Hilary Barrett, I Ching

What are weekly readings good for?

Or annual readings, or readings for the season or even just for the day… all the readings where the question is just,

‘What do I need to be aware of for this period of time?’
or maybe just,
‘Advice?’

You might have some ongoing issues in mind – we usually have, after all – but you’re not asking about any of them specifically. You’re just asking for a guiding principle, something to carry in awareness as you go about daily life.

What they’re no good for

Let’s start with what these readings aren’t good for. First, they’re no replacement for asking direct questions about a specific decision. If you need to decide whether to do X or Y, just ask ‘What if I did X?’ and ‘What if I did Y?’. Be direct, be straightforward; ask what you need to know. Trying to apply general, open readings to specific decisions is pretty much a recipe for muddle and frustration – especially the ‘but which option is this referring to?’ kind.

And more generally… I wouldn’t rely on an open reading for immediate clarity. My weekly reading does have an immediate effect: it sets the tone for the coming week, often rewriting my priorities and plans for me. (I’ve taken to doing the planning after the reading!) But I wouldn’t expect to come to a true understanding of the reading until the end of the week, with the benefit of hindsight.

(I was listening the other day to an online interview with Stephen Karcher. He said that if you have perfect clarity as soon as you cast a reading, any reading, you’re doing it wrong. The reading is supposed to confuse you at first. I don’t know if that’s absolutely always true, but it’s a good principle, I think, and a great antidote to the fear that ‘it hasn’t worked’ if understanding isn’t immediate.)

Another thing these readings aren’t good for: a precise description of a fixed period of time. A weekly reading, for me, says something more like, ‘Here’s an ongoing process that’s becoming especially relevant now, so pay attention.’ I certainly don’t discard it as irrelevant on day 8: it’s in the journal, so I do my best to refer back to it and build on it. (This is why I don’t do daily readings: I just couldn’t keep up.)

Annual readings are tricky in a whole other way. Mine for this year is 56 changing to 23, of all things. It’d be counterproductive, at best, to treat that as a prediction. For me it’s more of an underlying theme and ‘stuff to work on’.

What they are good for

Weekly readings – annual, seasonal and daily ones, too – are good for three things: learning, guidance in crisis, and awareness.

Learning

This is one thing that’s always true: weekly readings always mean learning, at least if I’m paying attention. It goes two ways: the readings give me a better chance of understanding and learning from experience, and experience provides me with new illustrations of the hexagrams and lines.

Also, the readings evolve from one week to the next, and that nudges me to move on. Last week, for instance, one of my moving lines was 9.3:

‘A cart losing its wheel spokes.
Husband and wife avert their eyes.’

Amongst other things, I saw how the wheels came off on various things I’d promised myself I’d do, and the line suggests to me that this is connected with a breakdown in internal communication in the face of great truth (zhi gua 61). My reading for this week begins with Hexagram 53, Gradual Development: slow and steady progress towards marriage and (re)union. I feel it’s inviting me to start moving towards an inner reconnection.

Guidance in crisis

Some things just happen, and don’t leave you time to ask Yi about them. At such times, I’ve found very often a recent reading talks to me and sustains me. Of course, that doesn’t have to be an open reading-for-the-time, but in practice it often is, perhaps because those readings represent a clear, uncluttered invitation to provide what I need, not just what I’m aware of needing.

Awareness

I need a new metaphor for this for the digital age… but an open reading works a lot like tuning a radio. It takes your attention, hones it and gives it focus, so you’re ready to receive messages more clearly. Then the messages flow in, through events, conversations, dreams, reflections, synchronicities. You turn on the radio and hear commentary on your moving line. Or you notice first that the reading describes one situation in your life, then that it also describes another… and then you start to see how these two experiences are images of one another, each reflecting light into the other’s mysteries. Experience expands into new dimensions and full colour.

Hm… I see this is a theme I come back to quite a bit. For instance here’s a post from 2008 about divination for awareness, and this more recent post that mentions a couple of weekly readings.

51 Responses to “What are weekly readings good for?”

  1. Gene Says:

    In reference to Stephen Karcher’s mentioning that if the answer is clear at first, you are doing it wrong, may be often true but it isn’t necessary. The more we study the I Ching the quicker we receive its messages. As well, the I Ching is written on many different levels, and the level we receive it on depends on our own needs at the time, and on the level of maturity we have attained in this life, (and the I Ching definitely helps us in our journey towards maturity).

    In this blog Hilary has given us a good reading of hexagram nine line three in as far as she can refer to her own situation. As a general rule all of us face many frustrations in our lives. This happens often because things do not go our way, and we think we are losing control. We are all a bunch of control freaks, and we need to realize this and let go of our own will and surrender to the will of the universe. This does not mean things will change for us immediately. We must allow the universe to gradually change our lives and mold us into what we should be not necessarily what we want to be. Hexagram fifty three defines this.

    All too often, beginners especially, but even experienced readers sometimes get caught up in the meaning of one little phrase, perhaps one that says, “misfortune,” and freak out. We must experience the reading as a whole, and realize that, as a friend, the I Ching is giving us advice, not an unalterable oracle that tells us that our fortune is sealed and the future is hopeless. If we do have misfortune, it is the result of things inside of us, involving our own character and attitude. If character and attitude are changed, so are circumstances. But it happens in time, not immediately. Once again, hexagram fifty three gives us the key.

    Weekly readings and the such give us very good insight into the depths of our soul. It also, as the teacher in hexagram four allows us to look ever more deeply into the nature of the universe as well as ourselves and is useful in many ways, even ways that we have not yet imagined.

    Gene

  2. SJM Says:

    I would say if you’re confused by what the Yijing has told you from the outset then no matter how much pondering you give it you’ll probably only arrive at an interpretation, rarely a direct understanding. Interpreting the Yijing is what happens when the oracle ‘hasn’t spoken’. If it speaks, understanding will be instant, and those who say this is ‘doing it wrong’ have perhaps never had it speak. The idea of the oracle ‘speaking’ is of course one that is much maligned, since some want to regard the oracle as always speaking (especially to them). But this is missing the point. What is meant by ‘the oracle has spoken’ is that it was resoundingly clear straight away.

  3. Hilary Says:

    I think I’ve misrepresented/ exaggerated what Stephen said. I believe he was trying to counteract the modern desire to have everything make instant rational sense – nicely, tidily understandable so nothing has to change.

