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Asking the right question

Over recent months I have been doing a lot of oracle work using geomancy, and one of the central problems has been asking the right question. Most of what I am saying will apply to geomancy, but it does apply to divination by Tarot and other methods.

Before going to war with the Persians, Croesus turned to the Delphic oracle and asked if he should attack the Persians. The oracles answered that if Croesus attacked the Persians, he would destroy a great empire (ἢν στρατεύηται ἐπὶ Πέρσας, μεγάλην ἀρχὴν μιν καταλύσειν). He attacked and lost his great empire. While seen as a cautionary tale about trusting oracles, Croesus made two mistakes he asked the wrong question and asked in such a way which allowed the Oracle to trick him. Had Croesus asked “Will I defeat the Persians?” the Oracle would have had to say “no.” Later, when Croesus complained, the priestess criticised him for not asking the right questions.
Oracles are an essential part of magic and generated in the same way as the creation of matter. Order is created from Chaos which is seeking to understand itself. When you perform divination, you are using Chaos’ random tools (dice or cards) to see an ordered pattern. The process of seeing the pattern from Chaos starts with the Logos or Word of intention. In this case, it is the question you ask. If there is any woolliness in the intention, the answer will be more Chaotic. There are rules you need to follow to avoid making the Croesus’ mistake.

1. Ask what you want to know.

A surprising number of questions are formulated so that if answered accurately, it would not provide an answer that the querant wants. Croesus had already decided to go to war with the Persians what he wanted to know as if he would win. Likewise, a question “does n think about me?” is not as good as “does n want a relationship with me?” (In the first case the answer could be “yes”, but the reality is she thinks you are a stalker.

2. Try to ask your question as a yes or no answer.

This is more to avoid ambiguity, although Geomancy and Horary astrology, makes yes or no questions more vital. I have had tarot readings that were accurate but were too waffly and challenging to read in hindsight. Had I phrased the question as yes or no I would have clearly understood what the cards were saying. A question like “How do I repair my marriage?” could be phrased “can I repair my marriage?” and the yes or no symbols should show you how. That said, some questions are unavoidable, but you should be careful with the answers.

3. Your questions should be direct and contain a single idea.

The more straightforward and more direct a question the harder it is for the Oracle to weasel out of. “Will it rain tomorrow?” Is better than “will the weather be good tomorrow?” This is similar to point one, but it means you need to carefully think about the sentence construction of your question. Keeping to a single idea is also essential “does Jim want me and want to marry me?” needs to fulfil two criteria to be answered “yes.” Jim might want you, but may not want to marry you yet, so the Oracle says no.

4. Be careful with time.

I noticed that some questions were being hamstrung by my casual use of “at the moment” in the question. When asking what a person was thinking “at the moment” I was getting a lot of no answers, even when asking test questions like “is [n] thinking I am a badger at the moment?” Then I realised that the person was asleep when I did the reading that they could not be thinking about me “at the moment.” More positive readings came later when the person was awake or the “at the moment” rider dropped from the question. If you are not careful with the question, you might get a snapshot of a situation at that moment. A person might ask “Will I win the lottery?” when they have not bought a ticket yet. The oracle could say “no” because you cannot win the lottery without a ticket and if you do not buy a ticket following the oracle’s advice you will not succeed. However, placing time into a question is the right way of making sure you get more useful detail. “Will the bank accept my proposal by Tuesday?” is a better question than “Will the bank accept my proposal?”

5. Keep your questions tight.

Each word in your question is a way for the oracle to become ambiguous. Use words very sparingly, cut out redundancy and make sure you mean each one. Analyse the meaning for each sentence and ask yourself “Is there any way this sentence can be “misread” by the oracle?” Write your question down.

6. State your question out loud as you perform whatever method you are using.

This stops you thinking about something else when you are generating order from the Chaos. I do geomancy, so I state the question each time I roll the four dice. Before I did this, I noticed when asking a question that I was angry about; I would ask the question at the beginning of rolling and then start thinking about revenge for the other three rolls. This meant that later mothers figures I was generating responded to different impulses, and the reading corrupted.

7. Try to keep your questions positive rather than negative.

While this is sometimes difficult, there is something in negative questions which seem to attract negative answers. They tend to reflect the querant’s own negative state about the question. “Will she dump me?” is negative “Will our relationship continue” is positive.

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