How Rational is Divination?

The_Tower_Ordo_Templi_Orienti_636

“Science describes the least of things. The least of what something is. Religion, magic—Bows to the endless.” – Joseph Solomon, A Dark Song.

According to the below TED Talk, divination primarily acts as a method to unlock the unconscious mind by prompting it with symbols and non-linear connections, so that it lends solutions to problems through the language of symbolism.

On the surface of things there is no falsehood in such statements. I would concur that when a divinatory system such as Tarot, Geomancy or Astrology is learned thoroughly the answers one can provide oneself with are based on what has been learned but can be expressed intuitively, like when you can ride a bike or drive a car so well that many of your actions, which you once struggled to learn, come as second nature.

The video therefore provides an accurate depiction of divination at the most rudimentary and basic level. But those of us deeply entrenched in matters of religion, magic and spirituality desire to understand far more that the mere surface of things. That which is ‘occult’ stands for that which is ‘hidden’ and to understand what is hidden one must delve into depths that lie beyond exoteric or materialist understanding.

It is true that divination, like all magical processes, can assist the conscious mind to channel unconscious forces. But the next question a magician would ask in response to such a statement is ‘what is the unconscious?’ To begin to answer this, one might explore the depth psychology of Carl Jung, in which the unconscious is portrayed as a realm of archetypes that transcends the personal space and touches on an objective reality known as the Collective Unconscious, which in mystical parlance can be understood as the realm of the gods.

Despite the fact that such language can be interpreted either mystically or materially according to one’s beliefs, the most fascinating aspect of Jungian psychology (which overlaps with, but cannot be wholly equated with Magic) is found in the concept of synchronicity as ‘an acausal connecting principle’ through which the events of the inner world are acutely mirrored in the outer world in a striking, meaningful and timely way that is beyond everyday coincidence. Unlike other aspects of the notion of the collective unconsciousness (which some proponents assert can be expressed as a purely biological phenomenon) synchronicity is difficult to quantify materially. The best efforts to do such a thing came from some of the extra-curricular work of the Nobel Prize-winning physicist Wolfgang Pauli, who Jung worked with sporadically over the course of multiple decades in order to prove a quantum connection between the interior and exterior worlds. Ultimately though, to the frustration of both, their efforts failed.

With the application of a magical understanding of synchronicity however, the unveiled Self can be understood as a pure reflection of the One described by Hermeticism and Advaitism, as a spark of the Divine in Gnosticism, as God itself in Thelema, as the Kingdom of Heaven that is within you in Christianity, as The Superior Man in Taoism, and so on. What all have in common is the notion that the utmost Self, like the unconscious, can be found within oneself and beyond oneself simultaneously and the realisation of this fact in the form of non-dual awareness enlightens ones views on the fullness of reality in a way that is significantly beyond ‘the least of things.’

“What the superior man seeks, is in himself; what the ordinary man seeks, is in others.” – The Ethics of Confucius.

Then there is the I Ching. This is a form of divination that, having cast used many times, I find difficult to connect to any of the aforementioned ideas that could explain divination as a process that connects the rational mind to the intuitive mind.  Such is the frequency of depth, profundity and synchronicity revealed when consulting this oracle that even with no real understanding of the physical form of the hexagrams whatsoever one can obtain answers to one’s questions that are too solid in their clarity to come from any rational or symbolic prompt impressed upon the intuitive mind.

An excellent summary of the I Ching that I find highly satisfactory comes from Chapter XVIII of Crowley’s Magick in Theory and Practice, which states:

The Yi King is mathematical and philosophical in form… It is in some ways the most perfect hieroglyph ever constructed. It is austere and sublime, yet withal so adaptable to every possible emergency that its figures may be interpreted to suit all classes of questions. One may resolve the most obscure spiritual difficulties no less than the most mundane dilemmas; and the symbol which opens the gates of the most exalted palaces of initiation is equally effective when employed to advise one in the ordinary business of life. The Master Therion has found the Yi King entirely satisfactory in every respect. The intelligences which direct it show no inclination to evade the question or to mislead the querent. A further advantage is that the actual apparatus is simple. Also the system is easy to manipulate, and five minutes is sufficient to obtain a fairly detailed answer to any but the most obscure questions… There is, on the surface, no difficulty at all in getting replies. In fact, the process is mechanical; success is therefore assured, bar a stroke of apoplexy.