    Different kinds of ‘understanding’?

    Anyway, speaking just for myself: sometimes the answer is immediately clear to me, sometimes not. The issue isn’t so much whether the oracle speaks as whether I have the right ears to hear. Part of receiving the reading can be the inner rearranging/ rewiring/ surgery it performs – which can be instantaneous, or can take a long time.

  4. SJM Says:

    If you haven’t ‘the right ears to hear’ then the oracle not only won’t speak it can’t speak. There is no such thing as the oracle speaking and it not being heard, it simply hasn’t spoke if it hasn’t been heard. I think most people who use the Yijing intuitively already understand this, but have somehow picked up the idea that if they don’t grasp the hexagrams they receive that it is somehow because they aren’t looking deeply enough. But this is not the case at all, when the oracle speaks, you hear, no effort required. If it doesn’t speak, then study, but don’t think that by this you will gain an oracle that is somehow covered over in obscurity just waiting to be teased out. A piecemeal construction of ‘meaning’ by contemplation may be enough to satisfy, but essentially one is guiding one’s life by bits of fairly dead fragments of poetry coaxed to resemble a living oracle.

  5. Hilary Says:

    Odd – that hasn’t been my experience at all. Sometimes the meaning is immediately clear, sometimes it takes longer. Sometimes both (readings have layers).

    I find a common stumbling block for beginners is the belief that it’s supposed to be instantaneous: this leads them to discard those initial inklings that would grow into full understanding with attention and patience.

  6. Anonymous Says:

    Not really true to say if it hasn’t been heard it hasn’t spoken since sometimes others can clearly hear that the Oracle has spoken but the one asking can’t…. Also one might see with hindsight that when it was believed the oracle wasn’t answering it was, very clearly, but we couldn’t hear it at the time for various reasons such as we might not be able to conceive it could possibly mean something we can’t accept or just a plain lack of knowledge as in people assuming 24 means someone else is coming back.

    I don’t think Karcher or anyone else is actually able to wholly know what experience others are having with the Oracle..unless they have direct telepathic access to their brains, lives and thoughts.. A 10 year old could possibly do a cast and hear the oracle IMO. Fortunately noon else in control of who can understand the oracle and when

    I can’t help but suspect Karcher might have a vested interest in the Oracle being so complex that you will need to buy another of his books to understand it.

  7. trojan Says:

    accidentally anonymous …I meant to say ‘fortunately no one else is in control of who can understand the oracle and when….’

  8. SJM Says:

    I think these problems are resolved if one draws a distinction between the oracle ‘speaking’ and the oracle appearing to make sense. Only you can know if the oracle has ‘spoken’. But if you think making sense of it is the equivalent of it ‘speaking’, then we are talking at cross purposes.

  9. SJM Says:

    For instance, I can often know what the oracle means, but if it hasn’t ‘spoken’ then I know my question isn’t particularly important. Only when the oracle ‘speaks’ do I regard it as an actual oracle, the rest is just practice in interpretation. So clearly I am saying it is important to recognise what is meant by ‘speaks’, rather than regard the oracle as inevitably speaking merely because it is consulted, when, of course, it is forced to apparently give an answer

  10. Hilary Says:

    Possibly this is what I was suggesting earlier, with ‘different kinds of “understanding”‘. But it would be good if you said more about what you mean by ‘speak’.

  11. Tay Says:

    One has to be very careful in THINKING. Thoughts can be misleading and it is said that “if you think you know the answer … it is not the right one” owing to the nature of illusions. The interpretations from the Oracle (as with events in one’s life) are messages for us to self-improve. Nothing can be clear. The readings can take YEARS to unfold or rather, to make sense of our journey in Life. I wonder if the followers of this blog do meditation? That is, EMPTYING of our minds (thoughts) to make way for clarity.

  12. SJM Says:

    The idea of the oracle sometimes speaking and sometimes not speaking, or speaking to one type of person and not another, has always been hanging around in Yijing tradition. I would say it has its precedent in the judgment of hexagram 4 and this interesting character ‘gao’.

    It is my experience that the Yijing sometimes doesn’t speak, by which I mean quite straightforwardly that it doesn’t say anything, yet of course a hexagram cannot help but be received. In practical terms you can say the oracle has spoken when the response is quite clear and doesn’t need to be interpreted, which is the kind of answer you should expect from an oracle (Wilhelm picks up on this: ‘A teacher’s answer to the question of a pupil ought to be clear and definite
    like that expected from an oracle…’). If the response mystifies and needs to be figured out and an interpretation made, then the oracle hasn’t spoken and the worth of the answer is in doubt from the beginning. Making a virtue out of being confused by the answer may be handy for Jungians who charge an hourly rate, but it is also a good way of ensuring you can never tell whether the oracle has actually said anything, since you take it as read that it always does and it is your duty to figure it out. This is going way away from what the oracle is all about.

    It is better to be modest, and not to expect it to speak. Then one may easily recognise when it does, and perhaps even make it more likely that it will. But to be so demanding of an answer that one cannot countenance that one has not been given is suggestive of the kind of person the oracle doesn’t speak to.

  13. Hilary Says:

    Yes, I do see what you mean – and my experience is still completely different. I’ve found that the ‘speaking’ (and hearing) takes time. Sometimes it takes interpretation, or sleeping on it (once or twice or 365 times), or prompts from other sources, before the penny starts to drop.

    Different people, different ways of understanding.

  14. SJM Says:

    Sometimes I have understood a reading some time later, as if it has taken a while to ‘sink in’, but usually by that point the situation has changed and what it apparently ‘said’ is no longer relevant. In practical terms, it didn’t speak and subsequent understanding is of academic interest only. ‘The time’ doesn’t last very long, and surmising what the oracle meant in retrospect is simply ‘practice’. I think it is misguided to think that prolonged meditation on an oracle is either necessary or desirable.The plain fact is that any and every situation is rushing along, changing moment by moment. I would say that if an oracle is not understood right away then it is not understood full stop, and that retrospective interpretation is stale counsel.

