The art or practice of foretelling the future, discovering hidden and secret knowledge, finding the lost and identifying the guilty by using a wide range of techniques involving prophesy, conscious or unconscious use of spirit beings, organized systems and the interpretation of omens.
Divination has existed throughout history and in all cultures; it is usually the responsibility of a priest, prophet, oracle, witch, shaman, witch doctor, psychic, soothsayer, or other person with claimed supernatural powers. Techniques fall into three main categories:
- The interpretation of signs, omens, portents and lots.
- Direct communication with the spiritual world through visions, trance, dreams and possession.
- Organized systems.
Omens are accidental or chance signs which, when properly interpreted, are believed to reveal the future, warn of impending danger, and so forth.
Prophecy relies on direct communication with divine beings or spirits to gain insight into the future, the present or the past.
Systematized methods include — but are in no way limited to — astrology, cards, dice, lot casting, the I Ching, palmistry, numerology, and the reading of tea leaves. Most of these techniques were devised by the ancient Chaldeans, Babylonians, Romans, Greeks and Chinese.
Divination provides procedures and systems for stimulating insights into the way of divine intelligence, and it was held in the highest esteem by virtually all the ancient religions, including Judaism. Only relatively recently divination fell into disfavor with the most political and powerful religious organization ever, the Roman church, which itself was not organized until three hundred years after the death of Jesus.
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