A Mathetic Understanding of Energy

To go along with our daily practices of meditation on the Tetractys, meditation on the letter of the day, daily divination, honoring the gods, and the like, I’ve considered also adding in a daily energy work ritual specifically tuned to mathesis.  I mean, it makes sense for mathetic work to round one out in many ways, especially as one prepares oneself to make the leap from Hypognostes to Gnostes, from simple magician getting acquainted with the forces of the world to a theurgist becoming powerful within and above the world.  I currently use a mish-mash of energy works put together, involving a form of the Qabbalistic Cross, the AL-KT banishing ritual, some PGM stuff, this and that; it’d be nice to have something more coherent that could fit nicer with mathesis, but that got me to thinking: how do we explain energy in mathetic terms, and moreover, what even is spiritual energy?

Energy in its basic scientific definition means a property of objects that can be transferred between them, such as motion, heat, electromagnetic radiation, and the like, but when we start talking about spiritual energy…well, I’ve never really seen a good definition of spiritual energy.  Everyone seems to vaguely know what it is, even though it wasn’t a word we used before two hundred years or so ago; the energy model of magic is a relative infant compared to the spiritual model, and we wouldn’t “charge” a talisman (like a cell phone) so much as we’d “ensoul” it (with a spirit or blessing of a spirit).  We might call those blessings or presence of a spirit a type of energy, but that doesn’t really account for other forms like qi/ki/chi or prana, nor does it reflect the energies of the elements or planets (unless you revert back to the spirit model of magic and consider the energies to be manifestations of the presence of the spirits of those elements and planets).  It gets real confusing real fast.

So, as we often like to do around these parts when we come across definition confusion, let’s go back to our etymological roots.  Energy comes from the Greek ενεργεια, “activity, action, operation”, ultimately from εν+εργον, or “at-work”.  The term was coined by Aristotle, and used in contrast to δυναμις, dynamis.  Dynamis has a variety of meanings, but Aristotle used it to refer to potentiality or power.  Dynamis here refers to the innate ability or tendency of something to change or act, something that is not yet real or accomplished but what could be real or accomplished.  Energeia, on the other hand, is the actual change or work something does when it pulls upon its dynamis; dynamis is anything that can happen, energeia is anything that is currently happening at a given point in time.  Energeia is the process of actualization of dynamis into something that exists, but it is not something that exists on its own.  As energeia emerges from or pulls upon dynamis, we develop what Aristotle called εντεληχια, or “being-at-an-end”, a continuous energeia that completely realizes the complete dynamis to result in a complete being.

So we have three terms we should inspect for a better understanding of energy from its older, original senses:

  • Dynamis, the potency or potential something has to accomplish something
  • Energeia, the realization of something’s potential
  • Entelechia, the full realization of something’s potential which makes something what it is and which is the end result or perfection of something by its realization

One common example Aristotle and others gives is when Aristotle talks about motion, κινησις or kinesis, which is defined as the entelechia of dynamis of something as that something.  Consider a pile of building materials; they all have different potentials, different dynames, and one of those is that they can be built with; that which is buildable is present in the building materials as a dynamis.  The action of building is a kinesis or motion that had been potential or inherent within the building materials, so the energeia of the building materials is putting them into use to build as building materials.  Once the kinesis of building is complete, we have (say) a house, which was inherent in the original building materials as dynamis and is the persistent energeia of the building materials having been actualized into something built.

I think.

