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I Ching with Clarity

For some 3,000 years, people have turned to the I Ching, the Book of Changes, to help them uncover the meaning of their experience, to bring their actions into harmony with their underlying purpose, and above all to build a foundation of confident awareness for their choices.

Down the millennia, as the I Ching tradition has grown richer and deeper, the things we consult about may have changed a little, but the moment of consultation is much the same. These are the times when you’re turning in circles, hemmed in and frustrated by all the things you can’t see or don’t understand. You can think it over (and over, and over); you can ‘journal’ it; you can gather opinions.

But how can you have confidence in choosing a way to go, if you can’t quite be sure of seeing where you are?

Only understand where you are now, and you rediscover your power to make changes. This is the heart of I Ching divination. Once you can truly see into the present moment, all its possibilities open out before you – and you are free to create your future.

What is the I Ching?

The I Ching (or Yijing) is an oracle book: it speaks to you. You can call on its help with any question you have: issues with relationships of all kinds, ways to attain your personal goals, the outcomes of different choices for a key decision. It grounds you in present reality, encourages you to grow, and nurtures your self-knowledge. When things aren’t working, it opens up a space for you to get ‘off the ride’, out of the rut, and choose your own direction. And above all, it’s a wide-open, free-flowing channel for truth.

For I Ching beginners

How do you want to get started?

There are two different ways most people first meet the I Ching. There’s,

‘I’m fascinated by this ancient book and I want to learn all about it,’

and there’s,

‘I need help now with this thing (so I’ll learn whatever I need to know to get help with The Thing).’

Learning about the I Ching, or learning from the I Ching?

In the end, these two ways aren’t actually different. It isn’t possible to do one without the other, and people end up wanting both: after your first reading, your curiosity will probably be aroused – and you’ll draw on Yi’s help more as your knowledge of it grows.

But… they are different at the beginning:

Get the I Ching’s help:

(There’s help at hand to explain how it works.)

If you’d like my help, have a look at the I Ching reading services.

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Hello, and thank you for visiting!

I’m Hilary – I work as an I Ching diviner and teacher, and I’m the author of I Ching: Walking your path, creating your future.

I hope you enjoy the site and find what you’re looking for here – do contact me with any comments or questions.

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Warm wishes,

Hilary Barrett


55, Abundance, as relating hexagram

Abundance, the citadel

Hexagram 55 is Feng, Abundance - which is also the name of the Zhou interim, military capital city where they prepared, gathered allies and resources and watched the heavens for signs of their mandate to overthrow the Shang dynasty. So its themes include having an abundance of resources and also an abundance of demands made on you - being at the centre of it all.

'Abundance [Feng], creating success.
The king is present to it.
Do not mourn. A fitting sacrifice at noon.'

The king (or the querent) is called on to be present, take command, and translate the signs of heaven's mandate into action on the ground. The 'fitting sacrifice' is most likely one made to the earth before marching out.

So this is crunch time - where the rubber meets the road. You can see the same message in the hexagram's trigram dynamics: fire and light, clear vision, on the inside, translating outward into thunder, swift action, on the outside, setting it all in motion.

As a relating hexagram

How does this feel as a relating hexagram in readings? I ran a 'cast history search' for 55 relating (this post, amongst others, is brought to you by the Resonance Journal) and found a pattern of asking myself, 'Who's in charge here, anyway?' In charge of my inner realm, that is - my choices, my responsibility - whether or not I had any power to influence the outcome.

55 came up as relating hexagram again and again when I was asking about a big, long-term goal where I had an overwhelming, fierce sense of purpose. A representative quote: "I am at the centre, I have my resources here, and no-one else is going to do this. Do not mourn, get the **!@! on with it."

It also showed up three times where I was asking about reading for someone else (usually a 'what could I give x if I read for them?' question, one I sometimes ask when I can't read for everyone who applied and need to choose whom I can best help). I think that's partly because I would be gathering in all my resources and concentrating, and also because part of a diviner's work is 'joining heaven and earth' by helping the querent see where the reading applies and what change it creates.

Themes and patterns

I've been looking through all the single line changes to 55, and also all the two-line changes, in search of patterns. Here are some patterns I found...

Insight in motion

The trigrams of 55 show inner light becoming outer action. As the Tuanzhuan puts it,

'Clarity in movement, hence abundance.'


