Rhizomatic Bibliomancy #rhizo15

In many literate cultures there is a practice called bibliomancy, which consists in opening a book randomly and producing an oracle from the passage you get. In the old times people did this with the Bible (St. Francis is known to have done this in crucial times of his life). Some people did it with the texts of Homer or Virgil, or of other poets, or with other famous or important books.

Theoretically, considering the nature of synchronicity, you can do this with a phone book, with car plates on a street, or with basically anything, like tea leaves in a cup, birds flying in the sky, or whatever.

Cognitive scientists say that this is a result of apophenia, “the experience of perceiving patterns or connections in random or meaningless data” (Wikipedia definition).

Now my claim is that it doesn’t really matter which interpretation you believe. In the case of an intentional textual rhizome (here considering “text” in a wide sense, including any form of human communication), if you are in the right mindset, whatever part you randomly pick will be meaningful and can be connected to your present situation in meaningful ways. This is part of the nature of the rhizome.

(This last proposition has still to be demonstrated.)

Anyway, I do believe this has something to do with the way the human mind is constituted, despite the fact that multiple explanations or ontological interpretations of the phenomenon are possible.

As an experiment, I did the following bibliomantic enquiry:

Went to google (aka, “The Oracle”), typed “rhizome” and clicked on “feeling lucky”. As a result, I got to a page on the rhizome.org journal, which was about Theresa Duncan. It happened that the Rhizome is curating her CD-ROMs.

“Who the hell is Theresa Duncan?”, I thought. So I checked (on Wikipedia):

She was a computer game designer who is believed to have killed herself in 2007. Her husband reportedly killed himself too, by walking into the Atlantic Ocean a week later. According to Wikipedia, they were supposedly paranoid about being followed by Scientologists.

This is interesting in the light of an exchange that was happening in #rhizo15 at approximately the time of my enquiry. I refer to the following twitter conversation:

Sarah (@ NomadWarMachine): “Is fear of death natural? I’m not afraid of not being. Dying, maybe”

Autumm Caines (@ Autumm): “not only do I think it is natural I think it’s widely shared”

Jeffrey Keefer (@ JeffreyKeefer): “The postmodern in me hesitates claiming anything natural or normal”

Sarah (@ NomadWarMachine): “I also hesitate with generalisations”

Jeffrey Keefer (@ JeffreyKeefer): “Generalizations are so tasty, but like fast food, not lasting”

Autumm Caines (@ Autumm): “Sorry – I just see it as something that most people have”


Further, from Theresa’s blog, I got two other messages which caught my attention and inspired me:

The Wit of the Staircase [which is the name of her blog]: From the French phrase ‘esprit d’escalier,’ literally, it means ‘the wit of the staircase’, and usually refers to the perfect witty response you think up after the conversation or argument is ended. “Esprit d’escalier,” she replied. “Esprit d’escalier. The answer you cannot make, the pattern you cannot complete till afterwards it suddenly comes to you when it is too late.”

Words of Wisdom: “Now the Lord is that Spirit: and where the Spirit of the Lord is, there is liberty.” — 2 Corinthians (3:17)

Thanks Theresa.

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3 Responses to Rhizomatic Bibliomancy #rhizo15

  1. Jaap says:

    The book of Baltasar Gracian Oráculo manual y arte de prudencia (1647) is used as an oracle. (is translated several times)

  2. Autumm Caines says:

    This is such a cool post. Kind of sad and intellectual and erie and spiritual all rolled into one… I love it.

    Little correction – I’m @autumm (not autumn)

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