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Introductor y I Ching Course

from Clarity

Covering everything you need to know to start divining with the I Ching

Please send any questions or comments about this course to:


Hilary Barrett
Hilary@onlineClarity.co.uk
(0)1993 881984

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© Hilary J Barrett 2004
Table of Contents

Introductory I Ching Course _____________________________________ 1


Table of Contents _________________________________________________ 2
Part 1: Where does it come from, and what is it for? _______________________________ 3
So what is it used for?_______________________________________________________ 3
Part 2: How to identify a good I Ching translation__________________________________ 5
Part 3: Reviews of some of the best I Ching books _________________________________ 7
Stephen Karcher, how to use the I Ching _______________________________________ 7
Alfred Huang’s ‘Complete I Ching’ ____________________________________________ 8
Part 4: The working parts _____________________________________________________ 10
Part 5: Finding the real question _______________________________________________ 13
Are there any wrong questions?______________________________________________ 14
Part 6: How to consult _______________________________________________________ 16
Part 7: A sample reading _____________________________________________________ 19
“What’s the potential in this relationship?”____________________________________ 19
To sum up: _______________________________________________________________ 20
Part 8: What now? ___________________________________________________________ 22
Become a friend __________________________________________________________ 22
Get some different translations______________________________________________ 22

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Part 1: Where does it come from, and what is it for?

The I Ching is an ancient Chinese oracle: its name means Book of Changes. Change is
the only constant, in your outer and inner experience alike. The I Ching offers ways of
changing your own life, and of understanding and moving with the changes around
you.

The oldest parts of the I Ching oracle were first written down some 3,000 years ago in
ancient China. However, they are thought to come from a spoken tradition of
shamanism that is immeasurably older: how old, it is impossible to say.

But what is truly remarkable about the I Ching is that it has developed organically
from these ancient roots, with new ‘branches’ of theory and experience growing and
flourishing over the millennia. The very oldest texts within it are known as the Zhouyi
– the Changes of Zhou. This has been in continuous use since the kings of the Zhou
dynasty used it to plan their campaign to overthrow the corrupt Shang rulers, in about
1000BC. Since then, generations of people who studied the oracle and consulted it for
guidance in their own lives have added their own commentaries to it – practical,
spiritual, and philosophical. Some of their words have been enshrined as part of the I
Ching in use today.

But it isn’t called the Book of Change for nothing. The modern world is finding new
meanings within the oracle: it’s answering questions about everything from stock
market investment to the latest New Age gurus, and new I Ching books are
proliferating! (In the next part of the course, I’ll cover how to recognise a good I Ching
book, and recommend some of the best available.) As you develop your own
relationship with the oracle, I think you’ll find that its timeless voice speaks directly
to modern concerns.

So what is it used for?


You can consult the I Ching as a meditation, without any particular question in mind.
However, people have most often asked it specific questions about projects in their
lives. Early Chinese diviners asked whether they should invade a certain state; in the
21st century, business people ask about advertising campaigns. The ancient diviners
would ask two questions – ‘If the king sets forth?’ ‘If the king does not set forth?’; you
might ask ‘what if I take this job?’ and ‘what if I don’t?’. The Marquis of Wei, in
478BC, was following an age-old tradition when he asked the oracle to help him
understand a dream; I often do dream interpretation readings for clients. And then as
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now, people have always asked the I Ching about their relationships. (True, it’s more
likely to be about the emotional consequences of moving in together than the political
repercussions of an arranged marriage – but things do change a little over 3,000
years!)

Probably these examples have already started you thinking about what you can
achieve with the I Ching. The important thing is that it isn’t, and never has been, just
a way to predict a future that’s set in stone. (This could be because there’s no such
thing…)

Do you know the Serenity Prayer of Reinhold Niebuhr?

“God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change, the courage to
change the things I can, and the wisdom to know the difference.”

The I Ching brings both the wisdom to know the difference and the insight and
confidence to make one.

