick all kinds of unrelated stuff in there. Thus I don't mind if Agent, Synthase, et al. want to study divination -- but if they were my students, I'd tell 'em to knock it off and get back to work casting and interpreting charts, since in that case it would be my responsibility as their teacher to steer them away from something that could mess up an important part of the work.

John Michael Greer said...

Tolkienguy, you're welcome. Glad to hear you're working with the Knight book! If you find it suitable, you might like his books on the Tarot, and in that case Tarot divination is probably your best best. I highly recommend sticking with one program of study until you finish it, so by all means plan on working your way all the way through Experience of the Inner Worlds before you go looking for something else.

Alex, I find it useful to use the same broad question every day, but then you don't have to limit yourself to only one divination per 24 hours! The daily divination is a minimum; you can cast half a dozen others on different, more specific questions, if you have a mind to. As for walking during discursive meditation, yes, that used to be fairly common; give it a try and see if it helps.

Temporary Wendy, oog. That's really unwelcome news. I wonder if it might be time to try some organized pushback across the spectrum of the alternative web: a generally accepted code of civility, the sort of thing that I use on my blogs to screen out trolls and flamebaiters, with bloggers, forum moderators, and social media users agreeing to enforce that code and ban or unfriend anybody who repeatedly violates it.

Alex, this month's post is going to cover the basics of astrology. Stay tuned!

Eric, excellent. Yes, exactly.

Agent Provocateur said...

JMG,

I agree with you on all points.

My suggestion was not aimed at a beginner and, as you indicated, does little for training one. Nothing is gained by sitting the exam before learning the material.

Further, as myself, you, and others have written, what can truly be examined/tested/scored is but a very small fraction of what can be learned and explored in divination.


KKalbert said...

Hi all: I have an experience to relate on the subject of astrology and statistics.

Around the turn of the millennium, I became extremely interested in mundane astrology, the branch devoted to the prediction of events in the world. After the Indonesian tsunami, I set out to learn the astrology of geological catastrophe. I gathered data about all the big earthquakes, oil spills, etc., that I could find online, ran it through astrology software to generate charts, and plotted aspects, signs, etc onto a huge spreadsheet.

After countless hours of work and analysis I came up with Zilch.

Some of the charts were visibly “ugly,” quite appropriate for a catastrophe, but I was not able to come up with any useful rules for recognizing “an earthquake chart.”

Mind you, I do not take this as a reason to discount astrology. I have been using it too long, it has yielded too many insights for me to dismiss it. And it certainly does not always tell me what I want to hear. Astrology, and other forms of divination, too, have sometimes told me appalling things that I nevertheless needed to know. And some extremely improbable good predictions, that I figured were just “noise,” or the oracle playing mind games with me, have actually come to pass.

After I gave up on the astrology of catastrophe, I did a big analysis of the astrology of my immediate family, a normal middle class respectable god-fearing Christian folk. It was literally shattering, and turned out to be an irrefutable demonstration of the illusory nature of linear causality, and a highly charged meditation on Fate and the operation of suffering in human life.

Geoffrey Cornelius wrote a book, The Moment of Astrology, grappling with the problem that astrology looks like science but isn’t. Astrological data would seem to be ordinary data gleaned from nature, but attempts to subject such data to scientific analysis that would generate the kind of predictions astrologers make from it, have been disappointing.

Cornelius, and my own experiences, changed my whole conception of just what astrology is. It is not a science, but a form of divination. It would seem to work via communication between the mind of the astrologer and some other CONSCIOUSNESS.

I have a feeling that something is going on like what happens with sub-atomic particles, which have been observed to act differently when scientists are watching than when they are not.

I did find that learning “comparative astrology,” is a bad idea if you want to actually use astrology. In comparing Vedic, Western, Tibetan, Chinese astrologies, I imagined I would find common threads in them all that would be enlightening. But it just left me confused.

The different astrologies have different interpretations for the same planets, angles, etc.; and these systems all “work” for their practitioners, but they can’t all work for the same astrologer on the same question. Effective reading in any system of divination would seem to depend on a well-defined system of symbols, and a firm (not necessarily old, inherited or traditional) set of associations to those symbols.



Synthase said...

JMG: I agree with PhysicsDoc that it's missing the point to try and quantify it. I'm happy to leave that to the parapsychologists.

Myriam said...

After thinking about this some more, I realized that one of JMG's posts (sorry, I couldn't find it) talked about our ability to sense the astral light (or not) using the analogy of having one of our senses suppressed in childhood and later rediscovered. One has to experience the sensory perception to realize we have that sense. Learning the fews' meanings is somewhat like teaching a child who has never heard either the sound “A”, or the sound “apple”, by pointing to an apple to teach her the sound “A”.

Part of my frustration is that I'm thinking the fews must be sensed using the lost sense mentioned in JMG's post. It has nothing to do with sounds or letters (or trees, or animals, etc). But unlike teaching a child to read using sounds and words he or she has heard countless times, teaching someone to sense the astral light (intuition) involves discovering the sense itself, before learning the “language” of that sense (divination).