This often means that when 55 is relating hexagram, the moving lines carry the insight of the primary hexagram through into action. Shock, infused with Abundance, can wake you up and set you straight:

'Shock revives, revives.
Shock moves without blunder.'

Hexagram 51, line 3

Brightness Hiding at Feng will set out on a campaign to grasp and draw out the inner light:

'Entering into the left belly,
Catching the heart of brightness hidden
And going out through the gate from the courtyard.'

Hexagram 36, line 4

This movement tends to come with incisive presence of mind, independence and autonomy -

'Great person transforms like a tiger.
Even before the augury, there is truth and confidence.'

Hexagram 49, line 5

‘The king uses this to march out,
There are honours.
He executes the chief - the captives are not so ugly.
Not a mistake.’

Hexagram 30, line 6

Actually, in my experience 34.2 zhi (changing to) 55 has that same quality, even though the line doesn't mention it.

Practicalities and ideals

When there are two changing lines to make the connection with Abundance, you can see more clearly how insight combines with action. There will often be one line about practical, 'boots on the ground' implementation, and one invoking the higher perspective, confidence - and perhaps the relationship with heaven, too.

For instance...

'A great chariot to carry loads.
With a direction to go, no mistake.'
'From heaven comes help and protection.
Good fortune.
Nothing that does not bear fruit.'

Hexagram 14, lines 2 and 6

...14.2.6, where the cart wheels meet the road with the help and protection of heaven. 63.4.5 is similar:

'The leaks are plugged with clothes of silk
For the whole day, on guard.'
'The neighbour in the East slaughters oxen.
Not like the Western neighbour's summer offering,
Truly accepting their blessing.'

Hexagram 63, lines 4 and 5

There's one line about the practicalities of making progress, one about a true and confident relationship with heaven. Or look at...

'Embracing emptiness.
Use this to cross the river.
Not distancing or leaving behind,
Friends disappear.
Gaining honour, moving to the centre.'
'Fluttering, fluttering.
Not rich in your neighbours.
Not on guard against truth and confidence.'

Hexagram 11, lines 2 and 4


'Repeated returning.
No mistake.'
‘Walking in the centre, returning alone.’

Hexagram 24, lines 3 and 4

One line is very much 'on the road' (or in the river); the other needs to find its confidence and commit to independent action.

Translating vision into action doesn't, of course, always work out so well - more on that in a moment...

Do not mourn

Especially if the primary hexagram might be reluctant to act, lines changing to 55 can be full of encouragement to get past the obstacles. Hexagrams 36 and 51 are good examples: the situation inspires fear, but the response (36.4, 51.3) is clear, focussed action.

More generally, I think 55 relating can have a hint of 'Stop faffing about.' Stop worrying. Stop mourning - which includes the way we can mourn our failures in advance, to explain why we'd better not try.

'Embracing emptiness.
Use this to cross the river.
Not distancing or leaving behind,
Friends disappear.
Gaining honour, moving to the centre.'
'Fluttering, fluttering.
Not rich in your neighbours.
Not on guard against truth and confidence.'

Hexagram 11, lines 2 and 4

Cross the river, accept the loss, make the leap of faith, join the Flow.


‘People in harmony first cry out and weep, and then they laugh.
Great leaders can bring them together.’
‘People in harmony at the outskirts altar.
No regrets.’

Hexagram 13, lines 5 and 6

Travel on through the shared emotions and out beyond the walls to the outskirts altar - a story in two lines very reminiscent of...

'Entering into the left belly,
Catching the heart of brightness hidden
And going out through the gate from the courtyard.'

Hexagram 36, line 4

When abundance is too much

Abundance means there is a lot going on, a lot to handle. Its nuclear hexagram is 28, Great Exceeding, where the ridgepole is starting to buckle under the weight. And sometimes, 55 relating is just too much.

'Bird in flight means a pitfall.'

Hexagram 62, line 1

We know from the Oracle of 62 that the bird would do better to stay low. If you've ever wondered why, this (which Stephen King described as the first horror movie he ever saw) explains a lot:

So translating your awareness into immediate action may not be such a good idea.

(We don't always do this for the same reasons as the pheasant: there can be too much pressure, or too strong a sense of duty, or just a tendency to take on too much.)

