Wise up on the I Ching – and change your life
Part Two – Consulting the I Ching
Two-part article by Francis O’Neill
In Part 2 of wise up on the I Ching we are going to look at how one consults this oracle. So…
How does one consult the I Ching?
My first answer is, ‘with respect.’ The oracle is a source for divine wisdom so needs to be treated with respect. I’d also suggest storing the I Ching reference book/s (or cards) in an orderly situation – definitely off the floor – perhaps with other personal and precious things.
Also only consult the I Ching if you intend to study and learn from, or act upon, the answer. It’s not a game in other words.
- A copy of the book or online reference to refer back to. A website I have found very useful to refer to is http://cafeausoul.com/
- Something to write on: I always write my question down on a notepad and leave space for building the resulting hexagram.
- A means of consultation: The traditional way of consulting the I Ching is with 50 yarrow stalks. There is also a 6 wands method. Most of us in the West, use the 3 coins method and that’s what I will focus on here.
The coins used need to be of the same denomination, and, I’d suggest, coins with a bit of weight to them, that are kept aside for this purpose only.
I use three British half-crowns. The dollar or say the British two-pound coins would be good. You need to decide upon which side of the coin will represent the value 2 and which represents 3. Usually the ‘head’ side is deemed to represent 3 but in practice I’ve always used the opposite. These numbers will make more sense shortly.
Allow time and consider your question
Allow a moment or two to get into a receptive frame of mind, in a peaceful environment, where you will not be disturbed for the duration of your enquiry. You may meditate or use some kind of preparation ritual to get to the state you wish to be in, but you’ll in anycase know when ready.
About the Question
If you consider the I Ching is like a close friend capable of having insight into your situation, then the type of question that works best is one that draws advice on something you are trying to make a decision about.
Avoid the ‘and/or’ type question as you will probably have difficulty deciding which is implied from the answer. Sounds obvious but it is also important that you phrase the question so that you will also be able to make sense of the answer given – in relation to the question.
The I Ching is not going to tell you the winning lottery numbers or which make of car to buy but it will advise you on whether, for example, it is a good idea to go ahead and buy the car you’re considering or whether to sign a deal on that house that you’re contemplating buying.
A question might be along the lines of:
- What is the best action to take over this so and so situation?
- What will be the outcome if I still go forward with this action or plan?
- If I do so and so at this time, how will this be beneficial to me?
- What is holding up progress on this/that project?
- What is the advice now this/that has happened?
- What’s the advice regarding the nature of this so and so relationship?
- What would/will it take for me to achieve so and so at this time.
If you are contemplating alternatives – say, a career move to a post in Manchester or to a post in Leeds – divide it up into two clear questions and consider the advice given for each.
Reading between the lines
I find it pays to take a while to be clear about the structure of a question and remove as many grey areas as possible. And remember too that you will be drawing upon the interpretation (of your answer) from a translation that an author has fixed on the page, in referring to a given hexagram or line. You may literally be reading between the lines at times to make your judgement and decision.
Also consider that, in the answer you get, the I Ching may pick up on undercurrents or hidden components that are not obvious to yourself at the time of asking your question. It is a case of being open (intuitive) to such depth of insight.
Running the consultation
You might want to get in a seated or kneeling position – a bit closer to the floor in other words.
Keeping the question in mind throughout, shake the coins in clasped hands and then drop them onto, preferably, a smooth surface. Consider that if a coin wants to roll to a stop it should be able to do so.
The result creates the first and bottom line. Add up the three coins. If they total 6, that equals a changing Yin (broken) line; 7 a Yang (unbroken) line; 8 a yin (broken) line, and 9 a changing Yang (unbroken) line.
As I write the lines down on the page I place a bullet point to identify any changing 6 or 9 line. This obviously helps me to keep tabs, but also helps should I wish to return to study the result again at any later time.
Continue to build the six lines of your hexagram while keeping the question in mind.
Reading the answer
If you have a hexagram with no changing lines, the commentary/judgement will be your answer – you ignore readng the lines. If you have changing lines (any up to six) they will produce a second hexagram. A yin line will become a yang line in the second hexagram, and vice versa.
Here you read the commentary/judgement in the first hexagram, then the appropriate lines (no others), and then the commentary/judgement of the second resulting hexagram.
Often, with a changing line/s, the first hexagram will flag up the current situation with the line/s acting as a bridge, a step or series of steps, to the second hexagram – which provides advice on the outcome of the situation.
From personal experience however, sometimes the two hexagrams are equal in their advice going forward – and the changing line/s less so – while sometimes it is the line/s that provide the answer – and the hexagrams have less importance.
Act on the answer
Decide what to do from the answer given. It is not a good idea to consult the oracle again on the same question – looking for a different answer. This will just create ambivalence in understanding. If the situation is still troubling you, try posing a new question (from a different or better angle) on the same situation.
This is not so much about being disrepectful to the oracle but about being respectful to yourself – and living by the answers you receive. This is why it is sensible to wise up on the I Ching.
Good source books
I have a number of books on the I Ching — that I use as reference.
By far my favourite is: The I Ching Workbook by R L Wing. But I do also refer to I Ching or Book of Changes by Richard Wilhelm; I Ching: The Book of Change by John Blofeld; The Oracle of Change: How to Consult the I Ching by Alfred Douglas.
All success with your adventures in awakening and understanding through using the I Ching.