On Geomantic Education

To those who follow me on Twitter and Facebook, this will come as no surprise.  I’m finally working on my book on geomancy again.  It’s something that people have been dogging me about for years, and it’s been an on-again-off-again project since 2013.  However, since recently rebuilding my computer and getting all my files back together, I got the bug again to write that book, and good progress is being made again.  At this rate, it’ll be the size of a proper textbook, and my aim is to make it thorough and complete on a level not rivaled since Fludd or az-Zanati.  I’m not going to discount the extremely valuable books put out by John Michael Greer or Stephen Skinner, as I stand on the shoulders of those two living giants with regards to this art, but I aim to put out a text of a different kind.

And yet, despite that this book is (currently) estimated to come out at around 300pp., I can already hear a complaint off in the distance.  My goal is for this book to present a fundamental and thorough exploration of the art of geomancy in such a way that it will start from first principles (what is divination, what are the elements and planets and stars, what are the relationships between these forces and the figures, what are the relationships amongst the figures, how is geomantic “mathematical”, etc.) and go through every major technique I can document in Western geomancy, including variations and specifics of detailed things along the way.  In this sense, I’m following in the same steps as the geomantic authors of yore.  However, there is one major thing that my book does not and will not have that virtually every other book on geomancy has, and while it may frustrate people used to it, I find that it’s something that should never have been written by anyone ever to begin with.

If you haven’t guessed yet, dear reader, it’s lookup tables, those lists of premade answers to particular arrangements of Court figures, figures in the houses, and the like.  It’s these lookup tables (cf. Hartmann, Skinner’s “Oracle of Geomancy”, the Golden Dawn primer on geomancy, etc.) that I believe are a bane to the proper study of geomancy, and I refuse to include them in my work.

Now, I understand why they were written.  For the sake of completion, many authors have endeavored to provide a clear explanation and guide to interpreting each figure in each of the houses; since there are only 16 figures and 12 houses, this is only about 192 small entries.  After all, astrologers have done the same for the planets and parts in the houses for centuries, and they have a lot more to worry about in their texts.  And, for the sake of being reeeaaallly complete, many authors have also included premade interpretations for the different possible combinations of Witnesses and Judge; after all, if the Judge must be an even figure, then that cuts down all pairwise combinations of Witnesses to just 128 different combinations.  Again, not terrible.  For completeness’ sake, and to offer an illustrative guide to the gist of what figures mean for a query, sure, I can see why this was done.

The problem, however, is that many people are not as dedicated to the art when they claim to be its students, and would rather be lazy.  Mass-market publishers, additionally, want things that sell, and will happily cater to the many who would spend a few pence on a text that appeals to them rather than the extraordinary few who would spend more on a text that they need.  I mean, consider how much trash there is out there with the neopagan or pop magic literature; sure, it sells well, and it may very well be a good starting point for those who are serious about their studies.  Hell, even I admit to having a few of Scott Cunningham’s fluffier books somewhere in my library, and it did help me get started back in middle school with learning what magic is and how it works.  That said, if I were to stop there, I’d be putting myself at a great disservice and would never have gotten to where I am today; moreover, if I thought that Cunningham’s style of pop magic spells done on a beach or in the snow was all there was to magic, I’d insult all the magicians and occultists who came before him, not to say the field of magic as a whole.

The problem is that, as time went on in the Renaissance and more and more books were published on geomancy, all they really focused on was the lookup tables.  The techniques were discussed only inasmuch as they enabled you to use the lookup tables; for this, see Franz Hartmann’s book on geomancy as a prime example.  Geomancy became whittled down from this elaborate, profound system of divination that could elegantly answer any subject with extraordinary detail into this…well, the phrase “parlor game” comes to mind, something like Chi-Chi sticks or those little folded paper fortune-teller doodads we all used to make in elementary school.  Even though geomancy was more popular in Europe than Tarot is now, imagine if Tarot were reduced only to using its numbers and suits; it’s effectively playing cards, ignoring different spreads and the qabbalistic symbolism inherent in the art and structure of the Tarot.  That’s what basically became of geomancy towards the end of the Renaissance, and was one of the main contributors to geomancy effectively being lost once the Enlightenment and Industrial Revolution came around.  No, geomancy was not completely forgotten, but it was all but regarded as useless and overly complicated for an answer that usually amounted to little more than “evil, except for bloodletting”.