In the two-line changes, there's 32.1.2 to 55 - infusing the patterns of your daily round with a deep sense of mission and responsibility:

'Deep into lasting.
Constancy, pitfall.
No direction bears fruit.'
'Regrets vanish.'

Hexagram 32, lines 1 and 2

Line 1 is altogether too committed ('I'm the kind of person who always...'), but perhaps line 2 could leave that behind, and we could move on from bull-headedness (line 1 zhi 34) to a more nimble practicality (line 2 zhi 62).

56.1.6, on the other hand, is an unmitigated disaster:

'The traveller - fragmented and bitty,
Chops up his place and courts disaster.'
'The bird burns its nest.
Travelling people first laugh, afterwards cry out and weep.
Lose cattle in Yi.

Hexagram 56, lines 1 and 6

That reads almost as a parody of 55's directed action and independent thought.

There is another possible reaction to Abundant overload: avoidance. Insight doesn't always become motion. 21.3.6 tells a story:

'Biting into dried meat,
Coming on poison.
Small shame,
No mistake.'
'Shouldering a cangue so your ears disappear.

Hexagram 21, lines 3 and 6

I bit in with purpose, I did not like what I found, and now I can't take quite so much reality.

And 16.1.3 seems to be the perfect exception to the 'insight and motion' pattern:

'Enthusiasm calling out,
'Enthusiasm gazing upward, regret.
Procrastination brings regret.'

Hexagram 16, lines 1 and 3

Honestly, this was the most perplexing of the line combinations I looked at. Whatever happened to not mourning, becoming present, marching out, taking responsibility and getting on with it? All exactly what doesn't happen in these lines.

Maybe... it’s the very specific quality of Hexagram 16 that is activated and set in motion: anticipating, imagining and preparing. So all the energy is directed into calling out and gazing upward, and none of it into doing anything. 'This is big! Am I ready? Have I got the feudal lords I need? How can I tell? Hello? Anyone?' - and off I go to look up some more things, consult some more experts, just to make sure, because this is important. In other words, this could be another reaction to the overwhelming nature of Abundance.

I Ching Community discussion

What to expect in a relationship

A new listener's reading for this podcast episode:

'What to expect in this relationship?'

And Yi's answer -

changing to

Hexagram 41, Decreasing, changing to 26, Great Tending (or Taming or Nurturing...), with changing line 3:

'Three people walking,
Hence decreased by one person.
One person walking,
Hence gains a friend.'

Hexagram 41, line 3

Who are the people walking, and what could this be about?

(If you'd like some more listening/reading, here's an earlier episode that also started with Hexagram 41, and here's a post about how mountain works as outer trigram.)


When I was preparing for our latest Well Gathering on the subject of Hexagram 6, I posted the above image to Facebook and invited people to guess the hexagram.

The first guess posted was Hexagram 38 - which is completely understandable, but it got me thinking...

The muddle

Both hexagrams are about not agreeing, one way or another. If you browse through Bradford Hatcher's list of hexagram translations, the distinction doesn't become quite as clear as you might like:

Hexagram 6 is called conflict, divisive conflict, lawsuit, contention, dispute, arguing...
Hexagram 38 is called opposition/ opposing, division, estrangement, alienation, and - yes - conflict.

In practice, experience says that both hexagrams can describe both outer and inner conditions: disagreeing with others, or finding yourself 'in two minds'.

Turning to the Zagua, the contrasts between hexagrams - always a good Wing for pithy definitions - we learn that

‘Waiting means not progressing, Arguing means not connecting.’

Zagua, Hexagrams 5 and 6


'Opposing means outside. People in the Home means inside.'

Zagua, Hexagrams 37 and 38.

And again, there seems to be some overlap. The people inside the home are surely more connected than the one outside. In practice, the same situation might well be described by both hexagrams at once. (The two hexagrams are only two lines apart, after all, so plenty of readings do involve both - if you're a Clarity member, you can use the I Ching Community's hexagram search to find some!)


The words

Digging a bit deeper into the names of the hexagrams, their differences start to become clearer:

Song 訟 means to dispute, argue, bring a case before a judge, lodge a complaint, contest in court to recover one's goods - and to reproach oneself with one's own faults. The ancient form of the character shows it is about speaking.

