DIVINATION: Divinatory Practices of Ancient India
Frederick M. Smith – Professor Emeritus, Sanskrit and Classical Indian Religions University of Iowa. Divination has a sense of foretelling, predicting, or prophesying. It is an integral part of every shamanistic tradition and lineage from the most ancient times. It is vilified in the modern world as unscientific and superstitious, and associated with conjurers, illusionists, and popular magicians. But a renewed discussion of its history, its uses, and its importance in virtually all cultural, religious, and shamanistic systems, as well as its correspondence with recent thinking on synchronicity and perspectives on the harmony and flow of the natural world should enable us to think about it a bit differently. It is impossible to cover every divinatory practice in one talk, from astrology to tarot to dice to oracular possession to sorcery and prognostication of all kinds. I will discuss divinatory practices drawn from my own study of ancient Indian texts, including medical and texts on shamanic healing, and extensive fieldwork in India, which I hope will lead to a discussion of why apparently disparate parts of our available environment inform each other in ways that might be much more natural than supernatural. My point is that the shaman sees that forms, ideas, and entities flow into each other through the formless, that they are strands of the same cloth that mesh with each other because they are part of a whole and formless fabric.