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Field of Omens: A Study in Inductive Divination

Cornelius, Geoffrey (2009) Field of Omens: A Study in Inductive Divination. Doctor of Philosophy (PhD) thesis, University of Kent. (doi:10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86421) (KAR id:86421)


Despite its ubiquitous character and its significance, divination has received scant attention, especially in its 'inductive' form where inferences are drawn from omens, contingencies, and randomly-arranged objects. In contrast to a universal religious sentiment, divination's epistemological claim to truth founded in such inconsequential methods is almost impossible for modem educated opinion to countenance. This dilemma is addressed through Kant, in whose philosophy the divide between the archaic possibility and the modem impossibility of divination is revealed. This thesis interprets anthropological insights into the participatory consciousness of 'primitive mentality', posited by Levy-Bruhl. This suggests a divinatory analytic - definitions of typical experiences within divination, facilitating a description of its various acts and interpretations. Some elements are unfamiliar, especially the chicane. defined as an intentional sleight inducing changes in physical, social and spiritual well-being. This characterises shamans and witch-doctors worldwide, and is suggested to be determinative for divination. Extending the analysis to classical Greece we identify the double-consciousness of divinatory intelligence in the hermeneutic poles oftheoros, pilgrim and enquirer, and hermeios, priest and diviner. Reports across cultures, together with theories of participants and critics, develop the model, while Socratic divination reveals a teleological dimension placing prophecy and divination in a common spectrum. The theological challenge from Judeo-Christianity precipitates a crisis of ultimacy, the final outcome of which is far from decided; yet in parallel, medieval scholasticism offers hermeneutic analyses that illuminate essential features within ordinary divinatory experience. The resulting analytic is applied to judicial astrology, the leading divinatory form in Western culture. Astrology's sophisticated divinatory allegoric is indicated, together with issues raised by its Stoic legacy as a science of fate. The study concludes with the post-Kantian dilemma of psychological and parapsychological interpretations, and poses - but does not answer - the question of whether these may carry divination into post-modernity.

Item Type: Thesis (Doctor of Philosophy (PhD))
Thesis advisor: Schlamm, Leon
DOI/Identification number: 10.22024/UniKent/01.02.86421
Additional information: This thesis has been digitised by EThOS, the British Library digitisation service, for purposes of preservation and dissemination. It was uploaded to KAR on 09 February 2021 in order to hold its content and record within University of Kent systems. It is available Open Access using a Creative Commons Attribution, Non-commercial, No Derivatives ( licence so that the thesis and its author, can benefit from opportunities for increased readership and citation. This was done in line with University of Kent policies ( If you feel that your rights are compromised by open access to this thesis, or if you would like more information about its availability, please contact us at and we will seriously consider your claim under the terms of our Take-Down Policy (
Subjects: B Philosophy. Psychology. Religion > BL Religion
Divisions: Divisions > Division of Arts and Humanities > School of Culture and Languages
SWORD Depositor: SWORD Copy
Depositing User: SWORD Copy
Date Deposited: 29 Oct 2019 16:59 UTC
Last Modified: 26 Jan 2022 11:51 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)

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