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I Ching Introduction


Basic Theory

If you are sincere, you may have light and success. Perseverance should bring good fortune. - "Cookie wisdom".

The I Ching or Book of Changes is an ancient Chinese text used as an oracle. At the core of this system are yin (darkness, also: shady, secret, dark, mysterious, cold - dark, hidden, passive, receptive, yielding, cool, soft, and feminine - the earth) and yang (light, or: clear, bright, the sun, heat - illuminated, evident, active, aggressive, controlling, hot, hard, and masculine - heaven). Everything in the world is a mixture of the two: female beings seem mostly yang and male beings seem mostly yin.

The yin-yang symbol shows how yin and yang interact, how the inside of yang is yin, and the inside of yin is yang. The idea represented is that inside yin is the seed of its opposite, and inside yang is the seed of yin. Much yang turns into yin, much yin becomes yang in time. That is the idea.

The harmonious balance between yin and yang is called Tao, which is Way or Ways and means. Taoism sees change as violent only if the Tao is opposed or thwarted, and that is easy to do. But ideally the Tao (a harmonious combination of yin and yang) guides change in a natural, easy way, making for beauty and life.

Taoism also holds that all things change - ignoring to except the structure of the I Ching, which remains unchanging throughout and anyhow -

In the I Ching, yin and yang are represented by to kinds of lines. Broken lines are of yin, and unbroken lines of yang. Three lines on top of one another - a set of three lines - is a trigram. There are eight combinations possible of broken and unbroken lines on three levels, so there are eight trigrams in all in the I Ching.

The eight trigrams represent heaven (Chien), earth (Kun), thunder (Cheng), water (Kan), mountain (Ken), wind (Sun), fire (Li), and lake (Tui).

A trigram with another trigram on top of each other constitute a hexagram, which is a set of six lines, or "sixes". All trigram combinations (8 x 8) yield the 64 hexagrams. The 64 hexagrams show all the ways that six-layered yin and yang lines can be combined to make up a full circle. A hexagram is built up from bottom by showing how yin and yang is capable of intertwining on its way up or out from its obscure beginnings (its bottom lines) into manifestation (represented by its top lines).

The six lines in a hexagram are often referred to as the combination of two sets of trigrams.

The trigrams are arranged around the compass in a way that reflects Chinese geomancy (feng shui). Various added meanings and tokens (symbols) are associated with each trigram, and elaborated on in commentaries. James Legge's on-site translation gives the bare bones of it all. Link].

History of the I Ching

According to tradition, Chinese civilization began around 3000 BC with the culture hero Fu Hsi. He invented such as fishing, cooking, and the trigrams found later in the I Ching. These were originally symbols for the eight primary constituents: heaven, earth, thunder, wind, fire, water, wood, and mountain.

During the later Hsia Dynasty, the trigrams of Fu Hsi were combined into the sixty-four hexagrams, and brief texts were added. This became one of the first books, called the Lieu Shan, or Manifestation of Change in the Mountains, and was consulted with a sacred yarrow-stalk oracle.

After still more centuries, Confucius (Kung-fu-tzu, literally "Master Kung") became fascinated with the I Ching. He said that if he had fifty years to spare, he would devote them to the I Ching. He wrote ten commentaries on the classic, called the Ten Wings, transforming it into a philosophical masterpiece. In this form, the I Ching inspired the later Taoists, including Chuang Tzu and Lao Tzu, and other philosophers and scientists since. such as the famous physicist Niels Bohr.

Nowadays hardly anyone believes a word of the legendary history of the I Ching. Rather than being the work of one or several legendary or historical figures, the core text is now thought to be an accretion of Western Zhou divinatory concepts.

Using the I Ching as an Oracle

In Western cultures and modern East Asia, the I Ching is sometimes regarded as a system of divination due to its status as a "reflection of the universe in miniature."

Three principles that underlie the I Ching could be good to know of:

1. Simplicity - everything in the universe is utterly plain and simple inside, no matter how it may appear to be.

2. Variability - Everything external in the universe is in a process of ongoing changes. Accordingly there is reason to cultivate a fit attitude for dealing with life in tune with the Medieval counsel has it: "It will pass". This attitude might help against getting more hooked up in persons and things than what is good for oneself, that is.

3. Persistency - is cardinal in what is manifested, externalised. Among the changing phenomena and within them, there is also something persistent and invariable, regardless of time and clime.

For each of the 64 hexagrams there is an oracular text - somewhat obscure or "woolly". Chinese scholars added commentaries and analyses of each hexagram; and such additions have been incorporated into the text comprising the I Ching.

