Divination

Divination

The idea of divination has become somewhat maligned in present times, primarily from two opposing currents: a science that places faith entirely in its own material rationalism, and a theology which insists that only God is purely divine, and perhaps worries that seeking knowledge of the future, therefore, opens oneself up to potential evil. While the image of God can harden into literal notions of a super power, a trusted ally, the image remains subject to what fear and desire captures under duress. Rather than a wall, God might also be the veil; the thinning edge transversing dimensions.
Divination than is a practice in which the questions we carry with us come under scrutiny and are refined by experience and the call to love and be loved.

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Divination also suffers a malnourished understanding from secular science which does not give any credence to influences and experiences that cannot be anchored to a system of measured repetition. Divination though, as other practices, is an immeasurable qualitative experience much like love and desire. In a world destroying itself through the glut of unending, destructive, over-consumption, why would we not seek out those practices that expand our capacity for love, satisfaction and the sense of both who, I and Thou are?

“Certainty is absence of infinity, infinity is presence of uncertainty.”
Nanamoli Thera

To limit the idea of divination to that of forecasting the future though, is to miss the idea that it is also a way of seeing and participating in the presence, simultaneously, of both the mundane and the eternal. And if the eternal is that which is all inclusive, then it potentially opens us to that which we don’t know. If God knows, or is all, then every time we learn something new, we are already divining. Where does one draw the line as to what is dangerous, subjective or off limits? …and how might it matter? Through the study of astrology, I am learning to question what it is that divination can provide for us moderns, and learning what it once did in the not so distant past.

Love starts in the personal and means me; then it means my soul and my whole being. Then it moves me, my soul and my being into archetypal being, into a sense of interiority: an interior process contained within me, and myself contained within the interiority of a chaotic universe transformed by love into a cosmos.

James Hillman, The Myth of Analysis

To see into eternity then, is to see into the cosmic order, to glimpse the qualities of God, or the gods, and participate in the realm of coming and going. Love is that which creates from infinity, binding the seeming chaos into an expression of life-giving order. We are already seeing, from all that touches and moves us, an archetypal expression of divinity that calls the little self to something beyond. And without losing that smallness, we may enlarge our perspective through the multi-faceted seeing of multiple dimensions.

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The Sacred Arts of Divination

The arts of divination have been revered and practiced by every culture in every time. These practices might indeed seem to some as an attempt to be God, to steal the gods’ powers, and obviously humans have very much been inclined to use and abuse power for a seeming gain, whether personally or collectively, but divination is not in and of itself the danger. That we have trouble discerning the proper and improper use of power doesn’t go away by refusing the attraction to power, but by discerning the consequences and trade-offs of our uses of it.

The aesthetic sense of divining may provide one with skills for course correction by seeing into the possibilities of not only what the future holds, but more importantly, to see more clearly into the present; to see oneself, others and the nature of the world as it is. Not for truth, but for love’s sake. Ultimately, it is the ever-expansive sense of the present that opens one to experience universal truths and the divine – an experience of which gives substance and weight to all that the soul truly desires: love, compassion and acceptance.

When the aesthetic sense is not disregarded as meaningless, care for the past, present and future come to us more readily through awareness of love and beauty.

To live one’s life practicing an awareness of the patterns that we live by, and to seek to align oneself to an ordering of life which values beauty, love, sustainability, and a fuller participation as one among many, accepting the limits of the conditions of life; its joys and sorrows, gains and losses, is itself a divinatory practice.

Personally speaking

Perhaps the natal chart of astrology can display the players and the patterns in my life experience, that to some extent, I remain bound to and bound by. But the continuity of the patterns also serve as windows into eternity. They show me the universal nature of human experience and by seeing them more clearly, I can, on a good day anyway, choose my response. My response may or may not change any outcome, but it can show me that my response matters and that all human exchanges are really calls to share in love’s beauty.

These openings further the possibility of seeing the sacred in all life, and in seeing the the sacred throughout all worlds, divine and sacred, and ultimately as one.

Q&A: Natal Promise and Planetary Transits

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Knowledge of the Future

What any divinatory practice brings to the fore, are the questions we have, embedded within a call from the unknown, and how it matters to us. But rather than directly providing the knowledge that we believe we need to know – what will happen tomorrow; will I get the job I applied for; will my children be happy, etc. – beginning the process of asking such questions, provides for each of us, images of the desires that capture our attention, the relationships we experience, and how we tell the story of what is happening to us, and the world around us.

