Cultural Appropriation in Human Design

When I first encountered Human Design, I wanted to share the system with some of my business peers. One of them said, “I don’t like the history of Human Design. I’m not into it at all.”

Curious, I Googled the history of Human Design. Until now, I didn’t know much about Human Design outside of a gifted reading. I also didn’t question where this system came from.

Google shared that Human Design synthesized from five primary systems:

  • I Ching
  • Kabbalah
  • Chakras
  • Astrology
  • Quantum physics

Here’s some context to why I’m writing this article. I’m a first-generation Asian-American and a line 5 profile. I’ve seen my culture, folk religion, and features ridiculed yet celebrated when sold by caucasian creators. There’s also pressure from my communities to speak out on these issues or be humiliated as a “white sympathizer.”

This is the third, and likely final, edit of this post. Previously, readers have misconstrued my intentions. I’ve been criticized for attacking Ra Uru Hu for appropriating Human Design or not doing enough to prove cultural appropriation.

I’m not here to prove either point.

I wrote this article because no one talked about cultural appropriation in Human Design outside of social media. I want you, the reader, to make your own decisions and come to your conclusions.

I’m not a tool to further incite division in an already divided system.

Read this post if you are prepared to acknowledge a gray topic that may not have a concrete answer.

Where did Human Design come from?

The first book written about Human Design is nicknamed “The Black Book.” Robert Alan “Ra Uru Hu” Krakower (known henceforth as Krakower) published this book. He described his experience of being penetrated by a force that he calls The Voice. This happened in 1981, off the coast of Ibiza, where he was spending his time.

The Voice asked if he was ready to work. Over the next eight days, Krakower channeled the system now known as Human Design.

The only witness to this experience was his dog.

This story is one person’s retelling. How much should we consider Krakower’s perspective versus possible memory contamination? Plus, he’s shared his heavy inclinations towards psychedelics and alcohol.

If you’ve ever experimented with psychedelics, you’ll likely know what it feels like to be penetrated by a voice of your own.

The thing about stories

A good story can make you a legend. For example, the wizard Merlin, the beloved bodhisattva, Kuan Yin, and even Jesus Christ.

A good story can also turn people into your followers or against you. For example, cult leaders and accused witches.

No one knows the truth, but we love our conspiracy theories. They generate buzz and interest. Any fresh-out-of-an-online-course copywriter could tell you that every brand needs a compelling story. Donald Miller even built a certifying body out of this concept, called Storybrand.

Stories sell.

Was Krakower “chosen” because he’s a white dude?

A quick scroll on Pinterest for Chinese food shows “healthy” or “elevated” versions of the cuisine. Y’all… fried rice was never supposed to be healthy. It’s the Chinese version of casserole. But, that was the way the world worked for a while. Anything Chinese was considered unhealthy or dangerous.

(See: people not wanting to eat Chinese food because of “MSG” and the origin of the term “snake oil“). In early 2021, a band of white women felt the need to “modernize mah jong” to make it “accessible”.

These stories are hardly specific to the Chinese.

If Human Design was popularized in the ’80s and ’90s by a POC or a woman, would it have had the impact that it did? Would there have been pitchforks or riots calling Human Design “the devil’s work?” Would they have been completely ignored or had their work stolen and “elevated?”

A POC or woman speaking about hearing voices or being penetrated by another being could also draw negative attention. Women are already considered hysterical, emotional, and dramatic when we express the way we feel. POC have to code-switch when moving between communities.

It would not have been safe for us (or our families/communities) to have these conversations openly.

Please know that I am not saying marginalized communities ever need a white man to stand for us. Never. I’m saying that if anyone is to say they were penetrated by a voice they heard without being pegged as insane by the media, it would be a straight white man.

That’s assuming Krakower was chosen by The Voice and this wasn’t a mushroom trip.

Perversion of whitewashing in spiritual communities.

Cultural appropriation in spiritual communities is a sticky topic. Everyone draws references from their own limited experiences.

You have the non-Japanese woman who dresses in a kimono, gifted by her Japanese husband. They met while she was teaching in Japan. Though she wears the kimono as an act of love, she got her picture stolen and posted on a forum that makes fun of weeaboos (white people obsessed with Japanese culture).

Then you have the not-Japanese woman who grew up watching anime, loved it, and moved to Japan. She learns the language and customs over several years. She even starts taping her eyes and doing a “fox eye” look to come off oriental.