  15. Gene Says:

    I think we need to have a little clarity here about why we are consulting the I Ching, and what we are trying to get from it. If we have a specific question, looking for a specific answer to that question, there can be a timeline involved. (Even then, the answers the oracle gives may not be immediately clear. The I Ching cannot speak to us face to face the way a classroom teacher would, and can only give answers based on the limitations implicit within it. Therefore it often speaks in symbolism or metaphor.) When there is a timeline involved, yes, we may have to figure it out right away, but since the I Ching is limited by pretermined lines to give an answer, then that answer is not likely to be readily apparent to the average reader. I since often in the shared readings format where people are taking things all too literally and do not understand the symbolism involved. They do not know the language by which the oracle speaks.

    But we have another scenario in which we consult the I Ching for wisdom in our lives. While this may also have a timeline in terms of what is going on in our lives, the principles upon which the I Ching is built are eternal. They do not change. And since the I Ching speaks in a metaphorical language, it may take a very significant amount of time to understand the language of the I Ching. In fact, we can only get an answer on one level, until we are mentally, emotionally, and spiritually prepared to understand the answer on a higher level. Therefore, the highest and best use of the I Ching is to understand the principles upon which the universe is built, (and yes, the I Ching does know them better than modern science does) and to incorporate those principles over time into our lives. There is no other way to come to know the tao than to spend years, lifetime after lifetime, in the study of higher metaphysical principles. The answers are not going to come immediately, and even when they do, they will only show us the way on the level that we are mentally prepared to comprehend. These laws are timeless, and they operate on higher and higher levels. We are earthbound, though are spirits are from higher levels. Being earthbound, we can only understand on a lower level, but when we continue, we find new things, things never discovered before, and the process goes on eternally.

    Gene

  16. SJM Says:

    Although relative events unfold in time, there is no such thing as a ‘timeline’. Time is not a linear actuality. When there is ‘a timeline involved’, there is the illusion of stacking events and an imagined future. What do you think the oracle can tell you about that that you won’t interpret according to your own assumptions? Wisdom probably consists in the realisation that one is far too foolish to consult the Yijing at all. Certainly there is no such thing as ‘a higher level’ on which to understand it. There is only understanding it and not understanding it. A ‘higher level’ just means ‘less illusion’, but ‘less’ illusion’ means just as much illusion as before.

  17. Gene Says:

    Okay SJM

    That’s the way it is I guess.

    Gene

  18. SJM Says:

    I find it is better not to want much from the Yijing. Just a little hint into right now is fine. Anything more, it gets ridiculously overblown.

  19. trojan Says:

    But I’m sure I recall seeing in the Birocco blog somewhere that you said readings can take many many years to be known. The example you gave was a reading of your own. It was hexagram 1 line 1. You said it took 10 years, that the dragon was under the lake for 10 years in your life and that a mistake many people made was expecting to see readings play out immediately. I feel sure I remember that because it was a comment that stayed with me. I’ll see if I can find it…I don’t think I imagined it.

    To me it seem there are times Yi answers resoundingly loudly and meaningfully and other times where it actually just shows a reflection of what was asked which could be said to be not giving an answer but people can see it as a prediction or meaning more than it does. There does seem to be times where Yi isn’t answering, generally for me after too much asking or other unknown reasons somewhat like a loss of broadband connection.

    I see your point in that I have seen some answers being wrangled to death via analyses using complex ‘techniques’ etc whilst the most obvious (and often unpalatable, hence the reliance on ‘techniques’) features of the answer are completely overlooked. Then I have thought the answer has been strong armed into saying what it never did say and it doesn’t feel true and its not going to feel any more true because its couched in such clever obtuse language that I might think its me thats the dummy in not ‘getting’ it.

    With this though

    quote SJM
    The idea of the oracle sometimes speaking and sometimes not speaking, or speaking to one type of person and not another, has always been hanging around in Yijing tradition. I would say it has its precedent in the judgment of hexagram 4 and this interesting character ‘gao’.
    unquote

    I’d question the ‘type of person’ idea since a person is not any more fixed in their being than anything else which is presumably why , with the same person, sometimes Yi answers and sometimes it doesn’t. At different moments they are different people, different motives. If there is a type of person Yi won’t answer I don’t think anyone knows who that might be since its mostly a private interaction. Reminds me of aspects of religious oppression where people are told God will only speak to the right kind of person.

    yes I agree Yi interpretations can get terribly overblown…. but all kinds of things get terribly overblown just before they change into something else, or die and get reborn. (Prog rock for example) Even nihilism can get terribly overblown…that might be a 36.6 moment ?

  20. trojan Says:

    returning to weekly readings….the major danger seems to me that one will be looking for ways to make the cast fit and hence create a self fulfilling prophecy. If you have a cast that indicates others will not be receptive to you for example, you will be meeting others with that expectation and so create the very condition you wish to avoid.

    Seems to me it would be almost impossible for the mind not to cast about looking for where the reading might play out. The ideal is to be open to how it may be relevant…..but the reverse side of that, ‘making things fit’ must be a danger ?

    Another danger is girding oneself with the reading so to speak…..so if one gets, for example, 23.3 one is primed to break with pretty much everything that comes in the path that week….22.3 to be viewing all things as possibly illusory etc etc

    I feel it can be a fairly….almost arbitrary, whimsical guide to living as in ‘this week I’ll be bold’, next week I’ll be receptive’ and so on. We may not be living from our centre this way but from a perceived instruction from an oracle ? It can be used as an instruction.

    Thats the danger. I’m trying it myself this week to see how it works for me…..with a completely open and unprejudiced mindset of course LOL

  21. SJM Says:

    The thing is, Trojan, I don’t have the same views about the Yijing as I used to. When I wrote ‘The Mandate of Heaven’ I had radically different views about it to when I first started using it nearly two decades before. I have different views about it today to the views I had about it when that book was published. As for ten years for the dragon to rise, this is reasonable enough as far as it goes, but completely useless save to wean a person off impatience. ‘Taking a long view’ is something that you do now. You first become less bothered about quick results, then you become not bothered about results at all. All of this is about what’s happening now. The idea of something taking ‘ten years’ is not for you to expect it to happen in ten years, but for you to stop thinking it’ll happen next week, next month, or soon, for you to stop thinking in these terms altogether.