But if you don’t get hold of a true, authentic translation, all this potential remains
beyond your reach.
In the next lesson I’ll show you how to discriminate between the good translations and
the all-too-common wastes of paper, and give you some links where you can find free
texts and information on the I Ching.

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Part 2: How to identify a good I Ching translation

If you want to use the I Ching for yourself, you will need to start with a copy of it.

Sounds obvious, no?

But in fact the shelves in the ‘New Age’ section of the world’s bookshops are groaning
with ‘I Ching’ books that have very little to do with the I Ching. Beware of the words
‘modernisation’ and ‘simplification’. There are many authors out there, some of whom
know the I Ching well, some who don’t, who feel that the original imagery of the I
Ching is simply too remote from modern perceptions. Instead of translating it, they
write out their own explanations and paraphrases.

It’s as if I told you there was someone I’d like you to meet – but instead of bringing
you and him together to talk, I kept you in different rooms and ran in-between passing
on summaries of what he said (or what I’d understood of what he said!). What kind of
communication would you have? You’d manage to share some information, no doubt,
but it would all be rather flavourless…

Seriously, though, how can the I Ching speak to you if its words are taken away? A
single image contains a great concentration of significance, and can be understood on
many levels at once – there are always new depths of meaning to be uncovered. Every
time you ask the I Ching a question, you create a unique relationship between your
question and its answer, and a unique set of meanings. Even when you’ve already
received exactly the ‘same’ answer several times in response to other questions, you
will find that this one is new. But if you’re stuck with someone else’s ‘one size fits all’
interpretation, this creative interaction never takes place.

The basic requirement for a I Ching translation is that it should be a translation. Look
for the original images: the Well at Hexagram 48, the tiger in Hexagram 10, the rivers
to cross and directions to move in. There will also be comments from the author on
the original texts, but make sure you can see clearly which is which.

Another factor is how much of the I Ching you are getting. The most important part is
the ancient Zhouyi, which consists just of the name of the hexagrams, judgements and
line texts. But the I Ching as a whole contains a wealth of additional, later
commentary, part of the 10 Wings. (There’s a full account of the Wings and how to use
them in divination in the reference manual of the complete I Ching Course.) To be
honest, you can perform perfectly good divinations without the more metaphysical of

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these commentaries, especially if they are replaced by insightful interpretations from
the modern author. But it is good to have the option of reading the complete book. In
the recommended books below, I mention which ones include the complete I Ching.

I have one further recommendation for you: buy more than one if you possibly can.
Even between faithful translations of the I Ching, there are enormous differences in
meaning, especially in the oldest parts of the text. This is because the Chinese
characters do not work in the same way as English words. The same character can be a
verb, noun or adverb; it could be the object or subject of a verb. There’s practically
no punctuation, and the translator’s choice of where to insert a comma can change
the meaning completely. Having a second translation does more than just give you
alternative versions to choose between. It liberates you from the ideas of any
translator, so you can begin to develop your own, personal understanding. (Ideally,
you would have a large collection of individual translations, a concordance and a
Chinese dictionary - but you can manage without!)

To prove that I’m not just saying this to increase my book sales ;) …
… you can get Book I of Wilhelm’s I Ching for free from onlineClarity:
http://www.onlineclarity.co.uk/I_Ching_resources/Wilhelm_translation.pdf

There are also plenty of online resources, including complete translations,


commentaries and more, but in the nature of the internet, these things come and go.
You can find an up-to-date listing here:
http://www.onlineClarity.co.uk/I_Ching_resources/directory.html

In the next part: some of the best I Ching books you can get, with in-depth reviews
and extracts to enable you to choose the translation that suits you best.

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Part 3: Reviews of some of the best I Ching books

Here are reviews of my favourite I Ching books. They’re not the only ones you can
work with, but they are the best I know of when you’re starting out.

