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Divination and Randomness

To: alt.magick.tyagi,alt.pagan.magick,alt.magick.folk,alt.magick,alt.tarot,alt.divination,alt.sorcery
From: (nagasiva)
Subject: Divination and Randomness (LONG)(was Re: random number (was: I-Ching = Tarot; relationship)
Date: 14 May 1996 09:24:14 -0700

49960514 (header adjusted to reflect change/expansion of focus)

peter li'ir key :
|>one of my current projects is a study of "the random number".
|>for something so intuitively simple, it eludes clear definition.

my Bible has for 'random':
# random...  1.  having no specific pattern or objective; haphazard.
#  2a. *Statistics* Of or designating a phenomenon that does not produce
#  the same outcome every time it occurs under identical circumstances.
#  b. Of or designating an event having a relative frequency of occurence 
#  that approaches a stable limit as the number of observations of the
#  event increases to infinity.  c. Of or designating a sample drawn from
#  a population so that each member of the population has an equal chance
#  to be drawn.  d.  Of or pertaining to a member of such a sample: *a
#  random number*.  _*-idiom* at random_.  Without definite method or
#  purpose; unsystematically.  [ME *randoun* < OFr *randon* < *randir*,
#  to run, of Germanic orig.]...
[Am Her Dic; 2nd College Ed] (peter li'ir key):
|...what _makes_ a number random?

our decision to derive it in a manner which does not involve conscious
selection, often among a number of 'equally possible selections' (this
latter means that we conceal from ourselves their relationship, such
as their distribution within an enclosed box from which we shall select
for a raffle; we feel that we can not consciously determine the outcome).

[re: rolling d6]
|the number is randomly choosen, but is 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6 random?

the number itself is not random except in the way it is derived.

| does [one] choose any one number from the set of whole numbers 
|in a random fashion?  if you choose any number how do you know it is random?
|why didn't you pick a number 10^10000 bigger?  or 10^100000 larger than

if choosing, it isn't usually considered 'at random' except colloquially,
since when selecting a number 'without apparent conscious thought' we
tend to label this 'random' without specifying the limitations we are
placing on the set of possible alternatives or how our minds may subtlely
interfere/influence (this is likely part of the justification of the lack
of selection of the number 17 you mentioned, as it must lack some 
attractive or contain some repulsive quality to the modern mind -- 
please speak of this further here or elsewhere, as it is possible this 
may become the new Number of Magick down the line if such studies 
perpetuate the notion -- primes are often associated with the occult).

|if you use any algorthm to choose a number, or determine if any
|given is random, then you end up with the paradox that if the
|number can be determine to be random with a deterministic
|algorthm, how can that number be random?

this is a real conundrum and I agree that it is deceptive from my
very small understanding of how 'random' numbers are derived within
computer programs (often selecting some sort of changing variable
such as the time and factoring/mutating this into a reasonable result).

then again, if we do not require that the ODDS be equally likely for
any of the possible results (e.g. *2* d6, which has a probability
distribution that is not equally likely, 7 being most common), then
it *can* be said that computer-generated #s are indeed 'random' in
that our initiative elicits the selection from a set of variables
using a rapidly changing sourcepoint that eludes our conscious
control (it may distribute unevenly due to the way it is programmed).

|what is 'chance'?  

My Bible says:
# chance... *n.* 1. a. The abstract nature or quality shared by unexpected, 
#  random, or unpredictable events; contingency.  b. This quality regarded 
#  as causing or deciding such events; luck.  2. The likelihood of occurence
#  of an event; probability.  3a. An unexpected, random, or unpredicted 
#  event.  b. A fortuitous event.  4a  An opportunity.  b.  A risk or 
#  hazard; gamble.  c. A raffle or lottery ticket....  *adj.* 1. Happening 
#  unexpectedly: *a chance meeting with an old friend.*  2. Determined or 
#  marked by whim or caprice; arbitrary....  [ME, unexpected event < OFr 
#  < VLat. *cadentia* < Lat. *cadere*, to happen.]

