Adam Blatner

Words and Images from the Mind of Adam Blatner

Another Way to Think About “Divination”

Originally posted on January 24, 2008

I mentioned my meeting with Rowena Kryder yesterday in another post (an astonishingly insightful holistic thinker), and another idea I got from her was a different way of thinking about divination. She said: “Divination is of course one of the oldest and profound methods of humans finding truth. “To divine” is to reach the eternal Source and to know. Generally, as you may know, the personality knows nothing. But the soul and “Big Mind” can know. To know is to divine, to open, surrender and be in awe of that which one does not know.”

At first, I was surprised to hear her use the term, as I had previously tended to think of divination in two ways: First, as a somewhat childish attempt to divine the future, like the cartoon trope of the gypsy fortune-teller; and second, as a way to allow synchronicity reflect the deeper currents of the psyche, as a way to do a kind of something that was sort of a mixture of psychotherapy and spiritual guidance. For example, I have used a combination of Jungian ideas, the Thoth or other Tarot cards, doing a reading for friends or family members: Laying out the “Tree of Life” format, we allowed the symbolism of the cards to suggest trends and themes. The person shuffling the cards, the “clients,” were impressed and edified.

Rowena took it in a different direction, however: Divination with cards could also be used as a form of metaphysical contemplation, as an aid to study. I imagine the following scene: Student and Teacher of Philosophy: Student asks teacher a question. Instead of assuming the meaning as it is heard by the teacher, the teacher instead recognizes that for most “juicy” questions, there may be many hidden and even unconscious reasons playing into the question. The good teacher realizes that there’s a good chance that an answer from the teacher’s viewpoint may well miss the thrust of the meaning, the deeper question, the nuance that is embedded in the student’s question. So, not wanting to be superficially evasive and a caricature of the non-directive “Rogerian” therapist (i.e., “What do you mean by the question?” or “Tell me more”)—but realizing that this kind of thing is really what is called for—, the teacher says something like, “Let’s see what some of the factors operating on this question might be. Pick a card.”

Now this is by no means evasive. Divination in this sense is a way of empowering the cliche, “You have the answer within you.” I’m not sure I agree with that cliche—I think there is lots of room for instruction, new information, teaching. Yet, for certain questions, the superficial words belie the actual concerns and an exploration of the frames of reference and the deeper currents of individuality is indicated.

Here’s the point: No psychotherapist, however brilliant, and certainly not the client’s ordinary awareness may know how to access these deeper angles. Here is where an opening of the mind and heart to the guidance of synchronicity, to the appearance of the operation of random chance, may serve the greater good. The kinds of symbolism to be found in certain kinds of Tarot cards or other divination decks may be ambiguous enough and yet relevant enough to draw together interpretations that fit the needs of the present circumstance.

Some might say that such an approach accesses the “quantum field” or the “implicate order,” the “higher self” or “guiding spirits,”—whatever language is used, the inclusion of a measure of synchronicity in one’s dialogue in certain circumstances may be most useful. This applies especially in situations in which an individual is truly seeking understanding of the frontiers of his or her own spirituality, philosophy, or life circumstance.

It’s like the Jungian-meaning complex and its application to the use of divinatory materials, but taken beyond the limited concerns of the personal, into the transpersonal, into the functioning of understanding and feeling connected. The answers may not come in the form of language, incidentally. A client or student may feel or resonate more to answers that are expressed in the forms of imagery, art, poetry, dance, music, associations to songs, movement, drawing or photographing the symbol, enlarging it or several symbols, putting them on the wall, and so forth. Of course they can also be talked about—but the feel for the solution—even provisional solutions, an intuited valid single step along the path—may be useful.

Well, that’s my own tentative or provisional take on this new idea, and I’m open to input and corrections.

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