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Thread: Naturalistic Occultism: Divination, Astrology, Tarot, and Human Entrails

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    Default Naturalistic Occultism: Divination, Astrology, Tarot, and Human Entrails

    This is a chapter from an upcoming book, Naturalistic Occultism. Stay tuned for updates...

    * * *

    3. Divination: Tarot, I Ching,
    and Human Entrails

    On this topic, I would first like to start with a quotation from the “Chaldean Oracles:”

    “Direct not thy mind to the vast surfaces of the Earth; for the Plant of Truth grows not upon the ground. Nor measure the motions of the Sun, collecting rules, for he is carried by the Eternal Will of the Father, and not for your sake alone. Dismiss (from your mind) the impetuous course of the Moon, for she moveth always by the power of necessity. The progression of the Stars was not generated for your sake. The wide aerial flight of birds gives no true knowledge nor the dissection of the entrails of victims; they are all mere toys, the basis of mercenary fraud:, flee from these if you would enter the sacred paradise of piety, where Virtue, Wisdom and Equity are assembled.”

    This quotation from a purportedly ancient source shows an essential identity with the understanding of divination in Naturalistic Occultism. In the past, people used everything from geological formations, plants, celestial movements (astrology), cards (Tarot), patterns of sticks or stones which are thrown/dropped (geomancy, I Ching), the flights of birds, and even “the dissections of the entrails of victims.” All of these happenings apparently allowed people in the past to divine the future, and today they are often used to divine the nature of an individual by “horoscopes,” etc.

    What we have to realize is that these are all essentially anthropocentric – or human centered - understandings of the world around us. Again, this is a case of believing “As Above, So Below” when it is more likely a case of “As Within, So Without.” The human mind seems, if anything, good at finding patterns. In psychology, there is a condition called “apophenia” which means one perceives meaningful connections in unrelated things. A common example of this is seeing a bunny rabbit in the shape of ever-shifting clouds – although people mostly recognize this isn’t some divinatory revelation about the future.

    Why would the human being see these patterns in the entrails of the dead and apparently randomly arranged sticks? The ideas that the future and nature of the self can be divined somehow also come from the need of humans to feel in control. In fact, a recent study showed there is an intimate relationship between the need to feel in control and the likelihood of perceiving patterns or connections where they do not exist.

    This is again an instance where the subjective and objective need to be carefully examined and separated. There is no observable, objective connection between the path of the stars in the sky and personality traits (just like – as discussed in chapter 2 – there is no objective connection between the symbols of the zodiac, elements, planets, Tarot cards, etc.). As Zoroaster supposedly said, “The progression of the Stars was not generated for your sake.” There is no reason to believe that an I Ching reading can predict the best course of action, that a Tarot reading can accurately portray one’s mental needs, or that the observation of the flight of birds or progression of planets can give insight can predict the future.

    One way to understand why Tarot and other “psychic” or divinatory practices seem to “work” is through the idea of Barnum statements. A Barnum statement is an ambiguous and general statement that can and is taken to be personally meaningful. As an interesting example of this, James Randi the famous skeptic once took a classroom of students and distributed astrological horoscopes to each person. He had the students read the horoscopes over and then rate the accuracy of the divination from a scale of 1 to 5. Almost every person rated their horoscope as a “5” for accuracy with a few rating it “4”, but here comes the catch… Randi asked the students to pass their horoscope to the people in front of them and judge the accuracy of other people’s readings. The students found that everyone had been distributed the exact same horoscope! Again, the reason this works is because of Barnum statements. The horoscope contained ambiguous and general statements that almost anyone could agree with (like “I see myself as being mostly self-reliant”). These ambiguous statements are taken as personally meaningful to the person reading a horoscope even though they could apply to many, many people.

    But that doesn’t mean these divinatory systems don’t necessarily have subjective value. There are never any rigid, objective meanings for Tarot cards or divinations; they always require the personal, subjective interpretation and application of the symbols. This can be embraced insofar as the interpreter understands that the meanings that arise out of the reading are largely a result of their psyche imposing order and meaning on the symbols. The innate pattern-finding drive in human organisms can be bent to the will of the magician. Suppose a person is feeling depressed, doesn’t know what to do, and so consults the I Ching for advice. The sticks form some hexagram or another and suggest an ambiguous course of action with vague, often symbolic language. The person consulting this divination could, using the correspondences (see chapter 2 in this section) they have learned, decide that the hexagram means they should go out for a walk and engage with friends. The person, using the innate pattern-finding ability of humans, molds the essentially arbitrary divination to “fit” their life and current situation.

    A problem with divinatory systems, especially astrology, is the pigeon-holing of people into various categories. Most people think it wouldn’t be very valid to judge a person based on their sex (sexism), race (racism), age (ageism), etc. Why would it be any more valid to judge a person based on their “Sun sign”? People learn symbol systems and their associated characteristics like the twelve symbols of the zodiac and then pigeon-hole people into categories. It’s a case of “With astrology in hand, everyone looks like their sun sign.” This is because of a cognitive bias in psychology known as “confirmation bias” which is the tendency to interpret new information which justify and affirm preconceived beliefs. With apophenia and confirmation bias hand in hand, anyone is liable to see patterns where they don’t exist and constantly fit new information into those patterns and categories. When a person who is an “Aries” acts in a robust, energetic manner we say he is “such an Aries” or “she is acting like an Aries,” but when this person is emotional or intellectual astrologists can explain this by saying “but her Moon is in Cancer” or “there is an aspect (spatial relation between celestial bodies) which disposes here to be emotional and intellectual” or “there is a conjunction of Venus in Virgo for this week which explains all of this.” In short, there are nearly infinite ways to justify people’s temperaments and actions with the many variables of astrology, but this is all a case of confirmation bias… and unfortunately in too many cases, a self-fulfilling prophecy.

    People may view themselves primarily as Leos and therefore devote their pursuits to what they view as “Leo-like:” being creative, friendly, boastful, etc. This can even lead to avoiding certain people because of their sun signs (“Oh, you Scorpios – you’re always trouble!”) without even knowing anything about them. But what if one viewed oneself as a Gemini or a Sagittarius for a week? One would slowly see the things which one does that are Gemini-like or Sagittarian. Speaking symbolically, everyone is a star (the sun) which travels through all twelve zodiac signs: every person has a bit of Aries, Taurus, Gemini, Cancer, Leo, Virgo, Libra, Scorpio, Sagittarius, Capricorn, Aquarius, and Pisces. And people change slowly over time and often dramatically in response to extreme conditions (for example, a soldier might get Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder and retract from the world… but does that make him now a Virgo?). If the magician wishes to be free from limitations, the mental limitations of pigeon-holing people and things into an astrological schema is a good place to start.
    Last edited by IAO131; 02-18-2009 at 04:40 AM.

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