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Want to Bet?

by on July 23, 2019

Want to Bet?

By Marco M. Pardi

The only way to predict the future is to have the power to shape the future”. Eric Hoffer. The Passionate State of Mind and other Aphorisms. 1954

All comments are sincerely encouraged and will receive a response.

Over the years I’ve known, or at least met many people who claimed to “read the future”. Most of them used props of some kind, tarot cards (78 cards), the I Ching (6 coins), the Gong Hee Fot Choy (32 cards) and other devices right down to the lines in my hand or simple playing cards. I’ve also met those who used no props; they spoke with “the dead” who, presumably, had an overview of my life and doings.

I suppose my initial exposure came early. Both my grandmothers were British, one English and the other Scottish. The English woman was fond of daily tea, with milk, and would “read the leaves” for the little boy left in her care. As hard as I tried I could never make out anything in the scrum of leaves left in the cup. I probably would have flunked a Rorschach. So it was only in my middle teens, when I finally dared to reject the magic of religion, that I also rejected the possibility of anyone reading the future, by any means.

All that changed in my 22nd year when an old woman I met with simply to satisfy my insistent girlfriend spent over an hour using just a pack of playing cards to lay out my past, present, and future in utterly impossible detail and with deadly accuracy. Although I still had no use for religious fantasy, I could not deny the evidence for what this woman had done. But my normal “If you can do it, I can do it” response was still dormant. Instead, I made myself available – under very controlled circumstances for reasons I can’t discuss, for others I happened to meet over the years. Yes, there were a few, even recently, who shrank back and gaped at me so I determined to study this phenomenon anthropologically – as a participant/observer, with emphasis on the observer. For clarity I distinguish the reader as the one doing the divination and the sitter as the one receiving the reading. Among the readers I distinguish two groups: those who use external props or devices; and, those who don’t.

When I say props I do not mean items intended to deceive. I mean items intended to focus the mind of the reader – often through mild trance – and/or to lend authenticity to the process. The authenticity, such as it is, derives from the reader being able to point to the prop and say, in effect, “It’s not me saying this, it’s in the cards. See for yourself”. Of course, not all props provide objective evidence; crystal balls, bowls of water, animal organs, etc. are not necessarily “readable” to the sitter. But the use of props goes back beyond recorded history. Classical Greeks gazed into water – scrying, or hydromancy. And, most people have at least heard of the crystal ball, an offspring of scrying. Etruscans used the organs of animals – haruspicy and ornithomancy – the flight of birds. Another ancient form is osteomancy, the casting of bones, a form of cleromancy, the casting of objects such as coins, dice, or yarrow stalks. Several of these forms later evolved as tarot cards, I Ching (Book of Changes), and Gong Hee Fot Choy (Greetings of Good Fortune), each of which can be accompanied by a text enabling the sitter to read the meaning for himself.

Perhaps the most amusing, and labor intensive prop is the Ouija Board, or the Yes/Yes board – Oui & Ja. This board has the letters of the alphabet scattered in an arc and a planchette device upon which two sitters lightly place their fingers while asking questions of the presumed spirits hanging around who then direct the planchette to spell out an answer. A third person may be required to record the letters as the planchette skips from one to the next. I almost laughed aloud when first shown this board. At the top corners are the words YES and NO. The sitters are instructed to begin by first asking, Is anyone here? Aaah, it should be obvious that if the planchette moves to NO there is a problem. Who did it? Indeed, the most common problem is that each sitter accuses the other of moving the planchette, and each vigorously denies it. Nonetheless, as some parts of the world experience more rainy days there will likely be an increase in Ouija use, domestic violence notwithstanding.

I’m not saying I’ve never seen an apparently prescient message come from the board. I have, on two occasions. But I have no doubt that the origin of the message was in the mind of one of the sitters, even if they were never consciously aware. One was a Guatemalan woman I barely knew, and the other a young Norwegian woman who was a close friend. The Norwegian and I subsequently put bareback pads on a couple of horses and rode into a rather wild area to verify what had appeared on the board. Yes, we found it in a place neither of us had been to before. So, which of us knew of an infanticide and burial some 150 years before? Or was there really a spirit somehow moving our fingers on the board by implanting the thought in a mind?