What lies at the other end of our quest to know, is perhaps a greater awareness of the nature of our desires through the images we carry of purpose, hope and expectations. This leads to the consideration of just how much influence we do have over the nature of ourselves, other people and situations that we find ourselves in.

Until these fundamental questions about the nature of ourselves, and of the world are allowed to enter into the narrative of our own telling, it seems unlikely that any idea of the divine, or aesthetic of eternal time will even be desirable to us, let alone offer an understanding of what it is we need to make our way through the mystery of love’s purpose.

Desire

At the bottom of every question we ask, friendship we find, house we buy, vacation we take, language we learn, book we read, song we sing, is our perpetual state of want and need. Desire sustains us and belongs to time. We eat, digest, excrete, and we endlessly repeat the cycle. But beyond the desires that sustain us physically, lies a seemingly endless pool of possibilities, just as the starry night seems without bounds or limits. Our relationship to desire feeds, shapes and forms both our character and our destiny on both small and large scales.

Intelligible vs. Omniscience

It is much easier to reject all practices of divination by looking for a failure of omniscience. For then we are off the hook and can stay in our comfort zone. For a true practice, whether of divination, art, writing, music, scientific research or otherwise, requires the courage to move beyond one’s comfort zone and into the unknown. Trust and faith are then necessary and can be found in the everyday world through those who grace our journey, and from the invisible realms of the dream and stream of images that we attend to.

Although it might be true that many who seek out an astrology natal chart or Tarot card reading might be eager to hear “what is going to happen to them,” what might soon become apparent to any seeker is this tug of war between fate and free will. The very act of initiating and submitting to a reading admits one’s fate into the room, as it also invites the idea of “participating via co-operating” with fate by invoking images that “know ahead of time,” or “know at a distance.”

Karma, Fate, and Free Will in Astrology Dr Glenn PERRY

Determinism and Freewill in Astrology Benjamin N DYKES

Objective Versus Subjective Reality in Astrology – Chris Brennan and Benjamin Dykes

Sacred Order and Restless Saturn

“The problem with introspection is that it has no end.”
― Philip K. Dick

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Cosmos

Although we easily recognize that life on planet Earth, and perhaps elsewhere, is possible because of the regularity witnessed within the solar system and beyond, dare we call fate that which influences the individual by a similar ordering principle? If not, then why?

cos·mos1
/ˈkäzməs,ˈkäzˌmōs,ˈkäzˌmäs/
noun

It may be easy to intellectually separate the idea that life depends on order to sustain the planet and every living being, from the idea that our lives are also ordered, and therefore, to a certain extent, fated, but in what way does fate provide order?

We pride ourselves on the ability to make conscious choices as we become more aware and responsive to the constraints that bind us, and because the more we can make choices, the less fated and more free the act of choosing makes us feel. But, how do we distinguish between a free choice and a fated one? There must be something in which we measure and compare possible outcomes against in order to categorize our actions as free or fated.

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In the study of astrology, these questions of power, forces of fate and will, naturally arise. And so they should if we are to afford ourselves an opportunity to wrestle with their distinctions and correspondence within our practice and understanding of astrology’s purpose.

Where the ancients found the ideas of fate and fortune usefully aligned to the constraints more naturally severe and apparent, and where choices that were contrary to the order of the state or tribe were often punished either by human or natural law, modernity, with its technological advances, allows us the luxury of seemingly going it alone through choices that may not always benefit the tribe. We are much less dependent on the tribe for our survival. We are also much more distanced from exactly what it is that we are dependent upon. To the ancients, many of our choices would seem frivolous, extravagant and self-destructive as we increasingly lose sight of the importance of our choices and the victims of their consequences.

Qualities of Time

Scholars of the myth contrast two kinds of time, secular and sacred, rational and mystical, forward-moving time and timeless circularity.

Hillman, James. The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The idea of eternal time also carries with it the sense of infinitude, that reality, the cosmos, even with its orderliness, has no bounds, no separations, no limits, no beginning and no end. Does this idea of the eternal contradict the notion of a cosmic order? Are order and chaos then, secret allies? It’s fascinating to both imagine and come to a fuller acceptance that from the seemingly finite state of human existence, it’s only through the mind and the nature of our experiences that we can envision eternity and finite qualities of time.

