The current state of chirological practice is considerably diverse, ranging from purely scientific investigations of the genetic indications of the hand and dermatoglyphics, through more psychologically oriented chirology, right down to the folk chiromancy of the self-styled psychic palmists and clairvoyants. Despite the persistence of the older, more superstitious, forms of chiromancy though, the study of the hand is gradually being accepted by the wider scientific community and the last one hundred years of systematic chirological research has established that there is indeed a scientific basis for the interpretative study of the hand. It is becoming increasingly recognised that the value of hand analysis is not in attempting to predict the future or tell 'fortunes' but rather, lies with the diagnosis of the health and wellbeing of a person at all levels. Although there are many different approaches to analysing hands taken by different people around the world, it is nevertheless possible to distinguish the main strands that make up the study of hand analysis as it stands today.
Scientific Hand Diagnosis
The first of these is the scientific and medical work of geneticists, dermatoglyphicists and physicians. Their approach mainly takes consideration of the fixed features of the hand, such as the fingerprints and the physiological features of the hand such as the nails and the skin texture. The emphasis is therefore on the purely physical aspects of chirology and what this can reveal about the state of health of the person concerned. There is usually considerable reticence to give any due examination to the lines of the hands for their possible medical or psychological significance, which is a little puzzling given that there is recognition of the diagnostic significance of at least one major lineal formation, viz the Simian line. In general, the lines are dismissed as mere 'crease lines' caused by the folding action of the hands, despite the evidence of their own researches which show that the lines form in the womb from between seven and nine weeks of gestation, before any spontaneous movement of the foetal hands can actually occur. That the Simian line has proven reliable in the diagnosis of chromosomal disorders such as Downs Syndrome should lead to further research on the part of medical science into the diagnostic potential of the other line features of the hands. However, there is a noticeable caution and perhaps even fear here, for there is a distinct desire on the part of scientists, often overtly expressed, to avoid being tainted with anything 'occult'. In this respect, the study of dermatoglyphics is quite safe, for fingerprints were never a part of the old chiromantical traditions. But, having established that the fingerprints and some line formations describe something of both our uniqueness as individuals and our genetic predispositions to various disease conditions, it is a little odd that the study of the lines of the hand and hence the full implications of the study of the hand, has yet to be fully assimilated into their perspective. The leading figures in this approach to the study of the hand include people like LS Penrose, Sarah Holt, Harold Cummins and Milton Alter though many modern researches continue to be published in various contemporary medical journals and publications.
The second distinctive approach to the study of the hand is that which is a continuation of the old chiromantical traditions, as reflected in the continued existence of the gipsy fortuneteller or the palmist on the pier. Most Indian traditions of handreading also appear to fall within this category. The emphasis here is mainly upon the use of intuition or clairvoyance rather than any kind of systematic deductive reasoning and there is usually a deliberately created air of mystique, along with various accoutrements such as astrological charts, tarot cards or crystal balls. Consequently, one often has the suspicion that the information being given has not actually come from a consideration of the hand alone. Chirologically, the emphasis is mostly upon the lines of the hand, especially those lines that are said to be indicative of love, marriage and children. But there is also an emphasis on the conjuring up of images to give predictive indications of one's future fate and fortune. As there is little in the way of a coherent system of analysis here, the quality of accuracy in these types of readings can be enormously variable. The most successful handreader of this type in this century was of course the self-proclaimed seer Count Louis Hamon, old Cheiro himself and we find that it is Cheiro who is usually the most highly revered hand reader of all amongst those hand readers today who like to call themselves psychic palmists.
Empirical Hand Reading
A third type is reflected in those handreaders who have built on the edifice of the new chirology of D'Arpentigny and Desbarolles but have modified those systems on the basis of their own experience. There is more of a concern for practical interpretation here rather than with formulating a coherent framework for interpreting their experience. This is not to deny the validity of many of their findings, but just to say that the emphasis is more on induction from examples rather than deduction from principles. Consequently, there is often very little examination of or little attention given to the internal coherence of the system of interpretation they have formulated. Alternatively, where a system has been formulated, it usually rests entirely within the limitations of their experience and is without the benefit of a set of underlying principles by which that experience can be clarified. Chirologically, there is often an emphasis upon specific themes of analysis, such as vocational analysis or sexual analysis from the hand. Benham is a good example of this type of cheirologist, for though he is clear and systematic in his chirology, it is not too difficult to detect the flaws in his approach. From modern times we might also include Eugene Scheimann, Fred Gettings, Andrew Fitzherbert and Nathanial Altman, who have all contributed some valuable discoveries from their long years of working experience in analysing hands but often through using the original ideas or systems of various other people without ever having really developed these into a coherent or consistent chirological framework of their own.
The fourth type of chirology is reflected in modern times in the work of people like Charlotte Wolff, Noel Jaquin and Julius Spier. Contemporary examples could include hand analysts like Arnold Holtzman and Yael Haft-Pomrock. Here, there is usually very little reference to any system of chirology that has gone before and instead there is the creation of a whole new way of looking at hands based almost entirely upon original insights. Whilst these are supported in many cases by empirical experience, the chirological system used derives mainly from the manner in which the hand is examined, in accordance with the particular philosophy of the chirologist themselves. This is particularly evident in Julius Spier, who conducts his chirology from almost entirely within the bounds of a psycho-analytic framework. There is also more consideration given to what might be termed the 'philosophy' of chirology, its meaning and place within culture and society, and the further philosophical implications and significance of the study of the hand as a whole. This is true of Noel Jaquin, for example, who ties in his studies of the hand with both his particular convictions about homoeopathy and healing but also from the basis of his particular vision of the reality of the metaphysical dimension to human experience. Overall, there is usually a particular emphasis upon the assessment of psychological factors from the hand in this type of chirology, an emphasis which is particularly acute in the writings of Charlotte Wolff, as we have seen. The approach in general appeals to the psychological and psycho-analytic professions, especially where the analysis has proven useful in the diagnosis of psychiatric conditions. Several modern authors have attracted the attention of medical profession and had the results of their research published within psychiatric journals
We have seen that different authors have viewed the hand in many different ways, some emphasising the psychological interpretation of the hand, some the physiological. Any complete system of chirology must view the hand as a reflection of human experience at all levels of being and must take into account the discoveries in all fields of chirological endeavour. Chirology, as the study of man, is as complex and multi layered as human consciousness itself and only if all levels of human experience are included in chirological diagnosis will a holistic assessment of the individual be possible. Only through this creative synthesis will there be a truly complete chirology. Modern analysis of the hand therefore encompasses diagnosis of patterns of physical health and illness, emotional patterns and sexual orientations, creative skills and vocational aptitude as well as the analysis of character, temperament and personal psychology.
The aim of chirological analysis can be seen to be in assisting the reduction of suffering in a person's life. The early diagnosis of illness or the suggestion of an appropriate career is a very real way in which undue unhappiness and suffering in life can be prevented. Furthermore, as a tool for gaining insight and self-understanding, chirology can also provide sufficient impetus for each of us to initiate our own growth and development as individuals that we might become more whole. It is to be hoped that this ideal may be more readily realised as we move into the twenty-first century.
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