    When I first started using the Yi all I wanted to know was ‘If not now, when?’ This was my mistake, this was what I had to spend a long time learning about. It’s really all about not hankering after results. ‘Ten years’ is an idea, ‘time scale’ is an idea. But doing nothing now is just doing nothing now. But people find it hard to do nothing now without knowing why, so sometimes you have to tell them that it’s because this is going to take a long time, this is going to grow like a tree. When you no longer hanker after results, the time anything will take is neither here nor there. To sit in expectation of something unfolding in ten years is just plain madness. But in ten years time to realise you were full of impetuousness back then, that you knew nothing, back then, might be regarded as useful self-knowledge.

    Ultimately, you have to ask yourself what does it matter to you whether the dragons rises or not? What will happen will happen.

    These days I favour a simple and light approach to the oracle, that which comes naturally and easily on its own. Heavy interpretation is mostly just reading things into it, but what you have to ask yourself is whether you actually have any choice in how you read the Yijing. Can you get to the simple without exhausting the complex? I can certainly recall having a very heavy-handed approach to the Yijing in years gone by, and that’s how I recognise it in others now. I don’t say that it’s ‘wrong’, I say it’s stodgy.

    As for what you say about ‘type of person’ — of course there is no fixed ‘personality’ at all, there is only the personality at the time of consulting the oracle. And, lets face it, one is only consulting the oracle in the first place because one doesn’t know, whether that’s through anger, confusion, arrogance, whatever. Perhaps the oracle will speak to you when you are confounded and earnest, but not when you are angry and demanding. The oracle talks to the junzi, not the xiaoren. Anyone can be either at any particular moment. Recognising it tends towards the junzi, being oblivious of it tends towards the xiaoren.

    As for ‘weekly readings’, it might be useful first to know what a ‘week’ actually is. I don’t see much point asking the Yijing to define the flavour of an artificially circumscribed and completely imagined ‘time period’, whatever that might be. You may as well ask for an oracle for the moment between the tenth and the eleventh chimes of a clock at midnight.

  22. Hilary Says:

    About the ‘self-fulfilling prophecy’ idea – I think in that sense most of us are making prophecies most of the time: expecting and looking out for something, and probably finding it. A reading makes that looking-out-for a bit more useful, IMO.

    About knowing what a week is – true, weekly readings are only going to be useful if it comes naturally to you to think in weeks. I have a lot of interactions that happen once a week, so it comes naturally to me to stop once a week and redirect my attention. A monthly reading would feel arbitrary to me in much the way you describe, but might make more sense for someone else.

  23. SJM Says:

    How do you know a weekly reading isn’t just applying blinkers? Perhaps you wish to apply blinkers, but I don’t see what is to be gained by directing the imagination to focus on relating everything that happens back to a single limiting image of ‘the situation’. How is ‘a week’ synonymous with ‘a situation’? For that matter, whose destiny is being considered? That of some separate ego fiction or that of the universe itself? And of course both are changing moment by moment, where is it you want your ‘weekly reading’ to stop, to refer to, or do you imagine all of the week must conform to the same pattern? How can it possibly be known what is being considered? There is no true context for a reading defined as applying to a pre-set time-period. ‘A week’ is not a context, it’s merely a grid for convenience. A mental structure for ordering information. It has no life, it is just a mind construct we imagine we can throw as a net over the equally imagined future. We carry on as if ‘a week’ was something real, as if time is indeed ‘passing’, when all of this is only an illusion plastered onto an eternal now. And in this way we remain in an artificial conventionality. Surely the object of consulting the Yijing is to see things as they are, not as we persist in imagining them to be.

  24. trojan Says:

    Thanks for explaining re the 10 years and results. I agree with you I think

    Re knowing the difference between the Oracle speaking and not understanding and the Oracle just not speaking (it seems pretty much to rely on how it feels, of being answered or not) its not always so clear cut which it is. Repetitive answers for example indicate to me the Oracle is speaking, its saying the same thing over and over , I just don’t get it. So for example by the 6th time I had exactly the same answer over a period of months I know its answering, don’t know precisely what its saying…or when I had thought I understood what it was saying but can’t have done because it continues to give the same answer to completely different questions, that is when I might need to employ the delving dissecting modes of thinking you spoke of as ‘dead fragments of poetry coaxed to be a living oracle’. That is it might be living but in not understanding I have to search and coaxing the dead fragments is one way to search.

    Re this

    “As for what you say about ‘type of person’ — of course there is no fixed ‘personality’ at all, there is only the personality at the time of consulting the oracle. And, lets face it, one is only consulting the oracle in the first place because one doesn’t know, whether that’s through anger, confusion, arrogance, whatever. Perhaps the oracle will speak to you when you are confounded and earnest, but not when you are angry and demanding. The oracle talks to the junzi, not the xiaoren”

    Personally I was suprised to find answers have been loud and clear when angry and demanding (especially 6.5 oft received when childishly angry with the oracle itself) confused and arrogant. Its one reason I completely dismiss the ideas of people who make out there’s a code of conduct with Yi along the lines of polite detachment. I suppose even in anger there is respect….anger acknowledges existence at least. I think when I feel it has not answered it is where there really has been no real need to ask, or its not the right time to ask and I’m asking out of habit or mindlessly. So I don’t think its manners, mood or posture to the oracle that determines if it might answer, just sincerity and the right time to be asking…perhaps

  25. Hilary Says:

    How do you know a weekly reading isn’t just applying blinkers?

    From experience, basically. I’ve lived both with an ongoing open reading (a ‘what I need to be aware of’ rather than a specific question), and I find that I’m less blinkered with such a reading than without. If I lived in a state of perfect and unbroken awareness of exactly what there is for me to see, the reading would have no role, I suppose.

    Perhaps you wish to apply blinkers, but I don’t see what is to be gained by directing the imagination to focus on relating everything that happens back to a single limiting image of ‘the situation’.

    I’ve never found a reading to be a limiting image.

    How is ‘a week’ synonymous with ‘a situation’? For that matter, whose destiny is being considered? That of some separate ego fiction or that of the universe itself? And of course both are changing moment by moment, where is it you want your ‘weekly reading’ to stop, to refer to, or do you imagine all of the week must conform to the same pattern?

    No, not all of the experiences of that week, just where I need to pay more attention. The pattern of the reading may arise just once; more often, it shows up in many different situations, each an image for the other.