4 reminds me of chinese ideogram for 'danger'.

|...why is a dice roll "chance?"

because we do not take steps to constrain the result and as the dice are
constructed in symmetrical shape and are thrown, their movement is difficult 
to predict unless they are weighted or in some other way constrained to 
particular results among the possible alternatives.

|why is 'change' [sic; prob 'chance'] considered random?

when we consider an equal likelihood of distribution of results, as in
a raffle or in d6 roll.  craps is a game of chance, but not 'random'
chance, since 2d6 aren't distributed evenly as they would be on a
wheel of fortune (cf the tarot key).  this is related directly to 'odds',
especially as the 'odds' aren't 'even' (neat language, eh? :>).

|in a magickal/metaphysical/mystical/religious sense you have to 
|consider gods of luck, fates, free will, determinism, synchronicity,
|and other things that might affect 'chance' number generation.

we don't *have* to, but some people do believe in these things, yes,
so it is valuable to discuss.

|is a tarot reading random or synchronicistic?

in terms of strict linguistics and probability, a shuffled deck of
cards may indeed be a random distribution (OMNI magazine reported that
statistically the number of shuffles necessary to preclude any form
of recognizeable pattern is 7).

neither of my Bibles defines 'synchronicity'!  I remember it as a Jungian
term relating to 'significant coincidence', and in _Man and His Symbols_,
a work edited by Carl Jung, I find this:

[subsequent to discussion of Chinese philosophy and I Ching:]
# But what significance has such "fortune telling" for our own time?
# Even those who accepted the idea that the *I Ching* is a storehouse
# of wisdom will find it hard to believe that consultation of the
# oracle is anything more than an experiment in the occult.  It is
# indeed difficult to grasp that more is involved, for the ordinary
# person today consciously dismisses all divining techniques as archaic
# nonsense.  As Dr. Jung has shown, they are based on what he calls
# the "principle of synchronicity" (or, more simply, meaningful
# coincidence).  He has described this difficult new idea in his
# essay "Synchronicity: An Acausal Connecting Principle."  It is
# based on the assumption of an inner unconscious knowledge that
# links a physical event with a psychic condition, so that a certain 
# event that appears "accidental" or "coincidental" can in fact be 
# physically meaningful; and its meaning is often symbolically 
# indicated through dreams that coincide with the event.

Jolande Jacobi, 'Symbols in an Individual Analysis'; pp. 357-8.
 _Man and His Symbols_, ed. Carl Jung, Dell Publishing, 1972.

so if you are contrasting 'random' in the sense of *meaningless*
with 'synchronistic' in the sense of *meaningful*, I'd say that
the tarot depends in part on deriving meaning from what can
be 'random' distributions of the cards. 

that being said, many tarot readers designate what are called
'significator' or 'querent' cards, indicating a relationship
between a card in the deck and the person for whom the reading
is being performed.  moreover, various traditional 'layouts',
patterns of distribution, have become popular ('Celtic Cross'
being one of the most popular likely in association with Waite).
further, some accept certain constrained meanings for the cards
themselves, which further limits the capacity for intuitive 

in this way most people who read tarot do not often rely upon
their own mind (synchronicity) to determine the significance of
particular cards, we use systems incorporating a random distribution
of cards into a predesignated reference framework. 

I think that this distinction between traditional methods of tarot 
readings (largely influenced by esoteric Christians like E.A.Waite
and perpetuated by Eden Gray and others) and my own form (which
involves a complete suspension of determined structure and an
orientation from *within the (unplanned) layout itself* is very 
important, the latter participating more fully in the feeling of 
'randomness' (reproducing what is currently the vogue of modern 
Science, though in a more honest sense: deriving meaning out of 
apparent chaos).

often people associate some sort of DETERMINISTIC scenario when
speaking of 'synchronicity' (perhaps this is a popular variation
or a deeper apprehension of Jung I cannot presently tell).  that
is, they associate this significance with some force, power,
truth, intuition, psychic influence, etc., as you mentioned above.

cf 'Dion Fortune', esp. regarding the significance of her name.

|divinely or mortally influenced?

'divination' is a curious word.  apparently its roots go back to
the Sanskrit 'deva', one which has changed over time also as the
religious conditions within India changed (in Brahminism and other 
forms of dharma).  'devas' are the rough equivalents of gods or,
later, the Greek titans, complete with a Warrior Lord and social
structure.  the relationship between deva and worshipper has
changed also, from a sort of mutual pact (cf Semitic religions)
whereby the deva may be coerced and thereby facilitating one's
post-humous ascension into their number *as* a deva, to one of the
rival factions of the heavens (perhaps 'sky gods' versus 'earth 
demons/asuras', though this is surely a controversial interpretation).  

moving through time, we arrive at the Christian 'divinity' and
therefore 'God', such that one may if one wishes associate the
methods of 'divination' with consorting among the gods or with
the omniscience of God (cf the Hermetic/Rosicrucian 'Hru/Hua/Heh' :>).  
there is almost always presumed an influence of divinity (wherever 
this be located and whether or not presumed distinct from the 'mortal' 
or human reader) or 'unconscious forces' (and some even equate these).

|i don't have any answer to these things really.

you have at least one now. :>

|i do behave as if certain things were certain ways.

as do we all.