Kui 睽 means opposing, rebellion, foreign, contrary, discordant, divergent, and also glaring, staring and squinting. It's apparent from the ancient character that this is about seeing.

The oracle text of Arguing has more to say, arranged like legal arguments in opposing pairs: good fortune vs pitfall, fruitful vs fruitless:

There is truth and confidence, blocked.
Vigilant and centred, good fortune. Ending, pitfall.
Fruitful to see great people,
Fruitless to cross the great river.'

Hexagram 6, the Oracle

Opposing is simpler:

Small works, good fortune.'

Hexagram 38, the Oracle

Perhaps there's some similarity in the advice: by sticking to small works, or by staying at the centre, you avoid going to extremes and escalating disagreement. But you can start to see the difference, too: Opposing can get started on the small stuff and find good fortune directly, and the warning ('don't make this bigger!') is only implicit. When Arguing, you need to be wide awake, very careful, and seek out a higher perspective before you start anything.

The pictures

compared to

Both hexagrams' trigram pictures show water below, sinking down and away from a more celestial, upward-oriented outer trigram. In Arguing, the moving waters are in turmoil below heaven (something I can't help associating with the chaos of the Flood, caused - according to one Chinese myth - by the rage of Gong Gong when he lost the struggle to become ruler). In Opposing, a distant sun is reflected in the surface of the lake (more on that here).

Neither shows an easy, spontaneous relationship -

'Heaven joins with stream: contradictory movements. Arguing.
A noble one, starting work, plans how to begin.'

Hexagram 6, the Image

‘Fire above, lake below. Opposing.
A noble one is in harmony and yet different.’

Hexagram 38, the Image

The noble one in both of these hexagrams needs to think independently, and pay some attention to where she stands in relation to the status quo. But the two situations are also quite different: one calls for you to take the initiative, the other for some fine balancing of relationships.

Imaginary readings

"What to expect if I commit to this relationship?"

Arguing, or Opposing. Neither of those would be exactly encouraging as an unchanging reading would it?

Arguing's relationship is not going to get anywhere without seeing a relationship counsellor, though they might have a reasonable chance if they do. I'd advise this imaginary querent not to take any decisions without doing that first. (No, moving in with him is not going to create the rapport you crave!)

Hexagram 38? You are chalk and cheese, Mars and Venus; you are never going to see eye to eye. This doesn't necessarily mean you will fight all the time, though, or hate one another's company. If you want to be seen, understood and comfortable together, you'll be disappointed. Still, at least you won't be bored.

What if your reading asked for advice? Probably neither hexagram encourages you to argue your corner. If I ask what to do and receive Hexagram 6, I don't normally assume I'm being advised to Argue. It works more like 18, or 12, as scene-setting: the issue here is a state of corruption, or stasis, or conflict, and now, here's what you can do about it...

"What best to do about this conflict at work?"

6 - find a mediator, be flexible...
38 - hm, are you sure you belong in this job, with these people?

The main difference...

The main difference between Hexagrams 6 and 38 is that Arguing is something we do. State your case, fight your corner, plan how to begin when starting work. Heaven and stream are moving in contradictory directions; fire and lake simply are above and below. Hexagram 38 is more like what - or where - we are, and how the world looks to us from there. Like the Zagua said -

'Opposing means outside. People in the Home means inside.'

‘Waiting means not progressing, Arguing means not connecting.’

So if the two fighting cats are Arguing, what image could I have chosen for Hexagram 38? Maybe this one?

Cat meets dog: the dog play-bows, the cat arches its back.

This might be the beginning of a beautiful friendship, or then again it also might not.

Arguing is something we can do - and we can also stop doing it. There may be times when you feel you are absolutely obliged to argue, and if you happened to cast Hexagram 6 with the 5th line moving then you might even be right. But generally, you have the option of surrendering: of giving up arguing, and perhaps focussing on something more important. Reading through the moving lines of Hexagram 6, almost all of them indicate the argument is unwinnable, or not permanently winnable, and there may well be something much more important you could be concentrating on instead.

Opposing is more like who we are, or where we come from - the 'On what planet does that make any sense?' kind of disagreement. You can be kinder to your favourite Martian or Venusian, even do your utmost to understand their point of view, but you can't change your planet of origin. In the moving lines of Hexagram 38, there's often value in bridging the gulf, rather than avoiding it.

