As many of you reading this know, there are basically two kinds of magicians. First there are the "Armchair Magicians." These are the people who study, read about, and theorize about magic but never actually practice it. The second type of magician is the "Practicing Magician." Such a person does some study, but tends to be more interested in doing magic than reading about it.
Some practicing magicians dislike armchair magicians. Personally, I find that both types of magicians are important. The armchair magicians often discover concepts which have been ignored and can present them in positive ways so that practicing magicians can make use of them. But more importantly, because there are differing levels of practical involvement, any person who wishes to follow a magical path can find a level of activity which is right for him or her.
This brings me to the subject of divination. I have learned numerous systems, from the Tarot and runes to geomancy and its odd variant known as Napoleon's Book of Fate. I've also seen people do smoke reading, hot wax reading, tea leaf reading, and every other form of divination short of reading someone's entrails!
One thing always bothered me about all these forms of divination. They always took place "out there." They used devices which were outside of me—cards, runes, sticks, tea cups, etc. As such, there was for me a degree of separation I didn't like.
In my experience, all of these tools open up links to the subconscious where the actual divination takes place. However, rather than link directly to the subconscious, there is an interpretation which goes through the exterior device or devices. Such interpretations can lead to great difficulties.
One of the most famous bad interpretations was made by John F. Kennedy at the Berlin Wall when he said, in German, "Ich bin ein Berliner," which many people assumed meant "I am a citizen of Berlin." It would have been right if he had left out the word "ein." What he said actually said: "I am a jelly donut."
Other supposed examples of bad translation due to interpretation include Pepsi's "Come Alive! You're in the Pepsi generation" advertisement. When they went into China it was translated and interpreted poorly. The result made the drink rather popular because it in Chinese it meant "Pepsi brings your ancestors back from the grave." Another supposed example of poor interpretation occurred when Parker Pen started to advertise their products in Mexico. The advertisement was supposed to read "It won't leak in your pocket and embarrass you." But the translator, needing to interpret terms, incorrectly thought that "embarazar" (which means "to impregnate") actually meant "to embarrass." The resulting ad read (in Spanish), "It won’t leak in your pocket and make you pregnant."
I realize, of course, that many people use divination tools very successfully. This is in no way meant as a criticism of them. In fact, I can do divinations using several of them pretty well myself. But I continually have a niggling worry that there might be something more, perhaps a direct path with no need for a symbolic device which intercepts my direct knowledge of the desired information. It was this aspect I wanted to explore. I just didn't know how.
THE I CHING
As I wrote above, I've practiced or observed numerous forms of divination. But for me, none of them were quite right. So I decided to see if another divinatory device might lead me closer to my goal. I decided to investigate the I Ching.
There are many versions of this ancient book which are available. Some are recapitulations of what is considered the "standard" version while others move further away from the traditional form and meaning. As I was doing some investigation about the I Ching on the Internet, I discovered a book called The Magical I Ching by J.H. Brennan. I already knew some of Brennan's work as he is the author of seventy books covering topics such as magick, reincarnation, time travel, Nostradamus, and the astral plane, so this is the one I picked. I ordered it and a few days later it came in the mail.
Many people have patterns for going through a book. So do I. Rather than simply read an informative book such as this one, I'll thumb through it and look for sections that interest me. Later, I'll go back and read the whole thing.
Naturally, if you thumb through a book, some of the first things you'll notice are the illustrations. The one I noticed right away was the full page illustration on page 83 showing a "sample hexagram card." I decided to find out what this was about. Like many, if not most occultists, I knew at least a little about the I Ching. I had a traditional translation and had worked a bit with it. You can use coins or some sticks to determine a set of lines, which are either solid of divided. Three of them make up a trigram and two trigrams make up a hexagram. The basic procedure is this: you ask a question, throw the coins or sticks, come up with a hexagram, then look up the meaning of the hexagram in a book (the meanings of all 64 hexagrams are included here). So what was this illustration of a "card?"
The answer was fairly simple. You begin your divination the same way, but rather than look up the answer, you use a large card with the hexagram on it as a doorway to the astral plane.
WHY THE ASTRAL PLANE?
Most practical occult systems work with the astral plane. In popular literature and films, the main purpose for this ability seems to be seeing things at a distance or visiting your girlfriend. If the use of the astral plane is so mundane, why do so many occult groups insist that people learn to project the consciousness to the astral plane?
A basic answer is that the astral plane is composed of several intermingling areas. It is in the lower levels of the astral plane where one can visit a girlfriend. It is in the higher levels of the astral plane where the workings of the physical plane originate. If you effect something on this level of the astral plane, you can effect what occurs on the physical plane. This is a basis for many kinds of real magic.