Stephen Karcher, how to use the I Ching

On either side of me as I work at my desk are two large piles of I Ching books. If this
one isn’t on the top of a pile, it’s usually because it’s open in front of me! It is not a
‘traditional’ I Ching - it doesn’t have the moralising tone you find in some older
translations. What it does have is probably the best introduction of any I Ching book
anywhere, and a lucid and beautiful translation built exclusively from the original
Chinese characters. Turning the original Chinese into ordinary, flowing English is
tricky: all translators have to add the odd word and bit of punctuation to make
something intelligible. But Karcher gets away with very few additions, and since they
are all in italics you are not limited to his understanding.

Each hexagram is set out across a double page, so it’s quick and easy to find what
you’re looking for. And each includes…

Name (the title of the hexagram, and its associations)


Image (the oracle)
Outer and inner worlds
Hidden possibility (the nuclear hexagram, the core of the situation)
Sequence (where you’ve come from)
Definition (sums up where you are)
Symbol (how to work with the energies of the situation)
The moving lines
Lucid commentaries from Karcher on the hexagram as a whole and on each line

As for that introduction I was singing the praises of…

There is an account of what happens when you divine that is full of food for thought.
Then Karcher explains all the key words and concepts within the I Ching that you
really need to understand in order to divine with the real I Ching - which is what he is
about to give you! There’s a brief history of the I Ching, and a truly comprehensive
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account of how to divine with it: this is where I learned a lot of the methods I now use
with my customers. And finally comes a sample reading, showing you how to put all
this together.

This is also the I Ching I would always take away on holiday, when I can’t take the 10
or 15 translations I’d like to have with me! It packs an amazing amount of information
into a tiny space, a mere 180 pages of slim paperback that includes all the parts of the
I Ching you need for divination, plus insightful, challenging commentaries from
Karcher himself. It is a perfect place for the beginner to start, but contains far more
depth than any other ‘beginner’s’ I Ching.

If Karcher’s book is all that, why would you want another copy? Simple - to get
another perspective. His is not a traditional I Ching, and it doesn’t include the
Confucian commentary on each hexagram and line (he doesn’t like the Confucian
approach much…). All that - and a great wealth of traditional I Ching interpretation -
is to be found in

Alfred Huang’s ‘Complete I Ching’

Sure enough, as I write this, ‘How to Use the I Ching’ is on the top of one of those
piles of books and ‘the Complete I Ching’ is on the top of the other one! It has another
fascinating introduction, which includes many ways of consulting the oracle that you
won’t find elsewhere. The translation itself is in crisp, modern English, yet still with a
distinctive traditional Chinese flavour. Likewise Huang’s own commentaries on the
hexagrams are the product of centuries of I Ching tradition, but he can still relate
them sensitively to modern concerns.

I often turn to Huang for his translations of the commentaries - clear, poetic and
uniquely easy to relate to. I also very much value his personal comments on the
changing lines, which seek to explain their meanings in terms of the way they relate to
one another. And finally, this book is very handy as a quick reference for patterns
within the I Ching, with every hexagram having ‘additional reference information’ at
the end.

To give you an idea of how different these two translations can be, even though they
both consistently use one word per hexagram, here is the Judgement to Hexagram 43
(Karcher’s extra words, that he shows with italics, I’ve put in (brackets))

‘Deciding, display (it) in the king’s chambers.


There is a connection to the spirits, cry out (even if) there is adversity.
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The information originates from the capital.
(It is) not advantageous to approach (with) arms.
(It is) advantageous to have a direction to go.’

That was Karcher. Now Huang:

‘Eliminating.
Declaring at the king’s court;
Sincerely howling:
There is adversity.
Notify one’s own city:
Unfavourable to use arms,
Favourable to have somewhere to go.’

If you find this more confusing than fascinating, don’t worry. There are many books of
commentary on the I Ching out there to help you while you find your own
‘interpreters’ feet’. The best of these that I know of comes from Sarah Dening, the
‘Everyday I Ching’.
This is definitely not a book to use as your only I Ching, simply because it isn’t one -
there’s no translation here. What you do get are clear, intelligent and sensitive
comments on every hexagram and line of the oracle. Even if they don’t apply to your
particular situation (and it’s so well written that they very often will), they show you a
creative way to understand the sometimes obscure imagery in the I Ching and
translate it into modern understanding. Dening has actually used the I Ching in her
own work as a therapist, and developed a wealth of experience and understanding as a
result. This is the book to go to when you’re finding it difficult to get into the imagery
of the ancient original.