    How can it possibly be known what is being considered? There is no true context for a reading defined as applying to a pre-set time-period. ‘A week’ is not a context, it’s merely a grid for convenience. A mental structure for ordering information. It has no life, it is just a mind construct we imagine we can throw as a net over the equally imagined future. We carry on as if ‘a week’ was something real, as if time is indeed ‘passing’, when all of this is only an illusion plastered onto an eternal now. And in this way we remain in an artificial conventionality. Surely the object of consulting the Yijing is to see things as they are, not as we persist in imagining them to be.

    I think what you’re saying of the ‘week’ could just as well be said of the sense of passing time in general: ‘an illusion plastered onto an eternal now’. Fair enough. Only time is also our human habitat, and the only medium in which change can happen.

    Also… the way we count and order our time is a convention, but one loaded with meaning: attempts to align with the sky, cultural roots, the cycles of individual experience. All this messy human stuff: where we live, where we have conversations with oracles.

    My weekly reading question is usually just, ‘What to be aware of now?’ The answer doesn’t disappear at the end of the week – it’s just that this is a natural moment for me to renew my attention.

  26. SJM Says:

    Hilary — Well of course time is the only medium in which change can happen, but the unchanging contains both time and change and it is the unchanging that the oracle actually speaks to. This is why, when there is the sensation of it really speaking, one’s ‘problems’ can often just disappear, because they never were, they were only imagined. You know it has spoken because you are, as it were, lifted out of time and change itself, reminded, you might say, of who you really are. Of course, most lose touch with this almost straight away, and are left with what they interpret as ‘advice’ that they are to ‘apply’. This is the mysterious functioning of the oracle. You are absolutely right, if you lived in perfect and unbroken awareness of reality a reading would have no role, although it is not a ‘state’, states are subject to change, it is simply your actual nature, beyond time, beyond change, beyond place.

    Trojan — What you see as anger may not be anger, what you see as respect may not be respect. Many people’s respectful attitudes are simply a disguise for the respect they feel should be accorded them, and so just cloaked arrogance. While anger is actually an expression of sincerity, misguided or deluded, but nonetheless, one cannot say anger is not sincere. Some people are never more sincere than when they are angry.

  27. SJM Says:

    Oh and Trojan, repetitive answers aren’t the oracle speaking, that’s you not listening.

  28. SJM Says:

    Sometimes one cannot hear the oracle, and so, because the circuit isn’t completed, it hasn’t spoken. I repeat that there is no such thing as the oracle speaking and you not hearing it. If you don’t hear it, it hasn’t spoken. This is a subtlety that is worth investigating. The Yijing is just a book, the oracle is something else.

  29. trojan Says:

    “Oh and Trojan, repetitive answers aren’t the oracle speaking, that’s you not listening.”

    yes but in order not to listen to something something must have been said. Thats what I meant.

  30. SJM Says:

    I’m asking you to appreciate a subtlety rather than a literalism. I may as well add that if a tree falls down in a forest and there’s no-one there to hear it it not only didn’t make a sound there is no tree and no forest.

  31. Gene Says:

    SJM

    I honor your work, and no that you have a good handle on the I Ching. But there ARE many levels to the I Ching, and everyone understands it on their own level. When it comes to these things I know what I am talking about. Therefore, daily or weekly readings or what have you have value.

    Also, I am well aware there is no timeline. However, for us in our state of illusion, do have a time line, and you brought it up yourself when you said something to the effect that after a period of time the I Ching no longer speaks to us.

    I have not published any books, nor do I expect to. However, I have been studying the I Ching for 35 years, and have a very, very good understanding of the various levels.

    There are innumerable uses for the I Ching, but the highest and best use is for personal growth, and that comes from understanding subtleties in the I Ching that do not come across until one has received all the lines innumerable times. The importance here is that we learn to understand what the I Ching is saying to us at the level we can understand it, while always looking for the deeper levels.

    Gene

  32. SJM Says:

    Gene

    It is easy to persuade ourselves that we believe things in our youth that, if we are particularly dull-minded, we still believe in our old age never having thought to challenge them. Sometimes there is comfort in the sterile but familiar view, and we lack the wit to listen.

    Understanding the Yiiing ‘at the level you can understand it’ is the only level there is. Saying there are many levels to the Yijing is an easy enough thing to assert, but it doesn’t mean anything. It is simply the scaffolding of the so-called progressive path supporting nothing whatsoever. So you have an impression, forged out of memory, of understanding the Yijing better now than before, and so you are at a higher level. If I were to work within your schema I would say that at a higher level still all levels are discarded, yet to you this is sacrilege, because that is the level you are at.Your faith tells you to disregard it and carry on as you have been, spouting the doctrine of levels.

  33. trojan Says:

    One thing Hilary forgot to mention re the possible potentials of a weekly reading is it can be fun. I tried it last week. So I had a cast to hold in a loose sort of a way in which anything could possibly be interpreted in the light of it. I didn’t have to make anything fit into it…it was just lieing there openly for things to fall into it, like snowflakes, if they wanted to. An open reading like that is a kind of reverse image of focused question reading. I think its worth playing with…and it is something that can be played with unlike the feeling we have when we ask Yi a question of grave importance to us. Playing, fun, is an important aspect of learning. Playing is for all young animals a way of practising to tackle the real challenges in adulthood. Not that I’m saying weekly readings are just playing but they can bring to us insights, understandings of an answer in what feels like a textured loosley woven way. I had the sense the weekly reading was like that, a loosley woven net or blanket to catch the bigger snowflakes/understandings so to speak. This reminds me of what SJM said here :

    “There is no true context for a reading defined as applying to a pre-set time-period. ‘A week’ is not a context, it’s merely a grid for convenience. A mental structure for ordering information. It has no life, it is just a mind construct ”

    A ‘grid of convenience’ might also be considered a kind of net to catch things with. We organise all information using mental schemas, it is not really something we can escape on a cognitive level…and of course to a large extent that is the level we appreciate our answers on. I agree we also know the truth of answers from the Oracle on other deeper levels not so reliant on language. Feeling levels where we know deep inside we have been answered. I don’t actually think when any person has that experience of the Oracle answering another person is in the position to declare whether they have been answered or not. Its a sacred private experience and can even happen, on occasion, to those who never have read any books and pick up some copy of the I Ching and cast for the first time. I don’t think anyone would go on and on consulting the I Ching for years if they had not at some time known the Oracle was speaking to them.