There are also methods for building up hexagrams as answers to questions by six broken or unbroken lines in six levels that pertain to a process of becoming. By posing a question that is preferably more nuanced than "How's that?" or "What?", the arrangement of the "six-pack" of lines tells something if you read the meanings attached to the hexagrams. On the basis of the text you find points or nuggets that appeal to you, and maybe other points that do not, even insistent ones.

You have to interpret oracular answers. Let it be to your advantage, then, according to an Edmund Hoyle rule for learners: "When in doubt, win the trick."

Explore and Persist

To explore things deeply is great fun. Even infants find great joy in explorations that suit them. Here is what I came up with when exploring "Eh? What?" - which the actor Tom Hanks says he responds to "anything" with (in an Ophrah show). The oracle outcome:

Hexagram 16 changing to hexagram 45. Enthusiasm: Persistence. Chronically ill without dying. The will to go on saves one.

To repeat, the question is what to make out of what comes out of the divination process. It may be some required pondering too. And yet, the will to go on is the find here, and being enthusiastic and persistent should help it too.

I felt I could benefit from more direction that than, a second take yielded this in response to "In what direction?"

56. The Traveller.

The situation of the annoying traveller or stranger arouses irritation and can make things go bad, and also attracts disaster.

The bird burns his nest. The traveling man first laughs, later cries and wails. Losing the ox in the process means misfortune.

Carelessly destroying the place one had may not seem that bad at first, but when the consequences become clear it will be different, and things don't go well.

Now, such parts of my future may change into hexagram 55 - Fullness, Abundance - whose keys include a brilliant flower and:

Denseness. Progressing. Development. The king grants this, etc. The situation is difficult to oversee. There is no need to get pessimistic for not managing to oversee things, as there is progress. It is a good idea to pick a time when things are at it's clearest (midday).

James Legge's I Ching text amplifies the keynotes somewhat: "Deep meeting with your mate - undivided like yourself - and cherish the feeling of sincere devotion, and there will be good fortune. Then, focus mainly on your household (Rendition)."

Against working myself into constructs that reap disaster eventually

In some I Ching interpretations, as in an I Ching book by Christopher Markart, there is a success spin on each hexagram, so they are made to suit American values, which may be fairly optimistic, but also tending to set aside dubious answers and negative aspects of the whole thing. But I should neither respond to an I Ching "answer" by optimism and pessimism, but strive for realistic and wise appraisal when there is time.

In reponse to the too loose "Eh? What?" and "In what direction?" I sense a warning against attracting more disaster. By comparing to travelling the art of working myself into profound constructs, I may enjoy myself at first, but later reap tragedy. I have to take into account that some things occur because I might believe they will happen, by what is called self-fulfilling prophesies or expectations.

Instead of letting things go bad by asking annoyingly much so that I lose my hold on home and the like, I could progress and gain the clarity that is needed. I have to add "Maybe."


I could ask for the best clarification. So: "What hexagram holds the most fit and beneficent general clarification for me?" is not inappropriate. The oracle message to it might be:

Hexagram 14. Noble Presence - a foundation for progress. Being there in a magnanimous way. This will help progress.

The offered keys may be combined - one or more keys may be put to use somehow. Maybe I can pull it off by choosing what seems more rewarding to me - filtering things and happenings is often within reach for the strong. I think I go for it.

It is possible to look up in I Ching texts and find some added comments to each hexagram that came up, but it seems this will do here.

What about writing about I Ching?

Here is the I Ching oracle answer to "writing about I Ching" - It seems good to let some modified Ching advise go largely uncommented so far:

It is beneficial to have partners and allies and avoid people who have different interests. (Hex 39).

COMMENT: Hello reader - If you are not really interested in reading of the I Ching, it may not help you. Just go elsewhere.

To change many things into a foundation for progress is beneficial. Persistence brings good fortune, yet to hold a goal to move to should not cramp the present of being oneself full well. Being oneself, natural, without making an effort to appear different than one really is, is what makes real progress possible. It's beneficial to continue being this way. Not being oneself is truly a severe mistake. Pursuing a goal must not come in the way of being oneself. (Hex 39 changing into hex 25)

I Ching forecast for two years more

In 2009, two years ago, the I Ching tipped me for two coming years:

Enthusiasm helps one to transform, and leave gloom (such ignorance) behind. It is not a mistake (16).
I gather: "Enthusiasm is not a mistake if it helps in transforming gloom." It suggests indeed that there is foolish enthusiasm around too, and that is enthusiasm without beneficial long-run effects, I should say.