Trying to teach someone the meaning of the fews by pointing to many objects that begin with that letter (in an unfamiliar language no less), as if the sound itself was part of the meaning, isn't intuitive at all. Continuing with the apple example, the few Quert is about delight, celebration and choice, represented by the apple, but also by the letter Q, mouse-brown, hen, dog, stick, flute-playing, and to give one of the word Oghams: “shelter of a hind, that is, shelter of lunatics.” Not intuitive at all.

Meditating on the fews can bring up images, but trying to match one with events in our lives as we learn the fews, is like trying to match a specific sound out of the cacophony of sounds we hear all day when we are not sure what the sound is to begin with.

Myriam said...

Continued...
Yesterday I had an idea (this is an experiment): I have asked the universe to show me/teach me the meaning of the fews directly. I'm not asking which fews apply to me in the next 24 hours and trying to match them to events in my day. I'm asking the universe to teach me directly the meaning through experiencing them, like a sensory perception, sending me events that would illustrate that particular few's meaning. A bit risky because some of them may not be very pleasant to learn, but I'll take the chance. And I am choosing them at random in case the universe has lessons lined up already for me. Yes, I am making the assumption that the universe is willing to teach me the language of the fews.

So yesterday morning I pulled my first one in this experiment, a reversed Luis: “Confusion, uncertainty, deception, delusion; lack of defenses; something is not what it appears to be; someone may be misleading you, or you may be misleading yourself.” (from The Druidry Handbook)

The only deception I could see during the day was self-inflicted, involving Timbits.

But last night I had this incredible dream that seemed to last hours. It was extremely complex, showing deception at various levels including religion, governance and authority, police, the health care industry and other institutions, child rearing, social interactions and even architecture (!) showing me the experience of living “inside” the deception and “outside” of it, and how both feel, at the personal level and the systemic level. The deceptions involved physical, mental, emotional and social aspects, and some were well-meaning, some were not well-meaning, and some were well-meaning consciously while not well-meaning unconsciously.

One of the lessons I took from this (of many) is that my focus is too small, personal and immediate. Deceptions are systemic, historical, and societal, and like waves flowing through the sea, they affect me, sweeping me along with everyone else, acting on me impersonally. I sensed what it was like to be an individual placed at the centre of those tides. So the next time I pull this few, I need to look up from my little life and its mundane little events, and see the ocean of forces sweeping through, the larger deceptions that affect my life.

It seems the universe is willing to teach me precisely what the fews mean.

Unless of course, this whole experiment IS the delusion and deception. Hmmm.

John Michael Greer said...

Agent, fair enough. For what it's worth, I think that parapsychological research is a very good thing, and the parapsychologists deserved better than the witch hunt that was directed against them by the pseudoskeptics; I just want to make sure that people understand the difference between researching magic and practicing it.

KKalbert, I've also done a fair amount of mundane astrology, and I agree with you -- they're very poor at predicting natural disasters. On the other hand, an ingress chart properly interpreted according to the traditional methods will give you a very good snapshot of the political mood of a country for the period covered by the ingress, and can tell you, for example, whether the head of state is likely to succeed in his or her policy goals, or fall flat. That's the main purpose of a mundane ingress chart, as I understand it, and it's one they carry out tolerably well.

Synthase, duly noted!

Myriam, well, see what else the universe is willing to teach you about them!

Brother Guthlac said...

"Eric, ADF ritual is religious in nature and so it has very different requirements in terms of purification from, say, ceremonial magic."

JMG - With reference to your comment above to Eric, perhaps it would be of use, or at least interesting, if you would do a post regarding religious and magical practice, ritual and ceremony.

Scotlyn said...

@Myriam, I want to thank you for sharing your questions and ruminations on learning ogham divination. I am making a set of cards for myself and simply trying to memorise them at this point, but your "process" suggests ways I could search out their deeper meanings over time...

Scotlyn said...

@JMG This discussion of divination seems very advanced to me, and while it interests me greatly, I had thought I had little to contribute, until I found myself writing this in a conversation about TCM with another reader of this blog:

"If you've been following the Galabes post about divination, I have a feeling that TCM operates a bit like that. We spend a lot of time learning to associate physical signs and symptoms with patterns and syndromes and then associate patterns and syndromes with treatments. The proof of the pudding will always, for us, be in the eating... (or the patient feedback following treatment).

But, of course, no real person is a textbook patient, the patient IS the territory, while the diagnosis is nothing more than a map you construct on any given day from the chaotic clinical detail, to guide an intervention that (if well chosen) will make a positive change to the territory (the patient).

As a TCM practitioner encountering a patient, it seems to me we are trained to "divine" their condition using these patterns of association learned first from a teacher, and then from repeated non-reproducible encounters with previous patients, in order to find the 'pivot' - or the point at which the smallest intervention might have the biggest positive effect.

And of course, although many practitioners like to cultivate an air of quiet confidence and infallibility, the fact is, your treatment is a test of your hypothesis, and that test may fail, which will require you to probe further and refine your treatment strategy."