    It is magical given all there is to know and learn about the I Ching that still, now and then, complete beginners can and do hear the Oracle speaking loud and clear, to them, personally.

    I think we can learn about how Yi works, learn about our relationship with it through smaller questions….and of course when we do its regularly quite apparent humour and playfulness is alive and kicking in the intelligence that answers us however we choose to perceive it.

    So I’m thinking weekly readings might be another way of playing and learning. I’m not sure yet how much use they are but I think they can be fun . Fun as in getting Yi all tangled up in an entire week of lives. Even more fun if we have the opportunity of discussing this experience with others.

  34. SJM Says:

    “Not that I’m saying weekly readings are just playing…”

    – I think you are.

    Far be it from me to quote the Yijing to make a point, but I couldn’t help being reminded of this in Wilhelm:

    Youth in its inexperience is inclined at first to take everything carelessly and playfully. It must be shown the seriousness of life. A certain measure of taking oneself in hand, brought about by strict discipline, is a good thing. He who plays with life never amounts to anything.

    As for whether or not others are in a position to say whether oracle has answered you, this isn’t what I was saying at all. I was saying that you yourself should be in a position to know whether the oracle has answered you. Nothing to do with anyone else.

    I sometimes wonder how people can be so persuaded they grasp the oracle when they so easily misunderstand those who have been at pains to explain themselves clearly. They put words in the other’s mouth to suit what they already believe, rather than actually listening to something different that they could gain from. It might be regarded as play to point out such things, since the irony of ignorance is rather amusing.

    Indeed, as you say, the oracle can speak to someone who is using it for the first time, and, conversely, not speak to someone who has used it for years. So much for ‘higher levels’.

  35. Hilary Says:

    Trojan – love it. Exactly. Also, the idea of using the idea of a week as a kind of ‘net’ is probably exactly what I was trying to say.

  36. SJM Says:

    As for the idea of using the Yijing to cast a ‘net’. This is so antithetical to my understanding of the oracle. Trawling for answers is the worst possible use of it.

  37. Allan Says:

    Steve,

    An experiential note on the dragon meant for you:

    After its seemingly brief appearance to the world (within the normal timeframe for an unfolding of a Yijing prognostication or an omen), the dragon goes back into hiding.

    Thereafter the real dragon will reappear to leaven another Chinese generation. Destiny at work is something like this.

    Regards,

    Allan
    Allan´s last blog post ..Romance of ‘Friends come without blame’ in the Book of Changes

  38. SJM Says:

    Hello Allan,

    Yes, the world of change is cyclic. Inescapably so, and actually a form of perfection. Small cycles within larger cycles. But all cycles of change are within the formless and changeless, such that nothing actually matters since anything perceivable is phenomenal in nature, merely, if you will, the ‘sign’ of the noumenal. Destiny at work (prarabdha karma) is a fascinating mirage that one studies through observation in order to clearly distinguish the cyclic changes from the substratum of absolute unchangingness, so as to know the real in the midst of the unreal. While this presents as a process (‘levels’ etc), that is only its phenomenal aspect. It is actually self-evident right now, always, beyond time, space, and change. Realisation of it renders any change in its proper perspective, and one does not get drawn in to its merely illusory aspects. These illusory aspects are what one usually consults the Yijing about.

  39. Allan Says:

    Steve,

    At times, I find that when philosophers (whether ancient or modern) cannot explain a phenomenon because they cannot actually experienced it; they proffer new theories that sometimes fly in the face of ancient sages. A case of subterfuge, some may say. Xunzi claiming that Heaven has no moral will provides a good example. Therefore I rarely read the writings of ancient philosophers let alone modern ones. Whether we are learning Tao or studying the Book of Changes, we should be wary of being misled into bypaths and dark alleys especially by the so-called modern philosophers, sages, or scholars.

    Those able to see the mystical light, the changes of forms and emptiness, the mysterious gate(s), and various other phenomena already embedded in the Tao Te Ching and the Buddhist Sutras can tell that both Laozi and the Buddha are great ancient sages. Why learn from modern ones or philosophers?

    While I find the Bhagavad Gita interesting because the meditation therein is similar to the Circulation of the Light, I do not subscribe to Hindu thoughts. And destiny at work goes beyond the concept of ‘prarabdha karma’.

    Those who cultivate human nature (Xing) and fate (Ming) like the Holy Sages who wrote the Book of Changes would probably agree with me since through this cultivation they can change fate and return to destiny – the changing of fate and destiny is acknowledged to be very difficult but not impossible. When a lowly person finally becomes a sage, a Daoist immortal, or a Buddha, destiny is at work.

    Destiny is also at work when divinities and the Yijing both tell you to leaven another generation.
    Allan´s last blog post ..Romance of ‘Friends come without blame’ in the Book of Changes

  40. SJM Says:

    Allan,

    The notion of ‘prarabdha karma’ is a label for the idea that even after ‘enlightenment’, even after the formlessness behind forms is realised, still the form must play out as a given lot. The circumstances continue to unfold even though one is free of them, in other words. The existence of this notion is actually evidence of a high and great realisation, but in itself it can be discarded, since a name is just a name. I merely used it because there is no name of equivalent precision in Chinese philosophy that I know of. But, since I am not seeking precision rather only the activation of insight as a higher form of the communication of meaning, I am always happy to discard concepts that others are prejudiced against because they do not subscribe to this system or that. Naturally the reversion to plain words necessitates an explanation of the phrase that has been rejected as ‘lower’ even though it has not been understood or perhaps has been substituted for something lesser that one imagines one does understand.

    The so-called ‘path’ is both a path and no-path. Fate is merely what is the case, and there is no distinction in Chinese philosophy between fate and destiny even though in English we have a gut instinct that there is a difference, since in Chinese they are both the same word (ming), which also points to the mandate of heaven. But heaven is after the Dao, and so what we call ‘destiny’ is an appearance or form of the Dao but not the Dao, since the Dao has no command nor appeases no destiny. But nonetheless it plays out as if with a narrative to inform it, and it is this that is regarded as the will of heaven by the junzi, but the sage (shengren) does not follow the will of heaven, the sage follows only the Dao. You will know of course from Daodejing 25 that heaven follows the Dao.