There are many more I Ching books - all those that I’ve bought, used and reviewed - in
Clarity’s online I Ching bookstore. Please feel free to drop in and browse!

Wherever you choose to find your own I Ching - free download or new book - in the
next part of the course you’ll get an understanding of what it’s made of, and how it
works.

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Part 4: The working parts

Have you got your own I Ching yet?

In Part 6, you’ll learn an easy method of consulting it. But first I’d like to share a little
more of the extraordinary architecture of the I Ching, the ideas and concepts that give
you your reading. Please bear with me! This is the knowledge you need really to
understand what is happening when you consult the I Ching: it’s what makes it a
complete and beautiful world of divination, not just a random collection of obscure
aphorisms.

(And it also gives Amazon time to deliver you your own copy!)

In Chinese thought, the whole universe is built up from two fundamental forces, yin
and yang. These aren’t ‘forces’ as in ‘force of gravity’, however: they are more like
ways of relating, and they only exist in relation to one another. You can see that this
is true from the Chinese characters for yin and yang: yin shows the shaded side of a
hill, yang show the sunny side. You can’t have half a hill, and you can’t have yin
without yang or yang without yin.

Yang is dynamic, it starts things and drives them forward; it is bright and vivid. Yin is
more passive, flexible and responsive, receiving the yang impulse and growing it into
something real. What’s more, everything is always moving and changing, and so the
beings with yin qualities are constantly becoming more yang, while yang becomes
more yin. This is the basic Chinese understanding of every cycle of nature: the sun
shines out (yang), then sets (yin); the moon waxes (yang) and wanes (yin); the summer
changes to autumn and winter changes to spring. The I Ching adds that those who are
small and humble naturally grow, and those who are ‘over-full’ are naturally
diminished.

If you’ve read any books on feng shui, you may well have seen long tables comparing
and contrasting yin and yang. But the I Ching is both older and simpler than these
systems, which have their roots in the basic insights it contains. All you need to
remember is that yang initiates and drives things, yin receives and responds.

The I Ching’s 64 hexagrams are simply stacks of six lines, which can be broken (yin) or
solid (yang). The lines represent the way yin and yang are interacting and working

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together in this unique situation. The energy flows upwards through the lines, from
the bottom line to the top: you can almost think of them as footprints, visible signs of
the way everything is moving.

For example…

X
Hexagram 24 represents return and rebirth: any situation that is completely turned
around and begins afresh. The yang energy of light and initiative is represented only in
the first, bottom line: it is just beginning to enter the situation. There is a tradition
that this hexagram represents the winter solstice, the darkest moment of the year
that is also the moment when light begins its return. The dark, quiet yin still
dominates the situation: this isn’t an instant return, like turning on the light, and
people who receive this hexagram are often feeling impatient. But the yin lines are
open to welcome the returning yang, they offer no resistance. You can see how in
time it will grow and surge up through the hexagram.

When you consult the I Ching, the answer begins as just one of the 64 hexagrams,
capturing the essence of what is involved. But in most answers, it doesn’t stop there.

You’ll remember that I said yin and yang were perpetually changing into one another?
This understanding is also represented in the way the I Ching works. Even though there
are just the two kinds of lines - broken yin, solid yang - there are really four distinct
energies that can be present:
Young yin, which has just become yin and will be stable for a while
Old yin, which is just changing into yang
Young yang, newly yang and stable for now
Old yang, changing into yin.

The hexagram of your answer can contain any combination of these kinds of line.
Usually there are one or two that are changing their state; sometimes (in one reading
in 4) none are. Very, very occasionally, everything will be in flux, and all six lines will
be changing!