Newsgroups: alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
From: (peter li'ir key)
Subject: Re: Is shuffling randomization?
Organization: springhaven
References: <>
Date: Wed, 15 May 1996 18:44:51 GMT
Lines: 87
Xref: alt.tarot:7028 alt.magick:73702 alt.magick.tyagi:8134

please note crossposts

Jess Karlin   wrote:
>In addressing the question about computer tarot programs
>I realized we had never really discussed (well, we have a little)
>the philosophical questions raised by the randomization
>algorithms in 'reading' programs.

there are broader philosophical questions about what determines
randomness.  in a gross large scale way, the universe is
extremely deterministic (objects fall, planets orbit, planes fly,
and nuclear weapons work), and though i am loathe to bring up
quantum mechanic (since he gets abused to "prove" all sorts of
bizarre notions), qm does seems to allow randomness back into the
picture.  _but_ this is not really proven.  qm could be appear to
random, but in actuality be a very high order deterministic system.
(if i've lost anyone, please for give me, i would recommend about
4 weeks of reading of qm texts.)  philosophically, the question
of "does god play dice with the universe?" hasn't been answered,
so much as handwaved away and put on a backshelf.

on a related parallel subject, there are functions that are "chaotic",
that can be executed sequentially to find any given position, but cannot
be used to predict any given state.  that is to say that somethings can
be deterministic, but not predictable, or somethings can only get to
one place, but you can't tell where that place is until it gets there.
what does this have to do with randomness?  it is another one of the 
explainations for things that appear random.

>The question raised by many programmers in rejection of
>'real' computer tarot is that no 'perfect' algorithm'
>can (or at least has) been written to run the shuffling
>routines of these programs.

the arguement goes like this:

1)   there are 78! (78*77*76*...*3*2*1) ways to order a deck of 78 cards.
1a)  if one introduces reversals you get 78! * 2^78 ways to order a deck.
	(78*77*76*...*3*2*1 >= 2^78.)
2)   so there are at least 2^78 ways for a deck to be ordered
     or there are 2^78 states a deck can be
2a)  or with reversal 2^78*2^78 = 2^156
3)   given that most computer random number algorthms start with a most
     64 bits which generates 2^64 states one has a problem give that
     computer algorthms are one-to-one (each initial state leads to
     one final state), then there aren't enough inital states to
     to get all the final states.  2^64 < 2^78
4)   even if one were willing to use 2^254 states (254 bits)  for initial 
     states, how would you get inputs that set each bit?
     age of universe in milliseconds fits in 2^64 bits.  and then
     the number of milliseconds that have change from last tuesday to now
     still only use less than 2^32 states.  the rest of the bits don't
     change, they might as well be all zeros or ones since less than 2^32
     states are being entered.
     (there are more examples of problems with inputs, but i hope you
      get the point.)

ergo computer algorthms suck at making random numbers.

>Is randomization really what we are trying to achieve
>in the shufling process?

are we trying to touch chaos, the divine, the synchronistic,
manipulation, or what?

with things like shuffling and coin tosses it is very simple
to demostrate that the person shuffling or tossing can influence
the out come.  look at magician's card and coin tricks.

>As we know, shuffling, unless it is done 'perfectly',
>does not readily randomize a deck.

the notions of perfect shuffling is also difficult.
in a mathematical sense "perfect shuffling" means alternating
one card from each half of a cut deck.  this has the curious property
that if one does it enough one reorders the deck back to the
original state.

>That then raises the question of why we should mind whether
>the computer randomizes 'perfectly' or not.

this is a philosophical issue, indeed.  which is why i've
been studying random numbers.

peter li'ir key

Newsgroups: alt.tarot,alt.magick,alt.magick.tyagi
From: (Tom Ace)
Subject: Re: Is shuffling randomization?
Organization: Netcom 
References: <> 
Date: Thu, 16 May 1996 06:39:50 GMT
Lines: 21
Xref: alt.tarot:7031 alt.magick:73705 alt.magick.tyagi:8135

In article (peter li'ir key) writes:

>4)   even if one were willing to use 2^254 states (254 bits)  for initial 
>     states, how would you get inputs that set each bit?

There are many ways.  

Many Sparcstation models can readily generate random bits from the 
electrical noise at their sound input (with nothing connected to it).
For example, the following command will generate 100,000+ random bits
in about three seconds on a Sparcstation IPC:

cat /dev/audio | compress | od -vx | head -50

(I got the idea for this method from the sci.crypt FAQ.)  These are not 
top-notch random bits, but they're not bad.  You can easily distill 254 
seriously random bits out of those 100,000+.

Tom Ace

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