Anyway, so how does this all relate to spiritual energy?  Well, I’m not a big fan of the energetic model of magic, where things are accomplished spiritually by means of directing and manipulating subtle energies from one form to another or from one entity to another.  However, I do use a little bit of that idea in my spirit model that forms the basis of much of my understanding and magical theory; the action of a spirit or entity and how it works as an agent is what generally I mean by accomplishing spiritual work.  So, for example, when I consecrate a planetary talisman, I don’t charge it with the energy (in a modern sense) of that planet, as if the planet is some nuclear reactor emanating cosmic radiation that can be harnessed by a wand and some crazy words, which can then be directed like a flashlight or hose to change the energy or motion of other things.  Rather, I call upon the spirit of the planet to take residence within the talisman so that, by using the talisman, I have the spirit within it accomplish work for me.  When I want to make use of the element of Fire for, say, warming myself up, then my model gets a little hazy; I use a certain word and I focus on the element of Fire, and either the power of fire inherent within me comes up as spiritual energy manifesting “hot”, or I call upon the primal spirit of Fire to be present and, by its presence and activity, warm myself.  Ultimately, the end result is the same but the explanatory theory behind it differs in a few ways; whether we call magic the activity of spirits or manipulation of energy doesn’t matter so long as the Work gets done.

So where does that leave us?  Let’s take a high-level look at the Tetractys, first:

Planetary Alchemical Tetractys

At the top, the Source of All, is the Monad, where nothing is actualized, only potential; the Monad is dynamis in its basest, rawest, most vague state, the dynamis of existence itself.  Nothing yet exists; there is neither Creator nor Creature (which is the Dyad), nor is there anything yet to exist.  This is the level before even the Unmoved Mover, because a Mover (energeia) can only exist if there’s something to move.  Thus, energeia is not a property of the Monad; it is a property of the Dyad and, by extension, all the other numbers.  Energeia is that which combines two Monads (individual potentialities) into a Dyad; just as building materials have the buildable as a dynamis but only realize the buildable by the energeia building, individual Monads have greater numbers as a dynamis but only realize them by the energeia of the connection between them.  The other numbers (Dyad, Triad, etc.) may be both energeiai and dynames in their own rights, but only the Monad is pure dynamis.  The other numbers are both potentials in their own right (since any number can be combined with another number as dynames by means of energeia to make a larger number) as well as energies (since they realize the power of the lesser numbers combined).

When we consider the Tetractys as sphairai with odoi between them, we can simplistically consider each sphaira to be a dynamis, and each odos linking the sphairai to be an energeia.  The dynamis, in this instance, is the possibility of the substance of the sphaira becoming something else (a number becoming another by means of addition or subtraction), and the odos the realization of the substance of the sphaira becoming something else (the process of addition or subtraction as applied to the number).  Each sphaira, however, with the exception of the Monad, is already a realization of the other numbers, and so contains within itself an energeia, but when viewed from the outside, each sphaira is “just” a dynamis.  While we are present within a particular sphaira, we explore what the dynamis is of that sphaira, but it’s on the odos that we actually realize the changes between the sphaira and the changes that we ourselves must go through to understand how those dynames can be effected.  The odoi cannot exist on their own; they can only exist as relationships, as processes, between the sphairai.  The Monad is pure dynamis, and the other sphairai may be both dynamis and energeia, but the odoi are pure energeiai.

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_paths

While that’s all well and good for a theurgic and theoretical understanding of the framework of mathesis, how can this all be applied?  Well, like I said, this is where the difference between magical models becomes moot: whether you consider spiritual work to be accomplished from the activity of spiritual entities or the manipulation of spiritual substance doesn’t matter so long as the work gets done all the same.  However, we know that the Tetractys is the “root and the source of all eternal and eternally flowing creation”, that which “enforms gods and men”; all dynames and all energeiai are present within all of us, as they are within all other things.  However, how we effect the dynames within us as we live our lives is important; some of us never pull upon all our potentials.  That’s the distinction between the Gnosis and Agnosis schemata: by working and living on the Gnosis Schema, we are able to pull upon all our potentials and achieve what we might call our real entelechiai through the energeia of the zodiac, but most of us reside on the Agnosis Schema, where we’re limited to only a subset of the things we do and the things we can do.  It is only by exploring all our potentials that we obtain gnosis and, if we so choose, escape from domination by the forces in the cosmos.