Associated with every line of the I Ching is a ‘line text’. If a line is changing, or
‘moving’, you read its text: an image telling you exactly where you stand (or might
choose to stand) in relation to the landscape painted by the hexagram as a whole.

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Aside:
One of the most common questions from I Ching beginners (and advanced users) is how
to cope with the readings with many changing lines. See lesson 6 of the I Ching
Correspondence Course for many strategies and worked examples. And I’ll be happy to
help you to learn to get the most out of your own readings through the personal
tuition option.

But as well as the line text(s), moving lines also give you a further perspective on your
question. When all the moving lines have changed into their opposites - broken
becoming solid, solid becoming broken - a new hexagram is created, called the
Relating Hexagram. This can show you how the situation could develop, or how you
personally are responding to it. Often it shows the energies that you are bringing to
the situation, so that the points in it represented by the moving lines change to
connect it with you.

Do you begin to see the scope and subtlety of this? You can find out what the situation
is and where you stand in it, and also develop a greater understanding of yourself and
your role. All this from the unfolding of just two simple energies, yin and yang.

In fact, there is a lot more technical information you can use to explore the full depth
of the I Ching. As your relationship with it develops, you’ll probably want to look
further into the hexagrams of sequence, the contrasts and opposites, nuclear
hexagram and patterns of change. You can explore all these at onlineClarity, or in the
introduction to How to Use the I Ching.

For now, though, the most important thing is to start a conversation with the oracle.
The next part of the course will look at some of the questions you might ask…

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Part 5: Finding the real question

By now you have a strong, solid understanding of what the I Ching is, where it comes
from, and the ideas behind it. Hopefully you also have a I Ching of your own! But try to
tear yourself away from it for long enough to read this, and I’ll show you how to make
the most of your relationship with this extraordinary oracle. This is the longest section
so far - for good reason!

What is the first and most important thing in any act of divination? The oracle you use,
the translation you buy, the method and ritual you observe?

IMHO, none of the above. The most important thing from the start - the foundation for
the whole experience - is the question you ask.

Before you phrase the question, you need to immerse yourself in it. Let all the issues,
hopes and fears involved come to the surface. Sometimes when people ask questions
they haven’t clearly thought out, the I Ching will encourage them to ‘retrace the
oracle consultation to its source’. You can do this before you start. What has brought
you to the oracle? What do you want to achieve? How do you expect this answer to
help? What are you expecting to hear… dreading hearing… hoping to hear?

Odd but true: to bring a real question to the oracle, you have to begin by asking
yourself a series of searching questions! Think of it as the beginning of the
conversation. The I Ching is asking silently ‘How can I help? What do you need me to
show you?’ You owe it to your Self to be fully present in your answer.

Often this process will lead you straight to the question you want to ask. If it doesn’t,
ask yourself this:
‘What do I most need to know about this?’

Basically there are three different questions you are likely to find yourself asking the I
Ching:
What is happening here? Please explain!
What can I do to change this? Please show me how!
What if I tried doing this? Please show me what this might lead to!

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In other words, you might be asking for a description, or for advice, or for prediction.
Any of these is fine - so long as you are clear in your own mind about what you are
expecting from the answer. Before you cast your hexagram (more about how to do
that in the next part of this course!), write your question down.

Often a single problem will lead you to ask all three kinds of question in turn, as your
conversation with the I Ching develops your ideas. (If in doubt, start by asking for a
picture of the situation.) The I Ching itself may choose to answer with a combination
of description and advice according to what you most need at the time. But it will
almost always give you a direct answer to your question.

Why ‘almost’?? Because sometimes what we ask doesn’t reflect what is really
bothering us, or what we really need to know in that moment. I find that such answers
are rare indeed - most often, the I Ching can find a way to answer my question
directly and also to show me any misconceptions behind it. Unless the reading speaks
to you quite clearly about something else, I would definitely recommend that you
assume that the oracle has answered your question straightforwardly. Otherwise there
is always the temptation to say ‘no, that can’t be right, it must be about something
else!’

