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High Priestess, TarotIn general, an authentic divination practice will help you respond to situations and people more skillfully. It will help you make better choices with regard to important questions and issues that life presents o you, which is the best you can do. . .  . Divination reflects the most profound questions that are on your mind, sometimes even if they’re not the ones you’re asking.”

Review: Divination: Sacred Tools for Reading the Mind of God
by Paul O’Brien, Visionary Networks Press

I first came across the name of Paul O’Brian years ago when I was living in Sausalito, California and discovered his first software for the I Ching called, Synchronicity. I bought his later illustrated version, Oracle of Changes, on CD which no longer works on my MAC operating system. I have always wondered why Paul didn’t update that version, but while reading this book, Divination: Sacred Tools for Reading the Mind of God, I cruised around his website, Tarot.com and saw a big section on using the I Ching there which perhaps replaces the need for a CD edition.

I begin my review by saying that the title of the book hooked me before I had it in my hand. I had not thought of Divination as being a sacred tool for reading the mind of God. Once said, how logical! In the past when doing I Ching readings for people, I more than once encountered people of various religious beliefs that had a prejudice about the I Ching, assuming it was something that went against their religion and what ever their “God” is. The Introduction chapter for the O’Brien’s book begins with, “Divination is controversial. . . ” and continues with a history of divination and how it was used and viewed by ancient religions. Since my I Ching work and this Blog is called, I Ching Meditations, I resonated with his sentence, Authentic divination is more like a form of meditation and prayer than predicting the future. . . and . . . Divination is a two-way conversation whereby we get feed back on the divine order behind appearances.”

I had a difficult time completing this review of Paul O’Brien’s book, not just for the reasons I wrote about in my last post – the usual of being so busy – but because I kept taking side trips to Paul’s web page, Tarot.com, and the links there. I thought of Paul O’Brien as an I Ching person. I’ve been out of touch focusing on my own I Ching work here so I enjoyed seeing all that he has been doing in the scope of divination systems.

Paul O’Brien started the web site, Tarot.com. This name is misleading for me because the site has pages about Astrology, Numerology, I Ching, Feng Shui, Love and a link for Psychics. Note that the category links included “Love” along with the other subjects, implying that Love is also a tool of divination. Come to think about it, I think it is and should be another book.

Paul O’Brien’s book, Divination is a good balance and adjunct to the website that contains pages on the systems that he writes about in the book. The book is an advertisement for the website and the website an advertisement for O’Brien’s book. At the end of this review I include a video of Paul O’Brien talking about why he wrote this book and he says that for himself better than I can.

The Tarot.com website is a commercial one with advertisements, links to buy various readings as well as divination tools to use. The book give us information, explanation and history of these divination systems. While I was familiar with more or less degrees of these various systems, I Ching being my long time devotion, I learned more about the history of these other divination systems. I also learned about Paul O’Brien which I found of interest as well.

Since any one reading my comments here is doing so by means of a computer, you probably will find the chapter, “The Evolving Technology of Divination” of interest. The I Ching has been described as the first computer with its binary system. Since I Ching was the first book perhaps it was the first interactive tool as well. So it was fascinating to me that Paul was introduced to the I Ching as a young student at the same time he was introduced to computers which was in those early days of computing. How lucky for him! How lucky for us to have the perfect combination of skills and talent combined with a journey of the study of Buddhism and meditation including training in monasteries.

I also learned how Paul O’Brien developed that first I Ching program, Synchronicity, that I used with my MAC in the early days of personal computers. If I recall correctly, his  program went viral and was copied a lot by the other Macintosh users. In those early days of the Macintosh and developing software, the fact that I could find a program on the I Ching confirmed that this new found technology for me was awesome magic. I have Paul O’Brien to thank for his contribution to the magic.

The book, Divination, has 9 Chapters and  8 Appendices. The Introduction has a lot of information about the history of divination in general, and reminds us that the word divination derives from the Latin, divinare, meaning to “to inspire by the divine.”

