Friday, February 23, 2007

Divination: Ghosts in the Machines

I've mentioned that divination of some sort has been a mainstay in most cultures right up to and including modern times--check your newspaper for an Astrology section, usually running on the weekends.

As with most topics in the esoteric world, there are a variety of opinions on the utility of divination, ranging from the almost-official hard line skeptical opinions which hold that divination is not possible to persons who predicate their political careers and nation-building policies on its conversational results.

As my readers can probably guess, I shall offer a range of other positions for your consideration. The first and probably most uncomfortable possibility is that the act of divination, by whatever means, is a conditioned response to information the diviner unconsciously holds.

From this viewpoint, the act of performing the divination is a way to bring into consciousness the results of a messy, largely unconscious series of processes that have made a probabilistic estimation revealing the outcome of a situation or event. This may sound a bit like the tail wagging the dog, but as you shall see, the nature of the relationship between a dog and its tail are not very clear in a discussion of living systems that extend beyond the boundaries of the skin.

Ghosts, Machines and Emulators

Suppose that you are a long time member of a bowling league with decades of tournament experience. While each game is certainly a unique event with variables that cannot entirely be estimated or recognized, the aggregate sum of your knowledge of the bowling team, the quirks of each individual and their performances over time is information already held by a long term participant. This information is the processed data that goes into a "gut feeling" about the game. The term gut feeling is quite interesting-the abdomen is a lively place for neuronal activity. In the 19th century numerous occultists described what they referred to as "the abdominal brain" or Solar Plexus energy center. (This plays a central role in 19th century esotericism, being as important to Western magicians as the Tan tin was to Chinese Taoists.)

Now, regardless of how much neuronal processing power the gut has, it does not have a speech center. Suppose that instead these gut feelings are a signal that your unconscious is sending to the part of your consciousness that fancies itself in charge of you? While not a scientific survey by any means, lots of combat veterans credit a gut instinct with saving their lives in a firefight. Certainly, it is relevant that a number of the Unabomber's victims picked up their package, shook it and said something like "Hey, I bet it is a bomb ha ha!".

The same is often true of people who are attacked in parking lots or other outdoor spots. Many of them ignored their feelings and continued on to their destination, because they didn't want to look foolish. Pride is the most dangerous tendency in our lives, especially when every non-verbal sensation in our being screams that running away will keep us alive. Fear is an ally, not some inner demon to be overcome.

To parse this activity in terms of programming, we have inner emulators that we frequently use to estimate probabilistic behaviors in others. Now sometimes this is really off the mark, so let's introduce a feedback loop into this. Each time we make an estimate, test it against the actions of that person and refine your ability to better determine their future actions. That's a good start, but there's an even better technique available to the esotericist.

The term for a largely unembodied expression of a cohesive emulator is an egregore. An egregore is an intelligence capable of expression and interaction in the wider world. One of the best ways to tap into this is to build a series of inner experiences that are relevant to that egregore. Suppose, for example, that a ceremonial lodge in Chadron, Nebraska decides on adopting the egregore of 19th century organization "The Tribe of Judah Ben Hur" as their main contact for the astral realm. The easiest way for the members to more correctly interpret information from this source is by understanding its grammary and vocabulary, largely expressed as sigils and symbols. Of course, reading "Ben Hur" and studying it for deeper meanings is also a really good idea, though the process of interacting with the inner emulator and outer egregore should involve all of your senses.

I mentioned ghosts a few paragraphs ago. There are two examples I offer as evidence of the ghosts in the machine.

The Walking Somnambulist

I worked as the office manager for a non-profit environmental activist group in Southern California some twenty years ago. My boss was a Dr. L.E., a Ph.D. in experimental psychology and the original designer of the fund-raising model that involved neighborhood canvassing and cold calling. Lab experiments have shown that approximately one person in ten will do almost anything even vaguely reasonable that is suggested to them if the right words and body language are used. If you can "hook" them in the first 30 seconds, they will donate money. The script went something like this---
"Now, you recognize that the pollution of waterways in Southern California is a quality of life issue that affects everyone equally. All of us drink water and bathe, don't we? So why don't you pull out your wallet or checkbook and make a difference by donating ten, fifteen, dollars, whatever you are comfortable with, to us?"

The person had no idea five minutes ago that they'd consider it important to donate to a cause. But now, it makes perfect sense. There's an even stronger manifestation of Walking Somnambulist as a side effect to the popular sleep aid, Ambien. Quite a few people have taken the drug, gone to sleep for a few hours, and then awakened with extremely impaired judgement. A woman was one of many profiled on an investigative tv show last year. She took Ambien, slept for a few hours, woke up, drove to a 24 hour mega-store and filled a shopping cart with merchandise, went home, crawled back into bed, and woke up with no idea she'd gone shopping.

(As for me, do any of my readers need unused iPod accessories?)

The Case of the Autonomous Hand

A stronger and quirkier phenomenon is that of "autonomous hand". For reasons that are not clear, people sometimes lose control of a single limb that seems to act of its own accord. If the person in charge doesn't want their hand attacking them or playing Chopin all night, who is in charge? I know that multiple personalities are out of favor this decade, but from my experience, sometimes something spookier than deception is going on.

"Light as a feather, stiff as a board"

This was a popular parlor game ~200 years ago, and it is still played by teenagers to this day. Basically, ten or fourteen of your closest friends will each place a few fingers under you, and while they and you chant this, they will lift you to waist level. If you "think" about doing this, it is likely that the attempt will be unsuccessful, and the party will probably move into doing jello shots or watching Linnea Quigley or John Waters movies. Think about it and fail. Do it and succeeed.

That's all for now. Next time I'll introduce a different model for divination and reveal a secret Essene sexual healing technique that has never been in print or on the Internet.

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