Wednesday, July 10, 2019

Esoteric practices in Satanism, part II: Divination

Previously, I’d mentioned these topics as being a few of the esoteric matters I’d like to explore here in connection with Satanism:
It makes sense to look at divination next inasmuch I see it as having a couple of connections to meditation: i) one way of understanding divination – the way that I myself use – basically situates it as a subtype of meditation; and ii) I think the two are similar with regard to people who have negative views of them perhaps not actually knowing what they entail to actual contemporary occult practitioners (whether Satanic or otherwise). 

Hence, subsections of the current entry:
I had a few thoughts to share also about a couple of political issues I’ve seen come up in connection with divination in online forums, but as my attempt to write these out ran toward the long side and contained repetition of some points made in my previous entry about cultural appropriation, that content may or may not wind up in another entry later on down the line.

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What divination is for (and isn’t for)

I do not really have a feel for any kind of statistics in my circles re: what people think divination is and what they thus think of it.  I suspect though that roughly speaking, there are two categories of people:
  1. People who think divination means “foreseeing the future”
  2. People who would explain divination in a more complex way
People in the first category I think further would tend to fall into roughly two types: i) the type that thinks divination means “pay money to hear someone make pseudo-deep remarks over tarot cards, pretending to know the future while really just stroking your ego and/or discouraging you from taking responsibility for things going on in your life,” and thus thinks divination is stupid; and ii) the people who go to those kinds of tarot readings. ;)

This is analogous, I think, to something one sees going on in religion: New Atheists and fundamentalists both tend to take religious texts literally, with the former then concluding it’s all stupid and the latter credulously accepting absurdities.  Meanwhile though, there are all kinds of non-fundamentalist religious people with nuanced, interesting interpretations of those texts who find both of these two parties a bit frustrating to deal with.  Just as I am prone to doing with religion, then, let’s set the two opposing caricatures aside and look at those who fall into the larger-and-more-interesting third category: if one is going to explain divination in a more complex/nuanced/interesting way, what does that entail?

I myself have two takes on this, with the first being the one I tend to orient toward more in my own practice:

  1. What happens when you engage in divination is that you are presenting your unconscious mind with some kind of opportunity to make known to you things that you either do not know consciously, or are in denial about knowing.  This, then, is not a matter of “knowing the future,” but rather of learning more about yourself in the course of interpreting that which you are presented with.  Understood this way, divination can be thought of as a form of introspection meditation, and might also be taken as a colorful variant of the free association technique used by psychoanalysts like Freud and Jung.

  2. If you are of an occult practice that establishes a close relationship with some kind of supernatural entity, divination may constitute a manner by which that entity makes its will known to you.  This too, then, is not a matter of “knowing the future,” but rather of knowing whatever the entity wants to make known to you in order to guide your destiny (and as per what I’ve said elsewhere about dark spiritual realities, I certainly would not presume that all such entities are entirely benevolent, free of deceit and so forth).  To those who don’t believe in the supernatural though, this is the same thing as the previous (communion with the unconscious), except dressed up in a more exotic-sounding way: “the entity” = some archetype of your unconscious mind, or etc.
I underline strongly the point that in neither of these two cases is divination “knowing the future.”  I myself am of the mindset that, since the future has not happened yet, there is nothing there to be “known.”  What is being highlighted via the divination then is not actuality, but potentiality. 

Thus, if one asks something like “is my relationship doomed?”, one is not asking a simple “will X happen?” type of question, but rather, a more complex “what is really going on inside of me and what do I really think is going on inside of my partner?”-type of question, wherein the divination symbols/vision provide a jumping off point to encourage further reflection on these questions.  It’s then potentially helpful in the same way a therapist is potentially helpful: sometimes you need input from outside of your own conscious mind to inspire forward motion on an issue.   

This is not to say that all or most people who engage in divination use it this way as opposed to some more simplistic way.  But the possibility that divination can be used in the way I just described is key to the point I want to make re: how it can be relevant to a Satanist and why it can have validity within that context.

* * *

Methods of divination

Broadly speaking, one might say there are two “styles” of divination.  I think this distinction is likely made elsewhere in occult literature with different terminology, but as I don’t feel like looking that up right now, I’ll just use terms that make sense to me:

  • Systematic forms of divination are those that involve a pre-set series of symbols and a method by which the diviner randomly selects a subset of that series.  This includes, for example, tarot cards, runes, I Ching, etc.
  • Visionary forms of divination are those that involve the diviner interpreting a presents itself to them.  This includes, for example, dream interpretation, mirror gazing, crystal ball gazing, etc.

The common element between these forms is that both involve receiving random input from outside of the diviner’s conscious mind + the diviner then having to use intuitive and associative thinking to make some kind of meaning out of that.  Each type also has advantages and pitfalls:

  • Systematic forms are only as good as the diversity of meanings available within their symbol set, and have a greater tendency to sometimes feel uncooperative if you wind up drawing a card/rune/etc. that you just honestly cannot relate to the situation at hand.  Some people though, such as myself, find that having symbols to jump off from leads to better (i.e. more creatively-complex) interpretive/associative results than free-form vision-seeking does, precisely because there is some constraint.