    What you call ‘destiny at work’ is the gravel trail of signs, the hearing of the footsteps. Experience of this kind of manifestation still clings to the notion of ‘higher’, self-evidently the lack of the realisation that ‘there is no lower’. It is what I would call dressing it up, since the words of the sage are ultimately simple and destiny, such as it is, is transcended in the very manifestation of it. This is ‘destiny at work’, not any results or signs one may accrue as a pilgrim on the way of it. If you grasp this, you need have no concern about ‘leavening another generation’, because everything is already done and any role one may play is simply the unfolding of that at every moment. It is easy to leave the Dao and become concerned with second-guessing heaven. Ultimately, there is no fate or destiny to change. The appearance of returning to it is the realisation one never left it. ‘Cultivation’ is merely effort to approach the effortless.

  41. SJM Says:

    An error of wording above. Substitute ‘and’ for ‘nor’ in: ‘since the Dao has no command nor appeases no destiny’.

  42. Allan Says:

    Steve,

    It depends on what people meant by ‘enlightenment’. If ‘enlightenment’ is taken to mean the attaining of Tao, then the concept of ‘praradha karma’ as you have described no longer applies. It also does not apply to those who have reached the root of Heaven and Earth (Tao Te Ching 6) or those who have transcended fate – and therefore no longer bound by time and space – and returning to destiny (Tao Te Ching 16). Their destination is the Origin (Yuan) – the opening word of the Zhouyi. Those who have already formed a tri-union with Heaven and Earth (The Great Learning) have a choice, freewill as some say, to accept or reject works that come their way, therefore transcending the ‘praradha karma’ concept which actually is nothing new since Lu Dongbin had already mentioned it in the Secret of the Golden Flower several centuries ago. Coining a new phrase for karma may sound hip to followers.

    It could be foolhardy for any Daoist, Confucian, or Buddhist who have witnessed firsthand the viciousness and vindictiveness of Hindu deities to subscribe to Hindu thoughts. The punishments issued by Heaven, Daoist deities and celestial immortals, and Buddhas in comparison are relatively mild and merciful.

    Just like the word ‘enlightment’, Ming’ also contains several connotations. ‘Ming’ could mean life and death (fate) governed by Heaven; it could mean the order or will of Heaven; it could mean destiny (as explained in the first paragraph); and it could mean as you have correctly indicated the Mandate of Heaven – which also is destiny at work. Since the one destined to be emperor of China would not know it until it actually happens. A very good example is that of Xiang Yu and Liu Bang. (Records of the Grand Historian)
    The Junzi who happened to know the Mandate of Heaven (Tian Ming) will stand in awe of the great sage, Confucius.

    Dao is so vast and minute that almost any description of it will invariably hit the mark. We can argue over the concept of Dao till kingdom come and no one will be any wiser. The more we know about Dao, the less we really know. That is why the Dao is great, and profound. And the one who knows do not speak since one knows nothing much.
    Allan´s last blog post ..Romance of ‘Friends come without blame’ in the Book of Changes

  43. Allan Says:

    It is time to revert to the art and science of Yijing divination relevant to this article of Hilary. To consult the Book of Changes for weekly hexagrams could be considered frivolous. Since Yijing prognostications take time to unfold. Diviners, no matter how experienced, would be easily confused by the overlapping unfolding of events or by events that had yet-to-unfold. Furthermore if we do not know whether or not the Yijing has actually spoken, the consultation would be an exercise in futility.

    If the Book of Changes has actually spoken, any skilled interpreter would see the prognostication clear as day, no matter if he or she is oceans apart from the diviner or from different eras. That constitutes the science in divination since the interpretation of the Yijing prognostication; omen or prophecy; can be tested and the results repeated by an equally skilled interpreter.

    Therefore the claim that any diviner who can see any Yijing prognostication clear as day as soon as it is casted is doing it wrong holds no water.

    The other claim of the reading supposedly confusing diviners first is arguable at best. Since deep pondering is required for actual prognostications on important questions or on omens. (Also see previous comments on the first claim) Deep pondering is one of the ways to improve upon our Yijing interpretation skills.

    Cheerio!
    Allan´s last blog post ..Romance of ‘Friends come without blame’ in the Book of Changes

  44. SJM Says:

    Allan,

    Well, I don’t particularly use the term ‘enlightenment’, I used it merely because you mentioned the Buddha, so I presumed you had a rough idea. You can call it ‘attaining the Dao’ if you wish, but this notion of ‘attainment’ is in itself quite misleading, since there is nothing to attain. You don’t ‘attain the Dao’, you are the Dao.

    There are many words and ideas one could argue about endlessly. ‘The root of heaven and earth’ is another, as is ‘Origin’ (in the context of the Zhouyi it is doubtful that ‘yuan’ it has the kind of high-blown meaning it later accrued). The point is not to argue about words, but to see what they refer to. If one is arguing about words only, one may as well forget all of it and revert to the wordless transmission.

    As for Hindu deities, who said anything about deities or even Hinduism? This, as I said, is just a prejudice against an expression because of connotations held in regard to it. A display of prejudice against a word, expression, or system of thought adds nothing to the discussion, it simply shows that a simplistic meaning has been accorded it in line with that prejudice, and no further thought has been given in the light of an explanation of its meaning.I think you’ll find that Lu Dongbin didn’t have anything to say about this idea. If I simply meant ‘karma’ then I would have used the word ‘karma’ on its own. But as that word has such a range of understandings, mostly nonsense, I used what I regard as a precise term, which you can trouble yourself to understand or not, but I don’t see much point in writing it off as some kind of hip new coinage as clearly it is not.

    You say:

    If ‘enlightenment’ is taken to mean the attaining of Tao, then the concept of ‘praradha karma’ as you have described no longer applies.

    Well it is obvious here that, despite my explanation, you haven’t grasped what I’m talking about, because actually the whole point of ‘prarabdha karma’ is that it is what does still apply in the wake of ‘enlightenment’ or ‘attaining the Dao’, to use those inexact expressions. You may have some fanciful notion that when one has ‘attained the Dao’ one floats off to Penglai or mounts a stork and flies into the clouds but the reality of it is that, despite such ‘attainment’, the traces of the world and one’s given lot still play themselves out. This is what the phrase refers to in the Vedas.