That is to say, I suddenly realised that I already have a certain understanding of how to work with a set of correspondences that seem strange at first but gradually give you a way to "tune in" to a mass of chaotic detail and respond to it (hopefully in a useful way).

Varun Bhaskar said...

Archdruid,

I've noted two really odd things about merging Hinduism with Druidry. The first is that Hindu gods seem very amicable to bring praised in a druidic fashion, since I don't have the time to do the full Vedic invocations. The second is that the seem perfectly happy sharing the stage with non-Vedic gods. I borrowed a few from Greece and a spirit of two from native mythologies. Zero problems with any of the process. Kinda cool, kinda weird.

Also, I've noticed that after slightly more than a year of doing the clunky sphere of protection, I still ended up being able to sense Parna. It's like the universe rewarded the effort, while forgiving the imperfection of the practice. Kinda makes me wonder about the obsession about spending hours memorizing Vedic rituals that Hinduism is so famous for.

Ideas to wonder about.

Regards,

Varun

Varun Bhaskar said...

Myriam,

I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who has had success without memorizing every few. Thanks for sharing, I feel a little less discouraged.

Regards,

Varun

John Michael Greer said...

Brother G., I'll consider it. I've got a number of things higher on my list of priorities, though.

Scotlyn, that makes perfect sense to me. In traditional Western medicine -- as in, back before the scientific revolution, when we had a system more or less parallel to TCM -- it was standard practice for the physician to cast either a geomantic reading or an astrological chart as a guide to diagnosis. (Astrology wonks will want to know, if they didn't know already, that the chart -- called a decumbiture -- was cast for the time and place where the patient first noticed serious symptoms, and was compared to the natal chart.) So the comparison you've offered works well for me. (Is it at all traditional for TCM practitioners to consult the I Ching as part of diagnosis?)

Varun, that seems to be the case with pretty much all polytheist religions. When a Greek scholar or merchant traveled to Gaul or India or Egypt, he'd make offerings to the local deities as a matter of course, and it happened quite often that deities from one tradition ended up being revered all over the place -- the Celtic horse goddess Epona, for example, became the acknowledged patron of Roman cavalry units all over the empire, so you had a Celtic goddess receiving offerings in the Roman style on the banks of the Euphrates! Mutual tolerance and respect is one of the great virtues of the classical polytheist faiths, and it's one that remains in action in a lot of living polytheist faiths today -- I've made offerings at a Shinto shrine outside of Seattle and a Hindu temple outside of Nashville, and nobody saw the least issue in the fact that I'm a Druid. That's one of the things about polytheism I deeply appreciate.

Patricia Mathews said...

In meditation tonight, first time since I caught a nasty case of food poisoning Thursday, Spot crawled into my lap. I put my arms around him and (rather defiantly) declared to all he gods and powers that he was within my circle of protection and welcome whenever I was meditating or doing ritual if he so chose. And especially, of course, to Bast, Mother of the Cats. I made it a solemn vow - I could FEEL it going into the Well of Wyrd! All this while he was trying to reach up his paw with one claw extended and poke me, as is his habit. Quite surprising, especially the intensity.

Ray Wharton said...

This three post series has restarted my work on studying magic. Some reflections. As a secular minded fellow I was not prone to magic for a long time, though as it should happen I thoroughly read the works of Gregory Bateson not long before one of your series of posts on magical theory on the Archdruid Report. I think then in 2012 I started to study under the AODA, but I quickly met with several issues which compounded over time.

The first problem was not recognized as such until a year ago when that era of study came to an end, I was arrogant about the practice to a degree fit for comic books. Not dreams of power, though perhaps glory, and dreams predicated on a misreading of my temperament, its cost and benefits. Specifically I set goals which were both incompatible with my more mercurial tendencies, and I am mercurial to a very high degree, and yet also dependent on the advantages of being mercurial. Over those three years of study this problem did diminish, but not until I took a sabbatical from practice could I gain the distance from my aspirations to see it in focus.

The second issue follow closely to the mercurial trait and manifest in dabbling. I started the system from the Druidry Handbook, then varified and tweeked the system with other ideas, including preconceived notions quite regularly. Mixing this with what magical practices where in my area, exoteric aspects of Native American tradition, esoteric Buddhism, and also unnamed new traditions born from the Rainbow Gathering. In alot of ways the worked very well from the perspective of learning about magic, but it also built up unstable patterns.

A year ago I moved back to live with my family, and farm on the Western Slope of the Rocky Mountains. I did not maintain my magical practice when I did that. I think this was a good thing, I needed a break to come to terms with what worked and didn't about the earlier practice, and eventually to come to notice how much the magical practice was helping me with basic maturity, even if it did through certain aspects of my life out of whack.

