Introduction to Divination
(The following unpublished material comes from a group of "inner teachers", channeled by Ellen Meredith, author of Listening In: Dialogues with the Wiser Self. Calling themselves "the Council", these teachers invite us to consider and define our spiritual practice in very personal terms. They are non-denominational in their affinities, and generally work to promote a grounded, balanced approach to spirituality through everyday activity and creative expression. For a definition of the "three selves" - Wiser Self, Talking Self, Earth Elemental Self - click here.)

"Divination is the art of getting insight into the patterns and movements of meaning in life. We like to play with the word and say that it is a matter of dipping in to the Divine. There are many traditional tools for doing this: the tarot, I Ching, Cowrie shells, palm reading, tea leaves, numerology, the Runes, the pendulum, the cabala, astrology, etc. Some of these tools carry an unsavory reputation as superstitious foolishness, others are tied in with religious traditions and are associated with mystical scholarship.

"What each tool has in common is that it is used to help the reader tune into her own psychic powers, her mind's ability to read the movements of energy. A tool is pretty worthless without the skill of good reading or interpretation. It provides a vocabulary, and sometimes a grammar, for understanding meaning in a person's life. Trying to use a tool without thoroughly understanding its lexicon and organization can be like trying to read poetry in a foreign language with only a dictionary in hand.

"Divination is a form of dialogue, between the diviner and the Wiser Self. If someone is reading (doing divination) for you, they are trying to enter into dialogue with your Wiser Self, to learn more about the patterns and values. If you are reading for yourself, you are saying to your Wiser Self: use this vocabulary of symbols to help me animate my awareness of what is important right now, of where I am headed in my life, of what I need to know.

"Some people find that using a divination tool helps them to build and deepen their relationship with their own Wiser Self. It can help you to strengthen and expand your intuition. Each time you ask: "What is going on for me right now?" and draw a card or rune in response, you find your own sense of things validated -- or contradicted -- and in that dialogue you often deepen your understanding of your feelings and energetic truths.

"Using a tool for this dialogue requires a leap of faith. When you pose a question to "the universe", (or your Wiser Self), and then use cards, runes, charts, etc. to interpret the response, you have to believe that there is some intelligence in the response. If you feel you are drawing a card or casting your I Ching at random, then of course it is ridiculous to use a divination tool. What makes divination tools work is that they are not random. As you shuffle the cards, or reach in the bag to select a rune, your Wiser Self is guiding the selection.

"If you feel doubt about this, then we recommend you try it for a time. After you select the same three runes "randomly" over a two-week period to refer to the same ongoing issue in your life, you will begin to feel that, yes, indeed, there is some intelligence involved here. But it is not an intelligence inhabiting the tool! It is your own Wiser Self and your own Earth Elemental Self collaborating to make information and insight available to your Talking Self. Or if there is a reader involved, then it is her wiser and earth elemental selves collaborating to help you.

"So when people ask us: is there any validity to astrology (or numerology, or tarot) it is like asking us: is there any validity to English, or French, or Esperanto. They are just languages which your mind is capable of learning, which offer richer or poorer vocabularies and grammars capable of certain things but not others. And they are all valid and useful in the hands of a skilled diviner; they are all crude and inexpressive in the hands of someone who is unable to understand them clearly.

Two Types of Tools
"We might divide the tools into two types. Those which merely offer a vehicle for reading energy, for simple dialogue with the earth elemental or Wiser Self, like the pendulum, muscle testing, tea-leaf reading, or Ouija board, and those tools which offer a whole cosmology or world view, like the I Ching, runes, astrology and tarot. (See Psychic Abilities for more discussion of these.) A cosmology is a map of reality, an entire world view, so as you work with a tool like the tarot, you are apprenticing yourself to this system for a time. You are learning to navigate your understanding through a particular philosophy of life. You are communicating with your Wiser Self using a particular dialect which will color your understanding and perceptions.

"There are advantages and disadvantages to this. The disadvantages should be obvious. Most tarot decks, for example, have been highly Christianized in their imagery and interpretations of symbols. Thus certain values or concepts are embodied there which may or may not speak to you, may or may not adequately represent what your higher self wishes to say. The advantage of these tools, on the other hand, is that they have been developed and evolved over centuries, and often represent a rich compendium of understandings about life and energy. As you use the tool, you are "studying" with many scholars who have gone before you. Like a language, a divination tool which represents a whole cosmology grows richer with use.

"Divination is not a "right answer" kind of practice. If you ask the cards: should I marry this person?, you will not get advice about whether to marry or not. You will get insight into the strengths and weaknesses of that union. You will get an exploration of the issues which that potential marriage raises for you. It can be like a good therapy session -- through dialogue and exploration of these issues you can arrive at your own truest desire and choices.

