How we see determines what we see...

One of the most important things to remember in the practice of chirology is that there are many different ways to read the hands. Many books offer radically different perspectives on how the hand should be assessed. All of them present very particular approaches depending on how the authors understand the nature of the art and, indeed, how they understand the nature of man. As with everything in life, things will appear to be very much according to the way in which you look at them. Therefore, we have to pay especial attention to the way that we actually look at that which we are looking at. For however we look will determine that which we see.

In the case of chirology, how we look at the hand will determine what we will actually be able to see from the hand and that will determine the diagnosis we make and that will determine the prognosis that we can give. Any assessment of the hand is only as good as the diagnostic tool which is used - and the diagnostic tool is of course a product of and a reflection of the way in which we see and understand that which we are looking at.

If you are a scientific dermatoglyphisist, you will notice all the whorls, loops and simple arches and the number of skin ridges that each of these contain and think it enormously important to count all these up. With this information, dermatoglyphicists will then come up with an assessment of the genetic patterns of the person and be able to tell something of the genetic history of that person - but at the expense of ignoring all the other features of the hand! They have a particular view of the hand because they have a particular view of what information the hand can provide and a particular view of consciousness as well, so they are limited in the kinds of diagnostic assessments they can make.

In palmistry the same is true as well. They have a particular view of humanity, and a particular view of the hand and what it can reveal, and so they only come up with certain ideas of what can be shown. It is for this reason that palmists seem to concentrate on those obscure features of the hand they believe reveal things like the numbers of babies one is going to have. We can see from this that it is very important to consider and reflect upon how we are looking at the hand. How we look at the hand will determine that which we can see from the hand.

Seeing the Mind

It is axiomatic in chirology that the hand is a reflection of the mind or consciousness - everybody takes this for granted whether they are a palmist or a chirologist - but what does it really mean? What are you looking at? How are you looking at it? Whatever you mean by that, and however you understand that, so that will determine that which you see. Your view of consciousness itself will affect how you interpret and understand the features of the hand.

This is very evident if you read the writing of other hand analysts, that they all have a particular view of consciousness that pre-determines how they look at the hand. Charlotte Wolff had a scientific training and so her approach is to look at the mind-body connection in terms of the body's endocrinology. The endocrine system clearly provides a physiological basis for the workings of mental consciousness and the condition of the endocrine glands have an immediate effect upon the mental states. Her whole study of the hand is based on trying to understand the mind-body connection within a physiological paradigm. So she would look for extreme conditions of mental illness caused by endocrinological imbalance and from that could typify the different morphologies of the hand or line features of the hand that are associated with those particular conditions.

For her to understand the mind-body connection, she had to reduce it to a physical basis and that is very much in evidence in her writing. This is the scientific way of understanding consciousness - as being primarily organic and physical. So in Western thinking, in psychiatry and so on, much mental illness is seen to be an organic dysfunction, either electrical or chemical. Hence the therapies that are provided are either electrical or chemical - electric shock treatment or drugs. Their understanding of consciousness is that it is purely physical, so they equate the mind with the brain and the chemical or electrical effects that can occur in the brain. In the extreme view, which is correctly termed ‘reductionist’, there is nothing more to consciousness that the electrical or chemical activities of the brain. Some scientific views are not so extreme, but in effect, in the scientific worldview, they have equated mind with brain.

As we are brought up in a Western education system that is dominated by science, so we also tend to understand consciousness in that way. Whether we are aware of it or not, at some level we have imbibed that way of thinking so there are certain assumptions that we will bring. We need to be fully aware of the extent to which these views have permeated our understanding for they will undoubtedly influence the way in which we look at the hand if we are not aware of them. This approach to the study of the hand has provided some very useful empirical studies that have substantially supported many of the claims that chirologists have been making for centuries, the approach is nonetheless limited compared to all the potential diagnostic information that can be gleaned from the hand.

The Psychology of Psychology

There are many other authors of books about hands who have been very influenced by the psychologists and psycho-analysts who have had a profound effect on our culture over the last one hundred years. Reading the writings of Jaquin in particular, it is very evident that he has been strongly influenced by the ideas of Freud. He is very concerned with the sexual drive, and the problems that an unresolved sexual drive can bring. His books are full of people with ‘homosexual tendencies’ (at a time when homosexuality was still viewed as a psychiatric disorder) and handprints showing other sexual disorders. Such themes were very much a major interest of his.

Again, whether we have studied much psychology or not, we are often influenced by ideas that have been developed within a Freudian or a Jungian framework. For example, we often use the words 'introvert' or 'extrovert', terms which were in fact invented by Jung to describe the ‘four functions of consciousness’ within his Analytical system. But they have now come into common usage - and in fact, the way that they are used now is not how Jung used them at all! Those kinds of ideas filter down and influence our way of understanding the mind. At a common and popular level, we have an understanding of mind in terms of, for example, the 'conscious mind' and the 'unconscious mind'. Whether you have studied these things in great depth or not you have certain ideas about what consciousness is because of a language that is popularly used to describe what you think is your experience. And when you don't have a very sophisticated language for describing the experiences of mind, you will look for whatever language you can find that makes it possible to explain your own mind. Many of the psychological ideas generated by people like Freud and Jung are so widely used these days, it is extremely common to find mention of them in even the most down-market of women's magazines. For many people, such popularised uses of psychological jargon is all that they have to describe any of their experiences at all. It is no wonder that so many people have such little understanding of themselves.