Are there any wrong questions?

There’s certainly nothing you can’t ask about. (Though people who try to use the
oracle for immoral ends may well find that it doesn’t say what they’d like to hear!)
But there are good and bad ways to phrase your question.

Take, for example, the question ‘Am I going to become a millionaire and am I going to
marry the girl of my dreams?’
Not a good question - at least three things wrong with it, in fact!

Firstly, there are two questions here. They need asking one at a time. Likewise, asking
the I Ching questions with alternatives in, like ‘should I do this or that?’, does not
work well. You just need to follow the tradition of the earliest diviners and ask two
questions: ‘What if I tried option a?’; ‘what about option b?’

Back to our useless question, now reduced to ‘Am I going to become a millionaire?’
Well, there are just two answers to that: ‘yes’, or ‘no’. The I Ching has 64 hexagrams,
and 384 lines, and none of them say ‘yes’ or ‘no’! That doesn’t mean you can’t get a
straight answer from it - just that it is well equipped to say to you ‘actually, it’s a bit
more complicated than that…’ - and it often will!
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And that leads us straight to the basic problem. If someone asked you this question,
how would you answer them?
Maybe ‘I don’t know, what are you planning to do to become a millionaire?’
Seems sensible. Yet it’s amazing how many people encounter an oracle and seem to
forget who is actually in control of their lives. The I Ching might answer something like
‘Well, if you do nothing about it, you won’t get far. But if you were to try this…’

In other words, you have free will. What happens depends in the first place on what
you do. There are more productive and more interesting questions to ask than just
‘What’s going to happen to me?’
Like ‘If I devote my whole life utterly to promoting my new musical toothpicks, will it
make me a millionaire?’
(Hmmm. Whatever. But as a question for the I Ching, this really is a great
improvement.)

One other point - other people have free will, too. So there’s no definitive answer to
‘will my Aunt Aggie lend me the money?’ if Aggie hasn’t decided yet. You might learn
how she feels about it at the moment, but she’s free to change her mind.

I said that there were three basic questions you could ask. Actually there is a fourth:

What do I need to know now?

Nothing more than that: no subject, no preconceptions. This is a quiet, meditative


approach to the I Ching, allowing you to interact with it in a completely different way.
When you’ve tried clear, direct questions, try this as well - simply opening yourself to
whatever the universe has to tell you in this moment.

In the next chapter: the simplest, most popular way to consult the I Ching.

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Part 6: How to consult

This is where we get down to brass tacks - once you’ve chosen your question, how do
you actually consult the oracle? This three-coin method is the most popular, and you
can use it straight away.

You will need three identical coins with recognisably different faces - the coins in your
purse are fine, though you can buy special Chinese coins if you wish.
Throw the three coins together.
Each head counts three; each tail counts two.
Add up the result - it will be 6,7,8 or 9.
(And don’t worry about the numbers - they’re just a convenient way to get a reading.)

Number Line-type Yin/yang Written


6 changing broken line old yin
7 unchanging solid line young yang
8 unchanging broken line young yin
9 changing solid line old yang

Or if you’d rather not have numbers to remember, just remember this:

Three tails:
Two tails, one
head:
Two heads, one
tail:
Three heads:

Record the line you have received. This is the first, i.e. bottom line of your hexagram
Repeat the same process five more times, working from the bottom up to the 6th and
last line.

Write down all six lines, and you have the key to your answer - the primary hexagram.
You remember - the basic answer, the landscape where you find yourself.

Now, did you get any changing lines?

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If not, this hexagram is your answer. This is where things stand and where they stay:
read the basic texts and commentaries in your translation, but none of the line texts.
(Much more information on what to do with a single-hexagram answer in Lesson 7 of
the full course.)

If you did receive changing lines, then as well as reading the basic texts for the
hexagram, you also read the ones associated with the changing lines you received.
And then -
- let them change!
Every old yin
becomes young yang
Every old yang
becomes young yin

The other lines stay the same. And you’ve built your relating hexagram.

