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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.

Learn the I Ching:

It has all you need to get started from scratch. Then when you’re familiar with the basics and want to develop your confidence in interpretation, have a look at the Foundations Course.

Not a beginner?

Welcome – I’m glad you’ve come. Let’s explore this extraordinary oracle together!

Clarity’s here to help you deepen, explore and enjoy your relationship with Yi. You might like…

Reflections on readings, hexagrams, trigrams, imagery, myth, hidden structures…

Diving into real I Ching readings, relishing the way the oracle dissolves barriers between spiritual connection and ordinary life – listen and subscribe here.

where you can get to know some like-minded Yi-enthusiasts. To participate in the conversation and keep in touch, do join Clarity.

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.

Clarity is my one-woman business providing I Ching courses, readings and community. (You can read more about me, and what I do, here.) It lets me spend my time doing the work I love, using my gifts to help you.

(Thank you.)

Warm wishes,

Hilary Barrett


Friends and allies


Hexagram 8's called bi, Seeking Union or Belonging (or Union, Alliance, Grouping, Joining, Holding Together, Closeness...)
And Hexagram 13 is tong ren, People in Harmony (or Fellowship, Cooperation, Community, Union of Men...)

According to the dictionary, we have one hexagram name that means (amongst other things) 'to share with, join, coincide with, similarity, likeness...' and another that means 'bring together, compare, align with, collaborate, accord with, agree...'. Looking in the dictionaries that concentrate on the earliest meanings, both include 'ally with' among their meanings.

Then there are commentators who'll tell you that both are about coming together, friendship, community, collaboration and building alliances. Hexagram 8, Seeking Union, can also mean the development of an inner agreement, as you learn to co-ordinate your own inner world... and so too can Hexagram 13. And finally, each hexagram has its own associated mythical/legendary story, both of which are about a great gathering and alliance at the inauguration of a new dynasty.

So what is the difference between Hexagram 8, Seeking Union/ Belonging, and Hexagram 13, People in Harmony?

Revisiting the dictionary

While there's certainly some overlap in the meanings of bi and tong, there are some helpful distinctions, too. Bi, the name of Hexagram 8, specifically means comparison or analogy: metaphor, the comparison we use so as to relate to something and understand it better. Tong, on the other hand, is used as a verb to mean unifying things or making them uniform - musical pitches, for instance, or weights and measures.

Tong is very much about harmony and unanimity. There's a revealing passage in the Book of History, on the examination of doubts:

'If you have doubts about any great matter, consult with your own heart; consult with your nobles and officers; consult with the masses of the people; consult the tortoise and milfoil. If you, the tortoise, the milfoil, the nobles and officers and the common people all consent to a course, this is what is called a great concord, and the result will be the welfare of your person and good fortune to your descendants.'

(Legge translation)

The 'concord' in 'great concord' is tong: all these disparate and unrelated sources, from oracles to the man in the street, in harmony.

So it seems to me that while both hexagrams might result in an alliance, each would arise in a different way. Hexagram 8 would be finding or choosing connections and allies, while 13 would be hard at work creating them. Certainly that's been my experience with Hexagram 13: less often 'people are in harmony', more often 'time to think about bringing people into harmony'.


'Seeking union, good fortune.
At the origin of oracle consultation,
From the source, ever-flowing constancy.
No mistake.
Realms not at peace are coming.
For the latecomer, pitfall.'

Oracle of Hexagram 8

‘People in harmony in the wilds: creating success.
Fruitful to cross the great river.
A noble one’s constancy bears fruit.’

Oracle of Hexagram 13

I've written about the inner logic of Hexagram 8's Oracle before - and about 13. Putting the two next to one another like this, I mostly notice the difference between their omens. Hexagram 8: good fortune, pitfall. Hexagram 13: crossing the great river, and the noble one's constancy, are fruitful. One is about what's lucky or unlucky, one is about what actions will bear fruit.

In Hexagram 8 you have a straightforward contrast: those who seek to join have good fortune; the latecomers don't. (The fact that good fortune comes at the beginning of the text and 'pitfall' at the very end tells the story plainly.) Find your source, join the flow, and you can't go wrong - really, all that's asked of you here is to join promptly, sincerely, without hesitation. But Hexagram 13 is heng ('creating success'), creative work, requiring that you go across the river, against the current and out of the comfort zone, creating momentum with your own efforts.


