Fortune-telling—Can It Really Help You?
“I READ your life like an open book.” “I answer all questions.” “Bring your problems to me and I will solve them—no matter what your problems may be.”
These claims were made by a fortune-teller in a leaflet advertising her services.
Many people take such claims seriously. Throughout the world fortune-tellers enjoy a flourishing business. Some individuals visit one every day and will not make any big decision without such a consultation.
What is fortune-telling? Can it really answer vital questions and solve problems? Can fortune-telling help you?
Methods of Fortune-telling
Fortune-telling, according to The Encyclopedia Americana, involves “predicting one’s fortune or future, by alleged signs or indications seen and interpreted by amateur or professional diviners.”
Fortune-telling is, therefore, a form of divination, a procedure for gaining knowledge of the unknown or of the future by extraordinary means. That is why the names of many of its methods end in -mancy (from the Greek man·teiʹa: “the mode of divination”). There are, for example, cartomancy (fortune-telling by cards), chiromancy (by the lines of one’s hand) and crystallomancy (by use of a crystal ball or other transparent object).
Many methods of fortune-telling involve looking for and interpreting omens or signs that supposedly foreshadow future events. Astrology is in this category. The sun, moon, stars and planets are said to affect earthly and human events. Each star group and each planet is assumed to exert a particular influence, positive or negative. Astrologers cast a “horoscope” or chart of the positions of the heavenly bodies relative to one another at the time of a person’s birth. From this they claim to be able to read his personality and destiny.
Palmistry is a way of fortune-telling by examining the lines and other characteristics of the palm of someone’s hand. Showing a close connection with astrology, palmists speak of the hand as having “mounts,” named after the seven planets known to ancient astrologers.
Some fortune-tellers work with Tarot cards. These special cards include 22 “Tarots” (or trumps) and 56 numeral cards. The numeral cards are divided into four suits. Each suit is given an overall sense and each card is given a specific meaning. The cards are interpreted according to their assigned meanings, modified by the combination of one card with another when dealt, drawn or spread out.
Tarot reading, too, is connected with astrology. The book How the Tarot Speaks to Modern Man explains that Tarot readers “base their interpretation of the cards upon the structure of the universe, particularly the solar system as symbolized by the Holy Cabala.” The “Cabala” (a body of Jewish occult doctrine) divides up the universe into three elements (fire, air and water), seven planets and the twelve signs of the zodiac—22 in all, corresponding with the 22 trump cards of the Tarot deck.
There are many other methods of fortune-telling by omens, including the way tea leaves settle at the bottom of a cup, the configurations of drops of oil on the surface of water and the fall of dice or dominoes.
A Scientific Basis?
Does such a quest to know someone’s personality traits or the future by omens have a scientific basis? Evidence for this is entirely lacking. Says the book The Biological and Social Meaning of Race: “The possible number of different combinations of genes that a single human could inherit is greater than the number of atoms in the universe.” An individual’s traits, his way of thinking and the decisions that govern his future also involve his environment and culture.
Could there be any significant correspondence between someone’s personality or future and the fall of a pair of dice (which presents only 36 possibilities), the settling of tea leaves or any other random occurrence? And the fact that personalities are largely determined by heredity at the time of conception rules out any “influence” from heavenly bodies at the time of one’s birth.
Another problem: Because of “precession of the equinoxes,” which is caused by a slight “wobble” of the earth as it rotates on its axis, the sun now crosses the equator each spring in the constellation called Pisces instead of Aries. This puts traditional astrology charts that give dates for the sun to pass through the twelve constellations of the zodiac a full section out of alignment.
“The inference from this is clear,” remarks Christopher McIntosh in The Astrologers and Their Creed. “Either the astrological tradition became obsolete as soon as the precession began to affect the alignment of signs and constellations, or else the qualities attributed to the signs are not connected with the stars at all.”*
Of course, other methods of fortune-telling that are related to astrology (such as certain types of card reading and palmistry) are equally devoid of scientific basis. That is why the predictions of fortune-tellers are so often wrong.
“But they are not always wrong,” someone may object. This is true. On occasion, some fortune-tellers have been amazingly accurate. But if their methods are not scientific, what accounts for this accuracy?
A Mysterious Force
Here it is interesting to note an expression of the well-known fortune-teller Jeanne Dixon, who sometimes uses a pack of cards to tell fortunes: “I don’t know a single thing about telling fortunes with cards. I simply have a person hold them so that I can pick up his vibrations.” Similarly, the book Patterns of Prophecy (1973) says concerning palm reading: “Palmists seem to derive their most astute impressions not from the lines of the hand, but from touching the person to make psychic contact. . . . a number of German palmists were unable to make accurate statements about people’s characters when only photocopies of the handprints were presented to them.”
Thus it is not the heavenly bodies, the cards, someone’s palm or any other omens that result in the occasional “direct hits” of fortune-tellers. Their successes are principally due to a mysterious “psychic force.”
Such a strange power is involved in several other methods of probing into the unknown or the future. An example is cleidomancy, or divination by a key held suspended on a thread. When asked questions, the key may revolve or move back and forth to indicate “Yes” or “No” answers or to provide other types of information. Some substitute another object, such as a pendulum, in place of a key. At times such devices, when held over a map, have pointed out the location of hidden or lost objects and missing persons. When dangled above letters of the alphabet laid out in a circle, the pendulum has been known to move toward certain ones in succession to spell out a message.