So much for how the publishing and spread of lookup tables influenced the general perception of geomancy.  However, there’s another part of the problem with relying on these: lookup tables are inherently limited.  Sure, the small number of combinations of figures in houses or Witnesses and Judge is sufficiently limited to offer a good high-level summary in a single text; it’s not the fact that there are only so many combinations in geomancy, but it’s that these summaries cannot be helpful in all circumstances and for all queries.  These interpretations are very general, but also very isolated from other factors in a geomantic chart.  Yes, Fortuna Maior in house IV is a good thing for one’s personal life, but what if we’re asking a query about having an ex-lover move out of our house, and this figure is aspected by opposition, and it’s in company with a negative figure, and the querent has indicated that health issues may be at play?  Fortuna Maior, although a good figure, is sufficiently negated that it becomes stressful and harmful to the querent.  Yet, what can a lookup table say?  Not much, except that the querent will do well and strong in their personal life and home.  That’s all well and good, but the geomancer still has to link that to every other factor present to actually give a useful answer.  Without indicating how, books that stress the importance of lookup tables without teaching how to synthesize these factors gimp the geomancer.

Lookup tables, in effect, cheapen the art of geomancy; it reduces a synthetic, holistic, detailed divination system to a copy-and-paste, abbreviated, vague system of terse and snippy answers.  Because of this, geomancers who rely primarily on lookup tables aren’t really learning how to actually use geomancy beyond following page numbers like a “choose your path” story book.

That’s why my book will not have these lookup tables.  Tables of correspondence that indicate what figures mean in specific contexts?  Absolutely! Detailed interpretations of each figure as they are and how they relate to other figures to explore their own worlds?  You got ’em!  Case studies of geomantic readings that explore each individual factor and technique used for a particular chart, then synthesized together to form a coherent, cohesive narrative?  But of course!  These are all parts of understanding the principles of geomancy from a ground-up approach, so that lookup tables become useless anyway.  By enabling the geomancer to develop their own interpretations through a deep knowledge of each figure, understanding how the figures interact with each other ideally and in particular charts, and giving them the tools to synthesize different parts of a reading, the geomancer will never need to use lookup tables for answers on “will he obtain his love” or “how will the undertaking end”; at a glance, the geomancer will be able to answer these on their own anyway based on their own skill and intuition.

So, if the fact that my book is gonna be around 300 pages and remind you of college, dear reader, don’t worry.  This is not a book to flip through because you want to be lazy.  This is a book to absorb thoroughly because you want to be excellent.

Advertisements

About polyphanes
I'm a software developer and Hermetic occultist living near Washington, DC, USA. I claim that I'm youthful, dashing, daring, and other things. I make things and chant stuff, and periodically write about them.

3 Responses to On Geomantic Education

  1. Eric da' MAJ says:

    I applaud your intent. And I would buy it. I’ve found the tables perfectly useless. Indeed I only consult them if totally unclear on the answer and they’ve never clarified jack. Geomancy is a flow that, if you can pick up on its nuances, can sometimes be very correct. Even if at my current state of expertise it’s only in hindsight.

    “evil, except for bloodletting” – Jeez. Did they mean by violence or medicinal (like leech application)? No wonder the Enlightenment shit canned it.

  2. Tarot’s much the same way. Keywords are great, but the cards are strongest in combination and those can never be completely listed. Your example of the annoying roommate is a good one as lists of keywords can never completely describe the nuances of a situation.

    The problem is that a lot of people are unwilling or unable to think outside those lists of keywords and actually *think* about what the method is telling them. And Chien Tung are pretty fun–I’ve got a couple of sets. This is far and away the best one: http://smile.amazon.com/Chinese-Fortune-Sticks-Zhao-Xiaomin/dp/1556709854/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1456207657&sr=8-1&keywords=chinese+fortune+sticks+xiaomin

  3. I highly commend you, Sam, on writing the book, and am delighted to receive such news. May the path from its current unfinished form to publishing be clear of all obstacles! Your criticism of the look-up-table-of-answers is bang on! I remember seeking out “canned interpretations” of a figure’s meaning in particular houses (e.g., Cattan) early in my practice of geomancy and found them only marginally helpful. Then I spent a year intensively studying Vedic Astrology — at which time I finally “got it” and learned how to “read between the lines” and have never been tempted to look at another table-of-answers again. If novice geomancers want to rely on such tables, they are readily available; what is desperately needed is a thorough, rigorous guide on how to be a good geomancer. And I believe that your book will fill that need. I will surely buy it!

Leave a Note

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: