What will the I Ching do?

It won't tell you what to do

The danger with any form of divination is that the user starts to consult it for every decision, or tries to get it to take the responsibility of decision away from them. The I Ching gives that responsibility straight back! 'If you have no place to go,' it might say, 'it's fortunate to come back. If you have a direction to go, it's fortunate to set out at daybreak.' Or 'the first consultation is informative; the second and third create confusion.' In its kindly but decidedly blunt way, the I Ching cares for the people who use it.

And so one thing you will not find in the I Ching is an ideology or set of fixed rules for behaviour. Its answers are far too personal and specific for that. They show you exactly what kind of situation your question refers to: what its essence is, what is expressed in it, how the energy moves through it. Some courses of action would accord better with the nature of the moment, and hence be more successful, than others.

It will show you how to move in harmony with the time

This is the idea at the core of Taoism. It hardly seems revolutionary, but in fact it is quite different from how we usually live, often enslaved by habit that we are not even aware of, repeating old behaviours that were appropriate to some entirely different time and place, trapped in outdated views of our situation. If we can follow what fits with the time, resting when it is time to, then we move on more smoothly and strongly, borne along by natural forces rather than fighting against them.

It won't predict a pre-ordained future

The I Ching reveals the truth about the present. It does not predict an inevitable future that you can only await helplessly, for the very good reason that no such thing exists! We are free individuals, so neither the I Ching nor any power on earth can predict what we'll decide before we decide it. The assumption behind using the I Ching is that your choices have the power to make a real difference in your own life and other people's.

It will help you meet that future well-prepared

What the I Ching does do - and this is an enormous help - is to tell you what challenges and opportunities you are likely to face if you take a particular path, and how you can negotiate the obstacles you meet. This is the opposite of 'fortune telling'. Being told what will happen, as if your own choices had nothing to do with the outcome, is deeply disempowering. The I Ching tells you what effects their choices will have, and helps you to develop strategies to achieve your goals.

In the I Ching's own words

I once asked the I Ching itself: 'what is the basic human need that you answer?'. It gave Hexagram 49, Radical Change, changing to Hexagram 48, the Well - yet again, the I Ching's favourite image for itself. Radical Change means revolution, the old order overthrown as a snake sheds its skin. Some would say that this is a good description of modern society (a New Age?) - but anyone who has lived through significant change in their own life will surely recognise that sense of everything turning inside out. The I Ching sets this in context:

'The Well: moving the city, the well does not move
No loss, no gain, going, coming - the well is…'

Our way of life has changed beyond recognition, countless generations have come and gone and drawn water, and the ever-present Well of the I Ching still lets us reach the limitless Source.

There are three moving lines in this answer, showing exactly what the I Ching makes possible. 'Bound with yellow cow-hide', it holds the questioner fast to the realities of her situation. 'Your own day, so change it! Set forth, good fortune, no mistake.' We can make changes that work, and...

'Regrets vanish, there is sincerity and confidence. Change destiny. Good fortune.' Renew the 'orders from above'; challenge who or what is running your life. Change destiny.

Next: what can you achieve with the I Ching?>>