Is Human Design a Form of Cultural Appropriation?

Is Human Design a form of cultural appropriation?

Cultural appropriation Human Design

Over the past several months, conversations have exploded in the spiritual communities about whitewashing, cultural appropriation, and racism. I’ve been interested in hearing what others had to say about cultural appropriation in Human Design but found nothing.

Seriously, nothing I Googled or asked around about brought up any sort of cultural appropriation within Human Design. Since this system’s been around for 40 years now, I found that interesting.

Not even an obscure Tumblr post.

Now, just because no one is talking about it doesn’t mean it’s not happening.

I mean, look at yoga, “Reiki” (is what the mainstream selling actually Reiki?), Feng Shui, and more recently, Traditional Chinese Medicine.

I understand the silence. Growing up, I was taught to keep my head down and my mouth shut because you don’t want to be perceived as troublesome.

Personally, I started sharing posts surrounding Black Lives Matter back in the early 2010s. I was freshly out of the military and most of my friends were conservative. Instead of having a conversation, a lot of them stop speaking to me…

They stopped perceiving me as “one of the good ones.”

And that hurts. To be considered unworthy of friendship because you believe in conversations around civil rights… but that’s the world we live in.

So, I understand the silence surrounding Human Design. No one is speaking up. No one wants to ruffle feathers.

Plus, it’s “bad for business.”

First, let’s talk about what cultural appropriation really is

When I lived in Okinawa, Japan, I joined a spiritual group made up of Americans. In that group was a British woman who was obsessed with Japanese culture.

(We call them weeaboo).

She seemed nice enough. I even invited her to stay at my place during a heavy typhoon, because her husband was deployed. However, something about her rubbed me the wrong way.

One day, she asked me to practice Chinese with her. I have a rule: I don’t speak Cantonese with anyone who can’t speak it fluently. I’ve had too many people ask me to show them Chinese only to have them burst out laughing at hearing a foreign language.

I declined.

She also demanded to know my Chinese name. Again, I don’t share it with anyone who doesn’t speak it fluently because the translation gets lost. The name is sacred.

Her response was that I shouldn’t have an issue sharing my name because she didn’t have an issue sharing her self-given Chinese name. Then she told me I was discriminating against her because she’s white and quoted Dr. King, “No one is free until we are ALL free.”

She took me saying, “No,” as discrimination. And this wasn’t the first or last time someone tried to force their way into my culture even when I expressed that I wasn’t interested in sharing.

Okay, Fiona, what does this have to do with cultural appropriation?

The line between cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation is respect.

Most Chinese people I know would be more than happy to show “an outsider” our culture, food, music, and traditions. I had a great time introducing my redneck ex to dim sum, even though I wouldn’t eat the pig hooves myself.

However, you have to remember that you are a guest of these traditions. You are not here to own it, take it, or profit off of it. You are here to enjoy it, bask in it, and cherish the experience.

It becomes cultural appropriation when respect and credit to the culture have been ripped away and the experience has been westernized and whitewashed to be sold. This is modern-day colonialization and it happens so often in the spiritual industry.

But no one wants to talk about it because it’s easier to close your eyes, pretend cultural appropriation is “politics/negative talk,” while we shove crystals in our root chakra and hum, “love… and light…”

Is Human Design cultural appropriation?

To talk about whether Human Design is cultural appropriation, let’s go back to the origins of Human Design.

Alan Krakower (who calls himself and Ra Uru Hu) went on vacation off the coast of Ibiza and “saw light beings” in his cabin, for 8 days and 8 nights. He then “downloaded a transmission” called Human Design, made up of 5 systems that already existed:

  • Chinese I Ching
  • Indian chakras
  • Western astrology
  • Judaic Kabbalah
  • Quantum physics

Basically, he tripped out on something (he was very open about his cannabis and drug use) and now we have Human Design.

At the core of Human Design is the I Ching – this is where you get things like your gates, channels, profile lines, and incarnation crosses. Without the I Ching, you can’t even determine your Human Design type.

The whole Human Design foundation rests upon an ancient, yet still living and breathing, way of life for the Chinese.

The original creator of I Ching is said to be the Chinese Emperor and half-serpent god, Fu Xi (Fu Hsi).

Cultural Appropriation and Human Design

Those who have a background in I Ching may notice that there are similarities with Alan’s interpretation of the I Ching and Chinese I Ching. Alan’s translation is heavily westernized but honestly, I don’t hate it.

There are better translations by Westerners, for example, The Book of Changes, by Richard Wilhelm. (Richard was criticized for his translations for refusing to remove Chinese culture out of it. He also lived in Asia, studied the language, and was a Sinologist who spoke of the Chinese with the utmost respect.

Alan does credit the origins of the I Ching, though he could’ve done a lot more to honor the people it came from rather than leave us as just a footnote.

I also like that Alan himself didn’t try to gatekeep Human Design. He wanted this to be for everyone and encouraged others to experiment with it. I Ching also has an air of open interpretation that he honored.

(I can’t say the same for some of his protege’s and what his school has become after he passed away).

So, is Human Design cultural appropriation? It depends on who is reading the charts. If there is an attempt to learn about the original systems prior to Human Design with respect, I can’t fault someone for doing their best.

