How Divination Works
There are several common notions about how divination functions. In this section some of the better-known viewpoints are considered.
It can be seen that there are four possible foundations for how divination functions:
- An overview of the past and present may be used to predict the future.
- The future is already written and viewing it is possible.
- Knowledge of the future may be accomplished by viewing one or more of a limitless number of possibilities.
- Past data about combinations of objects may be used to extrapolate a likely course of events.
All but the second approach allow for free will; for proponents of this viewpoint the future is fixed and because of this would have to be completely knowable to those that can access it.
The Akashic Records and Synchronicity
Generally, occultists believe that there is a repository of all human experiences throughout past ages. These are known as the Akashic records and are similar to what C. G. Jung termed the “collective unconscious“. For Jung, this existed below the level of our personal unconscious, in dreams for example, and was populated by the experiences of life embedded throughout human history. This stratum of consciousness is likely common to many mammals and has been shown to exist in cats.
Appalling as it will seem to many, laboratory reared cats had part of their brain removed, the part which prevented them from acting out dreams. Scientists discovered that cats who never left the windowless lab to which they were born, nor see another living creature, have identical dream patterns to cats that live normally in the outside world, proving that cats have memories and patterns of behavior that are inherited. These shared, or collective, ways of being however, exist below the level of the cats’ waking consciousness (5).
One of the lessons of occult philosophy is that ultimately, all existence is one.
This is echoed in psychology, where it is believed that at a deep level humans are connected by a great sea of collective memories, containing all human knowledge and all human behavior. On a consciously we are individuals, but subconsciously, we are at some level all joined.
Witches access the Akashic records in a number of ways, most commonly through meditative trance or through the use of intermediary forces such as one’s Holy Guardian Angel or other spiritual guides. This is the reason why many who practice divination will say a prayer or perform a short magical technique before they start calling on divine guidance.
There are two types of divinatory tools that allow access to the Akashic records;
- those that help to induce a state of trance
- those that use a combination of objects that can be examined.
For example, crystal balls and black mirrors are used to aid emptying the mind and allow it to develop a light trance, whereas Tarot cards, runes and yarrow sticks are obviously divination tools that involve the use of permutations. Sometimes both types of approach are used together; for example, some Tarot readers induce a trance state before reading the cards.
How divinatory tools function with regard to the Akashic records is perhaps best explained by the theories of Jung. According to his ideas, some symbols manifested themselves in waking conscious life in the form of a synchronicitous event. For example, Jung felt that one happening of this kind might be a clock stopping at the point that someone died. He perceived this kind of event to be more than just mere coincidence.
Could it be then that when the diviner casts their cards, or stones, or yarrow sticks, that the way they fall is more than just a random happening? Perhaps the patterns they fall into, and the interpretation they are given, are synchronicitous events with meaning and import, allowing the diviner to connect to the collective unconscious or Akashic records. The diviner then uses his or her intuition to decide what the future will hold, based on their understanding of all past and present events pertaining to the matter in hand.
A common criticism of divination based on the combination of objects, is that the same pattern that the diviner has cast is unlikely to appear twice over the same issue. But those who make this point have not understood the nature of synchronicity – it is of the moment, and when the moment has changed the circumstances have changed. The pattern of the objects, and thereby the reading of them, will be different.
There is another way that divination may be able to work and that is based on actually seeing the future. That this may be possible, is indicated by scientific research into precognition, which can be defined as seeing that an event is going to happen.
Around the world there are a number of researchers looking into the nature of consciousness. Dean Radin for example, of the Boundary Institute, Los Altos, California, has been monitoring the brainwaves of subjects. They are shown a series of random pictures, the majority of which are pleasant or neutral scenes which are occasionally interspersed with horrific or erotic photos. What the results consistently show, is that an individual’s brainwaves and sweat patterns change just before the horrific or erotic photos are shown. Somehow the brain knows something unusual is about to happen before it takes place(6).
This is but one of many experiments that lead to the conclusion that at some level all of us have precognition. It is important to note that these manifestations of precognition are below the threshold of consciousness. That is, the individual is not consciously aware that there have been changes in their physiology.
Despite this, the research does not rule out the possibility that it may be possible for individuals to consciously experience future events and recognizes, in fact, that there are numerous anecdotal reports in all cultures and throughout all times that precognition occurs.
However, there are two ways of regarding the future:
- to see that it has a fixed existence
- to see that are an infinite range of possible futures that may or may not take place.
Einsteinian Physics – Space-Time Continuum
There are a number of scientists who believe that the future already exists and that there is only one possible set of outcomes. Some seek to base these assertions on Einsteinian Physics (7). One of the conclusions that Einstein’s calculations lead to, is that all of our futures already exist, as do our pasts. Our consciousness merely floats along a line that is already drawn, experiencing events that have already happened as if for the first time. Everything is cut and dried and free will is an illusion, created by the limitations of our mind and the way it processes information.