The passage continues with an elucidation of divination as a system through which one can obtain clarity in the same way as that postulated in the above TED video. Yet, as one may expect from a Magus as venerable as Crowley, it also provides an explanation of the difference between the use of divination as a means of understanding the divine aspect of oneself rather and the mundane method of obtaining intuitive solutions to one’s problems in the way the speaker in the TED talk suggested.

But, even suppose we are safe from deceit, how can we know that the question has really been put to another mind, understood rightly, and answered from knowledge? It is obviously possible to check one’s operations by clairvoyance, but this is rather like buying a safe to keep a brick in. Experience is the only teacher. One acquires what one may almost call a new sense. One feels in one’s self whether one is right or not. The diviner must develop this sense. It resembles the exquisite sensibility of touch which is found in the great billiard player whose fingers can estimate infinitesimal degrees of force, or the similar phenomenon in the professional taster of tea or wine who can distinguish fantastically subtle differences of flavour. Divination affords excellent practice for those who aspire to that exalted eminence, for the faintest breath of personal preference will deflect the needle from the pole of truth in the answer. Unless the diviner have banished utterly from his mind the minutest atom of interest in the answer to his question, he is almost certain to influence that answer in favour of his personal inclinations.

The psycho-analyst will recall the fact that dreams are phantasmal representations of the unconscious Will of the sleeper, and that not only are they images of that Will instead of representations of objective truth, but the image itself is confused by a thousand cross-currents set in motion by the various complexes and inhibitions of his character. If therefore one consults the oracle, one must take sure that one is not consciously or unconsciously bringing pressure to bear upon it…

To summarise, the importance of rational self-knowledge is a necessary factor in divination, and in accordance with some of the more materialist explanations, divination is an excellent took of self-analysis. Yet, as one becomes accurately exposed to the deepest parts of oneself, one unlocks and illuminates aspects of one’s true nature. As things stand, there are aspects to the Self and to the mind that go beyond what can be summarised materially, and until such time that our scientific knowledge of these things becomes more advanced, tools such as magic, religion, divination and depth-psychology provide some of the best techniques we have to better understand such things.

XXX: Bears

Herne

XXX DOBIH

Servitors: Balabos, Badad, Holop.

The word at the outer edge of the Square, DOBIH, derives from the Hebrew דוב (dob), ‘bear.’ The spirit name apparent in the central cross relates is that of Balabos, which comes from the Hebrew term בעל הבית‎ (ba’al ha-beth), meaning ‘Master of the House.’

The Vision

The vision began with a focus on the word DOBIH which then became further focussed on the letter B (for ‘Bear,’ I sensed) in its centre. Then a cave appeared with a large bear wearing a crown standing on its hind legs guarding its entrance. The bear approached me, making me fear it would maul me, but it only wished to sniff out the Square that I held in my hand. It turned away from me peaceably when I allowed it to inspect what I held, then it departed into the cave. I followed it inside and was greeted by the stench of rotting meat. Around me were the cadavers of many dead animals, with the most prominent being the skull of a horse.

I descended into the cave, where a soft, chiming, echoing choir of voices could be heard in the distance below. I came to a gentle blue river with a milky white sheen to its surface in that deep place and entered the water. I became aware that this was a reflection of the Milky Way and was washed along on its flow until it came to a waterfall. Instead of plunging to the ground far below, however, I remained breathless and bodiless in silent space and glided at will to the ground below.

Awaiting me was an old man driving a rickety wooden cart. He was quite old and wore a ruined top hat, and donned a wispy beard without a moustache, had ruddy red cheeks and had squinting, watery eyes. We were in a dark, rocky landscape quite unsuitable for driving a wagon over, and above me in the sky was a full moon and the constellations of Ursa Major and Ursa Minor, with the latter clearly orbiting the Pole Star. He offered me a ride in his cart and we headed North with Polaris before us. I noticed that the horses that pulled it, one of which was brown and the other black, were very thin and gave off the cold aura of death. He chided me for accepting a ride in such a land, as it was a place I knew nothing about. I asked him what sort of place it was and once again the word DOBIH appeared in my mind’s eye. From this, I accepted that this was the astral landscape unlocked by the Square.

