“The I Ching is the world’s oldest oracle; it’s a book of Chinese wisdom; it’s the accumulated experience of over 2,500 years of diviners and sages, and beyond that of unimaginably ancient oral traditions; it’s the voice that has been offering people help and wise, genial guidance for generations.
The I Ching as you buy it today will be a collection of texts – a wonderful mixture of imagery and advice, philosophy and poetry – divided into 64 ‘chapters’. These are the 64 hexagrams, which means simply a pile of six lines, either broken or solid.
When you consult the I Ching, you build up a hexagram line by line according to the results of coin tosses or one of the other methods, such as sorting yarrow sticks or pulling marbles from a bag. All the translations will tell you how this works – it’s absurdly simple. And so you are pointed to a particular collection of texts – and, if one or more of your six lines is in the process of changing from solid to broken or vice versa, then there are also line texts to read, and the second hexagram that’s formed after the lines have changed. A hexagram isn’t just a convenient chapter heading – it’s also a very simple, elegant picture of how the energy is flowing through the situation. I Ching means ‘Book of Changes’, and change is really the one constant throughout the book. The hexagrams are not so much static pictures as ways to move: Creating, Receiving and sustaining, Beginning, Learning, Waiting, Arguing…
What can I achieve with it?
This is a far better question than ‘what can it do for me?’ Whether you use Runes, Tarot, the I Ching – or indeed consult a psychic or a reader – the power actually to bring about change stays with you. The I Ching is simply an oracle: it answers your questions. Its answers bring you into contact with something fundamental and unchanging, but at the same time absolutely, vividly connected to your present situation. It brings deeper insight – and that in turn empowers you to make changes for the better.
I have seen the I Ching help to bring harmony to relationships, and deepen and strengthen spiritual practice, reassuring or challenging as the need arises. It’s also been known to guide lawyers through important cases, offer very practical business advice, and help with investment decisions. I know that this sounds like an extraordinary range of subjects, but I have a feeling that we respond in this way only because we have lost the connection between everyday life and spiritual practice. The I Ching restores this – which is one reason why it is so constantly stimulating and challenging to consult.
In practice, I have found that most people value the I Ching for its ability to help in their relationships. Its answers are extraordinarily sensitive to the nuances of human interactions – in business and friendship as well as love. This is not the same as the ‘genuine clairvoyant psychic will find you your soulmate’ type of thing! Used with sincerity and respect for the other person’s privacy (very important!) the I Ching can bring greater understanding of the other person’s feelings and how the situation looks from their perspective. You can be better prepared for the challenges ahead, and negotiate current problems successfully. This is probably the area in which I’ve gained most from the I Ching myself – including a valuable friendship that was well on the way to becoming enmity before I asked how to rescue it!”