Right now I am starting with the Druidical Order of the Golden Dawn. It is too early to say how this might go, but I have a couple observations. One, is that I greatly prefer the Lesser Ritual of the Pentagram over the Sphere of Protection as a basic ritual. They specific way that it splits into phases makes it much easier to learn and the way that step SIX works gives a moment to shore up the imagination which is very easy to dig into. Also I find the Rite of the Rays considerably more meaningful than the elemental cross; then again I do have some minor Christianity blockages deep in the psyche perhaps. I know that both traditions are variable, but I think that at least the directions in LRP are better written than most SOP directions I had tried to use. Second the DOGD material is very meaty, and has some straight up pragmatic herbalism early on, which I much appreciate, this gives something for different aspects of my interest to grapple with. Finally the way that the Meditations gradually build is well ordered, and helps with a problem of my former practice, of choosing topics for meditation.

Thanks.

anioush said...

Another point about divination: it seems to work "the other way" as well for me, like changing my attitude to events in my life, towards more acceptance, and consciousness of constant change.

Thank you everyone for contributing your experiences - I had the same feeling in the beginning, that Ogham didn't talk to me like Tarot, but now it does, even if I postponed the meditations on the many different Oghams... Somehow, the meanings given in the book merged quickly with my meditations on the elemental attributions of the fews and their place on the wheel of life. I also visited the trees and started to use Murray's Ogham cards, am planning to read Steve Blamires on the subject, anybody familiar with the book?

Patricia Mathews said...

Today's card draw: The Emperor Reversed. No duh!

grisom said...

I'll be wrapping up another curriculum for a few months, but so far I'm pretty sold on starting Learning Ritual Magic afterwards. In preparation:

1. I still need some work in the "willpower" department, so on a bad day I may only be able to force myself to do one of these three practices. Is one of them "more equal" than the others?

2. Last month there was some discussion of memorization as a spiritual practice. I quite like memorizing texts -- are there any in particular that would work alongside your strand of the Golden Dawn tradition? E.g. would learning (parts of) The Mystical Qabalah by heart make any sense?

3. Count me in for a reissued Sacred Geometry Oracle, too! As a huge nerd, I am constantly fascinated by the idea of using math and science as mystical practices. Can anyone recommend a good introduction to sacred geometry in the meantime?

grisom said...

Maria, I haven't seen the movie, but some of the teasers (especially this one) look a lot like experiences I've had "in the spirit vision". I wouldn't be at all surprised if the designers were influenced by real-life mages like Alan Moore or Grant Morrison.

jean-vivien said...

Hello,
slightly off-topic, but possibly of interest to this blog's readers, there is this course starting soon on Coursera, talking about "Magic in the Middle Ages" :
https://www.coursera.org/learn/magic-middle-ages/home
It covers magic from various cultures around the medieval times.
I know it's a MOOC, and I have not started viewing the content yet. If it's bogus, or a rehash or an oversimplification of a lot of misconceptions, then at least it might make for a useful exercise in critical analysis. It might just as well hold some actual historical interest. I doubt it would have any relevance to actually practicing occultism, but knowledge of history might be just as important right now...

Patricia Mathews said...

jean-vivien - I can't speak for Coursera, but I had a very good course in Magic in the Middle Ages at the University of New Mexico (History 300). The subject has been well researched and is well understood.

The only thing to beware of is a lecturer or author whose attitude is "(sneer) those poor benighted fools (sneer)" and I've never yet run into a Medieval Studies professor - or graduate student - with anything but respect for the period and its beliefs, even granted almost nobody these days shares them. It's "This is what they believed, these are the roots of the belief, here is who practiced what and why."

Best of luck: I have kept my books and papers on the subject. Except for one very amusing biography of a Tudor-era rascal/true believer* that I gave as a gift to my brother.

*Not an unusual combination in the Renaissance. Not to mention the fraudsters that flocked to alchemy and other popular practices the way modern fraudsters flock to anything they can make money by. Keep your copy of Canterbury Tales handy.

Quin said...

Speaking of omens, I am curious whether anybody else notice any omens in their own lives that informed their interpretation of last week's dramatic election twists and turns? I certainly had a few. I actually wrote them up to share here, and then lost it all when I somehow mucked up the posting. Grrrr. Next time I will write my comments in a word processor.

Well, it's late, so my own omen write up will have to wait for another time. In the meantime I will share a different omen that was notable enough to make the news. Did anybody else here see this? Interestingly, I didn't see that anybody else had quite the same read on it as I did. Two bald eagles go into the gutter together. Only one left in one piece. (The injured one that got left behind was female, as well, though I'm not sure if anyone knows the gender of the one that flew off into the sunset.)

Any other interesting omens that anyone saw out there?

John Roth said...

I don't know about omens, but I was told, rather explicitly, that Trump was going to win about a week before the election. In one sense, this wasn't a surprise: my spiritual cosmology includes parallel splits and merges, so it was obvious that there was going to be a parallel split with Trump winning in at least one parallel and Clinton in at least one parallel.

Knowing something intellectually and assimilating it emotionally isn't quite the same thing. I'm grateful for the week's warning: it gave me time to adjust emotionally to finding one part of myself in a parallel where I didn't really want to be.

John Michael Greer said...

Patricia, that's a classic act in relation to the gods, as I'm sure you know.

Ray, thank you! One difference between AODA and DOGD is that I had a free hand in the latter. AODA had its traditions, which I didn't feel it was appropriate for me to change, while I created DOGD from whole cloth. Thus the latter order could embody pretty much everything I've learned about ceremonial magic; I'm glad it seems to be working well for you.