This view is based on the logic of the Space-Time Continuum. Just as an object exists away from us, so does our future, and we merely step into it, despite all our ideas to the contrary that we have control over what we do. If this is true, if one actually has the right skills to access this information, then it would be possible to accurately tell someone their past and their future.
Another scientific view of the future is probabilistic, founded on the idea that there are a range of future outcomes (8). This is based on the so-called “Copenhagen Interpretation” of Quantum Theory.
According to this hypothesis, an unobserved quantum system remains in an uncertain state of many different possibilities. Observation causes “collapse” into a definite condition, which is chosen at random from among the possibilities provided. In effect, consciousness causes patterns to reduce from uncertain states into definite states. This has led some to conclude that there are an infinite variety of possible future outcomes depending on our choices.
Either of these views allows for the possibility of precognition and for divination; with regard to the first view, the future is fixed and knowable; with the second a range of possible futures can be viewed. It may be then that diviners who claim they are seeing the future really are able to utilize their methods to do just that. However, they are not compatible, one or the other must be wrong; either the future is fixed or either it is probabilistic.
Fixed Patterns and Combinations
Another way of explaining how divination works is that certain patterns and combinations of objects have been observed over time to indicate that there is the potential for certain events, or that such events are extremely likely. This argument is of particular importance to Astrology and Palmistry, although it can also be used to partly explain other forms of divination as well.
- In Astrology combinations of planets, stars and constellations are compared to previous patterns; judgments are then made as to their meaning.
- in Palmistry, the reader knows already that certain features generally mean certain things and indicate the likelihood of them happening.
With both these methods no reference is made to the Akashic records, and they also allow for free will as the combinations observed reveal only tendencies (some more likely than others) which may, or may not, come to pass.
Proponents of this style of divination talk of the similarity between its methods and those of science. Like weather forecasters and the financial industry, past trends and patterns are analyzed on which to base predictions of future events.
Some may object that divination based on these methods is a false art, saying that the fundamental difference between these two examples is that the quality of information upon which they base their predictions is more worthy, and furthermore that the success of their predictive technologies can be verified scientifically. Yet it is a common anecdote in the financial world that buying shares based on a blindfolded individual throwing a dart into a list of companies is just as successful over time as the biggest and brightest of investment companies buying shares based on their “scientific” predictions.
Divination – Witchcraft Year 2 – By BWS & Blonde Gypsy
- (1) Aleister Crowley, Book of Thoth, Weiser, 1999, p. 82.
- (2) Janet and Stewart Farrar, A Witches’ Bible, The Complete Witches’ Handbook: Part Two, The Witches’ Way, Phoenix Publishing Inc, 1996, p. 200.
- (3) Israel Regardie, The Tree of Life, An Illustrated Study in Magic, ed. Chic Cicero and Sandra Tabatha Cicero, Llewellyn, 2003, p. 449.
- (4) Starhawk, The Spiral Dance, A Rebirth of the Ancient Religion of the Great Goddess, Harper, p. 169.
- (5) See the research of Michel Jouvet in “Recherches sur les structures nerveuses et les m¾ canismes responsables des differentes phases du sommeil physiologique“: Archives Italiennes de Biologie, 125 153, 1962.
- (6) See Dean Radin, Time-reversed Human Experience: Experimental evidence and implications. http://www.boundaryinstitute.org/articles/timereversed.pdf/
- (7) Brian Greene, The Fabric of the Cosmos, Vintage, 2005,
- (8) Stephen Hawking, A Brief History of Time, From the Big Bang to Black Hole, Bantam Books, 1998, p.62.
- (9) “Copenhagen Interpretation” see the University Of Stamford, Encyclopaedia of Philosophy at http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/fall2014/entries/qm-copenhagen/ — It should be borne in mind that the “Copenhagen Interpretation” is just one possible way of looking at Quantum Theory and today has competition from the “Many Worlds Interpretation” which does not rely on the notion of an observer or quantum collapse, on this see the University Of Stamford, Encyclopaedia of Philosophy at http://plato.stanford.edu/archives/spr2016/entries/qm-manyworlds/ See also James L. – –Foberg, Quantum Consciousness and your Immortality, p.54, available for free on the Internet at http://home.infiOn- line.net/~jforberg . An interesting thought experiment discussed between Albert Einstein and Erwin Schrodinger regarding these principles is known as “Schrodinger’s Cat”. You can find a short article here: http://webs.mn.catholic.edu.au/physics/emery/brainteasers.htm#Schrodinger. I am indebted to Deirdre Hebert for providing me with this link.
- (10) C. G. Jung, Man and his Symbols, Picador, 1989, pp.3-4.
- (11) The Bible, most notably: Job (37:7), Proverbs (3:16), Isaiah (8:11) and Samuel (26:18).
- (12) Lori Reid, The Complete Book of the Hand, A Modern Approach to Hand Analysis, Pan, 1991, pp. 5-11.
- (13) Olaus Magnus (1490-1557 or 8) was also a historian and geographer. The relevant work is Historia de gentibus septentrionalibus, Rome, 1555.
- (14) Such a definition can be found in most standard dictionaries.