  • Visionary forms are comparatively “freer” than systematic forms, which works very well for highly intuitive people.  For this very reason though, I think visionary forms run a greater danger of returning content that is really just a projection of what the diviner’s conscious mind wants to be the case – i.e. you have to be pretty disciplined, or able somehow anyway to compartmentalize your consciousness’ desires from your visionary capacity, before this kind of divination is going to actually attain divination’s purpose re: presenting new information to the diviner’s consciousness.
Another distinction one could make re: methods of divination is what I would call “other-oriented” vs. “self-oriented” approaches, and this is perhaps easiest to explain via a concrete example I’ve observed as to differences in practice among different diviners:

  • An “other-oriented” tarot reader would be one who wants the client to shuffle the cards if they are reading for that client, with the idea that doing this improves the quality of reading via inclusion of the client’s own energy. 
  • A “self-oriented” tarot reader would be one who never lets anyone touch the cards but themselves, with the idea that maintaining this boundary improves the quality of the reading via exclusion of extraneous energies that could detract from the diviner’s own focus.

Again, I don’t think one of these ways of thinking about it is necessarily more valid than the other, at least from a neutral-ish chaos magic standpoint of “what works for you.”  From the standpoint of Satanic philosophy, I do think it probably makes more sense to approach divination from the latter perspective than the former, but this is a separate issue from the question of valid workings that get results meaningful to the individual diviner.

One last thing about methods, in the name of satisfying potential curiosity that this discussion may be raising about myself: I would classify what I do in the above terms as systematic + self-oriented.  More specifically, I use a self-designed system that integrates tarot, runes, and a sinister-path understanding of Qabalah – that is, the styling is runic, but the mechanism is basically “tarot with six extra cards.”  Detailed specifics of what I do are not what I want to focus on in this entry though, so I’ll leave it at that for now and move on to the Satanic angle on the general topic of divination.

* * *

Rationale, benefits and limitations from a Satanic perspective

I think it goes without saying that the more simplistic “tells the future” take on divination is not compatible with Satanism.  To imagine that the future can be “told,” rather than it depending upon decisions to be made and actions that follow from those decisions, diminishes human responsibility along similar lines to those found in the “right-hand path” religions that Satanism rejects, e.g. “it’s all in God’s hands,” “God will find a way,” etc. 

Taking this train of thought further, it seems to me that a Satanic perspective would hold in particular contempt any kind of divination that in-advance rules out any kind of “dark” or “negative” content (e.g. sugar-coated tarot readings stereotypically associated with New Age bookstores) on the basis that fearful refusal of “the dark” is not a effective stance in gaining undefiled wisdom, either about oneself or about the world / reality.

These provisos aside though, a Satanist practicing divination as an introspective exercise – as per what I described above – strikes me as potentially complementary to a Satanist performing other kinds of meditation.  The questions of “what do I really want, why, and am I doing what I should be doing to get that outcome?” are always good ones for a walker of the sinister path to be asking, and inasmuch as divination can be an aid at asking those questions, it would seem to me to have an obvious place.

Where a Satanic take on divination might differ from other spiritual traditions though, at least as far as I can see, is that the take on divination that makes it valuable to a Satanist is a take that also makes divination first and foremost about the individual diviner, thereby downplaying the practice of a diviner doing divination for clients that is far more typically found in other spiritual contexts where divination is practiced. 

This is not to say that a Satanist such as myself would never do a reading for another person.  I find though that to be consistent with the philosophical assumptions of the sinister path, a Satanist has to make a decision when they do readings of this sort about which of two situations holds:

  • Is it that the client is your peer and friend, in which case you are assisting them via the therapist’s role of “here are some new ideas – might they help you figure out your situation?”  In this case, what you are doing is providing symbolic/visionary content + a few hints as to what you think those mean, but actually leaving most of the “real” interpreting to the client themselves.

  • Or is the client someone you do not in fact hold in high esteem but who is useful to you in some way, in which case you are using your position of power as a spiritual practitioner to manipulate them toward some end that suits your purposes?  In this case, you are providing both the symbolic/visionary content and interpreting it for the client - not necessarily to the point of just making something up to suit your purposes, but perhaps slanting/filtering the interpretation in such a way that you are covertly serving your own ends at the same time as you are ostensibly serving the client's.

I raise the latter possibility not because it necessarily interests me as something I would do, but to draw the reader’s attention to the Satanic insight that you should always be wary of the possibility that a religious/spiritual figure has their own agenda that you are unwittingly being made to serve due to your dependence upon their expertise.

As to the former sort of case, a further reflection/proviso: while it’s certainly possible for a walker of the sinister path to be genuinely well-meaning toward someone they care about, my own experience has been that any and all esoteric practices are only beneficial in proportion to a the individual’s self-awareness – i.e. you cannot control the extent to which people who are not you may have deluded themselves about their own desires, or may be “rooting” for a specific outcome which then pollutes their ability to interpret the divination signs you offer them with wishful thinking.  

This then is another factor in how and why, for a Satanist, I think divination is more something the individual does for themselves than for someone else: the Satanist already is, or at least should be, oriented toward ever-expanding self-awareness as part of having subscribed to the tenets of the religion; such a person can offer useful insights to fellow travelers, but I do think that even with the best of intentions, there is a “wolves can’t really give valid, meaningful advice to sheep” problem if you try to read for someone who does not engage in adequate reflection upon their own life and desires.  Inasmuch as friends are typically peers, this is not an issue, but I would say, speaking as a Satanist, that I would be pretty leery of another Satanist’s intentions if they were going around freely divining for people with vastly different (i.e. probably less) life experience than themselves, as personally I could easily see an ulterior motive going on there.

Summing up, then: for a Satanist, divination has spiritual validity as a method of advancing self-knowledge via introspection on one hand, but also a very different kind of practical validity as a potential means of manipulating other people on the other hand.  And if anyone thinks the latter sounds creepy, well, I really having nothing much to say to that except “fair.” ;)