Monday, January 11, 2016

How Different Levels of Divination Technologies Work

Someone had commented once, on the issue of challenges to the I Ching, specifically that the I Ching is really not different from using a Magic 8-Ball.
The thing is, the way a lot of people use it, the I Ching isn't any better than a magic 8-ball!

There are different forms of divination; you have the Simple Oracle, at the lowest level. This is where you can just flip a coin, shake a magic 8-ball, open a book to a random page. In terms of the Technology of Divination, this is something that works only on the basis of being just an aid (a catalyst, really) for your own intuition. Divination through coin-flipping or bibliomancy or baseball cards for that matter would all be based purely on your intuitive reaction to what is being done, it adds nothing by itself, and so really the method you use is interchangeable with any other in that case.

The thing is, more sophisticated divination technologies are often used by people as though they were Simple Oracles. Anyone who says they're an "intuitive reader" of the tarot cards, and just draws a bunch of cards, has no previous study of their structure or symbolism, and only 'reads' them by looking at the pictures and asking themselves what they think it means, are just using the Tarot as a Simple Oracle. If you do the same with the I Ching, again you are using it only as a simple oracle (though being a textual rather than purely visual divination system, it has some safeguards against that). If you use Tarot or I Ching in this way, it is LITERALLY NO DIFFERENT than using a magic 8-ball.

The next higher level are divination systems that have some form of metaphysic; that is, a set of symbols that are meant to reflect a model of reality. The Tarot, Runes, and I Ching all have this, as does Western, Indian and Chinese Astrology; but so do many other simpler systems (if you got four cards and said "these are earth, air fire and water", that would already be a metaphysical divination system). These depend on you actually having some kind of knowledge of what that symbolism is; so if you use Tarot or Runes or I Ching but do no study at all of the symbolism of its component parts, you are still in fact using these as if they were simple oracles (though you can argue that the inherent 'collective unconcsious' impact of the symbols themselves, even if you don't understand them at all, might still make them slightly better at being simple oracles than if you tried to divine with baseball cards or bottle caps).

They differ from simple oracles in that when you use them you are now doing TWO things: you are still tapping into your personal intuition, but you are now ALSO tapping into the archetypal symbolism of the metaphysics being used in the system. This allows you to receive insights into the nature of reality that come out of something other than your own self.

The highest level of divination technology are systems that have not only a metaphysical but also a Transcendental element to them. These systems not only show you a model of reality, they also contain a framework (either inherent or evolved out of the symbolism) that puts your divination work in the context of what western magick calls "The Great Work"; or what in the east is sometimes referred to as the Buddha Path. That is, the work of self-transformation, not just to make the right decision but to seek to transcend one's own self/ego and attain permanent states of higher consciousness. You are using the system not just in isolation as a thing you do, but as a part of a bigger set of spiritual disciplines intended to bring about transcendence.  Only some of the Metaphysical Systems are also Transcendental Systems of divination. The Tarot and the I Ching are both examples of this; the Tarot being a system that depicts a journey (through the Major Arcana) from Initiation to Enlightenment, and the I Ching having the potential (from the addition of the Confucian commentaries onward) to understand every oracle as a guide to embodying the Superior Individual; that is, going from the "inferior man" to the "superior man".

Since the transcendental systems are almost always the same as the metaphysical systems (that is, not all metaphysical systems can be transcendental, but all transcendental systems also have a metaphysical aspect), the real difference in them is in how you are using them. If you are using a divination tool only as an aid to your own intuition, then you are using a simple oracle; if you are using a divination tool to tap into something bigger than yourself in order to get an answer that would be beyond you, you are using a metaphysical oracle. If you are doing the above within the framework of a full spiritual discipline, of spiritual practice meant to expand your consciousness and lead to self-transformation, and you are interpreting the oracle in the context not of "what answer will most benefit me materially/emotionally/etc.?" but in the context of "what answer will be the best choice for that path of enlightenment?" (or in I Ching, we could say "how can I embody the Superior Individual?"), then you are using a transcendental oracle. 

And because each by definition encompasses the previous, we can understand each level of divination to be more effective than the prior one.

It is better to use an oracle AND seek to understand its system, than just to use it intuitively. It is better to use an oracle system as a process of engaging the symbolism to aid in your self-transformation than to use it only in isolation.


  1. cool! I see myself having been in the latter category. At a certain point, I started demanding the "best choice" out of my tarot readings, and it's helped me avoid some serious distractions.

  2. Great! Very much enjoyed this

    ~ Shepherd