In mathesis, we make use of the 24 letters of the Greek alphabet, each of which is associated with a particular force: the 12 zodiac signs, seven planets, four elements, and the quintessence of spirit.  Each of these letters is associated with an odos on the Tetractys that links two sphairai together.  Thus, each force is an energeia, a process that transforms or realizes a dynamis within ourselves.  By carefully selecting different energeia, we activate and realize different dynames within us, but in order to choose certain energeia, we have to be able to enact those processes, and without having been initiated into the Gnosis Schema (mathetically or otherwise), we simply don’t know how.  We normally live under the powers of the seven planets, four elements, and spirit; these are the forces we’re caught up in and which we are most familiar because they’re closest to us and have the most bearing on our lives.  It’s the forces of the zodiac, however, that really guide to our entelechiai, but they’re so distant and occluded by the other forces that we aren’t as familiar with them.  In order to access those zodiacal forces, we must first work our way through the elemental and planetary forces, understanding not only how they work but why, so that we can build upon them and ascend to the sphere of the fixed stars and, thus, to the energeia that link all ten of the sphairai of the Tetracts rather than those that link only six.

alchemical_planetary_tetractys_gnosis_paths

Contemplation of the letters, say by our means of daily meditation on the day of the letter, is one way by which we become accustomed to and aligned with the energeia of the letters and the force they represent; by contemplating and harmonizing with the letter and its force, we understand more and more the energeia it represents and what sorts of dynames it pulls upon.  When done regularly and cyclically, one may not need an energy ritual to align oneself with the forces because they’re already doing that by contemplation alone; the process may be made more mystical, such as by the use of chanting or vocalization to make the contemplation more like an invocation, but the result is the same.  However, this is done on a letter-by-letter, force-by-force, energeia-by-energeia basis, and for more complete ritual where one may wish to achieve a balance of forces, we need something more.

If I were to write a mathetic energy work ritual for regular practice, I’d write it so that it could be done in several stages, with different types of letters involved in the process.  If we tie this back into our distinction of Hypognostes/Gnostes practices, then we know that it’s the role of the Hypognostes to study and integrate the forces of the elements and planets to build upward to the zodiac, while it’s the role of the Gnostes to study and integrate the forces of the zodiac based on their footing with the elements and zodiac.  Assuming one keeps up their daily contemplation of the letters of the day, by the time one reaches the status of Gnostes and is initiated into the Gnosis Schema, they’ll have the understanding and ability (though not yet proficiency) in working with all the zodiacal forces, even if they have not yet made the theurgic exploration of those forces on the odoi of the Tetractys.  Thus, the Hypognostic energy work would focus on a maximum of 12 forces (elements and planets), but more likely four (4 elements), five (4 elements + 1 spirit), seven (7 planets), eight (7 + 1), or eleven (4 + 7) up to the maximum of twelve (4 + 7 + 1).  On the other hand, the Gnostic energy work all 24 (elements, planets, spirit, and zodiac).  As the mathetes successively works with more and more forces, they slowly introduce new forces while strengthening the ones the mathetes is already familiar with.

So while all this has been a lovely(?) discourse on my thoughts on what spiritual energy is and how we could/should use it theoretically, I haven’t really touched upon how that might be accomplished in a practical manner.  Like I said, I prefer to think of energy as the action or presence of spiritual entities, so rather than thinking of an energy ritual as channeling or directing specific forces in one’s sphere, it might be preferable to think of it as the invocation of spiritual entities to effect change within one’s sphere or the invocation of spiritual entities already present to induce motion within one’s sphere.  That latter interpretation is interesting, since it aligns with late Neoplatonic theories that the soul (ψυχη) is an energeia within the body that causes motion as it actualizes its own dynamis based on the perception of the body, the reason of the spirit, and the divine contemplation of the mind.  In that light, the notion of energy work takes on a different meaning and purpose in mathesis.  Instead of energy work simply empowering the body or stabilizing it in the forces we work with, mathetic energy work has the goal of familiarizing ourselves with the processes we need to take to obtain gnosis.  It’s a work of spiritual alchemy, preparing ourselves for purification and spiritual development by means of the forces of the cosmos, exercising our soul so that, when faced with the energeia we need to effect, we’ll be prepared to make the changes we need both internally (soul acting within itself) and externally (soul acting within the body).  It’s not about being able to channel certain forces into the world, but to practice the changes and processes those forces present to us.  Some of those forces we already use/effect on a day-to-day basis, perhaps unknowingly, but energy work brings them to the forefront of the mind so that we’re consciously aware of the changes those energeiai make so that, should we need to, we can undergo those processes again at the drop of a hat.