Both of these hexagrams have (probable) allusions to an ancient story of gathering allies. Hexagram 8 has Yu's gathering after the conquest of the floods -

Those lines about the restless ones who come, and the pitfall for the latecomer, allude to the story of Yu the Great. After decades of hard toil, he had conquered the floods, and he called the lords and spirits together to found a new world. The character translated ‘on all sides’ is Fang, and it was Fang Feng who came late to Yu’s gathering and was executed. (More on that here.)

Hexagram 13 has Wu's gathering of Zhou allies in the Wilds of Mu, before they crossed the river for the decisive battle against the Shang.

So one story is set just after the heroic effort, and one is before, but both are about to found a dynasty.

The differences are striking, though, aren't they? Yu the Great is very much a mythic figure, and his work seems to me at once simpler and more mystical: redirecting the flow of the waters, dealing with monsters, casting the vessels, creating the group. Wu is a historical king, and his story is legend rather than myth. Yu draws the lords and spirits to him and executes the latecomer; Wu's gathering is the culmination of a multi-generational work of building alliances. Yu was directly chosen by heaven to deal with the floods; Wu had to watch the skies to learn when the Mandate was his.

And the stories carry very different messages in readings. At Yu's gathering, you need to opt in, to ensure you are on the inside. You can compare, find the best fit, follow your natural affinities and what flows together of its own accord. Hexagram 13's message is almost the opposite: its first step is out into the wilds and across the river, outside your own group. You need to develop your awareness of the differences between people so you can forge alliances anyway.

Trigram pictures

These two hexagrams are formed from opposite trigrams: earth and water make Seeking Union -

heaven and fire make People in Harmony -

Hexagram 8's trigrams are the perfect reflection of Yu's completed task: now the rivers are flowing in their courses, over the earth.

'Above earth is the stream. Seeking Union.
The ancient kings founded countless cities for relationships with all the feudal lords.'

This Image has always reminded me that cities are often founded along rivers, to take advantage of these natural connections. The ancient kings' work involves fostering relationships by going along with the natural flow.

And Hexagram 13's trigrams also reflect the story. The Zhou people must watch (li) the skies above (qian) to receive the mandate to act. (This is the very first appearance of the trigram li - fire, light and awareness - in the Sequence, emphasising that this is an 'eye opening' moment.) They will become People in Harmony with one another and with the Mandate of Heaven - a 'Great Concord'!

'Heaven joins with fire. People in harmony.
IIn the same way, the noble one sorts the clans and differentiates between beings.'

Instead of following natural connections, Hexagram 13's noble one needs to trace out natural differences.

A few moving lines

What's the 'view' like from the same line in each hexagram? Just a few...

Line 2

'Seeking union's origin, inside.
Constancy, good fortune.'

Seeking union from the inside is good - this is exactly the right way to go about it. This recalls the opening of Hexagram 8's Oracle:

'Seeking union, good fortune.
At the origin of oracle consultation,
From the source, ever-flowing constancy.'

Admittedly, the Chinese word translated 'origin' isn't the same, but still... It seems to me to echo the same idea: coming from the source works best, because you can be guided by natural feeling.

13 line 2 is also 'inside':

'People in harmony at the ancestral temple.

What could be more inside than the ancestral temple, where we are connected to our spiritual source? But this is a shameful place for people to find harmony. How come?

Commentators have many things to say about this; the text has none at all. The explanation I've found most helpful is that this is too inward-looking, too parochial. If we're fixated on finding perfect unanimity, 'my kind of people', we can end up ignoring the existence of all the other kinds of people - and also sometimes asking too much of the in-group, when we should be looking further afield for support. This isn't a disaster, but it's not the best we could do.

Line 4

Line 2 is the inner centre; line 4 has just emerged into the outer trigram. So here are two 'outside' lines:

'Outside, seeking union.
Constancy, good fortune.'

‘Climbed to the top of your city walls,
No one is capable of attack.
Good fortune.’

