Half a dozen years ago, a package arrived in the mail from a publisher. As I made the half mile walk back from the mailbox toward my house on a hill on the far side of a West Virginia hollow, I pulled back the tab on the top of the mailer and out spilled The Toltec I-Ching, a beautifully illustrated new take on the venerable divining method of ancient China.
Sending an email to the publisher that afternoon, I said that I would put the book thoroughly through its paces as a self-help guide, as I was in the midst of making several important decisions, both professionally and personally. The Toltec I-Ching, my review of which is available at New Mystics Reviews, was more than helpful—it was life changing. Taking the complexity of the trigrams and hexagrams of the I-Ching and breaking them down into understandable explanations, Horden, along with his illustrator, allowed me to access insights that yielded immediate results on application. I recommended the book to others, and shared it with many visitors to my home who were also seeking some guidance.
Early last year I had the opportunity to review another of Horden’s books, In the Oneness of Time: The Education of a Diviner. I was struck by its nonlinear format and Horden’s ease of language with complex spiritual and cultural ideas. Horden is a very capable storyteller, with just the right mix of levity and brevity—in that sense, a true shaman.
Way of the Diviner is a companion volume to In the Oneness of Time. It is by no means a replication of the material of its predecessor. It is a peek behind the curtains while simultaneously offering a look down the road, from the best of all vantage points—Way of the Diviner is very much of and about the Now.
Using a combination of personal anecdotes, teachings from his three instructors, illustrations that he has created for his multi-volume series on I Ching divination, spiritual parables, synchronicity, alien abductions, channeling, and explorations of the I Ching and other systems for divination and transformation (“shaman, spirituality, alchemy, and immortality,” p. 2), Horden goes deeper into the ether than in any of the other books of his I have read (several more than mentioned here). You will also find passages that contribute to some of the leading work being produced in areas such as Angelology, Authenticity, and Dreamwork. There are also reproductions from some of the paintings from The Toltec I Ching and some of Horden’s stunning nature photography.
Honoring the nonlinear realities of time, Horden titles chapter 1 “Ending” and chapter 2 “Beginning.” He is coming at the complex questions inherent in divination from multiple angles, as any good teacher does, allowing the material to fall like seeds seeking fertile soil (meaning here the reader’s own background, interests, and need). The chapters unfold as they will, having been written in the moment without pre-planning—sometimes on a hillside in Mexico, other times in places about which we are not told the details. The movement is shamanistic—the text moving back and forth between the worlds of spirit and matter; dark and light; life and death.
It helps to have read the books I have already mentioned, or to be otherwise familiar with different spiritual systems and their relationships to shamanism and divination. Way of the Diviner is by no means a starter manual. Yet, with enough background and an open heart it is not impenetrably mysterious. Horden has an approach that flows effortlessly between Serious and Absurd, as he eloquently relates in chapter 11, “Enlightenment.”
I have had the pleasure and privilege to speak one-on-one with Horden on several occasions, often for many hours at a time, both in person and through Skype, and he is meticulous in his word choice in those situations as he no doubt must be behind the keyboard or with pen in hand. And yet he says, “I have been on this path for forty-five years now and am embarrassed that I still have so much to say” (p. 50) and “I thought about leaving this chapter on enlightenment completely blank. Perhaps it would’ve been more appropriate” (p. 56). This humility and care is rare in a teacher. It is a trait we need much more of.
The final chapters of the book unveil a series of advanced concepts, which Horden demystifies with abundant personal and spiritual examples and his considerable ability to use metaphor as a tool for teaching, distilling them down into phrases such as “Make of Yourself a Nest for the Phoenix” and “Sweeping Shadows without Raising Dust.”
Within these chapters are exercises for turning down the volume of the conscious mind so that we can attune with the One Mind. I have used these exercises for many months and they not only focus the mind during meditation and relaxation but help to quell the racing thoughts that I struggle with as both a writer/creative and as someone who grapples with anxiety. Horden calls these “Taking the reins in our hands instead of being dragged across the field.” They are nothing less.
Ever the consummate storyteller, Horden ends Way of the Diviner with a tale about an experience he had in Veracruz and, ever the humble student, the final section holds the ceremonial words of one of his teachers.
It seems for over a decade I have been ending a portion of my reviews with something like, “If you are looking for inspiration and direction in these troubled times…” As long as times are troubled—and that might just be the eternal way of things—authors like Horden and books like Way of the Diviner will be the balm to heal our wounds.
TITLE: Way of the Diviner
AUHTOR: William Douglas Horden