The Ouija board is largely considered a silly children’s game. But many people take the tarot and the I Ching seriously. How seriously? Next time you see the flag of South Korea you will notice that, arranged around the central Hsiang Sheng figure (what Westerners call Yin/Yang) are sets of trigrams, each composed of three broken or unbroken lines. These are from the I Ching and, when deciphered from the throw of coins, are coupled into hexagrams. The hexagram is referenced in the text of the I Ching and provides the answer to your question. There are two difficult parts here: One must know how to frame a question; and, one must understand “Chinese culture”. The I Ching does not deliver a static This-will-happen-regardless answer, a sort of doomed to your fate statement. It delivers what will happen if you carry through the thinking implicit in your question. The Chinese culture part is far more arcane as it implies a monolithic entity where there is none. There is much of Kong Fu-Xi (“Confucius”) in the reading, but there are other threads as well. So, instead of seeing life as stepping from one stone to the next across a stream (Western), one must feel life as a continuous flow in which prior actions affect the currents one meets in what seems to be the future. Throughout Asia many diplomats will quietly consult the I Ching before meetings and during breaks. It is not so much a factual statement about a future state of being as it is a guide to making a future state of being come to fruition. And that is precisely why it is fundamentally misunderstood so commonly in the West.

The tarot is another matter. The sitter shuffles the cards and the reader lays them out in a preordained fashion, including a place for past, present and future. The reader then guides the sitter through the interpretation of each card, it’s position, and its relationship to the rest of the “spread”. Any time the sitter challenges the efficacy of a card the sitter can point to the card, the position, and the associated interpretation in the accompanying written guide. Of course, some readers expand on the guide, weaving a narrative which they feel ties the whole spread together. Obviously, this is the portal for subjective error.

The devices I mentioned earlier, such as the crystal ball and the bowl of water are in themselves unreadable by the sitter. Even the ordinary playing cards fall into this category. Thus, the “interpretation” must come entirely from the reader, not the sitter. The pack of ordinary playing cards the elderly woman used for me could not possibly have contained the extremely detailed and precise events and issues she matter-of-factly recited to me, with no fluff and no banter. 55 years later they are as true as they were then. And I sincerely assure you there have been many things I did not “make happen”.

But the world is now awaiting yet another binary choice in which voters in the U.S. will, one way or the other, make things happen. In the introduction to the book, Megatrends: Ten New Directions Transforming Our Lives (1984) John Naisbitt wrote, “The most reliable way to anticipate the future is by understanding the present”. I would ensure the concept present is inclusive of at least the recent past. And now I will lay out for you a spread of past and present and ask you to consider the future.

Shortly after the dissolution of the Soviet Union the State, under influence from Putin, sold off publicly owned utilities to a few developing oligarchs for pennies on the dollar. The greatest concentration of wealth was the oil and gas sector, notably GAZPROM. Oil and gas prices were moderately high and promised to go higher. But then, in 2014, Putin militarily annexed Crimea and quickly followed that by unmarked military incursion into Ukraine. President Obama responded by getting the Saudis to greatly increase production, easing restrictions of domestic fracking, and imposing financial sanctions on the Russian oligarchs through measures such as the Magnitsky Act, which he had signed into law in 2012. This combination deeply lowered the world price for oil and directly impacted the oligarchs, including Putin. In fact, the Russian economy is deeply unbalanced in the direction of oil and gas and is suffering the consequences.

But the lower price for oil impacted the American oil companies as well. And while the CEOs of these mega-giants pondered the old “Middle East turmoil” ploy to raise prices, the Obama administration played a key role in developing and formalizing the Iran Nuclear Deal, depriving the oil companies of a boogy-man. Hillary Clinton would certainly maintain, even stiffen, Obama’s measures.

Putin’s answer? Identify and support a populist grifter while funneling money into Republican coffers through various means.