"The best things to do will be . . .

Then I posed the final question: "Tell me the best things to do before it is too late, per favore, and here is the oracular response:

17. Following. Line 6: Seize and bind it, then follow and hold fast to it. The king brings offerings on Western Mountain.

It is very difficult to get and then keep something, so one needs to put quite a lot of effort into that. Part of the difficulty is being dependent on unwilling others. It is doable, though.

James Legge's text adds to this:

Great progress and success. It will be advantageous to be firm and correct at heart and outwards. Then there will be good fortune. It will be advantageous to adhere to what is firm and correct - and sincere all over. Sincerity fosters excellence and even good fortune. So hold on to and cling to being sincere. That is foremost. (Paraphrase)

As for this short introduction, the oracle says, "you are already across - Being sincere about what you put effort into will decide whether you will actually reap its blessings and real benefits." (63)

On the next pages are hexagram pictures and old hexagram drawings to illustrate the ideas of each hexagram.

Keep Neutral and Sincere

If you study the most reliable words ascribed to Buddha, he gives fewer and simpler counsels to lay followers than to monks. Monks are not to make money from astrology, he says, because they have got a higher way open to them - that of going within. Lay followers may profit from adjusting to fit regulations for monks along the way of life.

The trend is toward restful meditation, in a nutshell, and a daily life in harmony with what is within. It is quite as in the Soto Zen of Dogen. Buddhism is Zazen, is the core idea. To sit in meditation is the good idea.

Also, in Transcendental Meditation there are first things first: First get inwards through mantra repetition, and thereby gain rest and heartfelt wisdom. It comes to some, that is. This speaks of the deep-going experience of attuning ourseles through our hearts to depths further within. The perceived world and phenomena that greet or meet us You may also study astrology. Basically, after going deep within, there is much you can do, much you may put your calm and heartiness into. Good ideas may appear too.

All this is not to say that oracle teachings or astrology in general need to be barred. But one should understand that the "vocabulary" of the oracles may be limited, and the derived counsel may seem too general to yield good fruit unless you meditate on it. In such cases you are not just a receiver but a coworker of what you think should be your answer.

The Bible talks for divination - it is strangely overlooked even though all the apostles used it - [Divining, Dowsing] [Bible Divination]

Keep calm and refrain from causing much commotion, from "disturbing birds in the field". Let experienced ones lead. So, stick to your good responsibilites. (7)

Using the I Ching to divine answers to questions, calls for sincerity. When in doubt about answers, do not assume their meanings to make them suit biases, but try to be as neutral and sincere as possible. Also, up to five extra questions surrounding the first answers may be tried too, for example, to get deeper into the meanings, or to the core.

Yet, just one extra question might do just as well, for example: "What is the most fit and beneficial message added to the first one?" By ranking the added points just a little lower than those of the first message, could be fine too, since they are framed to be additional.

Also, try and decide what might sabotage, undermine, or weaken your very best efforts, and how to best deal with it. When this question was applied to "my studies", the oracle reply was:

32. Permanence. Persisting brings misfortune. This lacks a beneficial purpose. If continued, things will go bad. It really doesn't serve any good purpose.

Discontinuing one's integrity. Somebody supports this disgrace. Persistence is inadequate.

Supporting something disgraceful, which undermines one's integrity. It's better not to go on with this.

That surely speaks for me, doesn't it? Now, in the reply the hexagram is changing into:

54. Marrying Younger Sister. A younger sister marries. Undertakings bring misfortune. This lacks a beneficial purpose.

Not being in a position to make things happen one's own way. Trying to anyway will only bring trouble, it won't work.

In this case it is the possible sabotage that is referred to. Marrying one's younger sister in Norway is not likely to happen unless it is marrying off that is the meaning, and hardly then. In other countries and times it could be different.

Be that as it may, a good study purpose ties in with one's integrity. If conditions conform to it, good. If not, alas.


Studying I Ching messages to your responses may be great fun. I prefer to write them down, for it is easy to forget things like that, in my experience. Here is a final message for this page in I Ching questioning. I asked: "Justice involved in the answers?"

Hexagram 32, Duration, etc.: Cultivate appropriate inner firmness. You may initiate new patterns to deal with changing external conditions. Changes of the established routine could be introduced cautiously and gradually. Suitable new ideas should be applied with enough flexibility.