Anioush, interesting! I haven't paid much attention to this, and I should have; thank you for the pointer.

Patricia, that sounds about right!

Grisom, if you're talking about the Druidical GD, the lesser ritual of the pentagram (and later, that plus the Central Ray exercise) is the most important of the lot. For memorization, the Four Branches of the Mabinogion will be playing an important role in the further development of the system, so you might consider that. As for sacred geometry books, Miranda Lundy's Sacred Geometry is a nice primer, and Robert Lawlor's Sacred Geometry: Principles and Practice is a good second book.

Quin, fascinating. No, I hadn't heard of that!

John, if you'd been reading the Archdruid Report, you would have known in January! ;-)

jean-vivien said...

Hi Patricia,
well I think the attitude you warn against here is certainly not displayed in that online course, far from it ! Much to my surprise, but I supposed it was because it comes from Catalonia, the most enterprising, dynamic and progressive area of Spain (also one of the most indebted, incidentally). I did not think of making a generalization to medieval scholars in general. Also bear in mind that in Western Europe, we are now very critical of the role played by the Catholic church throughout its history, and therefore the oppressed minorities get to play the better part in our discourse.

I guess the only possible caveat with that MOOC is that it could prove a bit shallow. It looks good so far, just pretty synthetic in order to fit the MOOC format. I have seen a lot of universities issue shallow MOOCs on Coursera surfing "hot topics", and in general I am not a bit fan of the MOOC approach : most of the time you can acquire the same knowledge just as quickly by reading the video transcript or the same content in a text version. It says a lot about the addiction of modern society to interactivity and flashy screen, that we absolutely have to watch someone talk and listen to her go through a long speech on a video whereas the same content is much better acquired through reading on the screen. Verba volant, scripta permanerunt...

An interesting source of material is the website dedicated to Manly P. Hall, where they made available a lot of his "educational" paper newsletters collected here in PDF form :
http://www.manlyphall.info/a-monthly-letter/
I now understand a little bit more what kind of tradition JMG is trying to perpetuate through this blog, I think it would be a very good thing for the future to have some kind of mail-based paper courses (but not from education companies, because those tend to charge a lot for a very mediocre service).

As for the Dr Strange movie, it is certainly cool for the nostalgia value or just for sheer entertainment. But it perpetuates the fallacy that magick has to influence matter, by making it so ... physical and so visual. And the music as well plays into the delusion that change in consciousness has to be something spectacular, zeem boom bang tadadaaaa.
Still I like it when superheroes are portrayed learning their art through patience and hard work, just like in Asian martial art movies. One of the last Batman movies also explained how Bruce got trained on a mountain somewhere far East (somewhere East of the West...). And the X-Men's school is cool. The issue is that it teaches people to expect spectacular results afterwards, because the movie has to portray spectacular stuff (otherwise noone would go the theaters and watch them...). And all that stimulation has to shut down at some point, if people are to live some sort of a decent inner life.

In France it has become a pain to attend theater movies because when you go to a big chain's theater, you have to wait 35 minutes after the hour displayed for the movie, out of which 20 are dedicated to commercials about really stupid stuff (cars, perfume...). It's like, paying your ticket a second time, and the ticket prices have been constantly increasing over time (now it's almost 11 euros, around 12 or 13 dollars). We have independent movie theaters in cities, and those are usually nicer and cheaper, with no commercials. In the big cities you can watch subtitled movies, but in the smaller cities in the chain theaters, the movies are dubbed in French. I can now read lips on US movies and it feels strange seeing an actor say English words while you hear twice as many syllables being pronounced on the voice-over. This is our secret for still being so illiterate in the English language. Again, in smaller cities independent theaters are better because they always project the movies in the subtitled version, and instead of the voiced-over version.

escher said...

anioush, I've just started my first baby steps into divination with the I Ching, and I don't know if this is exactly what you meant, but I'm experiencing something similar: the morning's reading takes up residence my mind and colors the day's events, in I think a useful way. Kind of a background meditation to whatever else I'm working on or through that day.

This is more so when the meaning of the day's reading is elusive; sometimes it seems a little blunter. The morning after the election, I broke with the usual morning question to ask how Trump would pan out as President, and got back T'ai (Peace) with a six in the final position leading to Ta Ch'u (Taming Power of the Great). If the meaning here is as obvious as it seems, I'll take it.

Robert Mathiesen said...

Quinn, you asked about omens people have noticed. A very unpleasant one hit me hard between the eyes eight months ago. In March the Washington Post reported that a pair of ravens had set up a nest in the city (D.C.) for the first time in 100 years. The very moment I read that, I had the strongest possible sense that it was a true omen of battles and a bloodbath in our nation's capital city within about a year.

A little more than a week later, there was that remarkable moment when a goldfinch perched on Bernie Sander's podium. And soon thereafter someone called my attention to another, earlier event I had missed, when a Bald Eagle had attacked Donald Trump during a photoshoot. These two events only strengthened my sense that the two ravens were indeed an omen.

