The I Ching, the ancient Chinese book of wisdom, is sometimes called the Book
of Changes. It dates back to about 3000 BC, and is traditionally attributed
to Fu Xi, who discovered the markings of the trigram on the back of a turtle
in the river Lo. Those same markings form the basis of Chinese numerology, the
magical Lo Shu square. The philosophy behind the I Ching is based on the balance
of opposites (yin and yang), the concept of change as an ongoing process and
the acceptance of change as an inevitable process. While the philosophy and
mathematical principles drawn from the I Ching form the underpinnings of Tao
beliefs, feng shui, Chinese astrology and Chinese numerology, the I Ching is
most familiar to Westerners as a method of divination.
What Is Divination?
Throughout history, man has tried to find meaning in the events around him,
seeking guidance from supernatural and divine sources. Divination, as opposed
to fortune-telling, implies that search for guidance. The concern in divination
is less in prophesying what the future will bring and more on seeking out the
right and righteous path. Thus, a method of fortune-teller may tell you that
a tall dark stranger will bring many changes into your life. A diviner will
read signs and symbols and suggest that you open yourself to changes and new
ideas from others.
If a person is seeking clear cut answers to straight questions, divination
will seldom provide them. Like the Delphic oracle of Greek history, the answers
will often raise more questions than answers. Throughout history, people have
used nearly anything imaginable as divinatory tools. The most well known are
runes, cards, stones, coins and books. The main requirements of divination are
a set of symbols and a random method of discovering the symbols to be read.
The method may be as simple as stirring mud with a stick or as complex as laying
out multiple rows and columns of cards or crystals.
The I Ching, the Chinese book of wisdom, was a natural candidate to use for
Consulting the I Ching
The I Chings basic building blocks are two symbols one solid (yang)
and one broken (yin). The lines are arranged into trigrams sets of three
lines. Using the two symbols, there are eight possible combinations the
eight trigrams. Each trigram corresponds to an element and a number. The trigrams
are further combined to form 64 hexagrams. Each of the hexagrams has a specific
meaning, with interpretations and annotations that have been added by many of
the great philosophers and thinkers throughout history.
The concept of change is central to the I Ching, so its not surprising
that changing lines are incorporated into the I Ching. The lines are yin and
yang, but the way that they are determined also determines if they are old
(changing) yang, old (stable) yin, young (stable) yang
or young (changing) yang. In Chinese philosophy, everything is in
a constant process of moving toward its opposite. Thus, yin is expanding toward
yang and yang is contracting toward yin. Old yin is close to changing to yang,
and old yang is reversing itself to young yin. When a line is changing, it should
be reversed within its hexagram to create another hexagram, and that one read
alongside the original. If there are many changing lines in the hexagram, the
result can be a very complex and deep reading.
The traditional method of casting the hexagrams uses a bundle of fifty yarrow
stalks or sticks. It is a complex and involved ritual that involves separating
and counting the yarrow stalks into groups, assigning numbers to the groups
and then creating hexagrams from those numbers. The entire process of casting
the hexagram can take an hour or more.
A more modern method uses coins with a defined head and tails. The querent
casts three coins six times to determine the six lines of the hexagram, then
interprets the hexagram according to a chart (or to memorized meanings of the
If you dont have a book of I Ching, you can find charts of the hexagrams,
along with their meanings, in many different places on the internet.
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