Wise up on the I Ching – and change your life

Wise up with the I Ching 1 - Earth yin yang image
Meaningful World – Image: Romolo Tavani

[PDF download of Part 1 and Part 2 of this article Wise up on the I Ching]

Part One

Wise up on the I Ching. I imagine we’ve all heard of the I Ching (yi jing) – at least I hope so. I’ve put this article together because I really want you to consider and explore this wonderful resource as a means of changing your life.

This is particularly so where religion and, or other systems may have failed you in helping you to accept we live in a ‘meaningful’ world.

I first came across the I Ching many years ago now when reading Carl Jung’s semi-autobiography, Memories, Dreams, Reflections1 – a great book by the way. Jung was talking about the oracle in deference to Richard Wilhelm who he met and even had him give a talk on the matter. Wilhelm wrote one of the most respected books on the subject – the I Ching or Book of Changes, with a foreword by Jung.

Anyhow, ever since, I have been interested in the I Ching2 and have used it a great number of times to get advice and make important decisions. I have literally made decisions on moving house, changing jobs, business deals, partnerships and a host of other matters, on the advice given.

I recall using it for insight on other matters too. For example, during my time in archaeology and supervising on one particular prehistoric burial site (near Peterborough in the UK), I found it a great adventure seeking the I Ching’s wisdom on some of what was being uncovered. In other respects I see it as a real companion to draw on for spiritual nourishment – like having a direct line communication to one’s soul.

The I Ching has been around in its current form for over three thousand years. King Wen, founder of the Zhou Dynasty (1150-249 BC) and his son, Wu, are attributed with writing the ‘judgement’ commentaries on the hexagrams. Confucius (551-479 BC) is attributed to have written further commentaries on the behaviour of the ‘Superior Man’ and the Ten Wings treatise. All aiding our understanding of how the oracle is constructed and is intended to be used.

What the I Ching is

Wise up on the I Ching - Bagua image
‘Earlier Heaven’ bagua arrangement – showing the 8 trigrams surrounding yin and yang – courtesy Wikipedia

The I Ching is both an oracle and a guide to wisdom – particularly useful for moral and spiritual guidance. It is steeped in Taoist philosophy but yet it is much earlier than Lao Tzu, who is considered the father of Taoism – Lao Tzu was a contemporary of Confucius. Although the book carries Taoist, Confucianist and Buddhist philosophies it is not aligned to any one religion but indeed is built on the observations of the ebb, flow and periodicity of Nature. Probably in its development it stretches back into Neolithic times or even earlier. The point is, it is indeed without gods or demons and therefore pure, unsullied – and one might say the simplicity and integrity of the lines ensures that it remains so.

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them – that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like. Lao Tzu

The ‘I’ in I Ching represents ‘change’ – the only movement that is unchanging or permanent is ‘change’ itself. But change also moves in cycles and the end returns to the beginning.

Yin and Yang

The I Ching is based on a binary system – just like our modern computers. The binary system we use today (using the characters of 1 and 0) was developed by the mathematician Gottfried Leibniz in 1679. Liebniz discovered the numbering of the hexagrams in the I Ching also followed a binary system, the same system he had developed. This naturally leads onto describing Yin (0) and Yang (1).

Wise up on the I Ching - Yin Yang keywords image
Courtesy The I Ching Workbook – RL Wing

In Yin and Yang we have duality and polarity combined, with each carrying the seed of the other. The feminine (dark) Yin carries the seed of the masculine (light) Yang, and vice versa. And in this there is the powerful attraction of opposites – which are never completely opposite. In day there is the seed of night, in winter the seed of summer, in life the seed of death, and in death the seed of life.

Nature does not hurry, yet everything is accomplished. Lao Tzu

These are the two principles in one from which the All comes forth.

The Tao begets the One,
The One begets the two,
The two begets the three and
The three begets the ten thousand things.
Lao Tzu: Tao Te Jing

Wise up on the I Ching - Peace hexagram image
Hexagram 11 – Peace

Yin is represented by a broken horizontal line and Yang by an unbroken line. Placing these over each other or one another one arrives at four possible combinations. Adding a third line, forming a trinity, which can be a Yin or Yang line we have what amounts to 8 possible combinations – these are known as the trigrams. Give 8 of these to Heaven, and 8 to Earth, and we have the 64 possible combinations of 6 stacked lines or hexagrams – with the human soul, asking the question, effectively in the middle.

Article by Francis O’Neill ~ Soul Matters

Notes and References

1 This book provided a catalyst for a major turning point in my life.
2 The first book I bought on the subject was the Alfred Douglas (1971) The Oracle of Change/How to Consult the I Ching. Penguin Books – I still use the same copy.

In Part Two – get some tips on consulting the I Ching

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