Just as there are maps for the physical plane, so, too, are there maps for the astral plane. The most common map in Western occultism is the ubiquitous Kabalistic Tree of Life. Traditionally, people would follow the paths on this tree, usually with the help of the Major Arcana cards of the Tarot. According to this tradition, the paths function like roads from one place in the astral plane to another. You must follow these roads.
More recently, author Kenneth Grant has presented a view that it is possible to leap from one area mapped by the Tree of Life to another, circumventing the roads or paths altogether. Grant proposes a Tree with eleven areas. Through one of them you can pass to another eleven-fold Tree. Even so, I felt that this limited the potential number of areas on the astral plane that could be visited. Why only twenty-two areas? Why not twenty-five? Or fifty? Or sixty-four?
With the concepts in The Magical I Ching I not only had a link to traveling to numerous areas on the astral plane, but to areas where I could discover valuable answers during powerful divinations.
Brennan suggests that you begin by making up 64 cards, one for each of the hexagrams, and laminate them. But I decided to try the system out before going to that trouble. I simply made up one card at time as needed, using a standard, blank, 3" x 5" card, a wide-tipped felt marking pen, and a ruler. Because I didn't have all of the cards in advance, I had to slightly modify the system given by Brennan. Here is what I did.
1) I made a space to do the work, usually at a table in a room lit only with candles.
2) On the table I had a copy of The Magical I Ching, three coins, plus the ruler, card, and pen. I also had a regular ballpoint pen and a book for keeping a record of the divination.
3) Next, I would perform a relaxation exercise so I could leave the cares of the everyday world and turn toward the spiritual world.
4) I would formulate the question I had for the purpose of doing the divination. To "solidify" it I would write it on a card and turn the card over to show a blank side.
5) I would throw the coins to determine the hexagram (instructions are widely available, including in Brennan's book). Using the felt-tip pen on the card I would draw the hexagram in a large size.
Next, I followed the instructions in the book: "When you have your hexagram, instead of consulting the book for its meaning, you seat yourself comfortably, relax as fully as possible, then visualize the hexagram before you as a doorway; or if you find it easier, visualize a doorway with the hexagram painted on it. Now wait as long as it takes for the doorway to open of its own accord. When it does so, step through..." [emphasis in original] (p.82)
You may wonder what it is like to visit the astral plane through each of the hexagrams. I'll give a few of my personal experiences later. Brennan says this about it: "The various doorways engender reality tone on a sliding scale. At one end there is a vague, indistinct daydream. At the other, the subject [the person doing the divination] loses touch with physical reality and feels transported to another world. For most people, you can confidently expect nothing more alarming than a vivid visionary experience. Where deep trance does arise, the state itself seems relatively harmless, so that you can usually allow it to continue so long as the subject is not experiencing discomfort. Where the subject seems[s] distressed, verbal reassurance will often help if delivered calmly and confidently.
"Should you find difficulty in awakening someone from trance, patience and perseverance are preferable to violent methods. As a last resort, make the subject comfortable and simply keep him/her under observation. Full consciousness will eventually return, either directly or following a period of normal sleep." (p.85)
In short, this system seemed to be powerful, extensive, and safe. I started experimenting with it. Here are some of my results.
Situation: I was tired of the job I was doing. I was paid well, but it was boring.
Question: What should I do about my job situation?
Experience: Following the pattern given above, I stared at the card until it opened. I stepped through and immediately found myself in an enormous room filled to my waist with round, lightweight spheres around four inches in diameter. I saw a stairway at the far side of the room with a sign that said, "EXIT." I started to move toward it, but it was an incredible struggle against the balls. Suddenly, a figure popped up, seemingly from nowhere. It handed me a card, but it was blank. I examined the card carefully. When I looked back up, both the figure and the spheres were gone. I climbed the stairs. At the top was a door which I opened. As I stepped through I found myself back in regular consciousness.
My interpretation: I took all of the balls to mean that I was bogged down with petty things and not able to accomplish what I would like. This was absolutely true. However, I was driven forward. This meant to me that I needed to keep going and not give up. The figure and what it did means to me that I would receive a gift or letter which would help me get through this and move up the stairs to success.
Interpretation according to the text: After I wrote down my interpretation, I looked up the hexagram in The Magical I Ching to verify that my experience was objectively valid. I feel that such validation is important when you are learning a new system. It read, "Success is possible with perseverance, but only small things should be attempted. You will receive a message. Remain in your present position, resist the temptation to strive upwards and great good fortune becomes likely." (p.233)
Result: Rather than quit, I followed the advice of my astral divination with the I Ching and kept at my job. Two months later a memo came down that described a restructuring of the business. To my surprise, I was put in a better position with more interesting things to do and more money.
Analysis: My divinatory experience was a good match with what follows the tradition and accurately predicted what would come.
Situation: I was feeling restless in my life and unsure what I should do about it.