So, it is always useful to look at where these ideas have come from and the way that these ideas affect your understanding of consciousness because they will affect the way in which you look at hands. For example, Jung had a fourfold understanding of consciousness in which he delineated the four aspects of consciousness as being the ego, shadow, animus (or anima) and the self. For Jungians, these describe what you are, what you repress, what is projected and what the ideal is. This becomes very clear in his functional typology because here he outlines the four functions of consciousness, sensation, intuition, feeling and thinking, which he equates directly with the four elements. Actually, for Jung there are eight rather than just four because each of the four functions has an introverted and an extroverted aspect. When you get certain similarities between different systems of thinking, it can actually give you more problems if you try to combine them together. This is in fact exactly what has happened in modern astrology -so that we now have a 'psychological' astrology, very much infused with the ideas of people like Jung and vastly different from the original traditions of astrology. The act of combining two completely different systems in this way usually suggest some deficiency or at least a perceived deficiency in the original subject.

Turning to Freud, he had this idea of a kind of tripartheid structure of consciousness: the ego, the id and the superego. In his model of consciousness, there is the conscious mind, the ego, always in battle with the unconscious mind, the id, with your conscience, your superego, constantly negotiating between the conflicting urges of the ego and the id. In his understanding, there are these powerful forces or drives that need to be controlled in some way or channelled correctly, and if they are not or if they are repressed, this develops into what he termed a 'neurosis'. Neuroses cause all the problems that psychoanalysis is designed to solve.

The tendency of both these major psychological systems is that they tend to create fixed structures of what they believe consciousness to be. They divide up consciousness into the conscious, the subconscious and the unconscious - what you are aware of, what you are vaguely aware of and what you have no awareness of at all. The sub-consciousness is a kind of grey area, a sort of twilight zone between the light of consciousness and the darkness of the unconscious. The main problem with these systems is that they are creating some fixed feature of the mind which is unknown and unknowable - ie the unconscious - and then trying to determine the contents of what it contains!

Fixing the Mind

Both these systems tend to create a fixed view of the structure of consciousness although some have a slightly more fluid idea of the contents of consciousness, particularly Jung, whose ideas are a little more dynamic. Human beings, such as we are, find it most difficult to accept that everything is dynamic and that everything changes. Because of this habit of our minds, we tend to try to fix things in some way, as it seems easier to comprehend something in terms of fixities. But this is just a habit of our minds, nothing more, that is there because we want to create some kind of simple structure by which we can create a simple understanding of things. Unfortunately for us (or, perhaps, fortunately) things are not actually like that.

We must always be aware of the tendency of our minds to fix things, to take a simple view of things. In chirology we think of the fingerprint patterns as being 'fixed characteristics', as they don't change throughout life, and the lines as being 'dynamic characteristics', as they can and do change.  So we see a mixture of fixed and dynamic things, but it is not really correct to say this. Usually such views of staticity are the product of seeing things in a very short time span. If you take a longer view, even a mountain is not static. In the same way, we sometimes seem to think of the element earth as being static, but when you think about it, it is obvious that it is not: earth just moving more slowly than the wind, for example.

The tendency to view the mind as static is very prevalent in us and therefore will also be present in the way we view the hand. It is something we must always be aware of, even for example when we see a feature on the hand that seems to completely characterise that person. By fixing a definition of that person, even in chirological terms, in a sense we then fix them. We make static that which is inherently dynamic. If you have an idea that there are some features of our consciousness that are fixed while some others are more dynamic, then that is creating a duality

Consciousness is Complex

What we learn from looking at the hand is that consciousness is extremely complex. Those who have spent time analysing even one pair of hands in great detail know how much work is involved and how many factors there are and how much has to be taken into consideration even to do even the most simple of chirological analyses. The process of realising that is the process of realising how complex the mind is.

Chirologically, what this reveals also is how no one feature on the hand can be said to be that person. Problems arise when we identify with and attach to certain factors or qualities at the expense of others and we know that to identify with and gravitate towards only that which we identify with within our hands is actually only to reflect and perpetuate our current imbalances.

Another thing to remember is that when you are looking at the hand, you are only looking at characteristics. To see characteristics is not necessarily to imply that there is a fixed entity or substance beneath those characteristics. That is one of the potential pitfalls of chirology, to the unwary practitioner, that by identifying certain characteristics you have then identified the essential person, their ‘soul’. This is just a presupposition that if you have characteristics, there must be something or someone which possesses those characteristics. It is very easy to fix characteristics or think you have identified the ‘real’ person; but it is a mistake we must studiously avoid making in our practice as hand readers.

As handreaders, our task is to identify the habitual patterns, the patterns which the person habitually clings to, because those will be the patterns of their suffering. By helping people understand the patterns of their minds so we can help them become more aware of the forces that bind them, so that they are then in a position to make some creative choices and do something different within their lives. One of the purposes of chirology, then, is to liberate people from the habitual patterns of their minds.

But before we even do any chirology, we should think about what views we already hold, in what ways our current ideas about consciousness have affected the way that we think about the mind. We need to be aware of how we see in order to see what we are looking at within the hand more clearly. Only then will we really be able to help people by assessing the patterns within their palms.

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