"When someone else is interpreting the cards for you, they should be a facilitator for this process. If they say: "yes you should marry", or "no you should not marry this person, because..." they are not using the tool the way it should be used. They are interjecting their own choices, preferences and decisions. No card (or rune, or astrological sign, or cowrie position) is "bad" or "negative" in and of itself. It tells you something about energy, about the relations of one theme to another in your life, and it is always up to you to determine the value of this information for yourself.

Asking Good Questions
"If you ask someone, "did you go to the show last night?", you are likely to get a "yes" or "no" in response. If you ask: "what did you do last night?" you are likely to get a brief phrase: "went to a show". If, however, you ask an open-ended question, such as "tell me about your evening", you are less likely to limit or shape the response you get.

"There is an art to asking good questions -- in divination and in life-at-large! The question you pose can tell you a lot about your own stance or approach to an issue. If you find yourself saying, "should I do such and such", you can hear your own desire to be told what to do, your own fear and uncertainty. If you say, "give me some insight into this question" or "what would be most productive to focus on", then you are creating an opportunity for real dialogue with your Wiser Self.

"The Wiser Self and the divine wisdom are not, as we have said, "right-answer" machines. In fact, your life experience and Wiser Self are trying to gently guide you beyond the need for right answers, certainty, permission, to a larger awareness of the subtlety involved in each question, in the multiple merits of each perspective, in the values of many choices. There is no single right choice, right stance, right answer available for you from a wise teacher. There is only the awareness of what each choice will yield, what each choice means emotionally and symbolically to you. How each choice challenges or creates blockage for you.

"The practice of divination, then, is not a matter of checking in with the universe to see if you are living your life correctly, or to ask where your life will lead. It is a matter of gaining insight into the themes and movements of energy which you are participating in at any given time. Whatever "prediction" emerges from a reading is just a chance to exercise and test out your intuition and precognition. Given the seeds you are planting, what is the garden likely to yield?

"If you, or another reader, see prediction in the divination session, it is not a sentence passed upon you. The future is not predetermined! While your life is subject to the rules of nature and energy and you may have some "soul appointments" that you have made on the inner level, you also have vast free will in your actions and events.

"Your Wiser Self doesn't answer questions, it responds. Sometimes it says: pay attention to these factors. Sometimes it says: the real issue or question is this. Sometimes it says: here is an aspect you haven't considered. Sometimes the answer is indistinguishable at the time you are asking. You see the runes you have drawn, or the configuration of your planets, but they just don't yield clear information. Then the message is: wait. It is not time to know. Your question has been posed, and your Wiser Self will find other modes and experiences for you, which will guide you to understanding and insight over time.

"The more you work with a divination tool, the more you will develop an instinct for whether it is addressing the question you have asked, or whether in fact, it is showing you how to re-frame the question or issue. In the process of doing regular readings for yourself, you get to clarify your priorities. You get to see which questions yield the greatest insights, and learn more about your own way of perceiving information.

Developing Your Own Tools
"It will not surprise you by now (if you have read many of our writings) to hear that we recommend you develop your own divination tool, in addition to using standard divination methods. It can be a wonderful exercise in exploring your own cosmology, and identifying which symbols speak to you. If color is important to you, for example, and evokes strong intuitive responses, then make yourself a deck of cards with various colors in it. As you pose your question -- for example: "Give me insight into my work situation"-- and draw a particular color, you can begin to articulate what that color says to you in that moment.

"Each symbol has personal meaning, as well as universal associations. The goal in developing and using a divination tool is to become familiar with your personal symbol system and with your personal code of associations. Even if you look in a book somewhere and find out that pink often means heart energy, to you it might carry far different associations: embarrassment, gluttony because pigs are pink, silliness if it reminds you of frilly things. You need to develop your own vocabulary for communicating with your intuitive self, because that will give you the most authentic basis for guidance.
"If shapes, or key phrases, or objects, or musical concepts speak to you, then you can incorporate them into the tool you develop. Whatever speaks to you most fully -- and it is quite possibly not the traditional images you find on tarot cards, or the abstract language of the I Ching -- that will be a rich resource in developing your own method for communicating with your Wiser Self.

"One student of Ellen's came up with a tool which she called "do-it-yourself Gypsy fortune-telling cards". She took five hundred 5 x 8" file cards, and cut a multitude of images from old magazines. Some of the images she glued to the cards "as is", and others she collaged, following her instincts for evocative combinations. She then invited friends to pose a question, select a card at random, and interpret what the image on the card might be saying about the question. Only when her "clients" had finished their associations would she offer a summary of what she had heard them say and observations of her own.

"This kind of home-made tool takes some time to develop; a lovely on-the-spot tool to play with is one made up of household objects. Go around your house and gather thirty to fifty objects, such as a thimble, a can opener, a picture, a glass of water, a clock -- whatever draws your attention. Arrange those objects on a table. Then pose a question (such as: give me insight into my relationship right now), and with your eyes shut or open (as you prefer), reach out and select one of the objects. You may feel yourself drawn to a certain one, with a subtle pull or preference, as if it were lighting up, saying "pick me".

