Growing up in the modern West has been a painful spiritual struggle for me. The culture that I have been raised in follows the Cartesian split of spirit vs body. I am stuck between two polarized ontologies: the ‘modern’ and scientific one that argues everything can be explained by science, and the religious one that argues for the presence of God, but a God who is firmly situated outside of Earth and all matter and embodiment.
These warring visions of reality have both caused deep psychic wounding in me and have made my struggle to find my own path all the more difficult. They both completely obscure any way other than these two choices, and as it turns out, my way is neither of these. Writing in the first century, Plutarch observed that the theologians of his day argued that God was the cause of everything, while scientists and philosophers argued that science and its laws were the cause of everything, but he pointed out that they were both wrong due their incomplete understanding, “Hence the reasoning of both parties is deficient in what is essential to it, since the one ignores or omits the intermediary and the agent, the other the source and the means.”
My research into the belief systems and perception of reality by other cultures, especially indigenous ones, has made it painfully obvious to me how much I have been lacking, and suffering, due to being offered only the two aforementioned views of life. As I explore how others experience reality, I discover that they view everything around them – every spec of matter – as being imbued with divinity or consciousness. According to some African systems, “the mere perceptible or tangible worlds – sky, earth, underworld, and the relevant social and bodily realms – are each in its own modus, pervaded by interdependent and inter-informed, invisible or intangible forces.”
When I contemplate the possibility of being surrounded by consciousness in different forms and different degrees, suddenly I feel less alone and oracular or divinatory practices make more sense.
All the texts I’ve researched on divinatory practices across time and the globe explain that consciousness (as the universe, god/dess, elemental beings, ancestors, angels, etc.) is constantly communicating with us and that we need only learn the particular language of the one who is speaking. These languages are inevitably far more subtle, nuanced, and compact that our clumsy human languages. When we understand that we are enmeshed in consciousness, communication can happen at any time and by any means. This is why there are a plethora of divinatory techniques ranging from reading the flight of birds, listening to the wind play through leaves, throwing bones or shells, pulling tarot cards, reading tea leaves, randomly opening a book to read a passage, possession, or any other multitude of ways.
Suddenly, I look around me and realize that not only are my questions, tearful pleas, or expressions of gratitude being heard, but I am being responded to. However, it is up to me to create the time and patience to learn the language that these other beings are using to communicate with me. As humans, we are equipped with vocal cords, hands, ears, and eyes to use to communicate with each other but it is arrogant and ridiculous for me to demand that a tree, ancestor, or elemental being talk to me in a human modality. My despairing wailings that I’m not getting answers instead change to an understanding that I am not receptive to the abundant guidance and consolation that is constantly coming my way.
Suddenly, this is where my training as a diviner takes on life-changing proportions. I can learn to listen in new and nuanced ways. When I ask for guidance I can move through the world with abundant expectancy, knowing that answers are greeting me in creative ways. I have the privilege of helping to reassure others that they are also being responded to. For those who struggle to hear these subtle messages, I can be an interpreter and guide to them learning the language of all those beings who love them and are showing up to support them. We all have resources beyond our imagining and we would benefit from learning how to better participate in giving and receiving on a much bigger and more dynamic universal level. The microcosm to the macrocosm, and everything in between, is suddenly an ally, a teacher, a confident, and guide.
The modern mechanistic, compartmentalized, 3D, and lifeless view of the world causes me agony, despair, and loneliness. And so I have begun the challenging process of deconstructing the worldview that I have taken for granted and unquestioningly accepted. Now I voraciously read about other cultures and their experience of life and the world and I ask myself, “How does it feel if I allow myself to experience this version of reality? How does it feel if I believe that I am imbued with and immersed in divinity? How does it feel if the material world is created from spiritual foundations? How does it feel to know that I am a loved part of a community that extends beyond my human one, that the plants, animals, ancestors, spirits, and other dimensions consider me their family and support me? What if I don’t have to do my life ‘on my own’ but have access to wisdom, guidance, support, and protection constantly in various forms?”
This feels like hope. This feels like safety. This feels like positive potentiality. This feels like home.
About the Author:
Vivien was born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area and is an active diviner trained in the Dagara tradition. She is currently working on her Ph.D. in Philosophy and Religion, writing her dissertation on the ancient Greek Delphic Oracle. She is a published writer, scholar, speaker, and visionary who is passionate about contributing to the healing of the planet and all beings residing upon it.
 Plutarch, The Obsolescence of Oracles, lines 436-437
 René Devisch, Divination in Africa, 80.