From this I slowly gather that justice or righteousness rests on a deep and fit firmness within, yet with room for new patterns or changing conditions. It may pay off to go ahead, cautious and flexible, and actualise new patterns. And that is much of what Buddha and Hindus teach in the art of handling karma. That man should make himself a lot of good karma, is Buddha's favorable message.

Guru Dev (Shakaracharya Brahmananda Saraswati) tells us to remember Bhagwan (the Blessed Lord) for the sake of our own happiness in life, and understand one's own suitable method. In Bhagwan's name lies power enough to make sins and wickedness fade. Therefore, act nobly and well and remember Bhagwan by a method that is suitable for you, is his all-round counsel. [Gbt 170-73, extract]

For self-education

Example: "What are the most recommendable things for me to accomplish the coming three years or so?"

I Ching: Hexagram 12: A standstill may be giving way. It should help to remove conditions of distress. Appropriate understanding should help. Fall back on your inner worth. Do not permit yourself to be honoured with revenue. Guard against complacency. End disintegration by putting forth some well-directed efforts and gain safety. You can be creative. Deal with a whole complex of problems by pulling up the main root and deal with the other problems one after another. Pursue your main goals. Those of like mind partake of the blessing.

A "they" bears shame. Keep a low profile and refuse to get involved in other people.

Hexagram 12 relates to and little by little turns into a coming Hexagram 53, Development, which indicates, "You can enjoy food and drink and be happy in the company of compatible ones, etc."

Contemplate on the images and hexagrams too, to get further tall notions. The example is over.

Some questions to ask

Here is a summary of the questions I find worthwhile asking, bearing in mind that "As you yell in the mountain pass, so will your answer be." Thus, for this and that period:

  1. What is most fit to go for?
  2. What are the best two things to do?
  3. The best ways in dealing with relationships?
  4. In which direction is it fit to go?
  5. What proficiencies are apt to develop and work up during that time?
  6. What is the most fit, truly needed message for me, personally?
  7. What might sabotage or undermine or weaken my well-directed efforts - and how to best deal with that?
  8. ADDED. What is the best clarification of that? (To assist in getting more output for any question)

That is something to start on. For me, below are the picked I Ching tips for the next three years. "The living will see":

  1. MOST FIT TO GO FOR. Key elements of hexagram 18, leading into hexagram 23. Thus, I may restore the creative flow and go into unknown territory. The new growth needs attention paid to it.
  2. BEST TWO THINGS. Key elements of hexagram 48, steadied. There is a hint to dig first, and draw on those good-truth resources only after that . . . A debitor acts not like that.
  3. DEALING WITH RELATIONSHIPS. Hexagram 50, stable, leading into hexagram 28 of exceeding, exploring - things like that. Hex 50: "Taking a concubine is no mistake". Good to know!
  4. SAVOURY DIRECTIONS. Key elements of hexagram 57, leading into hexagram 18 Direction is taking shape as I feel its authenticity from small shifts. Besides I go along in step with an all-round success model of large scopes, a kind of mystical warfare model I hold dear.
  5. PROFICIENCIES. Key elements of hexagram 4, "Not knowing," "receiving woman", "engage in learning", etc., leading into hexagram 59, of such as fruit-bearing and dealing with boundaries and sheltering.
  6. PERSONAL MESSAGES. Key elements of hexagram 62 of taking even more care, leading into hexagram 16 of large-scaled, unprecedented enthusiasm through soundly imagined matters and a topic called "meanings of life".
  7. MAIN SABOTAGES AND DEALING WITH IT. Key elements of hexagram 19, leading into hexagram 24.
  8. ADDED CLARIFICATION OF NO. 3. Hexagram 48 of coming and going into the well of the inherent life (hence meditate), leading into hexagram 39 of great people and good fortune.

I gather the most lovable lead is to meditate and "glow with the flow" or something like that.

The ongoing process of tidy queries and deliberating somewhat on messages connected to them, may tie in with frank self-education. Going ahead neutral and sincere is the key to it. The ability to learn from others is an asset as well. To avoid looking corky tends to help too.

Any information given on this page and annexed pages to this one is not to be taken as a replacement for sensible advice. Those needing medical attention should consult a likable therapist. Besides, sensible reservations are presupposed throughout.

I Ching theory and examples, END MATTER

I Ching theory and examples, LITERATURE  

Gbt: Mason, Paul. 108 Discourses of Guru Dev: The Life and Teachings of Swami Brahmananda Saraswati, Shankaracharya of Jyotirmath (1941-53). Vol 1. Penzance, Cornwall: Premanand, 2009.

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