However, people who say Human Design 🌟 is 🌟 the 🌟new 🌟way 🌟 of 🌟 seeing 🌟 ancient 🌟 systems, I’d like to ask those people to please kindly fuck off. 

By “new,” or “modern,” they’re saying whitewashed.

People who practice these systems are still living and breathing.

If a reader has never shown interest in learning about or honoring the original systems, WHAT ARE THEY ACTUALLY MODERNIZING? You can’t modernize something you know nothing about. 🤷🏻

There’s no black and white answer here. Whether it’s cultural appropriation or not heavily relies on the Human Design reader.

After all, EVERY analysis is through the lens of the person reading the chart.

I still use Human Design as a valid system

Even though Alan’s translations of I Ching aren’t great, I do believe he uses the I Ching close to the way it’s meant to be used.

I Ching is for everyday people, to divine and meditate on the intricacies of life. The synthesis with other systems also doesn’t bother me personally, but I do not speak for others who take issues with how chakras and Kabbalah got implemented.

That being said, I do not believe Human Design can be owned by anyone. Not even Alan’s family or his school.

I Ching belongs to the Chinese. Full stop.

The I Ching is meant to be accessible. Full stop.

As someone of full Chinese ancestry, I have no problem at all with someone who isn’t Chinese using or loving I Ching. LET IT GUIDE YOU TO YOUR BEST, MOST ABUNDANT SELF. THAT’S WHAT MOST CHINESE PEOPLE USE IT FOR ANYWAY!

I have a huge problem with someone trying to whitewash it, repackage it, rip it from our culture, and reselling it.

This is where cultural appreciation stops and cultural appropriation begins.

I take issue with his school going to court in Italy, in an effort to claim rights over Human Design. Here’s the full article.

Alan can’t be blamed for this since he’s no longer with us. I truly believe he wanted Human Design to be accessible and for everyone, which I’m not mad about.

I just don’t believe that you need to be licensed or certified to use this system

I don’t need a certification or license to use a cosmology that I was born into. I do not need to pay a single fucking dime to be authorized to read a system that I’ve been immersed in since I was born.

(Seriously, my little baby body was in a Buddhist temple being divined over weeks after my birth).

What makes me laugh is when people tell me that my interpretations of the I Ching gates aren’t true to Alan’s interpretations.

  1. Parroting out of a book isn’t doing a Human Design reading. It’s just repeating from rote memorization.
  2. I speak Chinese. I understand the context behind the original I Ching. I also use I Ching textbooks, not Alan’s interpretations, when I do my readings. 🤷🏻

There is no purity in Human Design. Let’s not pretend Alan’s words are law.

How we can move forward as a community?

Cultural appropriation is a problem, but cultural appropriation does not mean that traditions and cultures are closed to outsiders.

Here’s a few things to keep in mind when you want to experience someone else’s culture:

  • ENJOY IT. Immerse yourself in it. Love it. Love us. Look at it with a sense of gratitude rather than, “How can I make money from this?”
  • Respect people who say no. My mother would never serve a white audience when it came to spirituality (she used to sell crystals). She has deep-rooted trauma from being an immigrant and doesn’t care for it. If someone says no, don’t take it personally. You don’t know what they’ve been through. Or maybe they just don’t want to. That’s fine, too!
  • Respect initiation. Initiation is not the same as gatekeeping. Some religions and practices believe that spirits or lineage must be passed from one to another through initiation. Not everyone is eligible for initiation and no one owes you entry.
  • Invest in the people whose culture it came from. Invest in the Westerners who give them a platform. Don’t invest in those who openly whitewash and “don’t believe in identity politics.”
  • Fight FOR the people whose cultures you were invited to practice. Fight WITH them when they need your help. That being said, don’t be a savior. Be someone that asks yourself, “How can I help?” and do that.
  • Learn about the people and the culture. I don’t mean watch anime and eat lo mein… I mean seriously look into the history, culture, and religions of the people who you want to learn from. Google is your friend. Patience is the key. It’s not our job to hand it to you – it’s your job to seek it out yourself.

An example from a Western man from the 1920’s who studied Chinese folklore:

Cultural appropriation Human Design

Even though he lived in a time where there were no Instagram likes, applause, or woke points for standing up for POC – he still did it. That is how you show cultural appreciation.

I’m not innocent in all of this, either.

There have been many times where I would whitewash myself, in hopes to be palatable for a Western audience. Where I’ve kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want to stir the pot.

So this isn’t just you. We all have to do better.

One of my favorite quotes is from a spiritual mentor I used to have. He called himself multi-traditional (which I also identify as). He believed that his practices were all spokes of a wheel. They don’t touch, except for at the center, which is represents him, as a human being.

I see Human Design as the same. It is five individual systems that hold their own weight, coming together in the center as Human Design.

However, the purity of each system is maintained, complementing each other, rather than muddying it up and losing its original impact.

I leave you with this note: Human Design is for everyone… but everyone who sells Human Design owes respect and understanding to the people who brought I Ching, kabbalah, chakras, and astrology into the world.

– Fiona.


Want more Human Design? My Human Design membership is for creative entrepreneurs, activists, and rebels are ready to step out of their box and explore their identity. There are no stupid questions or “wrong” approaches here. I encourage experimentation and sharing. Click here for more information.

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