Do you see how we can’t draw hard and fast rules when it comes to cultural appropriation? The person’s intentions matter.

Let’s consider Krakower’s intentions with Human Design. Mystics love to argue whether you should charge money for spiritual work. If so, how much should you charge before it becomes a scam?

Mystic or not, Krakower was a human being with a family. No amount of mystical penetration was going to pay his bills or feed his children.

I charge a higher rate than any of my mentors. I’m hardly one to equate premium prices with scams.

The fact that you pay money for readings or access to some of Krakower’s work does not prove anything is a scam. The man was allowed to earn a living.

However, Krakower believed that I Ching was a misogynistic system. Yet, when we consider the 80’s, what wasn’t misogynistic? Krakower toes the line of white saviorhood here. The original I Ching system is open interpretation. His only fault is believing Rave I Ching is any less sexist.

Everyone who becomes a Human Design reader will also interpret the Rave I Ching their own way. This is how the system’s meant to be used.

You also have to remember that Human Design is a synthesis, not a direct port. I’ve seen people use the original systems interchangeably with Human Design. They are not read the same way.

However, I don’t speak on behalf on the whole Chinese community. They are all entitled, as you are, to their perspectives on whether the Rave I Ching is whitewashing. We are not a monolith.

Based on testimony from his earliest students, I don’t believe Krakower was business savvy. He lacks the charisma and marketing sleaze to be malicious. One of his former students, Karen Curry Parker, even states how off-putting he is when you first meet him. (This isn’t a surprise. IHDS often reminds us Krakower was designed “to shock”).

You have to come to the conclusion on your own whether this is whitewashing.

Can we stop idolizing Krakower (who didn’t want to be idolized anyway)?

Krakower makes it painfully clear in his content that Human Design is not for sheep waiting to be herded.

You are not here to follow anyone.

The whole point of Human Design is to stop waiting for someone to tell you how you should live your life. Sitting at the feet of Krakower’s work is entirely against why the system exists.

He was no leader (but he is an initiator). He was no idol. He called himself the reluctant mystic.

He was a human being who may or may not have been penetrated by The Voice. Who may or may not have appropriated and whitewashed a handful of systems and slapped the name Human Design on it.

He was not perfect. He had his share of unhappy customers and flaws.

But you can respect his work and question it simultaneously.

One of his most quoted sayings is, “Don’t believe me. Just try it.”

We are leaving the world of hierarchies. Krakower does not sit at the top and he would not want you to idolize him.

This means that yes, you are his equal. You get to question and experiment with Human Design. Ignore the purists who are stuck in the ways of the old. Only you know what is right for your time in this existence.

I mean, it’s okay to be uncomfortable

I edited this post because I am not here to be a martyr for one side or the other. I have plenty of issues with left-leaning activists as those as I do with right-leaning conservatives. Both sides are part of systems that have perpetuated violence, fear-mongering, and silencing.

So I leave you, dear reader, with this… Sit with what you read in this article. Simmer in the feelings that have surfaced.

It’s okay if you felt something shatter. Human Design is here to dispel illusions.

It’s okay if you thought Human Design was “one of the good ones,” and now you have something else to think about. I still practice Human Design even with its problematic past. Part of me believes that if Human Design is a form of cultural appropriation, my existence and work in the system takes it back.

I, like you, like Krakower, also have a problematic past. We are spirits having a very human experience. These experiences come with karma and consequences.

None of us are designed to be perfect, even if all of us are designed perfectly.

The answer to where you go next and whether Human Design is considered appropriation is up to you. You will choose whether you want to listen to others who share their issues about Human Design or Krakower. You will decide whether you are at peace with the way you’ve approached (or sold) this system.

Listen to your body – not just what your mind and conditioning tell you – listen to your body.

Keep questioning what you’re learning.

Keep experimenting.

Take what guides and experts say with a grain of salt.

Remember always that Human Design is a business first. I don’t care who says they don’t do Human Design for the money. If someone takes payment for doing Human Design, they are a business. And there’s no shame in it.

But businesses are here to sell you stories because stories sell.

What does your story, as it merges with the history of Human Design, tell you?

FAQ: “Fiona, why do you keep saying penetrated? Isn’t that disrespectful?”
Fiona: This is the word that Krakower repeatedly used to describe his experience. It would be disrespectful to dilute or soften the word for reader comfort.

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