"Then, keeping your mind on what it was you asked, you can free-associate about what this object might be telling you in response. Interpretation is a highly individual response. If you selected a can opener, for example, your association with it might be that your relationship is stuck, and you need something to come along and open it up. Or you might see the can opener and feel a surge of frustration at all the every-day tasks which eat up your time with your partner. Or it may carry the association of "opening a can of worms" for you. It might be that that particular can opener is sticky, and that is the aspect which catches your attention at the moment. You feel it drawing your attention to the "stickiness" of your relationship.
"Treat divination as a game you are playing with your own imagination and intuitive self. It is a game you can play with others too -- ask them to give you their associations with the can opener, in response to the question you asked. Sometimes they will suggest something that triggers awareness and rings a bell in you. Sometimes you will be left with the feeling of "yes, but so what?"

"Since divination is a dialogue, it is not made up exclusively of punch lines! Nor are you always going to get immediate and deep insights into your questions. But the process of playing with divination tools exercises your imagination and your ability to listen to and interpret the symbolic language of your earth elemental and wiser selves.

"Obviously choosing a single-object response to a complicated question is only going to shed a tiny light in most cases. If you create a "grammar" for a more complex response, then your tool takes on more depth.

Structuring your Explorations
"You can use a "layout", or structure to your readings, which will allow you to explore more aspects of the question. For example, if you determine your first object will address the "past influences" of the question, the second object will speak to "present focus", and the third points to the "greatest stumbling block", then you will have a context in which to place your associations to give them stronger meaning and significance to you.

"As you invent layouts, or borrow them from traditional tools such as the tarot, you are mapping out what you see as the salient aspects of a question. You might decide that the first object will represent "the heart" of the question, the second "the mind", the third "the body", and the fourth "the soul". You may wish to create an array of positions, between "inception", "early stages", "late stages" and "aftermath". You may want to choose something to correlate with fire, earth, air, and water, or with various seasons, or with particular astrological relationships.

"One layout we have seen specifies 13 positions, each in relation to a doorway you are going through at this time in your life. It includes such things as: the keyhole, the name on the door, and the handle - once grasped allows you to enter. Obviously this type of layout is especially useful for exploring issues of passage and change in your life!

"Divination allows you to communicate with your Wiser Self in a piece-meal, symbolic fashion. Since your consciousness is richly symbolic and more multidimensional than social understandings tend to be, it gives you a way to flesh out your understanding through the use of your intuition and imagination.

"Just as you make plenty of mistakes when learning to speak, you will find there are plenty of misinterpretations and distortions to your divination at first. This is in fact true of all psychic work. So if you approach it as a form of play, as an exploration, you are less likely to compound your confusion with false predictions or interpretations.

Reading for Others
"We tend to focus on divination more as an activity that you do with yourself and for yourself. Yet many of you go to others for "readings" or feel tempted to do readings for friends. The value of having someone else read for you, if they have already developed some skill in communicating with their Wiser Self, is that they can provide openings or insights for you that activate your ability to do it for yourself.

"If a reader tells you that the theme of the next year for you is "finding family", and that fits with your sense of need and inner truth, then hearing the reader formulate it reminds you of what you already know. It helps you to recognize your own inner truth. But if it does not ring a bell, and just seems like a foreign concept, you will probably ignore it, or decide that they are not very good at what they are doing. You may feel upset and wonder what is wrong with you.

"The point of going to another person for guidance is not to see whether they are "right" or "wrong", but rather to get information you can use for your own growth. If the other person puts you in touch with your own inner truth, then they are being helpful. If the person stirs up doubts that don't lead to positive growth and understanding, then they are not being helpful. In your culture, which glorifies "experts" and "authorities" it is a challenge to learn to use the guidance of others for your own evolution, and the development of your own inner authority. When a teacher or psychic reader makes you dependent on them for information, understanding and interpretation, then they are not being wise.

"The same is true for you, if you choose to do readings for others. You would probably not go out after spending a few months learning a new language, and try to counsel others in that new language, because you would be too self-conscious of your limitations, and of the nuances you would be missing. So as you wish to introduce your divination games to others, it is healthy to keep it as a form of play, rather than taking on the stance of counselor or adviser.

"You may be able to help your friends use the tool to come up with new insights and views of their problems. But you also court the danger of misunderstanding the tool and the messages (especially using a traditional tool). So be aware of your true fluency level, both with the particular tool you are using, and also with the vocabulary and syntax of the Wiser Self.
"With these cautions, we invite you to play! Enjoy the dialogue with your Wiser Self and the explorations of your intuitive mind."