The grifter got the Republican nomination: Enter Trump. Apparently it was easy to appeal to his racism in getting him to reverse and obliterate as much of Obama’s work as possible. He immediately pulled out of the Paris Climate Accord, a great boon to the fossil fuel industry. He pulled out of the Iran Nuclear Deal although all signatories, including the U.S. State Dept., verified Iran was meeting the conditions of the deal. He imposed crushing economic sanctions on Iran, including threats of sanctions against anyone who buys their oil. He has repeatedly issued thinly veiled nuclear threats against Iran while claiming Iran’s hand behind every evil act on the planet. He has goaded Iran toward acting out in a way which would justify military action, catastrophic as that would be. Will the Strait of Hormuz provide him with the next Gulf of Tonkin incident? Even limited military action, if that’s possible, would send the price of oil skyrocketing. Putin and his oligarch friends, including the American oil and gas CEOs who fund the Republican Party will be joyous, in contrast to the families mourning their dead. And the rhetoric of hate and fear, of any “non-White” group, intensifies daily.

We don’t need a deck of cards or a sheep’s liver to see and understand what is right before our eyes. But we will soon face another kind of Ouija board, the voting screen which will record our “choice”. Who do you think guides the hand which selects the choice? In many States the machines do not give a receipt or print out of those choices; they go electronically into the ether and we gather later in front of the television to see we “won”. And we thought the Ouija board was unscientific? Want to bet?

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  1. My experience with all such props is pretty simple. An occasional iChing or Goddess Card reading can induce in me a thoughtful state where I quietly and without prejudice consider how it might apply to me. Usually I quickly gain a useful insight, and it’s never been disturbing. Once, when I was in dire straits emotionally, a friend dragged me off to a woman who gave me a Tarot reading. It, or rather she, flicked me out of a spiral and all was well in my life from that moment. I am sure she was a wise and extremely empathetic woman, and I attribute the impact to her alone rather than the cards. I’m contented to hold this outlook as sufficient for me, for I’m only mildly interested!


    • Thank you, Rachel. I’ve also had some mild to good experiences. But, at my age I know my past, am well aware of my present, and my future diminishes by the day. So, I take things pretty much as they come, if they do, and find that thoughtful state you mention where I can.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Mike Stamm permalink

    Being a lifelong pronounced skeptic, I haven’t experienced any of these, for good or ill. (It may be my taste for ghost stories and the like that makes me keep away from Ouija boards, having a vague sense that there might be some arcane influences it is unwise to meddle with, though I inherited my parents’ ’50s vintage board when they died. “Gong Hee Fot Choy” sounds suspiciously like the Cantonese for “Happy [Chinese] New Year”; I have never encountered it as a device for predicting the future.


    • Thank you, Mike. I think you are correct. That saying is often given as a greeting at the New Year, though I did not question why it would be used for a card technique. Nonetheless, it can be eerie.


  3. jkent33 permalink

    Interesting view into what some believe holds truths for their future. As a rule, I have never allowed myself the luxury of giving permission to anyone to show me the paths that are ahead of me on my life’s journey. I take counsel with but a few and the few that I do reach out to for help their thoughts are largely ignored. I have certainly wished at times I could find such a person, and even if I was given such counsel, it must be analyzed before taking such a plunge of trust. Of course, I’ve been burned a bit but not enough to allow myself to change. Given time to do my own research has proven to be far more profitable.

    Your insertion of politics was clever and could have not been at a more opportune time. As the world looked on listening to the news I hope more people take responsibility for making changes to ensure these type of actions is avoided at all costs. I will say in my opinion the lines are more deeply drawn clearly separating both sides. I could go on and on but it all comes down to those that care about their future and that of their families and those willing to gamble it will fix itself. It is going to be decided with a small margin in any case. You can bet I will do everything to try to keep my ship uprighted but I seriously feel there are many who are sailing blindly into unchartered waters. There you have it captain…


    • Thank you, Jerry. As you well know, I have no sympathy for belief. However, I’ve met several people who were able to provide, usually without props, precise and accurate detail. I wrote about some of them in earlier pieces on this blog. Accurately knowing precise information about my past, and my present – at the time – was something to not be taken lightly given my career choices. Of course, we can’t judge statements about the future until it is here, but I can say again that precise and accurate information was often rendered – even down to descriptions of people I had yet to meet including location, build, hair color, and their motivation. I could not have engineered those eventual meetings. Standards of evidence are pretty straight forward and logical, Belief has nothing to do with it, but of course there are those who believe anything – which leads me to politics.