In Old Norse literature, ravens feed on the slain left behind on the battle-field. Also, Odin is called the Raven-God: two ravens, named Hugin ("Thought") and Munin ("Memory" or "Mind"), fly from his shoulders and bring him news of the whole world every day. But there is more than just that in the Old Norse texts: there is a little-remembered verse that goes, "Hugin [flies] to the hanged, Munin to the slain [in battle]." So it seemed--and stills seems--to me to be an omen not only of open battle, but of executions by hanging. (Pitchforks, torches and lamp-posts? Ugh!)

I really hope it does not come to this. There would be no smooth recovery after such an event. Absit omen! May it prove to be a false omen!

tolkienguy said...

Thanks for the reply, JMG! I think I'll keep working with the Knight book for now-for one thing, none of the workings in it seem to require talking, which as I mentioned above might be an issue. As to divination, I ordered one of Knight's tarot books and your geomancy book-I'll see which one suits me.

As for mt question about magical orders, I guess what I was really asking was what would be a good way/place to find people in real life to discuss this stuff with? Do UU churches usually have an occult scene? (I tried going to one as a college freshman, but it was very politics-oriented, which I've gathered is the norm for them.) I've also been going to dinners with my local Mason's lodge, but they don't seem really oriented towards magic and I'm extremely hesitant to bring it up. Does anyone have any other suggestions?

grisom said...

JMG, thank you very much!

Sorry for the confusion -- of course "your strand of GD" isn't very clear when you have two of those! I meant rather the Judeo-Christian one found in your books Learning Ritual Magic, Circles of Power, etc. So LRP/Middle Pillar for my first question. I suppose the relevant equivalent of the Four Branches would be the Pentateuch, wouldn't it?

Jean-Vivien, this course is wonderful, thank you! I've been binge-watching the lectures. It's short and therefore not very detailed, but seems way non-bogus. It should give a well-rounded overview for those of us new to the subject. Longtime Archdruid fans take note: the series kicks off by explaining how modern beliefs about "progress" distort our understanding of history.

Curtis said...

Tolkienguy, you can probably find a decent number of pagans at a UU church (at least at the larger ones), but I don't know if there's likely to be much of an occult scene, other than occasional seasonal rituals with a neopagan flavour. That said, I'm in Canada, and don't know what the norm is in the states.

Unknown said...

Quinn, Robert, re: bird omens
In April 2015 a pair of bald eagles was confirmed to be nesting in New York City for the first time in a century. Whatever one takes it to mean, or not, it happens that that report came almost exactly a month before Trump announced his candidacy; that they were spotted on the South Shore of Staten Island, Trump's stronghold in NYC; and that it was 1914 the last time that happened.
Jonathan.

Patricia Mathews said...

For those finding omens in birds showing up in unusual places .... I rather think they are signs that Mam Gaia is trying to tell us something. If your outdoor thermometer hasn't already told you.

John Roth said...

Tolkienguy, it depends on the UU congregation. Many of them are made up almost exclusively of secular humanists; others are Christian. If the congregation has a CUUPS chapter, then it's a fairly good bet that at least some of them are still on a magical path instead of (or as well as) a devotional path. One of them may be willing to point you in the direction of magical practitioners in your vicinity.

Another good source is any local occult book shop; the staff may be quite willing to help you find the local magical scene - as long as you can convince them you're serious.

Robert Mathiesen said...

The out-of-usual-place bird appearances are indeed also signs, Patricia. But the sort of thing I'm calling an omen is something other than a sign, and lies outside the operation of the laws of nature (as they are usually understood by modern scientists). And they pack a numinous wallop.

tolkienguy said...

Also, JMG, really enjoying your book on Geomancy. Can you generate a geomantic figure by flipping a coin? Say, heads two dots, tails one?

Marie K said...

Jean-Vivien, thanks for pointing me in the direction of that course! I watched the videos for week one, and it seems rather good so far. The lecturers are very clear that they are not there to prove or disprove magic, but rather to describe the the magical practices of the middle ages in a non-judgemental manner. They also use a lot of primary sources, which is nice.

James M. Jensen II said...

tolkienguy, (if I may)

Any binary randomization system should work. A friend of mine uses coins, and I once cast a chart by closing my eyes and drawing vertical lines on ruled notebook paper, counting how many of the horizontal lines my line crossed.

It's funny, because the one system I can't personally use is the original method of tapping. I can't help but count.

Allan Elder said...

JMG, which version of the Mabinogion would you recommend?

Allan

Francis Cooke said...

James M. Jensen II . . .
I found your comment regarding not being able to use the tapping method identical to my own.
I have struggled a bit with this as one train of thought regarding Geomancy considers the outcome a product somehow of the sub (or perhaps super?) conscious. I get much better results with my more empirically random method of dice. One wonders then our role (if you will forgive the pun) in the agency of these actions. Is is simply that we initiate the question and seek and answer? "Knock and the door shall be opened"? Any thoughts anyone??

Francis Cooke said...

