Daimon Publishers

Archetypal Chirology
Yael Haft



This book is a compilation of the results of more than thirty years of my work as a psychochirologist. Looking at the psyche chirologically, I found that new meanings emerge from old ideas and connections of archetypal images for patterns of behavior. I want to share with you my ideas and findings as they have proved to be helpful throughout my work as well as to clinicians in the various fields of psychotherapy, to my pupils, clients, patients and to myself.

The purpose of my book is to open up different and deeper perspectives that may help us understand non-verbal phenomena via our hands. This is readily available to us once we learn the language. It is not a manual of "how to," but a pointer to another vehicle that may help all those who take upon themselves the service of helping others on their way.

My point of reference to the deeper meaning of the hand is based on the hypothesis that the hand portrays the workings of the archetypes within the personality. My aim is not to "prove" this hypothesis but to accept this premise, use it and expand it in order to understand the relationship of the working of the opposites in the personality within themselves and with each other as well as their possible complementariness.

Mythological themes and figures can be applied to the hand, as the hand is a micro-picture of the macro-psyche, just as a single cell holds within it the whole organism. This theory opens a new field of observation for the psychologist to become aware of. For, just as psychology helped me to comprehend chirology in a far deeper and richer manner, so did chirology teach me about psyche.

As we all know, our psyche is intricate and elusive. While writing this book, I found that, at times, clear and simple language does not do justice to the full understanding of the workings of the archetypes. It loses something vital. I reverted then to the use of imaginal archetypal language to get to the "feel" of their intricacies. This will, perhaps, help to sense their forces when joined for and also against each other.

Our hands are the only organ in our body that we can fully turn, utilize and inspect as an almost separate entity. To have our psyche "printed" in this vital organ as it is, is like an invitation. "Here I am what I am."

I. A Brief History

Of all the living creatures, only the human and the chimpanzee have hands. The hand of the chimpanzee is, however, undeveloped, especially the thumb. The process of human evolution from the primates is closely related to the evolution of our hands, a marvellous organ that has developed in unison with our brain as though externalizing its activity.

The common denominator between the skin and nervous system is the formation of these tissues in the ectoderm of the embryo. Of all skin surfaces, those of the hands and face are the most sensitive and are subject to the greatest exchange between inner and outer stimuli. The hands and mouth occupy the largest areas in the medula of the brain.

From the earliest developmental stages of the infant, we can discern the hands in constant motion with the mouth, coordinating, opening and closing. There appears to be a close connection between ego development and the infant's increasingly finer differentiation in using the hand; in other words, between our inner construction of reality and hand manipulation. Together with the strengthening of the ego, the hand becomes more expressive and the inner palm shows its lines more clearly, although they have already been defined at birth. The hand portrays a measure of development for both the individual and the species, in that the higher the differentiation of the ego, the more curved and complex the lines of the palm become.

Handprints were made in the caves of Lascaux some twenty thousand years ago. They are found by crawling through a narrow opening to reach the far end of a cave, as though the passage may have meant a second birth into the consciousness of "I am, and my handprint is my signature."

During the reign of the Egyptian pharaoh, Amenophis IV from 1375 to 1358 B.C., Atum, the One God, was depicted as a sun disc with rays emanating in hands, implying a connection between this acting organ and God's action in the life-giving power of the sun's rays. The hieroglyph for the word "ka" meaning "vital force" is two raised hands.

The same motif is in Exodus 17:11, "And it came to pass, when Moses held up his hand, that Israel prevailed; and when he let down his hand, Amalek prevailed." Raising the hand is the means by which we receive God's power and blessing. Michelangelo expressed this most beautifully in the Creation of Adam in the Sistine Chapel. At the moment of creation, the hands of God and of Adam separate, the energy flowing from God to Adam through the fingers.

Chiromancy comes from two words: "Chiro" meaning hand, and "mancy" meaning divination. This is the origin of relating chiromancy to "fortune-telling." It deals mainly with prediction using the mantic arts. It was linked with astrology and esoteric knowledge, becoming the forerunner of chirology.

Chirology means the "logos" of the hand, i.e., the "language," the "knowledge" or "wisdom" of the hand. It deals with inner psychic processes, thus forming a thread linking the Kabbalah, Gnosticism, alchemy and modern archetypal psychology. Chirology, in reflecting the psychic structure in the body, lays the responsibility for conscious growth on the active participation of the ego, as in the analytical process.

