The I Ching (pronounced “Yee Jing”) or Book of Changes is arguably the oldest book in the known world. Born of incredible antiquity, the I Ching dates back roughly five thousand years and is a book of Universal Truth, profound beauty, and wisdom. This article is meant to serve as a primer to effectively use the I Ching in its role as an Oracle, and thus does not deal with the remaining material of the Book of Changes. This is intentional, as the wisdom contained within this ancient tome must be absorbed personally – it cannot be found in the telling…
I suggest either one of these interpretations of the I Ching as my personal favorites:
The I Ching or Book of Changes Hellmut Wilhelm ISBN-10: 0844295906 or
The Complete I Ching10th Anniversary Edition: The Definitive Translation by Taoist Huang (Paperback – Oct 15 2010 release date)
A living book
The Book of Changes is unique in that it is a living book, capable of acting as a mechanical link between your subconscious, spiritual self and your waking consciousness. The information contained within its covers is as valid today as it has been for the last five thousand years as it speaks to the human condition, our place in this world, and our relationship with all of Creation. As an Oracle, the I Ching utilizes sixty four six-line figures known as hexagrams. Each of these hexagrams are composed of undivided Yang (light) lines and divided Yin (dark) lines.
Through the hexagrams, the Book of Changes reveals your subconscious state of mind, your current situation and external environment as well as the outcome you may expect. In order to successfully consult the I Ching, there a number of basic ground rules which should be remembered:
- The Book of Changes serves as a conduit for your subconscious mind and higher self to reveal the correct answers to your conscious questions through the book.
- Take time to relax, calm yourself and formulate your questions carefully…be precise.
- The I Ching is not able to reveal fortune directly or cause harm to others, it works as mentioned in ground rule one and cannot be used for selfish causes.
- Answers are given in symbolic and seemingly mystical terms. Reflection and contemplation on the resulting hexagram your receive in answer to your question will reveal the path you should follow.
Language of the I Ching
The Book of Changes makes use of various phrases and words which appear throughout every hexagram interpretation. Understanding these will assist you in correctly determining your own answers based on the hexagrams advice:
Judgement – The verdict of your subconscious mind revealed by your present mental state or attitude.
Image – Inner or esoteric meaning of the lines.
Good fortune, misfortune – We are a product of our thoughts, thinking good thoughts leads to fortune, negativity leads to misfortune.
No error or blame – There events at play which are outside of your ability to control, no blame or self-recrimination.
Remorse – Self forgiveness. We are human, not perfect by any means.
Chance – When chance is used in the I Ching, it refers to events or causes not seen
Humiliation – If we are unwilling to heed the advice of our higher selves and focus on the good, humiliation and loss soon follow.
Cross the water – There are times when this can be taken literally depending on the question asked. Most often it refers to opening ourselves to a larger, more profound experience in life.
See the Great Man – This can be a doctor, a spiritual advisor or close friend you trust and respect.
Coincidence – What we see as coincidence is actually the action of consciousness and the reaction of our subconscious mind. Our exterior lives are direct manifestations or mirror images of our inner thoughts.
Consulting the Book of Changes
In order to successfully consult the I Ching, allow yourself to relax and let go of all doubt and worries, even if only for the next fifteen minutes. Keep a receptive and open attitude that you are accessing your higher self, the part of you that is both Infinite Intelligence and Creation individualized all in one. Know in your heart that your are about to receive wisdom that will speak to your situation and to your heart.
As mentioned in the ground rules, questions need to be precise. The question you wish an answer to should be clear and not contain “either or” situations. For example: “Should I go to London or Paris?” is not a correctly asked question. In this example, two separate questions should be asked and their answers evaluated individually.
Creating the hexagram
To create the hexagram which will reveal the answer to you, coins or yarrow sticks are the traditional methods usually employed. Since the coin method is by far the simplest of the two, we will focus on this as the results yielded are ultimately the same. If you do not have easy access to three Chinese coins, three quarters will do nicely in their place. Assign a value of two to the heads side of the coin and a value of three to the tails side of the coin. Concentrate on your question with an open and receptive ind as you shake and toss the coins for the first time.
Hexagrams are built from the bottom position up, just as a foundation is first laid before building the actual structure, so your first coin toss will result in an undivided line if you tossed a seven or nine, or a divided line if you rolled a six or an eight. I suggest you write your question down on in a notebook to keep track of your questions and your meditations on the instructions and answers given, and then draw the hexagram as you shake and toss the coins five additional times to create all six lines. Be sure to indicate the total number beside each line as these are important when reading the individual lines.
Lines tossed that equal six or nine are known in the Book of Changes as moving lines and indicate a passage of time where instructions given in the first hexagram you receive, which then transforms into a result should you follow the advice in the first hexagram. If you receive a hexagram in answer to a question with no moving lines, you follow the judgement and image and consult each line that corresponds with the guidance in the I Ching. If moving lines are present, you consult the I Ching on the first hexagram (the instructions) as above, but view the judgement and image for the second hexagram (the result) only.
I would encourage anyone looking to attain a deeper understanding of the material and spiritual aspects of our world and themselves to explore the ancient guidance of the Book of Changes for themselves. As a companion guide to the I Ching books mentioned earlier in the article, I recommend reading this beautiful book: I Ching: Walking your path, creating your future, Hilary Barret, ISBN-10: 1848374534.
The Book of Changes is far more than the Oracle that we have shed minimal light on today. The remaining material in the I Ching is information that must be read, reread, absorbed and allowed to sink deep into your consciousness in order to take effect. Owning your own copy of this magnificent text and consulting it regularly will help build an open conduit to your higher self and open the door to a larger existence and a higher state of awareness of the world around you, both seen and unseen.
Until next week…Namaste