The Path – November 1889


An interesting bit of history is found in the word "lining," one of the simplest in the English language. Its origin is strictly occult. And yet how little would anyone suspect a mystic flavor in such a well-worn term, used in every-day conversation in reference to our clothes and household utensils. And in even its daily use it is always applied to the inner, as distinguished from the outer, side of any given object. One might quote a thousand applications of this term, all appropriate and all referring to the inner, as distinguished from the outward, side of any given object.

The origin of this very common English noun may be sought for, and correctly, in the Latin-derived word "line." But what connection is there between a "line" and a "lining"? Apparently none. The latter might have been construed, once upon a time, as a participle of the former, but that does not afford any explanation of the entirely different meanings of the two words as now used. We have seen what a lining is in the popular acceptation of the term, and we are aware that the geometrical definition of a line is that which has length but neither breadth nor thickness. One might search forever for a rational explanation of the variation in the two significations, and would never find it without referring to occultism. In that branch of science known as cheiromancy the lines traced by Nature upon the palm of the hand are discovered to possess certain senses indicative not only of past events but of the probabilities of the future. It may be supposed that in the Middle Ages, when the English tongue was being gradually evolved from the Norman, Norse, and Saxon, and when palmistry was carried across the channel by the gypsies, the lining of the hand was often referred to, strictly within the original meaning of the lines of the hand. Afterwards the same term was applied to other objects, referring to the entire inner side. Later the first sense was forgotten, and would not be readily revived in this exoteric age, — not, at least, by any of the school-men or theologians.

Concerning the lining of the hand there is a great deal to be said and much to be yet learned, notwithstanding the exhaustive labors of John Indagine, Albertus Magnus, Bartholomew Codes, le Sieur de Peruchio, J. Fricasso, and, more than any other, that enthusiastic Frenchman, Adrien Desbarolles. For, whatever may be claimed of cheiromancy, and there is no doubt but that it occupies an important field, it cannot yet be classed as an exact science. In this opinion I am aware that I am going contrary to the dicta of Heron-Allen, Rosa Baughan, and other recent English writers who say that all the important events in the life of any individual can be accurately determined. But it appears to me, after some years of careful investigation and comparison, that it is only rarely that events are so strongly portrayed on the palm as to be seen at a glance and boldly announced. My own experience is that the story of a life is much more intricate. The lines are generally so modified by one another and so inter-related that even a very careful inspection will frequently fail to bring out facts with any degree of exactness. I do not deny that the hieroglyphics are there and that they are mathematically correct, but our knowledge of them is still so limited as to render an interpretation frequently unjust and almost always incomplete. The reason for this must be found in the fact that, as all men and women are different in character and disposition, so much so that no two persons are alike, just in the same manner are all lives different in their details, so that each individual's career is unlike that of any one else. There are millions of contingencies that may happen, and Nature must write the romance of each life on the limited space assigned to her. Our rules of cheiromancy are derived from the personal observations of a few students. Can it be for a moment supposed that they have seen and recognized more than a mere fraction of the signs taken from Nature's wide vocabulary? It is, of course, the fashion for professional cheiromants to claim everything. Especially is the fashion prominent in the works of recent writers on this subject. The elder authors were more modest, however, and interjected many pious disclaimers and humble confessions of ignorance into their folios. And yet they were men of deep learning — the quintessence of their times.

To illustrate the influence of modifiers on the lining of the hand, the instance might be quoted of a gentleman known to the writer who, according to the lines, should have been divorced, but who is living happily (or was at last accounts) with his family. In his case the divorce line, after standing out with great distinctness for several years, was finally continued up to the mount of Saturn and took on an altogether different signification. I recall also the case of a gentleman who has written several books on occult subjects, and who, according to all the laws of cheiromancy, should have been dead these twenty years past, but who is still enjoying excellent health. There is also another, a physician, whose career ought to have terminated last year, but who awkwardly persists in clinging to this earthly sphere and retaining his "clothes of skin." In the second of these cases there is no apparent modifier, and yet it must be somewhere on the palm to indicate Nature's reprieve. The last-mentioned instance may be simply a case of wrong measurement on the life-line, but more probably there is a modifier, if it could be discovered. Certainly there is no square of protection anywhere near the fatal epoch. It must be some other character employed by Nature than the ones known to modern cheiromants.

In the face of these and similar apparent exceptions to the rules, it is better not to press too closely the claim for cheiromancy of being an exact science. Let us put it on its proper footing. We may suppose that the Atlanteans were versed in palmistry among other magic arts. Undoubtedly some vestiges of it descended to the Aryans along with the Zodiac and the rudiments of astrology. In that most ancient occult work known as the Book of Job, both astrology and palmistry are clearly indicated. The English priests mistranslated all such passages as much as possible, in order to prevent them from being understood by the masses. In the Vulgate, on the contrary, the sense was very nearly preserved, as in chapter 37, verse 7, where it reads: "Qui in manu omnium hominum signat ut noverint singuli opera sua". (He places signs in the hand of every man in order that all may know his works). In connection with this, how ridiculous is the reading of the English Version: "He sealeth up the hand of every man; that all men may know his work!" But this is on a par with other false renderings of the Old Testament, as, for instance, the first word in the first chapter of Genesis.