While we moderns are perhaps best accustomed to thinking of spiritual energy as we’d consider electrical current, flowing along certain conduits from an empowering source to charge an appliance, this isn’t perhaps the best way to think of it, especially in terms of theurgy.  Rather, consider that energy is a process of change that allows an inherent potential power within something to be effected and perfected, literally acted-upon and completely-done, so that we refine something into what it should be rather than what it is.  It’s not you simply channeling some vague force from source A to target B and then using B to do work for you; it’s you undergoing the work as well as being at work that transforms something into something better.  That is the goal of energy work; remember, it’s still Work.  In that light, we should consider what ways mathesis can apply Work to effect energy qua ενεργεια.

Foundations of Ritual

I’ve gotten a few requests from people for me to teach them magic and ritual.  This is fantastic;  I’m glad people are eager to learn more about themselves, their place in the cosmos, their innate godhood, and everything like that.  In fact, that’s one of the reasons why I started writing this blog, not just to vent and show people the things I do and how easy(?) putting Hermetics to use is.  That said, I’m hesitant to teach, not only because I find myself as-yet unworthy of having students, but also because I don’t consider it possible to teach anyone magic as an isolated subject; one doesn’t “just learn” magic, just as one cannot “just learn” how to build a spaceship or “just learn” protein synthesis.  Before I even consider taking up anyone as a student of mine, I insist that they have the proper foundations that provide the context in which ritual magic can be done.

For anyone to learn anything, they need to have a strong foundation upon which they can build.  For ritual magic, indeed, any life that involves ritual, those foundations are myth, technology, and reason.  Above the others, however, myth is the single-most important factor in any magician’s knowledge.

It’s important to understand what I mean when I say “myth”.  I don’t mean a set of fanciful stories about primitive worldviews or pre-scientific notions of how things work.  I mean “myth” in the classical sense: the overarching backstory to the world, the legends that fuel our lives, and the causes for things.  Myth has been described as “ideology in narrative form” and, to a large extent, I agree with this.  Instead of understanding it as a collection of stories, you might interpret myth as “theory” or “philosophy”; myth provides the reason for us to live our lives in the world we happen to live in.  If your worldview includes gods, then the mythos you should learn will involve those gods, their natures, their stories, their likes and dislikes, and their adventures and pleasures and wraths.  If your worldview is atheistic and focused on energies, then the mythos you should learn will involve the background of energy, how it works, how it flows, and how it affects and is affected by other things in the cosmos.  If your worldview is based around emanationist Qabbalah, then the mythos you should learn will involve the sephiroth, the planets, the elements, the angels, God and his different names and forms, and how events in any sphere of existence are reflected, affected, and effected by other spheres.  Myth provides the theoretical framework upon which myth is based upon; it can be as terse as tables of correspondences, or it can be as flowery as ancient histories and stories passed down by mouth from one generation to the next.

Technology, on the other hand, might be considered the opposite of myth.  Technology is the study of useful skills, arts, and crafts.  Knowing how things should be in the ideal world is one thing, but knowing how to accomplish things in the real world is quite another.  While technology can involve any sort of tool usage, it can also include methodologies such as procedures to make something, from food to clothing to houses to jewelry.  Anything you do down in this world involves technology in some way; learning how to use technology efficiently and powerfully is important in being successful in the world.  Something doesn’t have to be hi-tech to be considered technology here; writing systems, calendars, proper usage of heat to cook food, and eloquent speaking can all be considered technologies, as can building windmills, solar panels, computers, jewelry, or orgone accelerators.  Technology uses the world around us to make or change something for a particular end with a particular method and process.  If you’re a computer scientist, then your technology should consist of programming languages, setting up computers, managing RAID storage systems, and the like.  If you’re a chef, then your technology should consist of knives and other implements, cutting foodstuffs for preparation, using ovens and stoves and grills, and presentation of food for aesthetic pleasure, and the like.  If you’re a masseuse, then your technology should consist of strong hands and arms, energy manipulation, proper oils for lubrication and sensuality, and the like.  Technology is what we do down here to do stuff.

