Divination by the book

There is an ancient art of divination known as bibliomancy…divination by books. It has been around a long time…the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Changes, has been in use for at least three thousand years, and who knows how much further back the practice began. The idea was to take a book that is considered to hold truth and allow it to point the way in random fashion.

In more recent centuries, the most common method of bibliomancy in his country used the Bible and, during our visits to churches, following the trail that led us on our adventures, Stuart and I have made a habit of consulting those Bibles we have found on the lecterns.

It isn’t true bibliomancy… we are not exactly doing it by the book…that would require us to let the closed book balance upon its spine and fall open at a random page. Many of these church bibles are old and fragile, so we content ourselves with looking at the open pages, or seeing where the bookmark is placed. The intent is not quite the same either…we do not ascribe magical powers to the printed page..at least not in that particular way… but we have found that the first verse or passage to which the eye is drawn will usually hold something pertinent to where we are on the quest.

A psychologist might suggest that the eye selects what is relevant…I wouldn’t argue with that. What is odd though, is it how frequently the selected verse will shed light on a current problem or clue on the quest. It is as if the mind knows what is needed at some deep level and uses the printed page as an interface through which the deeper levels of mind can communicate with the surface, effectively spelling out for you what you already know but do not realise or understand.

“Can anyone withhold water for baptizing these people who have received the Holy Spirit just as we have?” Acts 10:47

That was the verse that caught my eye in the little church in Blore. I pondered it as I wandered the church, taking photographs and studying the mosaic of glass in the window. There were many ways to interpret the phrase beyond the obvious or literal, but, for this to have any relevance, there is usually another clue…and I found it in the window. The largest fragments show the story of St Anne teaching the Virgin to read.

It is a common motif in medieval art and the legends of Mary’s early life and the origins of those stories make interesting reading in themselves. But, spiritual and biblical interpretations aside, the verse and image combined made perfect sense. It is odd, because depending upon which translation or version of the Bible you read, the sense of this verse may be completely changed by the addition of a comma or a slight change of phrasing. In this version, the interpretation is equivocal, but I read it as saying, “What right has anyone to judge another’s readiness when we are all equal.”

Along with the image of St Anne teaching her daughter, I took that to mean that what we know, we should share…not withhold because it makes someone feel superior to have knowledge others do not possess or because we might think another is not ready to hear it. At worse, unreadiness will not have the understanding to know what to do with what it learns, at best, it will take a leap forward and grow.

It is something seen all too often, that knowledge becomes a weapon of superiority, serving nothing but the ego of the player who keeps their cards to their chest. Knowledge alone serves no purpose without the experience that brings understanding… and the verse had a point; by what right do we judge another’s worth in the bigger picture? What we see in any man or woman is no more than the tip of the iceberg; what lies beyond our vision may be far greater than we realise. We are all recipients of the Holy Spirit… our kinship with each other goes beyond the chemical and physical matter of our bodies.

Does that mean we should give every scrap of knowledge to everyone we meet, robbing them of the chance to learn it for themselves? There is another pertinent verse from the same tome that comes to mind, “Ask, and it will be given to you; seek, and you will find; knock, and it will be opened to you. I think that therein lies the clue.

I always believed in answering the questions that my children put to me as honestly and fully as I could. I might speak in terms I knew they would understand, language relevant to their age, but I told them the truth as I understood it. Because that is another problem with exclusivity where knowledge is concerned…regardless of any personal certainties, we could be wrong.

In the Mysteries, it has always been the maxim that if a student can formulate the question, they should be answered. In practical terms, we always have the inner self to whom we can carry those questions even when there is no-one else… and such questions are always answered. Even though you may have to open a book or look at the world in order to find them.

The churches have been off the menu for a while as we have put the books aside to work on more pressing tasks. It is odd that in this, the first new church we have visited in a long time, the message should hit home so directly. Perhaps this bit of bibliomancy was also a nudge to take up our staffs and pens and get back to work.