Chapter 1: Your Heart’s Desire is Your Destiny – This chapter title is another hook into the book for me. Being a Leo I have been run by my heart’s desires. Paul tells us about his experience with Buddhism and takes this subject into a deeper level than what one usually thinks of in terms of desire. This chapter explains desire from the Buddhist perspective and is an example of what I mean by the book being a balance to the Tarot.com web page, giving history and depth of understanding to the subject.

Chapter 2: Troubled Times Calls for Wisdom – A discussion of decision-making; developing wisdom; belief systems based on various religions; and a discussion on which religions supported cultivating wisdom based on the intuitive process of an inquiring mind rather than blindly following a doctrine.

Chapter 3: How Divination Systems Work – Discussion about quantum physics, Jung, Freud, Archetypes of I Ching, Tarot, the Synchronicity principle and Jung’s contribution to it. O’Brien shares with us here his first inquiry to the I Ching, the results being here for us all to enjoy in his work.

Chapter 4: Origins of Divination – Brief history of Astrology, I Ching, Numerology, Runes and Tarot.  I can’t resist including a quote from the section about Numerology: “Pythagoras was the founder of Numerology and practiced it to divine the fates of individuals, predict the events of certain locations and use name changing as a means to alter destiny.” Wow! I had no idea!

Chapter 5: Enemies of Divination

Chapter 6: The Gift of Prophecy—Divination in the Bible

Chapter 7: Divination Practice Today – Advice on when and how to use divination; How to choose a Divination reader; Do-It-Yourself Divination discussion of using on-line readings or buying the I Ching book. How to Frame a Question is addressed. This is most important when consulting the I Ching and true for any method of divination. This section also talks about creating your own ritual.

Chapter 8: The Evolving Technology of Divination – Begins with a picture of the Tarot card of the High Priestess, holding a laptop in her lap as she sits on her thrown (shown above.) I Love it! O’Brien tells us about developing his divination software as he was using divination. This chapter contains interesting history about the software industry as well as Paul’s involvement with it.

Chapter 9: Destiny, Fate and Creativity – Encompasses 3 subjects of particular interest to me. I have been studying and keeping a record of my dreams for the past 40 years, as long as I have been consulting the I Ching. Some of my dreams have been precognitive and the only way I know that is because I write them down. Having such dreams has caused a lot of speculation in my mind about the subject of fate. I think I’m running the show, and then I have cause to wonder a lot about how can I know something before it happens even when I don’t know I know. This is a subject for a book in itself. O’Brien discusses the difference between the terms fate and destiny and incorporates that with the use of divination.

The Appendices are an important part of the book.

A: Archetypes of Divination – Outlines of the systems of Numerology, I Ching, Tarot, Astrology and Runes.

B: How to Give Yourself a Reading – Gives a brief description of “how to” for all the 5 Divination systems listed above with references of where to go for more in-depth information. This includes instructions for doing an I Ching reading by using the yarrow stalks as well as using the coins.

C: Divination in the Bible –  Lists Verses Condemning Divination and Verses Supporting Divination.

D: Tarot: The Shrink-in-the-Box – An article re-printed from a column in the Trends Journal, a financial investor newsletter.

E: The Use of I-Ching, Tarot and Other Divination Tools for Everyday Life – An article by Deepak Chopra

F: Tarot and I-Ching for Relationships – An article by John Gray

Bottom line:

Divination: Sacred Tools for Reading the Mind of God has many illustrations and quotes from other sources. Each chapter is compact yet full of information and history. There are useful “cheat sheets” of the different divination systems. You will find the book of interest, whether you are new to the I Ching or any of the other divination practices described, or if, like myself, have been working with the I Ching for a long time.

You can get a free I Ching reading by going to Tarot.com and click on the I Ching tab. There are so many subjects to investigate on Tarot.com that while I didn’t look at everything, there was enough there to pleasantly distract me again from writing this review. I found there the following video of Paul O’Brien telling us his own views of why he wrote his book.

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