    Some people hold that destiny is somehow a transcendence of fate. Mencius said that the one who understood destiny didn’t stand under a wall on the brink of collapse, thus implying that one can through wisdom avoid the bad fate of being crushed to death and supplant it with the good destiny of being somewhere else when that happens. But the plain truth is that the force that places one under the wall on the brink of collapse is the same force that places one elsewhere, and to imagine there is something you can do about that is merely allocating oneself a personal will in opposition to the apparent will of the entire manifestation, or what would be called the will of heaven. It is merely a human-centric sentimentality that sees in worldly events a divine plan. In actuality everything phenomenal in nature, which is literally everything, is treated as a straw dog, as Laozi said. Whereas the Dao is unchanging and eternal and has no need of any of these ideas.

  45. Allan Says:

    Steve,

    If I knew that I had to spend more time here than writing an article on why dragons in the Qian Hexagram hide or appear and of their timing, I would rather have written the article instead of informing you about it. And of which you have lightly discarded.

    If the Wikipedia article is correct on ‘praradha karma’ and on how it can be transcended according to the Hindu sages and philosophers, my given examples remain apt.

    Whether or not people know their fate, tempting fate can lead to untoward incidents as indicated by Mencius.

    While Dao is unchanging as you say, it pervades or recesses all under Heaven according to Laozi, Confucius, and Mencius in their respective writings. That is why they are ancient sages since truths withstand the passage of time.

    By your indication that “You don’t ‘attain the Dao’, you are the Dao”, it shows your level of knowing Heaven and the Dao. Firstly ‘attaining Dao become immortal’ or ‘attaining Dao become Buddha’ is a traditional Chinese saying and whereby non-being emerges to emptiness (Xu) thus ‘the rays of light shooting out of the Buddha’s head’ upon his enlightenment.

    Secondly, you have the last say by answering my question:

    “If immortals or Buddhas are Dao as you have indicated and if any of these divinities have transgressed the laws of Heaven, how can Heaven which follows Dao ever punish the culprits who are supposedly Dao?”

    Bye.
    Allan´s last blog post ..Romance of ‘Friends come without blame’ in the Book of Changes

  46. SJM Says:

    Allan,

    Your question involves far too many assumptions to address to a person in a rush, so I’ll let you get back to your business.

    Thank you for stopping by to give me a message about dragons appearing and hiding. I am sorry you feel I have not given it the earnest consideration you think it merited. I’m afraid I stopped playing ‘Sage comes down from the mountain’ twenty years ago.

    I don’t think reading a Wikipedia article is a substitute for reading the Classics.

  47. Hilary Says:

    Hi Allan,

    The conversation’s moved on since your comment about weekly readings, so let me just quote it in full…

    It is time to revert to the art and science of Yijing divination relevant to this article of Hilary. To consult the Book of Changes for weekly hexagrams could be considered frivolous. Since Yijing prognostications take time to unfold. Diviners, no matter how experienced, would be easily confused by the overlapping unfolding of events or by events that had yet-to-unfold. Furthermore if we do not know whether or not the Yijing has actually spoken, the consultation would be an exercise in futility.

    If the Book of Changes has actually spoken, any skilled interpreter would see the prognostication clear as day, no matter if he or she is oceans apart from the diviner or from different eras. That constitutes the science in divination since the interpretation of the Yijing prognostication; omen or prophecy; can be tested and the results repeated by an equally skilled interpreter.

    Therefore the claim that any diviner who can see any Yijing prognostication clear as day as soon as it is casted is doing it wrong holds no water.

    The other claim of the reading supposedly confusing diviners first is arguable at best. Since deep pondering is required for actual prognostications on important questions or on omens. (Also see previous comments on the first claim) Deep pondering is one of the ways to improve upon our Yijing interpretation skills.

    Cheerio!

    I get the impression you’re thinking of a reading as a prognostication, omen or prophecy. That’s not the kind of reading I had in mind. Of course, a reading for the week like any other reading could be predictive, but that’s not the primary intention I have in casting one. I can’t see any benefit to asking for a weekly prediction… which may be what you meant by calling the idea ‘frivolous’.

    Different people have different approaches, and place value on different experiences or kinds of insight. Big oracle.

  48. Allan Says:

    Steve,

    Take your time to answer the question.

    Hilary,

    Each to our own is fine in our private practices.

    However, the more experienced Yi aficionados may have to be more circumspect when recommending uncommon practices or setting Yijing rules in public or in forums.

    It could be unjust or unrighteous if the recommended practice(s) or the set of rules mislead less knowledgeable students of the Book of Changes. These come from Yi aficionados, including those with claimed four decades or more of Yi studies, not knowing but yet think they know without the requisite extended experience or relevant exposure.

    The integrity of your forum has been so compromised for the past year or two if you have not noticed. (You have to do your own homework and probably learn from there.) If I decide to delete my blog’s recommended link to your forum, at least you know in advance the reason for such deletion.

    If Yijing aficionados after a lifetime study of the Book of Changes still do not understand and practise the Way of Man, they will not reach the depths of humanity and are therefore just reading ‘dead books’.

    Bye.
    Allan´s last blog post ..Romance of ‘Friends come without blame’ in the Book of Changes

  49. Hilary Says:

    Well… as you know, my forum doesn’t have a ‘set of rules’ for readings; it’s just a community of people sharing experiences and ideas. From time to time someone may want to elevate their ideas to the status of rules… which is only human nature, surely. The integrity of the forum lies in the honesty of its members, that’s all.

  50. SJM Says:

    Allan,

    It appears heaven has saved you from my answer by losing it on pressing the ‘Submit Comment’ button. That I can’t be bothered to recreate it reminds me of the king that allowed those animals who escaped his nets on three sides to remain free on the fourth.

  51. Allan Says:

    Steve and Hilary,

    This will be my last comment.

    Something relevant to our respective discussions for your reading pleasure (extracts from my latest article – Getting to know Heaven):

    “The mysterious workings of Heaven and Tao are certainly not easy to comprehend until experienced. We should know our own limitations and be circumspect of what we say or do in public regarding ancient Yijing and Tao practices, lest we inadvertently offend Heaven.

    Good deeds seemed unrewarded and evil deeds seemed unpunished yet Heaven’s and/or divinities’ rewards and punishments often manifest for those who in the know. Those who know this phenomenon down the ages based on what they have taught include Laozi, Confucius, the Buddha, and Mencius.”

    Regards,
    Allan´s last blog post ..Getting to know Heaven

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