Question: What should I do about my restlessness?
Experience: Following the pattern given above, I stared at the card with the hexagram I had drawn on it until it opened. I stepped through and immediately found myself buffered and battered around by enormous winds. I felt lost and frightened. The winds came from everywhere and at times were so powerful I could not catch my breath. They picked me up, throwing me this way and that. I didn't know what to do. I surrendered to the winds. Slowly I became aware that there was actually a pattern in the blowing winds. I spread out my arms and found that I could ride the winds, almost like a surfer rides the ocean's waves.
In the distance, I saw something that was a beautiful blue. I rode the wind-waves toward the color. As I neared it the winds quieted and I found myself in the most beautiful, tranquil area I had ever seen, with gentle pools and streams and sweet-smelling air. I sat under a large oak, feeling peaceful and comfortable in its shade. I closed my eyes for a moment. When I opened them I was back in my regular consciousness.
My interpretation: I had no idea what the winds meant. Was I being attacked by outside forces? I don't know. And I had never liked rural areas. I liked the city.
Interpretation according to the text: Because I couldn't figure out what it meant, I looked up the hexagram in The Magical I Ching to find out the meaning. The book said, "There is almost too much power and potential in your current circumstances. You need somewhere to go in order to make use of the energies flowing and achieve success." (p.165)
Result: I came to the conclusion that both my divinatory experience and the book's interpretation indicated that there was too much energy around me. This made sense as I have always been a high-energy person but my job was sitting at a desk. I went on a vacation where I could go water skiing and skin diving. When I returned home I started going to a gym. My restlessness is now gone.
Analysis: Even though I didn't correctly understand the experience, the meaning of my astral journey became clear when I compared it to the book. The results of the advice I received in the divination were very accurate.
Situation: As a result of the way my job changed, I needed to create new relationships and support structures. What advice could I get about this from the I Ching
Question: What should I do about business?
Experience: Following the pattern given above, I stared at the card with the hexagram I had drawn on it until it opened. I stepped through and found myself in a huge room with a long table. In fact, the table was so long I could not see its end. Along both sides of the table where dozens of men in business suits. Curiously, they had no faces, just blank pieces of skin. Together, they lifted up their briefcases from beside them on the floor, put them in front of themselves, and opened them. It was as if they were following cues from an orchestra leader. From my position at one end of the table I watched in awe at their businessmens' dance.
Then I noticed a small dot of light coming from the far end of the table. It got bigger and bigger until it took on the shape of a woman. I suddenly realized that at that distance, she must be enormous in size. And still she grew larger and larger. Some of the men-like figures started to float up next to her. Soon, she was so big that she towered over the table. She jumped onto the table which groaned under her weight. Quickly she walked the length of the table. The men-like figures which had floated up toward her were now sticking to her clothes. She raised an enormous foot and threatened to squash me with it. I covered myself as her foot began to descend. Then she and the sticking men exploded into a brilliant light. I closed my eyes against the brightness. When I opened them I was back in my room.
My interpretation: I needed to be careful about someone who had a lot of political clout.
Interpretation according to the text: After I wrote down my interpretation, I looked up the hexagram in The Magical I Ching as a way to objectively verify my astral divination. It said, "A powerful woman is involved here. It is not a good idea to form a partnership with her." (p.197)
Result: Although my vision while I was on the astral plane indicated danger from a woman, I had avoided that conclusion. My past experience had shown me that astral experiences need not be taken literally so the giant woman could be either male or female. However, as the book showed, it was a woman. At work, there was a woman vice-president who was becoming powerful in the company. Several people there were trying to get on her good side. Taking the advice of the divinatory vision, I stayed away from her. After a failed political power play at the company, she and all of her supporters ended up looking for work elsewhere. My security in the company became stronger.
Analysis: I correctly interpreted the vision, although it was even more precise than I had supposed. By following the advice I received in my divination, I ended up in a great position at work.
One of the things I really like about this form of astral divination with the I Ching is that I am actually doing something as opposed to reading a book. As Brennan writes, "...the chances are you will find yourself undergoing an experience rather than viewing a static scene. The I Ching works with archetypal situations that tend to present themselves dynamically." (p.84)
For the first time, the I Ching has become a part of my consciousness because, rather than depending upon translations, I have been able to reach its deepest core. Brennan concurs with this, stating that, "...this approach to the oracle is unparalleled as a means of understanding the I Ching at its deepest level." (p.84)
I have continued to experiment with this easy, quick, and practical divinatory system. By frequently using the system I also feel I am enhancing my abilities to astral project, see on the astral plane, do accurate divinations, improve my ability to interpret my divinations, etc. I would encourage people to try this simple, direct, and powerful divinatory system.
All quotes used by permission.
Charles Foster is an employee of a large stock brokerage firm in Chicago, Illinois.