      I agree with you that the lines are drawn, perhaps more starkly than in living memory. What puzzles me is how so many seem totally unaware of the quickly developing Fascist governments in the U.S. and other “free world” countries.


  4. From Ray: Indeed – when we lose our faith in democracy why bother voting? Maybe the second amendment will be needed to right the course of American democracy once it is completely corrupted by America’s oligarchs and those who do their bidding. Well said Marco – as always – but particularly insightful given the evolution of our politics and the next US election.


  5. Thanks, Ray. In the context of so many “free world” countries turning to Fascism, and the ongoing refusal of our Republican Senate to approve and implement measures to protect our voting integrity from foreign intrusion, it seems almost “in the cards” that this country will descend into cannibalistic Fascism. Oligarchs like Putin, Trump and the others are not citizens of any country; they are a cabal unto themselves and only use countries to achieve their ends.


  6. Dana permalink

    Biometrics may be the only solution for voting in the future – retina or fingerprint scan.

    There was a terrific TV series I watched in Canada called, “Hilarious House of Frightenstein.” For Canadian television it really was genius humor. “The Oracle” was a clumsy character and had a crystal ball I longed for. Witchcraft, Wicca, sorcery, the occult – all special interests in which I had zero belief.


    • Thank you, Dana. I think you are correct, though “voter fraud” has been grossly overplayed by the Republicans who strive to disenfranchise minority voters as part of their White nationalist agenda. Then too, there will be those who claim biometrics are too intrusive, infringing on civil liberties.

      I’m sorry that series was not available in the U.S. I bet it was good.


      • Dana permalink

        The campaign I’ve been volunteering will be making an effort to assist people who are homeless. Offering them the iprt6nity


        • Good. Biometrics must be their only option. Exploitation of the homeless to skew elections has a long history in the U.S.


          • Dana permalink

            I think a lot of people who are homeless could benefit from a universal basic income. It would get a lot of people off the street, especially in winter.


          • Dana permalink

            I’m not sure why retina scans are a cause for concern. Some people don’t have fingerprints. I didn’t know that happens as we age!


            • Yes. Finger and toe “prints” are derived from the papillary ridges. These wear down over time due to several factors.


        • Dana permalink

          Opportunity to register and vote could be life changing. It has nothing to do with winning. I don’t think they’re ever given much thought in elections.
          As for the series, it would do well on an American streaming service. It would be truly joyful nostalgia for me.


          • Isn’t registration based on a permanent address?


            • Dana permalink

              Like jury duty I guess it would be. Receiving mail at various services probably wouldn’t be acceptable. Good point.
              Well, there we have it. Unlawful to feed people without a permit, and no ability for them to vote. At least my place of business provides restroom use and free water.
              This election is going to get ugly, I fear. It’s difficult not to retreat into the bubble.


              • I deeply empathize with the feeling of retreat, but I think of the future for your generation and for that of my grandchildren.


  7. While attempting to answer this earlier, I realized I would be posting in the middle of a conversation; it’s my turn now. I don’t honestly have a lot to say, so I don’t suppose it mattered.

    As you know, I have long been interested in methods by which we might predict the future, including both Tarot and the Ouija board. I don’t seem to have much talent for either, and as age creeps up on me, I’m not quite so sure I want to know what the future holds. The question, I suppose, is whether we would change the cause if we knew what the effect would be. I wouldn’t want to change my past, even knowing the hard times it has sometimes held, for that is what put me where I am now. But, if I could have known the future, are there things we could have done to make the future (present) better?

    The best predictor of future behavior is past behavior. This being true, I fear for the future of our country. We knew what Trump was before he was elected, and we’ve seem what he’s done since. Despite this, and frighteningly because of this, I fear that the same people who put him in the White House will extend his lease in the next election.


    • Thank you, Rose. You pose the question at the heart of so many moments of looking back: Would I have changed it if I knew the outcome. For a long time I’ve thought we are fooling ourselves when we think we are acting outside of a basically determinist system. In other words, even the act of changing “the cause” would have already been programmed into the flow of events and we would go on thinking we are independent actors.

      Yes, I share your dread of an extended lease for the Fascist Party, mainly because I fear that if it happens it will truly be the end of any semblance of democracy. The end of the Untied States we have known.


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