“I wonder whether, perhaps without realizing it, we seek out the books we need to read. Or whether books themselves, which are intelligent entities, detect their readers and catch their eye. In the end, every book is the I Ching. You pick it up, open it, and there it is, there you are.”
~ Andrés Neuman ~
The I-Ching, also known as the Book of Changes, is an ancient Chinese oracle text that is thought to be the oldest book still in existence today, with a history of more than two and a half millennia of commentary and interpretation alone.
The I-Ching is essentially a means of obtaining spiritual guidance, inspirational insight and Universal wisdom. The philosophy of I Ching is focused on the universal principle of change. Change is eternal and universal, both in a cosmic and a humanistic sense and the I Ching teaches that it is necessary to learn how to appreciate the philosophy of change and to know adapt to it.
For many Eastern philosophers the I-Ching is as important as the Bible is to Western society and philosophy, although it’s read and consulted in a totally different way. The book acts not only as a spiritual text but also offers a wealth of beautiful poetry and Chinese philosophy that goes back to the origins of ancient Chinese customs and values. The I-Ching can also be helpful as a contemplative aid, providing comfort and guidance and its mystical aspects are both revealing and unique to each reader.
Confucius said that by following the counsels of the I-Ching and studying it’s wisdom, we can attain creative awareness in every situation. While essayist Will Buckingham comments, “Forget prophecy and wisdom. Using the I Ching is a weirdly useful way to open your mind to life’s unexpected twists”
“There are many indications that the hexagrams were the original images from which the trigrams were then later abstracted and that the configurations of double lines are derrived from a still later anaysis.”
~ Hellmut Wilhelm ~
The basic unit of the I-Ching is the hexagram, a figure composed of six stacked horizontal lines with each line being either broken (representing the Yin/female energy) or unbroken (representing the Yang/male energy). The I-Ching text consists of 64 hexagrams which are formed by combining the original eight trigrams in different combinations. Each line is traditionally counted from the bottom up, so the lowest line is considered line one while the top line is line six. Each hexagram is accompanied with a description, often cryptic, akin to parables. Each line in every hexagram is also given a similar description.
In essence, the I Ching represents same basic type of binary code system at the heart of every computer but imbued with philosophical as well as mathematical principles.
Gottfried Wilhelm von Liebniz, the 17th Century philosopher and mathematician who was the father of the modern binary code, in his article “Explication DE l'Arithmétique Binaire”, wrote how his fascination with the I-Ching's usage of broken and unbroken lines led to his refinement of the binary mathematical system (which uses 0 and 1). He also noted how the I-Ching’s hexagrams correspond to the binary numbers from 0 to 111111 and from this Liebniz concluded that this was evidence of major Chinese advancements in what we might today call quantum mathematics predating Western civilization by 5,000 years.
“The situations depicted in the Book of Changes are the primary data of life;
what happens to everybody, every day, and what is simple and easy to understand.”
~ Hellmut Wilhelm ~
The I-Ching uses a type of divination called cleromancy, which generates apparently random numbers which in turn are used to produce the hexagram. Energy and matter are not separated and neither are the nor are the inner and outer worlds. In concordance with the synchronicity principle, events occurring in the inner world and those happening in the outside world may have an causal effect, one upon the other.
About these phenomena Carl Jung wrote:
“The ancient Chinese mind contemplates the cosmos in a way comparable to that of the modern physicist, who cannot deny that his model of the world is a decidedly psycho-physical structure. The micro-physical event includes the observer just as much as the reality underlying the I Ching comprises subjective, i.e., psychic conditions in the totality of the momentary situation. … Whoever invented the I Ching was convinced that the hexagram worked out in a certain moment coincided with the latter in quality no less than in time. To him the hexagram was the exponent of the moment in which it was cast.”
There is evidence to suggest that the earliest attempt at divining with I-Ching was a method where tortoise shells were heated over a flame until they cracked, with the emerging patterns (hexagrams) being read. In some cases the shells were marked with their interpretations and stored for reference, and a few of them are preserved at the National Museum in Taiwan, China.
The first users of the I-Ching consulted it by a rather laborious process of sorting yarrow stalks, the yarrow being a sacred plant thought to be imbued with spiritual power. Later, as the I-Ching became more popular and more widely used, a simpler method was invented using three coins.
The three coin method is the quickest, easiest, and most popular method by far. In the coin method all three coins at once. The "head"side will be the Yin side and have a value of 2 and the "tail" side will be the Yang side and have a value of 3. The coin toss is repeated 5 more times resulting in a column of 6 digits, each ranging in value from 6 to 9. A sum of 6 or 8 is an unbroken Yang line and a sum of 7 or 9, represents a broken Yin line.
The coin method has the great advantage of speed and convenience and you do not need any special equipment, just three identical coins. The yarrow method has a far more significant advantage. The yarrow method sets the process of consulting the I Ching apart from a common profane occurrence to become an act of sacred and profound ritual requiring the diviner to take the time to meditatively contemplate on what is being revealed.
You must explore and chose the method of I-Ching divination that works best for you, but as in all divination, the more profoundly you enter into the divination, the more profoundly you will receive your revelation.
Helpful Sites for Beginners
I Ching Meanings