Each hexagram has a different kind of creative potential: Hexagram 38 might invent the iPod; Hexagram 6 might start a revolution.

'Drinking and eating naturally mean Arguing,' says the Sequence from 5 into 6. If we're Arguing, I want the last burger, and so do you. We can't have much of a conversation about that, so we'd better hope the host will take the decision for us, split it in half, or remind us that there is plenty of dessert to come so neither of us will starve, or something. If we're Opposed, one of us is probably a vegan, so the burger doesn't even look like food. We might get into a bitter argument, each trying to justify our way of living, neither budging an inch - or we might even each find our world enriched by containing such different points of view.

I Ching Community discussion

Happy 24th birthday Clarity, that is, and all its members. I registered the domain name '' on 26th April 2000, so I reckon this is our birthday.

So for our 24th, I commissioned an upgrade to the Hexagram Search feature of the I Ching Community, and that's just gone live today. As you will see (provided you're logged in - you need to be a member to access this), the results now display threads with the exact reading you searched for first: for instance, if you search for 30.2.5 to 1 you'll see readings with only lines 2 and 5 changing at the top of the page. Then if you keep scrolling down, you'll find the broader sweep of answers, with lines 2 or 5 included among others.

Also, details about the thread have been added to the results, so you can see before you click through how many replies there are and who posted.

Enjoy, and many happy returns!

By the way, did you see the video I made a few years ago for our 21st? A cinematic masterpiece, I maintain...

I Ching Community discussion

Creating peace through music


"What advice can be offered for more effectively providing meditative peace and healing through playing Shakuhachi flute music?"

Answer: Great Vigour in Flow.

changing to

A Yeeky thing I mentioned during this reading: the idea of a dabagua, or 'big trigram' hexagram. If you take the trigram dui, lake...


...and double each of its lines individually, in turn - from yang, yang, yin to yang+yang, yang+yang, yin+yin - then you have Hexagram 34:

In each hexagram formed this way - I mentioned this once before when I was writing about Hexagram 33 - it can help to think of it as a 'giant trigram' - and a giant lake seemed especially apt for a musician.

You can find Ron's music at

Alberto Ramon, 'Conversations with the I Ching'

Alberto Ramon has been developing his approach to Yijing readings for many years now, and recently published a new book: Conversations with the I Ching. Its subtitle: 'An intuitive approach to understanding the answers, with 85 explained readings.' I'm finding it a worthwhile read.

What I like about this book

The Yi is big. It has plenty of areas to research, and abundant space for everyone who wants to develop their own ideas about it and turn them into books. In the midst of all this abundance, I really appreciate the way Alberto focuses in on what works in readings - specifically and in depth. There is nothing in this book at all about ancient China, or the problems of translation, or the structure of the hexagrams, or the Sequence. It's simply a way of understanding readings: something you can start using, testing out in your own readings, within an hour or so of picking up the book.

His method involves prioritising the reading as a whole: the framework created by the primary and relating hexagram. That's something I support wholeheartedly - and is not a new idea to anyone at Clarity, of course. But Alberto takes it further: this framework is not just something to consider as you read the text, but the theme, which is the most important feature of the whole reading. He would never consider fragments of text in isolation. From the very first page:

"A complete interpretation of the results from a reading should be a clear message, rather than a collection of texts. One good analogy would be a jigsaw puzzle: after all the pieces have been put together in a certain way, an image emerges. The individual pieces are still seen, but only as part of the image."

That quotation is a good example of another thing I like about this book: its complete clarity. You may not agree with everything he proposes - I certainly don't - but you will never be left wondering what he means, or how he arrived at his conclusions. Everything is unpacked for you step by step.

I also appreciate the fact that he does readings, and lots of them: he has developed his method by testing it out in practice. (The book's probably worth having just for its 85 worked examples.) And he gives good advice on fostering a healthy relationship with the oracle. For instance, if the answer you receive is negative - and by this he means you can't find anything in it that's applicable to your question - then it will reveal a new and larger perspective; there is no discarding of readings because they 'didn't work'.

He advises asking questions in simple terms that are open to all possible answers, and "should you arrive at more than one question, choose the one that puts you in charge of all your possibilities." And you should avoid asking too many questions about one issue, or treating the Yi as a "machine" for answers. All this is good.

