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Wednesday, August 12, 2015

In The Oneness of Time: The Memoir of a Diviner

I downloaded this book from Net Galley because I'm interested in divination.  The author, William  Douglas Horden, has written a number of books on the subject that I haven't read.  In the book's opening, I learned that Horden came from rural Ohio which was an environment where dowsing was common.  So I thought that Horden would have an unusual perspective and an interesting life.


The memoir isn't written in chronological order.  I wasn't always sure why his narrative wandered between different periods in his life.  Sometimes it was clear that events were connected, but there didn't always appear to be any overarching framework for Horden's thoughts.   It was as if  he was doing divination by sortilege, and picking up on whatever nugget of his past  happened to drop from his unconscious mind at random.

Horden didn't discuss his childhood experiences in a cemetery until Chapter 56.  He says that he was brought up by ghosts.  One of these ghosts was his older brother who was stillborn.  So this is not the same story as Neil Gaiman's popular novel, The Graveyard Book ,despite the similarities.

Much of the content dealt with Horden's travels.  Since he is also a poet his descriptive prose can be very lyrical.  I enjoyed reading it even though I was more interested in the spiritual aspect of his life.

Horden had a number of spiritual teachers.  I was most impressed by the insights of Master Khigh Alx Dhiegh who taught him the I Ching.  Yet I also liked Don Alfredo's use of the term "wild seeing" or seeing without preconceptions.

I had some disagreements with Horden.  For example,  there were points in the narrative where he gave the impression that it's necessary to use drugs or alcohol to attain the altered state of consciousness that diviners use.  Fortunately,  elsewhere in this volume he makes reference to meditation, music and dance which are safer means of altering your consciousness that have been used successfully for millennia in many cultures.  I would also like to add self-hypnosis as a very reliable modern method for achieving the desired trance state.

Horden  indicates that he was allowed to visit First Mesa on the Hopi reservation, which was closed to the general public, because he had a Navajo escort.  Since I knew that there have been disputes between these neighboring peoples, I wondered how this became an acceptable practice.  When I did a search on the subject, I was given a link to the pdf of the 2006 Intergovernmental Compact between the Hopis and the Navajos.  Provision 2.9 deals with anyone traveling for a religious purpose getting a free escort from the landowning nation.  In this case, the landowning nation would be the Hopis.  So I still don't understand how a Navajo was considered a proper escort in that case. Perhaps there is a reader with more knowledge of this issue who will explain it to me.

At one point in Horden's life he was in charge of a shelter for abused and neglected children.  He describes a terrible case of two autistic brothers who were locked in a basement for three years.  I was reminded of  the much more horrifying case of Sylvia Likens which ended in murder.  Feminist author Kate Millett fictionalized it in a powerful book called The Basement.  I can't help thinking about Sylvia Likens whenever I read about children being confined in a basement.  I bring this up in my review because it occurred to me that some readers might be triggered by Horden's description of what happened to these boys.

From a spiritual perspective, I thought that there were some useful observations in this volume.  Yet I also wondered how Horden arrived at some of his conclusions.  I remarked "How do you know?" in my notes about this book a number of times.  Horden has written about these topics previously, so he may not have wanted to repeat himself in In The Oneness of Time.  So I refer those who want to know more about Horden's spiritual approach  to his website.



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