Similar is the Ouija board, which contains the words “Yes,” “No,” “Good-bye,” the letters of the alphabet and the numbers 1 through 9 and 0. Atop this sits a heart-shaped device mounted on three felt-tipped legs. When consultants put their hands on this, a force causes it to move about the board, spelling out words and sentences that can provide information not previously known to the persons using the board.
The same principle operates in the case of the planchette, which is a triangular or heart-shaped board mounted on tiny wheels with a pencil projected downward. One or more persons place their fingertips on the board and a mysterious power causes it to write.
What is the force that enables fortune-tellers to make correct forecasts on occasion or to obtain accurate information that they could not normally know? What makes the pendulum, the planchette and the three-legged device atop a Ouija board move about in a way that communicates information not obtainable by normal means? What engenders visions in crystal balls that at times accurately describe the unknown or the future? Obviously there is an intelligently directed force at work. Scientists and psychic researchers are not sure what that force is. Would it benefit you to explore such a mysterious power? Would it help you to “try it just once” to satisfy your curiosity?
The Real Power Behind Fortune-telling
The Bible warns all who wish to win the approval of God to keep away from such a thing. God’s view of the matter is set forth at Isaiah 1:13: “I cannot put up with the use of uncanny power along with the solemn assembly [for worship].” Commenting on the Hebrew word aʹwen, here rendered “uncanny power,” Johannes Pedersen, a professor of Semitic languages, writes:
“Properly speaking it denotes strength, but gradually it has chiefly come to be used of the false strength, the magic power, and therefore it has all the characteristics of sin.” “[It] denotes the false strength, deeds involving disaster, witchcraft and magic arts.”—Israel: Its Life and Culture, pp. 431, 448.
Other scriptures associate “uncanny power” with divination, which includes fortune-telling. (1 Sam. 15:23; Num. 23:16-18, 21; Josh. 13:22) Persons desiring to worship God acceptably must shun any involvement with such a force, for it does not originate with God. Where, then, does it come from?
Pointing to the real source of much fortune-telling ability, the Bible, at Acts 16:16-18, relates:
“We met a slave girl who had a clairvoyant spirit. She used to bring substantial profit to her masters by fortune-telling. The girl began to follow Paul and the rest of us . . . She did this for several days until finally Paul became annoyed, turned around, and said to the spirit, ‘In the name of Jesus Christ I command you, come out of her!’”—The New American Bible.
After the apostle Paul had expelled the “clairvoyant spirit,” or demon, from this girl, her masters “saw that their source of profit was gone.” (Acts 16:19, NAB) She had lost her fortune-telling ability.
It is clear from this that the Word of God links up the uncanny power behind fortune-telling with wicked spirit forces, or superhuman, invisible demons. (Eph. 6:12) That is why God commanded his people to shun every type of divination, saying:
“There should not be found in you anyone who . . . employs divination, a practicer of magic or anyone who looks for omens or a sorcerer, or one who binds others with a spell or anyone who consults a spirit medium or a professional foreteller of events or anyone who inquires of the dead. For everybody doing these things is something detestable to Jehovah.”—Deut. 18:10-12.
All forms of divination, whether by interpretation of omens or by some other use of psychic power, are covered by that prohibition.
Can It Help You?
Do you think that something that God directly condemns in his inspired Word could help you? Actually, fortune-telling could do considerable harm. How so?
One reason is given in The World Book Encyclopedia: “Such a belief may rob a person of trust in himself and his own ability. He may begin to look on himself as a ‘pawn of fortune’ who cannot change his fate. He then may lose ambition.”
More importantly, since fortune-telling involves the use of “uncanny power,” which God condemns, it brings His disfavor, making a person “detestable to Jehovah,” preventing him from having an acceptable relationship with God. (Deut. 18:12) Moreover, the Bible associates prediction of the future by fortune-tellers with the influence of demons. Dabbling in fortune-telling can open up one to harassment from the invisible realm.
No genuine good, therefore, can come from seeking the guidance of fortune-tellers or reading literature designed to help people to develop psychic powers. Christians do well to follow the example of persons of the first century C.E. whom the Lord Jesus Christ favored because they “did not get to know the ‘deep things of Satan.’”—Rev. 2:24.
For those who may already be involved in practices like fortune-telling, the Bible contains the following helpful example: “Many of those who had become believers would come and confess and report their practices openly. Indeed, quite a number of those who practiced magical arts brought their books together and burned them up before everybody.” (Acts 19:18, 19) People who became Christians made a clean break from such practices.
Fortune-tellers with their psychic abilities cannot help you to know God and his requirements for acceptable worship. Nor can they provide sound guidance for everyday life and a sure hope for the future. That information is found only in the Holy Bible, which is truly “inspired of God.” (2 Tim. 3:16; Ps. 119:105; Isa. 46:10) It is study of the Word of God, therefore, and not the consulting of fortune-tellers, that will truly help you in your life.
For a fuller discussion of astrology, see the November 22, 1973, issue of Awake!, pages 3-7.