JMG,

A few further ruminations if I may. .. .
Geomancy can help give a clue as to where future events will likely lead. It can help find lost objects in the present. Could it not also give clues to something unknown (and perhaps unknowable) to the querent that happened in the past? If in divination we are tapping into a larger field of consciousness, it is not also appropriate to assume that this field does not bear the limitations of our conception of time?

And to downshift, do you have any recommended readings regarding the four elements, specifically as they relate to "genome" of the geomantic figures? I am guessing that in your broader study of magic you had a deeper bench to draw from. Given that my primary introduction is Geomancy via you and Skinner, where should I look to flesh out my understanding?

Thank you as ever,

Francis

jean-vivien said...

Marie, Grimson, Patricia,
glad that you liked the course and that it can be of interest.

grisom said...

JMG, you write: "My predictions [on the Archdruid Report] are made without benefit of divinatory methods."

Why? Wouldn't adding some divination give you more accurate predictions?

Unknown said...

I continue to find this series helpful/intriguing.

I am considering starting to work on some form of magical practice. The two times I've felt some sort of power in the world, it has been somewhere between upleasant and terrifying. (The most recently was a decade ago.) I'm an observant Catholic; which books would you recommend? (I read the earlier thread, but it's clear reading this comment section that there are distinctively Christian magical traditions. If my French were better I'd use Peladan's Comment on deveint mage, but I think I need something in English.)

SamChevre

grisom said...

SamChevre, for my two cents: the Spiritual Exercises of St. Ignatius of Loyola comes highly recommended both by Church authorities and by every Western occultist I know of. The Church would probably not like to hear it described as a "magical curriculum", but that's what it is!

Possibly you'd also be interested in Ona Kiser's blog; she started out as a magician and has been led to the Catholic faith through her occult initiatory work. She has a lot of interesting things to say about Christian mystical practice.

Quin said...

Robert, the raven omen you shared is very troubling. I hope that whatever it speaks of is not as dire as you fear.

As for my own omens, they came in the form of synchronicities connected to my own life that seemed to be timed to the election. This is why I asked if others had experienced omens as well—I was wondering if perhaps other people with their eyes open to noticing/experiencing them, might have also noticed their intensity go into overdrive around that time.

The first one came on the eve of the election. In Fukuoka, Japan, a truly massive 30 meter diameter sinkhole opened up in the middle of a major street in the center of the city. It was big enough to make international news on election day. Nobody was hurt or killed, but that was sheer wonderful luck, as it happened at 5am.

As it happens, I live in Japan—I am now in Kyoto but until last year I lived for several years in Fukuoka, where the sinkhole appeared. First just a gaping hole, then filled with swampy water. (Fukuoka was originally swampland.) Now, if you watch the first 30 seconds of the video in the preceding link, you can see a building on the right hand side of the sinkhole, the one with a blue awning on the ground floor. And as it happens, the classroom that I taught in for five years straight was on the second floor of that building—just above the blue awning. Now obviously, whenever news happens somewhere, it’s got to happen to somebody. Nonetheless as you might imagine, this was pretty jaw-dropping to me, for obvious reasons.

Apparently the cause of the sinkhole was some kind of miscalculation involved in the construction of a new subway line underground in its near vicinity. That part of Fukuoka was originally swamp, and Anyway, city of Fukuoka rebuilt the road within a week. I haven’t heard yet whether my old school has been allowed to re-open yet.

Given that nobody was hurt, and the damage so quickly repaired, if I were right in taking this as an omen for America, I would say it would ultimately be a fairly positive one. Or at least not unduly negative. That even when the cracks appear, and the ground gives out from underneath us, keep calm and carry on. The problem comes out in the open for all to see, this can be a potent driver for quick repair. There’s even a tenuous connection to Trump’s cloying “drain the swamp” catchphrase.

More omens later, I don’t have time to share them all at once!

Brother Guthlac said...

grisom and SamChevre - - Or alternatively, the prospect of describing ritual, meditation and divination as religious practices may not be favored by some mages. Modern vocabulary seems able to say spiritual but not religious. An impoverishment it seems to me.

Brother Guthlac said...

Ignatius can indeed be useful.

Dylan said...

Hi JMG,

Knowing that the upcoming post's topic is already on the books, and perhaps other future posts as well, I'm very curious to learn what you have to say about C. G. Jung.

You mentioned in last month's post that Jung was not really a psychologist who dabbled in occultism but an occultist who "managed to pass off a system of occult philosophy and practice as a school of psychology", and that you'd have to do a post on that one day.

I picked up a copy of the last book he wrote before his death, "Man and His Symbols" and have found it a less steep hill to climb than undisguised occultism, for me at least, and giving plenty of food for thought. Connecting his system to some of what you've discussed here would be illuminating.

Maxine Rogers said...

Hi JMG,
I have been scrying daily and asking what I should be learning about that day. I got a waning crescent moon today. I have had many moons show up and always waning, usually crescents but never a waxing moon. I have meditated on the waning moon several times and whatever insights I get, I keep getting waning moons. I suspect i am missing the point of these waning moons. Do you have any ideas?

