Playing with Prognostications

On Taking the Yijing Seriously

This paper was written for the 2022 Yijing World Summit Forum. It’s about play and divination, and it won the 2022 first prize for essays on the Yijing (优秀易经论文一等奖).

This is a draft of the paper that I gave as a recorded video, so isn’t in final form. I could find a place to publish it, but I’m too lazy and/or have other things to be getting on with, so I’m going to just share it here.

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In pursuit of Baba Vanga

The blind seer of Petrich.

I’m back in Bulgaria for a few weeks this summer, and — because I’m thinking a lot about divination at the moment — I find my thoughts turning to the enigma that is Baba Vanga.

Vanga is Bulgaria’s most famous prophetess. And not just famous in Bulgaria: a few years ago in Myanmar, I saw a series of books about historically notable lives in a bookstore, all in Burmese. There were four books on display: Confucius, Elton John, Adolf Hitler and Baba Vanga. It was an bizarre conjunction of names. And Vanga’s inclusion was particularly striking.

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Future, fate and free will

The universe surprises itself....

Divination is not just about knowing the future in advance. It’s also about knowing how to manage the present — and perhaps also how to manage the past.

And if we anxiously use divination to see what the future will be like, it’s not clear that — in our own minds at least — we’re asking to know something preordained. Nor do we want to know exactly how things will be.

Instead, we want to know the kind of thing the future will be like. And we want to know how we can offset or avoid the bad stuff and how we can increase the amount of good stuff. We want to play the future to our advantage.

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