If you’ve got your I Ching (even just a free one you downloaded) why not consult it
now? Ask yourself what you most need to know to make your life better, and it
probably won’t be hard to think of a question! (But if you still can’t think of one, the
question you need to ask is simple: ‘What role is there for the I Ching in my life?’)

Go on. Believe me, actually consulting the I Ching is the only way you’ll learn to
understand the answers. Could anyone get to know you just by browsing through your
photo album? But odd though this seems, there are academics out there who imagine
they can ‘know’ the I Ching just by reading about it…

So - with your reading done, you’re probably experiencing one of two reactions:

“Aha!”
or
“Eh??”

If it’s “aha!” - if you are enveloped by an extraordinary feeling of being understood


and recognised, if deep knowledge you never imagined you had is stirring within you,
if you can feel the first tremors of a great inner explosion of new ideas, if you are
smiling at the book or weeping over it…
then you are one of the lucky and gifted few!
Most people don’t achieve such a wonderful rapport with the I Ching on their first
reading. I know I didn’t.

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So if it’s “Eh??”, what next? First, understand there is nothing wrong with the I Ching,
and there’s nothing wrong with you. The I Ching’s been working for some 3,000 years,
it hasn’t broken yet. And in a way, your intuition is still older. Don’t worry: given time
and acceptance, it will work for you.

Tomorrow I’ll show you a sample reading, but for now why not take the time to live
with your own for a while? I’m not going to try to sell you my professional help with it
until you’ve had the time to absorb it for yourself. This is your answer.

Read right through your whole answer


Try reading what the I Ching said without paying much attention to the translator’s
commentaries
Look at the actions the I Ching describes, and look for them in your life.
Does the I Ching mention any people? Armies, kings, sages? Do you recognise them?
Let your imagination play with the images. Enjoy them!
Let it rest: why not get away from the computer screen and go outside for a while?
Sleep on it.

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Part 7: A sample reading

While there’s really no substitute for experience in building your own relationship with
the I Ching, I think you’ll still find it helpful to look at a sample answer from someone
else. So here it is:

“What’s the potential in this relationship?”

Her relationship was not in good health. Her partner was violent and abusive, and
they’d already split up several times in the past. But she couldn’t bring herself to
make a conclusive break - she felt as if there must be something of value to be saved.
So she asked the I Ching about the future potential of her relationship.

It answered with primary hexagram 48, the Well, with the first line changing, giving a
relating hexagram of 5, Waiting - or, as Alfred Huang calls it in his Complete I Ching,
Needing.
It’s sometimes a help actually to start with the relating hexagram, because it can
show how you relate to the issues. She is the one who is waiting and watching for what
she needed. She needs the emotional sustenance of a relationship like a parched field
needed rain. Of course, she doesn’t need violence and abuse any more than the fields
needed storms and floods…

‘Needing.
Being sincere and faithful.
Brilliantly prosperous and smooth.
Being steadfast and upright: good fortune.
Favorable to cross great rivers.’

Huang explains that this means both waiting for what you need, and also confronting
danger. But not all of the I Ching’s words here seem to apply - things are not brilliant,
and being steadfast in the relationship had not brought good fortune. Perhaps there
could be another way to be steadfast and upright? Maybe by taking the risk of crossing
the river to something completely new? Overall, the relating hexagram seems to be
more about what she desperately needs than what she has right now. ‘The superior
person eats and drinks, feasting with joy.’ She is on something more like a starvation
diet: waiting for the climate in the relationship to change, but suffering in the
meantime.

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What she really needs to know is whether the wait is worthwhile. The primary
hexagram should tell her more of the objective reality of the situation - what is it
really about?

‘Replenishing.
The site of a village may be moved,
Not the well.
Neither loses nor gains.
Coming and going, drawing, drawing.
Nearly out of the well,
Break one’s bucket - misfortune.’