Things I like less

In this method, the 'theme' of the reading, derived from the two hexagrams, is the basis of all interpretation. And the only basis for the theme is Alberto's own set of hexagram meanings, which occupies some 65 pages at the back of the book. He has carefully, systematically derived these meanings from his reading of the Wilhelm/Baynes (alone). Pick the most applicable meaning from his list for each hexagram, put the two together in a phrase, and you have your theme.

This relegates everything the oracle actually says or does (its words and structure) to a secondary position of only providing 'clues to be interpreted in relation to the big picture'. And that, in my experience, is just not how readings work. To grasp that 'big picture' at all, you need to read the words of your answer and get a feel for its structure. Developing your own sense of each hexagram is immensely useful, but always with the proviso that this should never get in the way of hearing what the hexagram says as if you had never received it before.

He writes,

"If there is any contradiction between the theme and any of the texts, the theme takes precedence, and the contradicting text can be regarded as a precautionary warning, a temporary situation, or a future event or possibility."

I'd say that if there is a contradiction between your preconceived ideas of the hexagrams' overall meaning and what the oracle is actually saying, then your ideas of the hexagrams' meanings need revisiting. Supplanting the oracle's imagery with abstractions is never a good idea. (A few weeks ago I was talking through Hexagram 45 with a Foundations Class graduate. 'The king's presence creates the temple' meant something for her that had never occurred to me before. This kind of thing happens to me all the time - and of course that's only possible because I keep on reading what Yi says.)

To be fair, he does advise reading the whole answer - and it is wise to read moving lines and their omens within the context of the hexagram that contains them. (Bradford Hatcher developed that principle into some remarkable interpretations.) But I think Alberto has his interpretive hierarchy exactly backwards here.

There are other niggles, of course. He limits himself to Wilhelm/Baynes, which naturally limits his sense of what hexagrams can mean, and also leaves him stuck in the habit of viewing the two hexagrams only as present and future. That leads to the familiar argument that if you don't want to end up at the second hexagram, you must read the cast hexagram as a way to avoid it; if you do, you must assume it's a way to obtain it. My logical mind revolts at this - and more to the point, so does my experience.

What intrigues me

However, I do plan to take my time over exploring his category of 'negative readings'. By this, he, confusingly, doesn't mean an answer with a negative omen, but rather one that amounts to a negative response to whatever you proposed. And any answer that contradicts your experience, or is not immediately and directly applicable to your situation, is a negative one. It reveals a disconnection between your idea and the reality, and will probably also be proposing a new perspective - or simply changing the subject.

The book has many examples of this. (Also many positive answers, of course, but those are more straightforward.) Here's just one:

He had found her through an online dating app, where they had exchanged all of two messages. He asked if this would evolve favourably and received Hexagram 11 with the 5th line changing to 5, Waiting. Following the book's method, Hexagram 11 means a perfect match (which this couldn't possibly be at this stage), Hexagram 5 means waiting, and so the marriage imagery in the fifth line must be about someone else, in future. And sure enough, there was never a third message.

One more:
'Should I pursue pottery as a profession?' 13.3 to 25. 13 means 'amateur' (this is one of the words in 13's list at the back of the book), 25 means 'without ulterior motive', and as neither hexagram has to do with career or professionalism, the answer is 'no'.

I think this is often going to boil down just to testing your reading against common sense - which is not a bad idea in itself. It does leave me wondering, though, how you would recognise a prediction that went against all common sense and probability. Your reading might paint a picture that bears no relation to your present reality, but what if it's a picture of the future? If your reading really were saying that this was love at first swipe, how would you know? Carefully focussed questions, and perhaps some follow-up readings, might be in order. (And in the online dating example, the next reading was Hexagram 25 unchanging, which says it all. )

Anyway... as I was saying, this is something I want to explore.


If you're completely new to the Yi, I don't think this is one for you. You want to build a habit of reading the texts and visualising the trigram pictures, not skipping them. Also, the book's lists of hexagram meanings would be a poor substitute for developing your own.

However, if you're somewhat experienced, have your favourite translations to hand, and would welcome some new, creative ideas on how to navigate the framework of your reading, then this is absolutely worth getting. It offers a fresh perspective on interpretation, and the chance to look at past readings with new eyes.

Conversations with the I Ching is self-published on Amazon US and UK

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