However, there is no doubt that cheiromancy was known among the earliest tribes of the present human race. If the later initiated were ever more guarded in referring to it than they were in speaking of astrology, the reason is not hard to find. It was comparatively safe for the ancients to compute astrologic directions with some degree of publicity, because by its very nature astrology was so difficult that ordinary minds were totally incapable of comprehending it or its rules. The Chaldean seer had no fear in calculating nativities, because the common people could not rise to his level. Cheiromancy, on the other hand, was simple and could be easily, learned, the rules requiring only an effort of memory. Hence it had to be more sacredly guarded from the public, and the candidates for initiation into the mysteries might have been specially cautioned against writing or saying anything about it publicly. One of the lower caste tribes of India, having fled to escape the atrocities committed by Timour Beg in 1408 A. D., passed through Egypt and reached Europe in 1417. From the circumstance of their having come from Egypt they were mistakenly called Egyptians, which name has since clung to them through nearly 500 years of wanderings. The gypsies appear to have had some leaders who instructed them in the secret art of palmistry. It was the one bequest to them from their progenitors, who may perhaps have derived it from Enoch himself. Among the gypsies there were never any written rules of palmistry, — in fact, there are none even at the present day. The indications were carefully transmitted from mother to daughter, — as the fortune-telling was always monopolized by the females of this nomadic race. Many of these rules have from time to time passed into the possession of curious outsiders, but it is believed that even now the gypsies have a knowledge of certain important hieroglyphs which have never been given to the public, and which are unknown to the writers of our latest works on cheiromancy. After indulging in some criticism on palmistry, based upon a knowledge of what it will not do, there is great pleasure in recognizing the services which it really performs. By the shape of the hand the expert cheiromant at once determines the disposition, character, and probable occupation of the owner of that hand. Physiognomy betrays the ruling planet, although the same result can be attained by an examination of the mounts of the palm. It is thus possible for one sitting in a window on a busy street of a great city to tell at a glance the leading characteristics of every individual in the passing throng, as well as the planet under which each one may have been born. This of itself is no ordinary feat, and borders closely upon the magical. D'Arpentigny's interpretation of the thumb and fingers comes the nearest to reducing this branch of the art to exactitude of any authority, ancient or modern. In fact, so far as the mere disposition and capacity of any person are concerned, this may be set down as certainly exposed to the trained eye of the disciple of D'Arpentigny. Cheirognomy is therefore to all intents and purposes an exact science. But when we come to the particular events, past, present, and future, of a particular career, then the honest cheiromant must pause and examine his ground with the utmost circumspection. (1) No doubt there are some people whose lives have been so influenced by one great single passion or purpose as to cause the nature of that leading motive to be infallibly stamped upon the palm. Such fortunes are seen at a glance. But, speaking from experience, I have found that in the great majority of instances the subjects have been living an uneventful career, — that is to say, a career uneventful as seen by an outsider; for to the individual his own career is never uneventful. To the blacksmith in a country village, for instance, every occurrence is of as much importance, apparently, as are the experiences of a soldier in battle, or of a financier in a great city. But the cheiromant is compelled to establish a standard by which all lives are impartially measured. The most difficult fortunes to tell are those of mediocrity, and they are the most common. Given the hand of a talented actress, of a great soldier, of a statesman or poet, and that is most interesting and easy for the practised cheiromant to read. In stupidity and stagnation he is more often confounded.

Some recent writers on palmistry have attempted to separate it from astrology, and in so doing their arguments are as absurdly incongruous as are the efforts of Christian writers to reconcile the two opposing dogmas of free-will and predestination. No unprejudiced thinker can for a moment entertain their ridiculous sophisms. To accept palmistry and reject astrology is simply to accept a limb while rejecting the whole body, or to believe in a part while denying the whole. Cheiromancy is merely a branch of astrology. As the latter shows us how the careers of men may be indicated by the place of the planets at birth, so the lines of the hand are simply the written word of Nature in corroboration of the astral positions. Or, to be more explicit, they are the direct results of the planetary influences. Whether brought down to earth by the rays of light penetrating space, or whether transmitted through a more incomprehensible medium, there is no doubt that the subtle forces are always at work. The signature of Nature is invariably stamped upon the hand of the infant at birth, as if the child were a coin fresh from the mint. The physiological cheiromants claim that the tendencies of a man's nature are the result of his ante-natal and ancestral circumstances, instead of direct astral influences, and that it is these tendencies that mould the formations of his hands, and that the events of his life may be explained and foretold by a careful study of these causes, based upon experiences which, in these cases, do duty for experiments. (2) But what shall we say of the constant changing of the lines during life-time, or how account for the actual presence of the lines themselves on any such theory? The argument is altogether too weak and unsupported by other circumstances. The full extent of heredity in this science may be easily found to consist in the shape of the palm and fingers. Here Nature performs another of her miracles which would be remarkable if not an every-day occurrence. Just as the features of the face resemble the parents, so does the shape of the hand in many respects resemble that of the parent. And it must do so, of course, in all instances where the child inherits the disposition of its parents, thus proving the law of signature. But the lines on the palm are always different, and never bear any resemblance to the lining of the parent's hand. Here again the law is proved, for the career of the son is seldom or never a duplicate of that of his father. No heredity can possibly influence the lines. In fact, there is no possible escape for us, in seeking a natural explanation of the causes of the lines, except in the plain logical and astrological deductions of ancient cheiromancy.


1. Note. — The reader will observe the distinction made between the two branches of palmistry, viz , cheirognomy and cheiromancy. (return to text)

2. Heron-Allen, Manual of Cheirosohiy, p. 68. (return to text)

The Path