Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Decoding Delphi: Reconstructing the Technology of Divination
by Gibbons, Kimberly, Ph.D., California Institute of Integral Studies, 2019, 292; 13880422
Abstract (Summary)

In ancient Greece there was an oracle so famous for her accurate, enigmatic, and poetic pronouncements that kings, generals, and pilgrims flocked from across empires to consult her. The oracle remained in operation for more than 1,000 years and counted among its supporters the philosopher Socrates and the mathematician Pythagoras. She was the Pythia of the Delphic Oracle.

My research questions are: What were the spiritual technologies used at the Delphic Oracle? How did the Greeks understand that the Oracle worked, and what role, if any, did gender play in the successful operation of the oracle? In order to answer these questions, I explore living divination traditions from West Africa. My decision to explore African systems of divination stems from my experience of witnessing numerous divinations in the tradition of the Dagara people of West Africa over a five-year period, including my own initiation as a diviner within this tradition.

Over the course of my exposure to Dagara divination technology, I noticed striking parallels between the Dagara tools and artifacts and chronicles of Delphic tools and artifacts. Because writers living contemporaneously with the Delphic Oracle did not discuss the details involved in the process of prophecy, we need to use living traditions to help reconstruct those that have been lost over the course of time. As I show in my dissertation, there is a scholarly tradition for utilizing comparative analysis.

I use archaeomythology and feminist theory to provide an original interpretation, deeper exploration, and advanced understanding of those archaeological artifacts that pertained to divination at Delphi. I offer one theory of the spiritual technologies in use at Delphi and hypothesize how these technologies may have facilitated one of the ancient world's most accurate oracles. The significance of my findings is that by better understanding the spiritual science of divination at the Delphic Oracle, the modern West can better understand its ancient epistemological connection with divination and possibly reintegrate divinatory tools and practices into more of our modern life.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Williams, Annette, Arora, Alka
Commitee: Tedlock, Barbara
School: California Institute of Integral Studies
Department: Philosophy and Religion with a concentration on Women.s Spirituality
School Location: United States -- California
Source: DAI-A 80/11(E), Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Womens studies, Ancient history, Comparative religion
Keywords: Delphi, Delphic oracle, Divination, Epistemology, Oracle, Pythia
Publication Number: 13880422
ISBN: 978-1-392-19782-0
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