The I Ching is one of man’s earliest attempts to see himself as part of the cosmos and therefore subject to universal law. The book has been used as an oracle in China for more than 3,000 years, and is based on the premise that the universe is constantly shifting and changing and that no situation will remain the same. Learn how to use this wisdom-keeper book:
The I Ching counsels us to be constantly alert to the changes in the universe and adjust our characters and attitudes as the situation requires.
Many people complain that they cannot understand what the I Ching is saying, but that is because they don’t consider the larger picture it addresses with each question. The I Ching needs to be contemplated, like a dream whose meaning escapes us at first. In time, as we absorb more of its philosophy, its cosmic rather than personal viewpoint, we will find the words of wisdom easier to comprehend.
The book consists of 64 hexagrams, each corresponding to a particular life situation. Each hexagram is divided into six ‘lines’, which suggests the specific actions that need to be taken in that particular situation in order to correct it. To access the oracle, one needs to carefully formulate a question in one’s head and then either throw three coins (any coins with two different sides will do) six times or use yarrow stalks.
Many I Ching books are available. Many prefer the translation by Richard Wilhelm, as it gives a wide picture of the question. (The editors of this newsletter prefer The Everyday I Ching, by Sarah Dening.)
The art of consulting the I Ching lies in the formulation of the question. It is no use asking a question to which the answer is supposed to be ‘yes’ or ‘no.’ The question must allow for a wider answer. For instance, if you want to know whether a relationship will be good for you or not, you can ask something like, ‘What is the nature of our relationship?’ or ‘How do I best handle this relationship?’ The book will tell you, but it may take you a while to figure it out.
Sometimes it is extremely difficult to decide on a course of action, especially when one is under pressure to make a decision by a certain time. Our trust in Fate can get a little shaky then. The I Ching can be very useful in helping the right decision become clear.
When we throw the coins they fall here and there, they will do precisely as they please, as if they had a will of their own. We cannot control how they fall. But–and this is the most important point–in that moment when we throw them, we can only do it in that particular way. If we try and interfere with it, this becomes part of the bigger picture, which the I Ching then counsels us about. The way the coins fall is completely synchronistic. It is not chance, but synchronicty, because we have thrown the coins with a particular question in mind. Gradually, if we give it due attention, the meaning might become clear, or perhaps something will happen that suddenly makes us realize what it’s all about.
Consulting the Ching works best when we are truly in earnest, when we have a burning question of importance, and when there is a certain amount of emotional intensity present as well.
One can ask the I Ching almost anything one wants, provided one is prepared to accept the answer. If you are being trivial and treating the oracle as a parlor game, then it will warn you clearly not to ask such silly questions. On the other hand, if you are in earnest and the question is important to you (although it might seem trivial to someone else), it will give you a deeper insight into the workings of Fate than you had bargained for. This questioning is one of the best examples of synchronicity in action.