As long as there has been Heaven, Earth and Human Beings, human beings have sought to divine the way of Heaven and Earth. Whether a basic curiosity or a fundamental need to survive divination is a part of human life. It also lies behind all the world’s religions (diviners becoming shaman, priests, prophets and mystics) and today behind the new religion of scientism (“proving” by statistical research data). In the broadest understanding divination is the foundation of human culture in its various forms – from fortune telling to scientific research, from literature to mysticism, divination is either the method of culture (jazz) or the record of divined precedents (classical).
In modern times the analytic cognitive mind asks: Is divination (that accurately predicts events) premonition or projection (suggestion)? The answer for the traditional Chinese mantic arts is “yes”😂.
The unformed future is empty but the momentum (past) and expectations (present) of qi can be read AND shaped. Wherever fate is hardened, freedom is not far off. Freedom itself is shaped and reshaped by the patterns of our fate (past, present). Unlike the endless argument about fatalism versus free will in the West, Chinese tradition has long understood that one cannot be experienced without the other. They alternate, blend and define each other.
Throughout human history who and/or what is being divined varies from epoch to epoch and culture to culture. The earliest common notion of “who is being divined” is the dead – our ancestral precedents, our life before birth. Over the millennia, important ancestral spirits became or were replaced by gods. Today we may use the terms “inner voice”, psyche, intuition or subconscious. The language and symbols have changed but the confidence to divine and comply with divination is present in everyone’s heart. Everyone remains curious about the future and recognizes that our cognitive process is not always sufficient to produce success.
ystems of divination within each culture or group eventually create icons – symbols that appear repeatedly in divination – the Yijing and its 64 hexagrams, the Tarot and its complex card images and the heads (yes) and tails (no) of a coin. In some sense the symbols do not matter they are merely the language that crosses over from the Unknown to the Known. I invite you to study the Chinese mantic arts as part of a self-examining or self-reflection process. If divination gives you answers, it is not more profound than a dictionary or Google. Let divination break down the questioner and the reply – find your self in the limitless sea of Dao.
Summary View of the Chinese Mantic (Divinatory) Arts What is the COSMOLOGY of Chinese Mantic Arts?
We find ourselves in a cosmic Soup (huntun) where all Time (yang) and Space (yin) are an incomprehensible Chaos. We find no particular time/place – no self.
When we look directly at the nature of our experience, we are faced with the irresolvable confusions brought about by analysis. Paradoxically, this irresolvable Chaos (Chinese: huntun) is the source of every being/thing. When we relax our need to know (desire or over-exerted qi), not knowing, embracing the irresolvable, is the direct path of wisdom. This wisdom tells us that our experience as human beings is a weaving of the qi strands of time and place. This matrix is the unreadable astro-geomantic patterns of huntun.
The spiritual practice of the mantic arts is to investigate and/or divine the weave of the matrix and, by doing so, unravel the false notion of the abiding self. Huntun is not vanquished – it is embraced.
The discovery of fate is a simple matter of science (measuring the patterns of our precedents). The unraveling of fate is called “cultivating the Way”. The Daoism (and its animistic roots) that developed this approach to the mantic arts has a non-dual view (no self, no problem). When we use the mantic arts in a non-dual way (divine) we are looking into the fundamental Nature of being/things without the compulsion to predict, fix or improve any particular part.
What we divine is a dualistic vision – the dance of a macrocosm (Dao) and microcosm (de, shen) – the comprehensible Dao. The dualistic vision is pattern versus Chaos, pattern within Chaos and pattern as Chaos, etc. This view of the mantic arts is linked to what may be called path mantic arts.
Macrocosmic cycles are variously named Ancestors (Shang/Zhou animism), Heaven (Confucianism), Dao (Daoism) and Shunyata or nature of Mind (Buddhism) – this is our experience when, free from particulars, we see the large cycle. In this experience we agree to be swept along by that which is preordained by ancestors, Heaven, Dao or Mind (karmic patterns)? The macrocosm is associated with, but not contained by, the larger cycles or time and the vastness of space.
Microcosmic cycles define our sense of a personal fate (karma) and conversely the nature of our ordinary sense of freedom – our health (alchemical body), happiness (relationships), etc. These parameters show how we are fated or should/will act in accordance with fate and Time. These shorter cycles and measurements of space may be divided into months, days and hours – as divisions of the present and sites in geography.
General Views of the Practice of the Mantic Arts?
The View of FEAR – Mantic Arts predict calamity and provides safety. These arts provide foreknowledge and a way to avoid the mishaps and the punishing results (karma, ancestral ghosts) of our misconduct. Fate (stars, planets and constellations) lords over us, but can be manipulated and predicted. “It is important that I “believe” in astrology.”
The View of SELF-ADVANTAGE – Mantic Arts are esoteric knowledge that leads to personal and socio-political improvement, advantage, success even perfection. It is a secret and technical subject that can be used to make me/us a better and more powerful person/society. “With astrology I can help my SELF and other people gain advantage. “
The View of WISDOM – Mantic Arts are a non-dual revelation that inspires the observance of things- as-they-are. It deconstructs the groundless notion of an abiding self/other and reveals the ever- flowing nameless Cosmos (Dao).
Cosmology of DAO
What is the Unknowable Dao doing? One sort of answer is that it is constantly displaying itself in all phenomena. In other words, what is apparently knowable and the Absolutely Unknowable are not different. The tradition of Chinese astrology is derived from the display of the Unknown in the cycles of Time. Unlike other forms of astrology, Chinese astrology is not strictly speaking attached to astronomy but based on the mathematical cycles of Time.
Everything that appears in the “observable world” does so for a period of Time. Each being/thing appears (birth) and disappears (death) along with myriad other beings/things. The great tide of birth and death gives us Time categories of association. Everything born in Spring, in the eighth moon or in a Dragon year have something in common. Various combinations of sequence add up to the apparently diverse being/things in the Universe. Under close examination astrology (divining through Time) does not give us anything truly solid (unchanging) but an educated guess at the flow of Life. It does not provide “proof” of an abiding self, but it helps us understand the appearance of Character and the choreography of Fate.
The Astrological CHARACTER of Human Beings
You have probably heard of the popular images of Chinese astrology – for instance, 2008 is the Year of the Rat – the Earth Rat. This term describes the character of the year. Each being/thing that is born this year shares in the character of the Earth Rat.
The Character of a being/thing is fixed by the 4 Pillar interpretations. We die with the same character we were born with. It is often what we think we are and more often what others think we are. It is important in the sociological and psychological assessment of our experience. It also determines our basic values and capacity in life. It is used in the reading of Fate to determine auspice.
The Astrological Determinants of FATE
When we examine a variety of cycles associated with any being/thing’s 4 Pillars (birth hour, day, month and year) we get a more and more complicated image; one that relates to a particular character’s Fate. If character is basically how we appear, Fate is how we dance through the various causes and conditions provided by our life in the sequence of Time.
The main Fate calculation system presented in this book is the Polestar system. Like other forms of astrology (Vedic and Persian) it is arrayed in 12 houses associated with various aspects of life. It displays the arrangement of stars (asterisms, planets, constellations) in houses that apparent “determine” the various aspects of our Fate. This system has been converted to a strictly mathematical formula that no longer uses the exact sky above us to determine Fate. This makes it perhaps better called “chronology” than astrology, but I have decided to continue to use the term astrology.