A Theory of Divination: Intuition and Technique

A few years back, one of my college friends got me a book on astrological prediction which I never really utilized (it’ll be for when I have more time to dedicate to astrology again).  Its title was taken from a particular metaphor that illustrates how one can become good at divination; the metaphor was about an eagle and a lark.  The lark had a beautiful voice, and was told to sing to the gods themselves in the heavens to please them, but couldn’t fly high enough.  The eagle was able to fly all around at all heights, but could never seem to please the gods.  Since the lark could sing and the eagle could fly, they teamed up to reach the heavens and please the gods together.

The metaphor demonstrates how two facets of divination, technique and intuition, must work together as a whole in order to perform divination.  Technique, represented by the eagle, and intuition, represented by the lark, must operate as a unit.  Technique is the actual know-how of a system, what the symbols signify, how to construct a chart, how to lay out given cards; it’s anything that can be learned from a book, anything that has a procedure or a dictionary.  Intuition is the ability to construct a narrative based on the symbols, tuning into a situation to strike at the heart of a matter, figuring out what correspondences of a given symbol mean in a certain context, and more.  Intuition can be relied upon at any time, but it needs a solid context in order to make sense; technique can also be relied upon at any time, but needs to make sense of data on a higher level.

Although it sounds like a two-variable system, technique and intuition are more like opposite ends of a spectrum, and a given style of divination relies on each in inverse proportions.  For instance, if a given divination system requires 75% skill, it then requires also 25% intuition in order to render an answer or judgment.  In this view, there are systems of divination that rely on 100% intuition (e.g. clairvoyance and prophecy), as well as those that rely on 100% technique (e.g. extrapolation and pattern-matching).  In reality, however, few people can use either a 100%-style of divination at either end of the spectrum, so we resort to different divination systems that use different techniques in order to let our intuition build off them.  Some people use Tarot or oracle decks, some use geomancy, some use the I Ching or flipping a coin, some go into a trance, some scry firepits or crystals; what each of these methods have in common is that they each require both technique and skill.

Consider the Tarot.  It has a well-defined set of symbols (78 cards, plus another 78 if one assigns other meanings to reversed cards) and multiple layouts or spreads that give each card-symbol a particular context to fit into.  One can learn the card meanings from the book and the Celtic Cross and other spreads fairly quickly, and can easily learn how to shuffle out cards if they’ve never handled a pack of playing cards before.  That’s all technique, the book-learning and studying.  Intuition comes in when one understands each card through meditation and contemplation, when one can form a coherent narrative and story from a given spread, when one can pick up the “feel” of a certain card and how it relates to a situation.

Now consider geomancy.  It, like the Tarot, has a well-defined set of symbols (16 figures) and a well-ordered structure and process of how to construct the charts.  One can pick up the meanings of the figures and their correspondences easily, and once one learns the rules of reading a chart can give out quick answers immediately.  There’s definitely more technique involved than Tarot, but intuition also helps when one might have to reconcile conflicting rules or delve into a situation to figure out who’s doing what.  Tarot is more intuition-based than technique-based, while geomancy is the reverse and relies on technique more than intuition.  Both yield answers, but through different ways and with different focuses (in my experience, geomancy centers on the result of a situation, while Tarot centers on the reasons).

In fact, all divination systems can return roughly-equal answers.  It’s a lot like programming languages (bear with me, non-computery folk).  In PL terms, a language is Turing-complete if it fulfills a given set of basic requirements for a language.  If one language is Turing-complete, it can do anything any other Turing-complete language can do.  That means that anything done in C can also be done in LISP, in X86 assembly, in Brainfuck, or in many other languages; however, just because they can all perform the same functionality doesn’t mean they do it in the same way.  In this case, it’s also like spoken languages: although you can communicate the same concepts and thoughts in different languages, the words, syntax, inflection, and gestures one might use can be wildly different to communicate them.  Just like some people do well speaking in one language or coding in a particular style, one might do better at one form of divination than another.  That’s entirely okay; we each work in different ways, and so long as we can ultimately do the same thing, how is entirely up to us, our persuasions, and our abilities.

4 responses

  1. Pingback: Geomantically Forecasting the Weather | The Digital Ambler

  2. Pingback: Divination Methods and Programming Languages | The Digital Ambler

  3. Pingback: On Mistakes in Divination « The Digital Ambler

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