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Divination and the I Ching

Updated on May 19, 2020
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I research on spirituality for 40 years and like to share my knowledge and experiences.

The I Ching is an ancient Chinese oracle: its name means Book of Changes. Change is the only constant, in your outer and inner experience alike. The I Ching offers ways of changing your own life, and of understanding and moving with the changes around.

The I Ching is the oldest divinatory oracle to survive the 'disenchantment of the world'. Each of the book's Figures acts as a mirror for the unconscious forces shaping a given problem or situation. They are an invitation to a dialogue with the 'spirit of the time' and begin a creative process that adjusts the balance between you, the questioner, and the energies or forces behind your situation. It can warn you, encourage you, describe possible outcomes or reveal hidden dangers.

In traditional terms, the I Ching 'provides symbols' which 'comprehend the light of the gods'. It produces an echo that 'reaches the depths, grasps the seeds and penetrates the wills of all beings under heaven'. It can discern the seeds of future developments and move the dark psychological places where we are caught or 'hung up'.

The I Ching does this because it is more than a book and an oracle. It is a 'way', a tool we can use on our spiritual journey through life. It continually opens a path that we can follow. Through its symbols and the connection with the spirit they provide, it enables its users to 'follow the order of their own nature and of fate'. It opens a dialogue with a deep inner voice that seeks to keep us connected to the living world, the 'on-going process of the real'.

The most basic symbolism in the Book of Changes is the association of broken and solid lines with yin and yang. The alternation of yin and yang represents the processes of change in the universe. Yin is constantly changing into yang and vice versa. Yang grows stronger until it reaches its maximum; then it turns into yin. The influence of yin grows until it can go no further, and then it turns into yang. The concepts of yin and yang represent the perpetual motion of things in the universe, and the continual flux of experience. The original meanings of yang and yin were the bright and shady sides of a hill.

The Tao or way articulates as two basic qualities. These two qualities reflect dark and light, moon and sun, water and fire, soft and hard, dissolution and creation, love and hate, dream and waking, death and life, female and male. The people who made the I Ching 'saw' each thing as a particular mixture of these qualities and could thus predict the way they would move and develop. The oldest words for these qualities are the terms great and small, or strong and supple. They later became known as yin and yang. These words describe ways to orient your will. They indicate the most basic thing you can do to be in accord with the spirit of the time.


Yang power or being great

Certain times and situations call upon you to be Great and strong, to collect you strength, have an idea, impose your will and act. The Great person is someone who has done this consistently and has thus acquired power and influence. This orientation represents the influence of the Great in someone's life.

Yin power or being small

Other times and situations demand that you be Small and supple, that you let go of your importance and adapt to whatever crosses your path. Small people can adjust to whatever happens in a flexible and spontaneous way because they are not impeded by a sense of self-importance. This represents the influence of the Small in someone's life.

Accumulating Te or power and virtue

By voluntarily adjusting your will to the time, and seeing the spirit-value in the events of life, you accumulate a special power and virtue called Te, which comes from following the way. This power and virtue, which can directly influence others, enables you to become who you are intrinsically meant to be: a true individual or accomplished person.

The realizing person

Someone who follows the Tao or way and uses the Change to accumulate power and virtue is called a realizing person, a 'child of the leader' or most important thing. This person is on the way to becoming realized or accomplished through contact with the spirit of change. She or he uses the oracle to help in this endeavour.


Heaven and Earth is full of other beings, too, the Souls and Spirits. These are gods, demons, angry ghost, ancestors and nature spirits, many of whom can enlighten, guide and give power to human intelligence. The landscape is dotted with points of close encounter with these beings: field altars, shrines, towers, grave mounds and temples of all kinds. These spirits are messengers - they announce how Heaven and Earth is moving, and who participate in its power. Any action, even just living and enjoying your life, only has a real chance of success if it connects with the spirits. What we now call meaning, or a meaningful experience, is just such a connection. The people who lived in Heaven and Earth would have called it being or living in Tao.

The helping spirit is the Tao or way acting as the guiding force of each individual being. It is our 'unconscious spirit' or guardian angel. It helps us shape our destiny and connects us with the way. It is very difficult for these spirits to talk directly to humans, as they do not have human language. The words of the oracle give your helping spirit a way to speak with you.

The I Ching is NOT a book of fortune-telling. Nor is it a substitute for your own common sense. It is meant for giving guidance in situations where you are uncertain about the best direction to take. Use it well and it will enhance your life as though it were a wise and trusted friend.

How to consult the I Ching Oracle

Since our troubles very often come from clinging to what is present, this helps us to let go and open a space for what will soon enter our lives.

My name is Ng Cheok Heong living in Singapore. I have learned I Ching online from Clarity and practise more than ten years. Many times when I am in need of advice I will consult the I Ching. The I Ching has been a spiritual guide and a very real help in times of trouble.

Finding the right question

When consulting the I Ching or Yijing, the first step is to present the problem as a question. Take some time with it. The clearer the question, and the deeper your perception of the issues around it, the more precise the oracle's answer will be.

Basically, making a question has two parts. The first is 'soul-searching'. Search out the feelings, images, experiences, tensions, issues and connections that surround your problem. Articulate what you feel and think, what is at stake for you, any relevant memories, dreams, fears, anxieties, desires. You do not have to put all this together to 'make sense'. Just try to see what is there, no matter how contradictory. Talking with someone else can often be of great help in bringing these things out.

The second step is to formulate a clear question. If possible, base this on what you want to do. Be as precise and honest as you can about your desire. Ask 'What about doing....?' or 'What would happen if I...?' or 'What should my attitude towards...be?' or 'What is happening?'

The question is your point of entrance into the world of change. Remember, there is real spirit at work in all this, a force that, though friendly, should be treated with respect. It reaches out to you with an offer of help. At this point all you need is an open mind and a certain basic respect. If the dialogue continues over time, you may come to know and love this voice of change.

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