Michael Lackner

Michael Lackner

Michael Lackner

Managing Director, International Consortium for Research in the Humanities

Michael Lackner studied sinology, anthropology, political science and philosophy in Heidelberg, Munich and Taipei. He received his M.A. in 1979 (with a study of prophetic children's songs in 4th century China) and PhD in 1983 (with a study on theories of dreams and their interpretation in traditional China). From 1993 to 1998, he was professor of sinology in Göttingen, and from 1998 to 2000 he held the chair of sinology in Geneva. Since 2000, he has been teaching at the University of Erlangen Nuremberg.

In 2014, he was elected a member of the National Academy of Sciences Leopoldina. He is the managing director of the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities Fate, Freedom, and Prognosis. Coping Strategies in East Asia and Europe. Since 2022, he has been the spokeperson for the Center for Advanced Study “Alternative Rationalities and Esoteric Practices from a Global Perspective.” His scholarly interests include the typology of coping with the future (e.g., oracle and prophecy) in traditional and modern China, thought and scholarly practices at the time of the Song and Yuan dynasties (10th-14th centuries), the mission of the Jesuits in China, the emergence of modern Chinese scholarly language since the late 19th century, and disputes over Chinese identity in modernity.

Divination: An Alternative Rationality

This talk deals with Lackner’s experiences as director of the International Consortium for Research in the Humanities Fate, Freedom, and Prognostication. Strategies of Coping with the Future in East Asia and Europe that hosted more than 200 visiting scholars from 2009 to 2023.

It seems obvious that divination, whether by computation or by inspiration, draws heavily on an alternative rationality, but what exactly does the term "alternative" mean? The definition depends on one's point of view. From an orthodox point of view, any practice, any belief that does not conform to the view you adopt must be considered alternative. Regardless of the nature of your orthodoxy (which can be religious, scientific, political, and ideological), you will mercilessly reject the knowledge contained in heterodox beliefs, experiences, and practices. And this rejection applies not only to the mantic arts, but also to the various kinds of the "strange" parapsychological phenomena as well as magical practices.