Reason is the bridge that combines mythos with technology for a higher aim.  This is essentially logic, but not necessarily the formal logic of mathematicians and legalists.  Logic here can consist of that, but it can also consist of emotions (how to feel better), survival (how to keep living), economics (how to become wealthier), or philosophy (how to live better), and other styles.  Reason uses myth as its values and axioms, upon which all arguments and actions can be based; everything else that follows is either a logical derivative of myth (e.g. if Aphrodite dislikes Helios for revealing her tryst with Ares, it follows that involving the powers of Venus and the Sun in the same place may not end up well) or an application of mythos with technology (e.g. if Aphrodite likes apples due to the whole Paris-Helen thing, one should probably sacrifice apples to Aphrodite).  Reason is what allows myths, tables of correspondences, divine preferences, and stories to be effected in the world using technology, as well as being what allows technological results to form more myths.  Understanding the causes and effects of things in a strictly material sense, strictly spiritual sense, and some combination of material and spiritual senses involves reason all around.  Figuring out “how things work” in a technological sense within a mythological framework involves reason every step of the way.

So, consider the case where someone wants to build a spaceship.  First, they need to understand the mythos of spaceships: the physical theory behind flight both in air and in space, the mathematical knowledge of arithmetic and calculus, the material properties of steel and aluminum, the theoretical programming of spaceship software, gravity, meteorology, and the like.  They also need to have a solid technological footing to build spaceships: how to cut metal apart and rivet it back together, how to wire computers together, how to set up an air ventilation and water filtration system, where to purchase fuel from, where and when to launch from, and the like.  They also need to have reason: how will the dynamics of space travel affect the integrity of the ship, how will high-acceleration and low-gravity environments affect the human body, where it might be legal to build and launch a spaceship, whether it’s a good idea given one’s finances and health to build and launch a spaceship, and the like.  No matter what, though, the theoretical knowledge (the “myth”) behind building spaceships is most important, because one cannot figure out whether a spaceship will work without knowing the mathematics and physics behind spaceships.

All these same things come into play when working with magic, just with different mythos, technology, and reason.  This is why I insist that, for people who want to learn my style of magic and Hermetics, someone have an exceptionally strong footing in the classical stories of European literature, such as the Homeric Cycle, the Bible, apocryphal and philosophical texts from different European and Mediterranean religions, tables of correspondences and qualities of the elements and planets and zodiac signs and lunar mansions, astrology and astrological timing, etc. Beyond the others, myth is the single most important foundation someone can and must have in order to learn magic and ritual.  All ritual takes place within mythology, whether it’s building a spaceship within the mythos of physics, making a talisman within the mythos of astrology, or making sacrifices within the mythos of a particular deity.  The technology can be picked up as one learns and grows, and the reason to link mythos with technology can be cultivated over time to produce new and hitherto-unknown ritual, but myth is that which guides and directs us to pick up either the needed technologies to implement it or the reason to bind it and bridge the gap between technology and myth.

Myth should never be dismissed as something that is merely primitive.  Myth is the foundation for our lives, and if all ritual is an extrapolation or extension of life itself, then ritual is even more based on myth than our lives.  Ritual brings myth into our lives and makes our lives into living myths; if one has no myth, one will necessarily have no ritual.

