You can listen to an audio version of this article, look further down.
Bibliomancy is an age old tradition practiced around the world. It involves opening a book at a random page in order to divine the answers to spiritual questions. The term bibliomancy was first coined in 1753. It was originally used to determine the guilt or innocence of a person accused of witchcraft. The accused was weighed. If their weight was less than the volumes of the Bible they were deemed innocent. The practice later developed into the use of the Bible to answer metaphysical questions. Eventually bibliomancy was no longer restricted to the Bible and it came to be used with any book.
Today people practice bibliomancy in many different ways. Some seek spiritual guidance. Others seek food for thought. The individual chooses a book of particular personal or spiritual significance. He or she might then take a moment to meditate on a specific question. Alternatively there may be no premeditated question. Instead more general inspiration or guidance is sought. The book is balanced on its spine and allowed to fall open at a random page. With eyes closed the individual chooses a passage. Inspiration is gained from what the selected passage offers. Some people set aside a designated time and quiet space for the practice of bibliomancy. Others take a less structured approach, grabbing a book while they go about their day.
Books from a variety of spiritual and philosophical traditions can provide insight through bibliomancy. Rudolph Steiner was an Austrian philosopher and esotericist who founded the Anthroposophical Society. The society’s aims were to nurture the soul through knowledge of superlunary realms. Steiner’s book, Knowledge of the Higher Worlds was published in 1904. The book explores how to manifest inner light by awakening feelings and thoughts common to all human beings. Steiner emphasises the importance of gratitude for our existence which he sees as a gift from the universe. The theosophist Alice Bailey was contemporaneous with Steiner. Ponder On This is a collection of her writings which considers such topics as karma, prana and reincarnation. The philosopher Jiddu Krishnamurti’s 1954 book, The First and Last Freedom, is a compilation of his public speeches. It addresses such subjects as the nature of the self and the practice of choiceless awareness. Alan Watts published a work in 1966 entitled The Book. It provides an insight for the modern Western reader into the Hindu philosophy of Vedanta. In this work Watts investigates identity and the idea that the self lies at the root of the cosmos. More recently, Colin Wilson’s 2009 book Superconsciousness considers such profound concepts as cosmic consciousness and the nature of inner freedom.
Bibliomancy is a practice that has offered divinatory inspiration for generations. From its somewhat dubious origins it has developed into an innovative method for navigating life. Most of us have at least one cherished life-changing book on our shelves. Returning to it once more to seek out a random word, phrase or passage could provide a perfect aha moment all over again. As the English novelist Mark Haddon put it, ‘All books talk but a good book listens as well.’
Lean back and listen to the AUDIO version of this article: