Encyclopedia > Divination

  Article Content

Divination

Divination is the practice of ascertaining information by supernatural means. If a distinction is to be made with fortune-telling, divination has a formal or ritual, and often social character, usually in a religious context; while fortune-telling is a more everyday practice for personal purposes. Divination is often dismissed by skeptics as being mere superstition. However, there is plenty of anecdotal evidence for the efficacy of divination. Divination is a universal cultural phenomenon which anthropologists have observed as being present in virtually all religions and cultures in all ages up to the present day.

Scientific research and methods have made it possible to predict future events with some success, e.g., eclipses, weather forecasts and volcanic eruptions. However, this is not divination. Strictly speaking, divination assumes the influence of some supernatural force or fate, whereas scientific predictions are made from an essentially mechanical, impersonal world-view and rely on empirical laws of nature. So, as an operational definition, divination would be all methods of prognostication that have not been shown to be effective using scientific research.

Beyond mere explanations for anecdoctal evidence, there are many serious theories of how divination might work. One such theory is rooted in the nature of the unconscious mind, a theory which has some empirical scientific basis. Based on this theory, divination is the process by which messages from the unconscious mind are decoded. The belief in a supernatural agency or occult force as the source of these messages is what distinguishes this theory from a scientific explanation.

The Romans in classical times were great practisers of divination. One method of Etruscan origin was practised by special haruspices, who examined the internal organs of animal sacrificial victims, with special attention to the liver; from this they deduced the will of the gods to whom the sacrifice was made.

Popular methods of divination have included:

One of the most popular methods of divination worldwide today is astrology, which is practised in many ways according to different traditions. It is regarded as a pseudo-science by most people with a scientific background.

Related articles

External links



All Wikipedia text is available under the terms of the GNU Free Documentation License

 
  Search Encyclopedia

Search over one million articles, find something about almost anything!
 
 
  
  Featured Article
Athens

... was the host of the 1896 Olympics, the 1906 Intermediary Olympics and will be the host of the 2004 Summer Olympics. See also Athenian democracy - Athenian ...