Divination and Magic

At this point in my life, I’m single.  My last significant relationship ended in June 2010, and though I’ve had a few flings and brief boyfriends here and there, and though I’ve toyed around with hookup- and dating-service websites briefly, I’ve largely been single since.  Don’t go feeling pity for me: it’s a nice life, and its simplicity and lack of drama don’t leave too much to be desired.  Plus, it’s cheaper (dating is expensive in this place).  My being single doesn’t exclude the possibility of hooking up, either, so that freedom’s also nice.

That said, it’s kinda getting boring now, and it likely will be for a while yet.  Back in 2010, after I graduated but before I started paying off my college loans, I did a few divination readings about my future with respect to two things: my capability to pay off my college loans and my love life or the lack thereof.  The good news is that I’d be perfectly capable, able, and willing to finish paying off my college loans by the end of 2012 (nine months left!).  The not-exactly-pleasing-but-not-bad-either news is that I also wouldn’t be in a signficant relationship before then.  So far, that divination reading’s been holding up, and other recent divinations have yielded the same answer: no relationship until at least the beginning of 2013.

Now, this is what divination says, but divination is a curious thing in the hands of a magician.  Other people who only practice divination are able to see what can happen; magicians who can use divination can see what will happen and affect what can happen according to their will.  They’re like two sides of a coin, and are both helpful in attaining one’s desire.  Consider life to be like a river, and we’re a bunch of people walking, wading, or swimming through it.  Parts of the river are shallow and calm, others deep or rocky or turbulent.  Good things like fresh fish, fruit that fell off orchards, or even gold coins flow down the river, and a lot of people want these things.  Some people are content to stay wherever they tend to be without much moving, while others walk or swim back and forth to try and get what they hope is their next big find.  With divination, one can figure out where that next big find will be and position themselves accordingly to either grab it all the easier or pass it by.  With magic, one can change the currents and eddies of the river ever so slightly to get things to drift in ways helpful to them.  Using both can be a powerful technique.

However, this model doesn’t allow for fate (using whatever definition or worldview you choose) and things that can’t be fixed using magical or mundane means.  Some things simply can’t be changed: someone with a terminal illness might live a little longer using magic, but they will still die of that same disease.  As I mentioned earlier, I’m getting bored of being single, and I was starting to count the days until the next New Year when I realized that magic might be able to help me out.  I did a reading about whether I could perform a magical operation to obtain and maintain a significant romantic relationship before the end of 2012.  The answer was technically affirmative: I would be able to do such a thing.  However, the reading was so completely unfavorable to the endeavor that it may as well have been a negative response.  Even if it worked, it wouldn’t have lasted and would have fallen apart anyway in a catastrophic collapse.  Better to wait, then, it would seem.

A better analogy about divination and magic relates it to the field of medicine.  Divination is to magic like how prognosis is to treatment.  Given a situation or symptoms, a doctor can look at a patient and figure out what’s going on in the patient’s system and what will likely happen without treatment or with a variety of treatments.  The doctor can then go on to prescribe medicine, operations, exercise, or other treatments to achieve a particular outcome to affect the prognosis, assuming the prognosis allows for treatment to affect the trajectory of predicted events.  In the same way, a magician can use divination to figure out what’s going on, what’s happened, and what may happen in a particular situation; using magic, the magician can try to affect the situation using metaphysical treatments to achieve a particular outcome, assuming the divination readings show that such an operation can work.

Using divination for any significant magical operation is as important as weighing different treatments in a prognosis of a medical condition.  You might think that the theory of some operation is sound, and you might think you have the backing of all the heavenly host, but there is the chance that (a) there are outside influences and external circumstances that you’re not taking account of (b) the very Almighty is going to put the smackdown on you with an apocalyptic “no” (c) you’re just dead wrong in your theory or understanding of the situation.  Even doctors figure out indications and contraindications alongside or even before figuring out possible things that could help or hurt the patient.  Conjuring a love-focused goetic demon to get you laid this weekend, when you’re already slated for getting bed-confining flu in two days’ time and when you accidentally use a spirit of Saturn instead of Venus, won’t end well.

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.