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Perhaps it is the emphasis on secular time, the 9-5 habits where attention of the things of the world seduce and enslave us, that have left us with less and less capacity for the experience of eternal time. The more distant these time qualities become, the more the impulse to choose the fast-food of technology that keeps the clock-a-ticking, cutting us off from any experience of the eternal. Precious and few are those timeless states granted to us.

“The notion of a separate organism is clearly an abstraction, as is also its boundary. Underlying all this is unbroken wholeness even though our civilization has developed in such a way as to strongly emphasize the separation into parts.”
― David Bohm, The Undivided Universe: An Ontological Interpretation of Quantum Theory

Everyday experience is bound by the limits of our senses, language, thought, culture and the limits of our place within the cosmos, all of which do more to suggest a real separation of experience into discrete parts known as days, hours and moments. We can however, accept that this form of orderliness, through the constancy of the seasons, planetary and stellar motions, and observed through the delicacy of their finely tuned parameters are necessary to sustain life as we know it. Our linear observations about the cosmos, are perhaps, through the very suggestion of limits and boundaries, the very thing, that ironically, give way to the idea of the eternal.

“I’m so tired… I was up all night trying to round off infinity.”
― Steven Wright

How then, do we get at the idea of the eternal, let alone an experience of something both sacred and eternal?

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Within the seeming limits of human experience, there are for each of us, moments of discovery, insights, and understanding that bring coherence along with a sense of an expanding wholeness that we participate in; something transcendent, bigger and beyond the narrow confines of “me” and “you.” The more expansive one’s experience becomes, the less it seems to be only inside me, and the more it seems that we are all participants in something much, much grander than previously imagined.

My little ego, even if only now and then, may burst open, giving way to an expanded sense of self and other, transcending the time-bound constraints and acknowledge its smallness in comparison to a greater unbound whole. To the ancients, this feeling, or realization of a greater intelligence has been referred to by many names: One, Anima Mundi, Infinite, God, Cosmos, Eternal, Self, Divine. No matter how imagined, or expressed, this unbounded sensation is perhaps one of the most mysterious experiences of all, and yet impossible to share, and especially, to define. Language, we see, remains the map, not the territory.

How then, throughout the long trail of human existence, does this idea of the eternal persist, especially as it seems so fleeting?

“Cosmos” indicates a world formed by aesthetics. “Cosmetics,” derived from kosmos, gives the clue to the early meanings of the Greek word, when it was linked with the dress of women, with decoration and embellishment, with all things fitting, in order, furnished, and arranged, and with ethical implications of appropriateness, decency, honor. The aesthetic imagination is the primary mode of knowing the cosmos, and aesthetic language the most fitting way to formulate the world.

Hillman, James. The Force of Character: And the Lasting Life. Random House Publishing Group. Kindle Edition.

The aesthetic imagination, rather than seeking to quantify the cosmos, mapping it, saving it for later, for time, permits the immediacy of its ordering and thereby participates through a knowing of the senses that also permits the transcending of time and orderliness, all the while accepting the imposition of limits on all creation, human and otherwise. It is then, the persistence, the constancy of our experience that gives us faith that the sun will rise again, but also that I will one day cease to exist. The coming and going is indeed a fated participation of the cosmos; the ordering ways of the universe. Cosmic ordering itself provides the necessary ground of our being; as a place for transcendence into eternal time. 

(To be continued…)

Divine

File:Vico La scienza nuova.gifTo divine something is to appeal to the gods for their power of knowing. To use that power to foretell the future is called “divination.” In Giambattista Vico’s classic book New Science, he associates the modern sense of God as divine, meaning “blessed” or “holy,” back to the pre-Christian or pagan sense of having supernatural powers of predicting and knowing.

“By contrast, the pagans embraced an imaginary providence, for they fancied the gods as physical bodies which foretold the future by signs apparent to the senses. But whether true or imaginary, this attribute of providence led the entire human race to call God’s nature ‘divinity’. They all derived this name from one and the same notion, which in Latin was called divinari, to foretell the future.”

Vico sees the similarities between pagan practices in the near east as a direct influence on the later worship and practices of the Abrahamic religions. Over time, each of the near eastern pantheons developed a hierarchy among the gods. Perhaps this shift of power accounts for the more recent consolidation of the many gods into one.