The well has to be the source of sustenance she is looking for. Somewhere deep in this
relationship, surely she can find what she needs? The relationship certainly came and
went, she moved in and out, drawing water from its well to keep her alive, but
whatever was there stayed the same. The only problem came when she couldn’t quite
get to the water…

But to find out exactly where she stands, she needs to look at the moving line:

‘Mud in the well.


No drinking.
Old well, no birds.’

She can almost smell the stagnant, lifeless water. What she needs is just not here.
Looking back at her original question, she’d actually asked about the future potential
of the relationship. It’s not just that this is what she has experienced in the past - she
can expect more of the same.

(Note: all the readings I do for customers are completely confidential: I never quote
them, not even anonymously. This reading is based on a sample question and answer
in ‘The I Ching Made Easy’ by Amy and Rod Sorrell. And they report that, after this
reading, the questioner finally managed to break free.)

To sum up
You might like to look at the relating hexagram first. But remember it’s your response
to the situation, maybe what you need or fear most.
(Actually, evaluating the role of the relating hexagram in your reading is probably the
most difficult part: lesson 5 of the full I Ching Correspondence Course is devoted to
this.)
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The primary hexagram contains the beginnings of the objective answer to your
situation.
The moving line - or lines - offer the most direct, personal response. Look to them for
the definitive answer to your question.

No moving lines? Then your whole answer is right here in this hexagram - and it’s a
very emphatic one!
For example, I once asked about advertising in magazines. The I Ching came back with
Hexagram 54, the Marrying Maiden, with no moving lines. This hexagram describes a
young girl who arrives in a household as the second wife, so she’s stuck in a
subordinate position. There's no point in her trying to take control or pursue her
personal goals. This was simple and to the point - I couldn’t compete with the huge,
established companies that already advertised in the magazines. Better not to get into
such an unrewarding situation. (And so I didn’t!)

I hope you are enjoying your own conversation with the I Ching! I’ll step out now and
leave you to get to know each other ;-)

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Part 8: What now?

As you’ve worked your way through this course, you’ve built up an impressive
knowledge of the I Ching. You know where it comes from and what it can be used for.
You can recognise a good translation when you see one. You know how the I Ching
works, the technical jargon can’t faze you. You know how to find the right questions
to ask the I Ching - and you’ve talked with the oracle yourself. I hope you’re
impressed with yourself! :-)

Do you begin to see the potential of what you have begun here? You could use the I
Ching to get to grips with the most important issues in your own life, to clarify your
dreams and find practical ways to make them happen. And you have the opportunity
to help your friends and family to do the same. I’ve found helping others through the I
Ching to be fantastically rewarding. I wish I could explain how much!

(I won’t succumb to hype and tell you that “this will change your life”. It could – but
it’s your life to change, how and when you want.)

So how can you take this to the next level, and grow the seed you’ve planted here into
a skill you can feel confident in?

Become a friend
If you are to become truly confident in your I Ching divination skills, there is simply no
substitute for experience. As you connect the hexagrams of the I Ching with real life,
your own understanding will grow. But you can magnify this growth enormously by
sharing your insights, and asking for help, in a community. I would like to invite you to
join the Friends of Clarity, who share readings and advice at the I Ching Community.
People come from all over the globe, and bring a wealth of experience in both the I
Ching and other divination methods. This is what makes Clarity - according to
Pocossin, one of the members there - ‘absolutely the most practical I Ching site on the
Internet. … There is nothing like it even in print’

Get some different translations


Even with a dozen or so I Ching translations stacked on my desk (and a good few more
on the bookshelf…), I still find I gain new insights from every new translation or
commentary I read. There is so much depth in this oracle that I don’t think one person
could ever find it all.

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But reading more I Ching books is not just a matter of ‘collecting’ interpretations until
you have one for every occasion! Seeing the wealth of interpretations that are possible
lets you reach towards the unchanging core they share, and it frees you to develop
your own understanding. As I add I Ching books to my own collection (and only then!),
I also review them in the I Ching Bookstore - please feel free to visit and browse!

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