I wanted to explain more about the I Ching, So I thought the best way was to let the oracle speak for itself.

To use the oracle, one casts a hexagram. There is a complex method using yarrow stalks and a simpler method using coins. I always use the latter. One keeps three coins especially for this purpose in a special place treated with respect. When one wants to consult the oracle one formulates a question and then keeps it strongly in mind as one casts the coins. There is one throw of coins for each line. The lines cast are termed either moving or unmoving lines. Moving lines add to the judgement of the hexagram and also enable one to determine a second hexagram. the first hexagram is the oracle’s answer to the question in the present. The second hexagram gives and indication where things are leading to in the future.

I asked the oracle what hexagram I should display to enable readers to understand the I Ching better. I got hexagram 16, Enthusiasm, with one moving line at the top.

The description tells us that the strong line in the fourth place (places are counted from the bottom) represents leadership and the lower trigram represents devotion. So, when good leadership is coupled with devotion, enthusiasm follows and carries all before it. The hexagram also suggests movement along the line of least resistance, like the flow of water, which here reveals the pattern of the natural events of human life.

Reading this, I feel that there cannot really be a much better description of the general way in which the I Ching functions. It provides leadership based on the natural “water-course” movement that is the foundational guide to natural human life and if its leadership is treated with devotion and reverence, it leads to enthusiasm and success.

The judgement tells us that when good leadership is at hand one should appoint helpers and get things moving. I think this tells us that the I Ching is not just theoretical or philosophical, it is practical. It is to be acted upon.

The image is that of “thunder that comes resounding out of the earth”. The explanation of this image says that it symbolises the resolution of prolonged tension, just as thunder in early summer resolves the tension in the sky. This resolution has the power to”loosen the grip of obscure emotions”.

The secondary image is of the ancient kings making music to honour merit and please the ancestors. The explanation says that, like the thunder, music resolves tensions. It also expresses joy and enthusiasm and brings people together.

The images tell us that the I Ching is a holy book, a place of ritual, inculcating reverence for ancestors and sacred powers, that, by doing so, it resolves personal problems and releases energy for constructive action that brings the community together.

The single moving line carries a judgement to beware of false enthusiasm. The implication is that it is not too dreadful a thing to be carried away by over-enthusiasm sometimes, so long as one is capable of seeing sense in due course.

When the moving line changes, we arrive at hexagram 35. This is the hexagram Progress. This hexagram represents the sun rising over the earth. “It is the symbol of rapid, easy progress, which means ever widening expansion and clarity”.

So now you know what the I Ching wants you to know about itself.

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  • Very nice :-). At art school I took a course in classical Chinese art from a professor who was both a Freudian analyst and an art historian. The professor consulted the I Ching on the first day of class to see if it was appropriate to run the course; he told the class that he never began a course without a consultation. I don't remember which hexagram came up but the course did go ahead. In memory it seems a small but meaningful ceremony that inderlined the professor's basic sensitivity to the self-power/other-power dialectic. Needless to say it was a fascinating course from a fascinating scholar.
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