Recorded testimonies on historical chiromancy in the West are very scarce. The first written reference is to be found in the work of Aristotle, "De Historia Anaimalium," in which he says that all that is man is revealed in his hand. Anaxagoras also believed that the supremacy of man came to him through the use of his hand. One of the first basic manuscripts on chiromancy, which is kept in the British Museum, is called Summa Chiromantia and its author is probably Johannes, who lived in the 14th century. The appearance of chiromancy in Europe is assigned to Avicenna, an Arab doctor and philosopher of that century. At that time, chiromancy was practised and studied by doctors and was, in fact, a branch of medicine. By the 15th and 16th centuries, Bartholemy Cocles, who was a physician, surgeon, mathematician and astrologer, advised all physicians and surgeons to study the hands of their patients.

Paracelsus, the Renaissance Swiss doctor and researcher, used to examine hands to diagnose illnesses, and he taught this method to his students. Coclenius continued Paracelsus' studies and taught them at the University of Wittemberg. In England, another pupil of Paracelsus, Robert Fludd, believed that psyche and soma are one and spread the diagnostics of his teacher to that island. In the 17th century, chiromancy was part of the medical curriculum in the universities of Leipzig, Dresden, Jena and Oxford.

In the Age of Reason, with the Cartesian division of Western academic learning into science and the humanities, chiromancy was discarded from scientific studies. Nonetheless, the mystery of the hand impressed the distinguished English physician, Sir Charles Bell, as he emphasized its connection with the autonomous nervous system and the related parts of the brain. The inner urge to know what lies hidden in the lines, which are so personal and unique, is reflected in the title of his book, published in 1833, The Hand, Its Mechanism and Vital Endowments, an Evincing Design.

In the 19th century, three chirologists developed the theories that have formed the basis of the rebirth of modern chirology: Casimir Stanislas d'Arpentigy wrote La Chirognomie, in 1839, compiling the six basic types of hands in use to this day. Desbarrolle wrote Les Mystères de la Main in 1859, showing the influence of the Kabbalah and of Chaldean-Gnostic ideas on which his theory is based: the three worlds of matter, psyche and spirit.

Carl Gustav Carus, a physician and university professor who lived until 1869, and whose influence Jung acknowledges in his psychiatric training, wrote Ueber Grund und Bedeutung der Verschiedenen Formen der Hand [Concerning the Foundation and Meaning of the Different Forms of the Hand], Die Symbolik der Menschlichen Gestalt [The Symbolism of Human Forms] and Psyche. He based his theory on the function of the hand and its application to various types of characteristics. His basic idea emphasized the interrelatedness of soma and psyche, whence "each form in the organism is derived from infinite repetitions of the first fertilized ovum ... [and] every cell has a life of its own." This implies that an organism is a dynamic field of relationships between cells that form, decay and form anew, subordinated in the process to a higher unity.

According to Carus, the development of the embryo through the various stages already bears within itself the determinants of the individual's soma-psyche relations with the world. In his words, "the entirely unconscious functions responsible for the growth and form of the organism as an embryo are connected to consciousness in that they create organs which later receive, retain and modify images."

He postulates that "... the nervous system is purely of the soul." The organs most related to the nervous system are the organs of sense and movement, that is, the hands.

Carus elaborated his two-type theory of the function of the hands thus: the asthenic-cerebral, which is predominantly tactile and includes feelings and sensitivity; and the athletic-motoric, which is prehensile and includes movement and grasping. So there is the tactile, which he further subdivides into the sensitive and the psychic hands; and the prehensile, which he subdivides into the elementary and the motoric hands.

An interesting parallel (cited by Getting) to these basic types and subtypes, is to be found in the Chinese theory of the hands. The elementary type is called the "hand of the Earth"; the motoric hand is called the "hand of wood"; the sensitive hand, the "hand of water"; and the psychic hand, the "hand of metal."

My work is based upon the theories of Julius Spier and Hugo Debrunner. Dr. Debrunner, a chirologist, psychiatrist and neurologist, lived in Switzerland. He had his own theories, which were rooted in physiology. He was concerned mostly with dermatoglyphics, the fingerprints and patterns in the palm, as well as with the main lines and their forms. There is still a wealth of information to be discovered in these patterns, which are structural psychic characteristics that never change and have to be understood. I am also indebted to Charlotte Wolff, who was the first to base her research in hospitals on the scientific measurements of the hands and to correlate them with different physical and mental illnesses. Wolff elaborated upon Carus' theories by subdividing the prehensile into four subtypes, the tactile into long and short hands, and all hands into wide and narrow hands. All three are closely founded on Carus.


Daimon Publishers

Email: info@daimon.ch