As we trundled on, I became aware that we were being followed by bears, but the wagon driver informed me that I was quite safe as long as I remained in his vehicle. Then we came to a ford which was set down a bank that was too steep and rocky for the wagon to descend. He let the horses off their leashes and asked if I would assist him in pushing the cart down the bank, which I did, noticing that it was strangely light. Then the driver reattached it to the horses so that they could pull it across the shallow waters of the river, but on the other side, he asked once again if I would help him pull it back up the other bank. Doing this was somewhat harder than leading it down the bank, and led to me receiving wounds to my right hand from the splinters of the wood of its pull-handle. Looking at the wound after we got the cart up the opposite bank, I saw that the splinters had caused seven wounds which formed the shape of the Hebrew letter Zayin. The driver instructed me to mix the blood with the waters of the river we had just passed, and on doing this, the sky lightened to that of dawn. In the sky, the Sun lit the sky and Mercury and Venus could both be seen rising with it. Heading towards them, we continued eastward over the rocky land.

After a short distance I noticed a large, primitive-looking, large-toothed skull on the horizon that looked like a fortress at first, but as we approached it, it seemed to reduce in size to that of a small house and it had the appearance of the skull of a crow or raven rather than the fanged, hominid shape I had first seen. When we reached the skull, the driver informed me to leave the cart and go and take refuge inside the skull. I did this and sat inside waiting for something to come. Shortly afterwards, the seven trailing bears appeared and formed a circle outside the skull. Inside, on the floor I spotted a large rock which I picked up and inspected. On it was engraved the symbol for alchemical Sulphur.

After a brief period, the eighth figure appeared outside the skull-house, coming in the form of a man with the skeletal, antlered head of a stag. The figure came to the entrance of the skull-house and drew a sword. With it, he drew the sign of Alchemical Salt in the Earth and then thrust his sword into the centre of it. On doing this, all of the Earth around the skull-house disappeared into a void of nothingness. I stepped from my refuge into the stillness, where the stag-headed figure informed me that it was this state of Nothingness that I should be aiming for in my Work, and that the visions of the Squares were all guides in same way of how to achieve this state. On hearing this, I found myself on a cold shore, over which the sun set. Facing West, I saw a rickety boat, similar in its state of disrepair as the wagon I had earlier travelled. I thought about heading out towards the boat but was told that this was not the time to do such a thing, as the boat and the sea represented the journey to the lands beyond life. I sat patiently at the shore waiting for something to happen, but nothing did. After a few more moments, an Eagle flew towards me from over the sea and told me that there was nothing else to see in this vision. Accepting that, I ended the session.

Notes

The wound I received in the shape of the letter Zayin represents the number seven and has the meaning ‘Sword,’ both of which are relevant to this vision. Zayin is also related to Gemini in the Tarot, so this may also be a signal to pay attention to something relating to Gemini. See the visions pertaining to A Lion and A Wild Cat for specific references to Gemini, though the relevance may relate to a future rather than past vision.

Alchemical Sulphur represents the active male principle, being concordant with Fire and the Sun.

The appearance of the Sun with Mercury and Venus after I mixed my blood with the waters of the river may represent the feminine principle, with Alchemical Mercury representing the passive female element, as does the planet Venus.

Alchemical Salt represents the element of Earth that becomes purified through the interaction of Sulphur and Mercury. The striking of the Earth by the sword in the centre of the symbol for Salt represents the purification of matter in such a way, with the Sword being used to do so being reflected in the letter Zayin appearing in the wounds on my hand. Seven also relates to Venus in Qabalistic Magic, the number of stars in Ursa Minor as well as the number of stars in the Big Dipper asterism of Ursa Major.

The boat on the sea was similar to the one seen in the vision of Trees, in which the spirit in the form of an old man departed over the sea.

The names of the two ‘new’ spirits seen in this vision are Badad – בדד (badad), whose name means ‘alone’ or ‘solitary’ and Holop – חלוף (cholop), whose name means ‘transitory’ or ‘ephemeral.’

The Square was constructed with the Moon at 3º Taurus and scried with the Moon at 22º Scorpio. Venus was transiting the sign of Scorpio at the time of the scrying, where she is in her Detriment, as was the other benefic, Jupiter, Together they represent the male and female benefics resident in a Marsian, malefic sign, though the general energies of Scorpio, being the sign that Mars rules ‘at night’ are those of his passive, ‘inner’ qualities.