Yours under the red cedars,
Max Rogers

Allan Elder said...

Quinn, Robert, and all about omens:

Here is an interesting quote from Epictetus in his Handbook:
"When a raven croaks inauspiciously, don't allow yourself to be carried away by the impression, but immediately draw a distinction within your mind, and say, 'None of these omens apply to me, but only to my poor body, to my paltry possessions, or my reputation, or my children, or my wife. But for me every omen is favourable for I want it to be so; for whatever may come about, it is within my power to derive benefit from it" (Epictetus, p. 292).

In the Discourses, Epictetus advises that we approach divination the same way we would when asking directions, not caring about one direction (outcome) or another as long as it is accurate information. This is opposite to those who seek out a hopeful outcome.

The stoic point of view simply accepts that whatever happens, happens to things outside our control and are thus "indifferent." How we perceive or judge these events is the only thing within our control and therefore all that matters. Since we have control over our own mind, no matter what happens, it is "good."

Just a different perspective to consider.

Epictetus. (2014). Discourses, Fragments, Handbook (R. Hard, Trans.): Oxford University Press.

Allan

zentao said...

Hello John Michael,

Thank you very much for having the courage to publish The Weird of Hali: Innsmouth...I hope that the message reaches many and that they decide to follow what is inside. At some point I would hope that the tide turns the other way...

In my case the message was received a while ago and I follow the path. I can suggest a great "tween" book for those wishing to to try to help the kids: "The Silent Strength of Stones".

The dirt is always happy to move things along...

Patricia Mathews said...

For your amusement before my afternoon ritual involving pillows, blanket, and cat----

At Saturday's Circle our host led a ritual based on something he dug up from ancient Sumer on the Internet to "banish the 13 demons of the Trump administration." I chose the demon of Panic Fear, child of Illusion and Unreason and Fearmongering. And banished it with a quote from Lewis Carroll, "You're nothing but a pack of cards!" And cited as my protectors from the pantheon, "Athena of the Polis, Goddess of Reason and Civic Order" and "Clio, Muse of History." Adding for the entire group the number of changes of administration I had seen greeted with screaming hysterics and "The Sky Is Falling!" However, they loved my picture of the Demon as a bawling baby as done by Edvard Munch.

It was so well received, in fac, that I fear they all interpreted it as being Against That Horrid Other Party and nothing else. But at least the seed was sown.

DoubtingThomas said...

JMG, I wanted to thank you, love your posts on here. I seems we share some similar interests. I also score highly on the Asperger's scale and also had to Develop my own strategies for reading people ( do social for want of a better expression ). I have been consciously on the seeker/magical path for around 8 years. For reasons I won't state publicly I was a late bloomer in many ways. I feel that my initial difficulty with people actually gave me time and space in which to learn to "know myself".

Your last 3 posts have on here have triggered a resolve in me to take action on the daily activity front. So thank you. I lacked some practical structure. I loved the 'psedoskeptic' moniker! Made me laugh. I've run in to many of them!!

I only recently found your writings The other day on ADR and now here. As a result I feel I have a better understanding of you. Initially I struggled with the ADR work because while I could accept the premise ( peak oil, societal change, civilisation evolution ) and see the chain of reasoning underlying the possible predictive stuffI I was also concerned because I knew that 'belief creates reality' and mass believers co-creates co-reality. ( iso If a lot of people believe in a specific apocalyptic future then there is a real risk of that future happening over any number of other possible futures ). There was also fair amount of what I would call dismissiveness about our ability to evolve and adapt and you even dissed the raising of consciousness which I found surprising given your occultist magical leanings. Perhaps my interpretation is off though. Individual and the collective raising of consciousness should help but of course only if it is applied. Being inspired is useless unless it leads to inspired action.

It took me ages to get off the magical/spiritual/consciousness fence. It took a year long set of twice weekly visits to a local spiritualist church observing always different platform mediums give ever changing attendees and occasionally me readings. I wasn't able to get that just from many years of receiving personal readings from random practitioners or myself since they were so hit & miss and rarely (yet) fulfilled/validated predictive stuff. That year long experiment allowed to see the variability in skill/quality/veracity and It seemed to average out around the 75-80% mark. Your post highlighted where I went wrong. I wasn't diligent enough in my own practices. It's funny though, I now get information frequently. I had to learn how to keep it to myself since people often don't like to know. My poor mother, a qualified psychotherapist before she retired had a lot to put up with but I think it got her over the fence too.

Anyway, thank you for your service.

DoubtingThomas said...

JMG: I have received many divination based readings ( Tarot and the like ) and have always had results I can relate to.

On the other hand, Astrology ( and Numerology ) not so much. Actually almost not at all.
Except for perhaps once in a small way, did I ever feel that the natal or cross charts or predictive projections bear any relation to me, who or how I was or the events of any given day in hindsight.

I read somewhere, I forget where, that Astrology can't or doesn't work reliably on the for want of a better expression the Awakened ( loosely those who have developed a sufficient degree of self knowledge/awareness with which to develop a clarity of perception ).

What's your take on that?