I sense too that the shift away from polytheism towards monotheism reflects a shift in consciousness to where our animal senses are no longer a unified experience within a tribe. The loss of the unifying power of a tribal consciousness creates a sense of ownership thereby shifting the source of power onto an individual. You might even say that this shift creates the very distinction between individuals and groups.

Portrayals of a bearded and long-haired Jesus began to emerge in the early 4th century, such as in this work from the Catacombs of Marcellinus and Peter. Inspired by depictions of the gods of the Greek and Roman pantheon, the bearded version would become the most commonly recreated adult Jesus. http://ilfattostorico.com/2013/12/25/qual-era-laspetto-di-gesu/

Unlike tribal cultures, city-states are organized through the rites of family and a principle of ownership. Slowly over time, a sense of ownership has permeated every facet of human life, but more importantly, it now shapes our sense of identity. Where in tribal societies the stories came from the gods, our stories now come from a single source, i.e., God, and in the post-Christian west, from each individual subject.

“Long ago, Noah’s three sons renounced their father’s religion, which by its rite of marriage was the only thing that preserved the society of families in that state of nature. There followed a period of brutish wandering or migration, in which first Ham’s tribes, then Japheth’s, and finally Shem’s, were all scattered throughout the earth’s great forest.”

After generations of wandering in the “primeval forest” some of the scattered tribes began to settle and adopt several critical rites which led to the development of what we now call civil laws and civil society.

“These principles are (1) divine providence; (2) solemn matrimony; and (3) the universal belief in the immortality of the soul, which originated with burial rites.”

Vico then states “they were shaken and roused by a terrible fear of Uranus and Jupiter, the gods they had invented and embraced.”

“Through protracted settlement and the burial of their ancestors, they came to found and divide the first dominions of the earth. The lords of these domains were called giants, a Greek word which means ‘sons of the earth’, or descendants of the buried dead.These lords were considered patricians or nobles: for in this first stage of human civilization, nobility was justly ascribed to those who had been humanely engendered in fear of divinity.”

“Engendered in the fear of divinity” or in the gods’ power to know all that humans fervantly wish to know. To be all-knowing is, among other things, a survival skill that moved human civilization from small tribes of hunter-gatherers to agriculturally based nation-states. To cultivate the land requires the knowledge and study of time, including the cycles of weather. The practice of divination is the beginning of what we now call science which continues to influence all aspects of what it means to know something.

To map the heavens, as astrology does, seeks to understand and respect the correlation between the world as it is; time, her seasons and our needs. It’s no wonder that the deities were located in the vastness of the heavens. To look up and outward to a seemingly boundless expanse might itself account for the notion of infinity. To cultivate the people, along with the land, also requires the god’s help:

“These first fathers of the pagan nations possessed all four of the classical virtues: justice, prudence, temperance, and fortitude. They were just in their supposed piety of observing the auspices, which they believed to be Jupiter’s divine commands. (From his Latin name Ious, Jove, derived the ancient word ious, law, which was later contracted to ius, justice. And in every nation, justice is taught together with piety.) They were prudent in making sacrifices in order to ‘procure’ omens, that is, to interpret them properly, and thus to take proper care to act according to Jupiter’s commands. They were temperate by virtue of their marriages. And, as noted here, they also possessed fortitude.”

Vico traces our Judeo-Christian cultural sensibilities directly to pagan antiquity. Although our modern definition of “divine” can mean anything from a brand of chocolate (yum!), to God as the Divine and Holy one, the association of divinity to the primal necessity of knowing, expresses both the value and power that all knowledge has held for us throughout the ages.

But, to lose a cosmology which at one time enabled us to directly experience a correspondence between each other, and the world we inhabit, is to suffer a great alienation and aloneness. We moderns, because our use (and abuse) of power comes through a pronounced sense of individuality, seem to think it’s a matter of our choosing which direction our lives and the future of the planet are headed. I am beginning to question just how true or not that notion is. If predicated on a faulty premise, maybe there’s more to the story. As always, I’d love to hear your thoughts.

“Our present civilization quite obviously lacks any unifying principle. The degree of unity which the vague term ‘modern civilization’ implies is in many ways a ‘unity of disunity’, the peoples involved being given a superficial coherence by the spread of technology and by common acceptance of certain ways of thought whose very nature is to create further disintegration.”
Alan W. Watts, The Supreme Identity

Except as noted, all quotes from Vico, Giambattista (1999-04-29). New Science (Penguin Classics). Penguin Books Ltd. Kindle Edition.