A favourable position for both hexagrams - but while Hexagram 8 is still seeking union, Hexagram 13 has to think about defense. 8.4 changes to Hexagram 45, Gathering: seeking union outside is in search of a bigger group and larger goals. 13.4 changes to 37, People in the Home, and the priority here is to develop healthy boundaries. If I'm up on the top of the walls, no-one can attack me, and also I'm not attacking anyone. Good city walls make good, harmonious neighbours.

Line 5

Line 5 is the place for choice, autonomy - normally the highest expression of a hexagram. 8.5 even says specifically that this is a 'demonstration of seeking union' - how it shines out, how it becomes manifest.

'A demonstration of seeking union:
The king uses three beaters,
Lets the game in front go.
The city people are not coerced.
Good fortune.'

This is one of Yi's illustrative vignettes. When the king goes hunting, he's surrounded by beaters to drive the game towards him. (It would be a bad omen were he to come home empty-handed, after all.) But this king has beaters on only three sides, leaving one side open. And in the same way, he does not force people to obey him. Only those who want to follow him will come - as all the yin lines of Hexagram 8 are drawn to this one yang line.

‘People in harmony first cry out and weep, and then they laugh.
Great leaders can bring them together.’

Harmony between people doesn’t just flow into being by itself, and so the leaders of Hexagram 13 have work to do. They bring people together, creating mutual recognition (this line changes to Hexagram 30, Clarity) despite differences. Plainly there is friction and emotions are running high: the people cry out and weep before they laugh, and only great leaders are capable of bringing them together.

Imaginary readings

And finally...

This is always an intriguing way to explore readings - 'What if Yi had answered with the paired hexagram instead?' - it turns out that 'thought experiment' imaginary readings are quite a good way to explore differences between hexagrams, too...

'How to find work?'

Hexagram 13, People in Harmony. Network! And go outside your comfort zone when you do; don't just look for a carbon copy of your old job. Connect with new people and look for ways you could collaborate and your skills could be of service in new fields.

Hexagram 8, Seeking Union. Ask yourself what you are looking for in a job, what would bring you joy, and follow that. That job listing you saw that seemed to be calling your name? Apply for it now. Networking? Of course, but tracing friendship connections to meet kindred spirits might be more valuable than LinkedIn.

'What to expect in this relationship?'

Hexagram 13, People in Harmony. Friendship, support, an ally, something to stretch you. It doesn't feel particularly romantic.

Hexagram 8, Seeking Union. A kindred spirit, easy natural attraction - provided you aren't too slow to commit yourself. (Alternatively, maybe especially if Hexagram 8 were unchanging - they're not already in a relationship, are they?)

'How to treat this minor ailment?'

This isn't a wholly imaginary reading, as I've received Hexagram 13 in response to this one. It was one of those injuries you treat at home while thinking, 'If this doesn't get better, I suppose I should see a doctor'. With Hexagram 13, I brought together all the different natural (collaborative!) remedies I knew of, and everything was fine within hours. I'm not so sure what I would have done if I'd cast Hexagram 8 instead - perhaps consulted my intuition as to what treatment felt right, and used it promptly? Or the final line of the oracle might have made me nervous enough to see a doctor without the 'wait and see'.

I hope all this helps with some real readings...

With hindsight

A reading where we already knew the outcome - which really gives us a chance to learn from it! The reading's about a family argument, and pausing to find a new way to respond, and the advice was Hexagram 5, Waiting, changing at lines 2 and 3 to 3, Sprouting:

changing to

I hope you enjoy this one - and to benefit from the I Ching Community's shared hindsight, do join WikiWing!

Why we cherish Yi

Clarity's recent member survey (still open here if you missed it) is teaching me a lot about who I'm writing for, how to help, what to improve, and so on - thank you for taking it!

Still, I think my favourite part, the question I'm most glad to have asked, is about why people cherish their relationship with Yi. I've been reading and re-reading the responses to that one, enjoying individual stories and the things we have in common. So here's a post about what we have in common...

"It is like a close friend"

That's the prevailing theme throughout the responses. I don't think anyone described Yi as a 'tool', or a device, or a means to an end. Instead...

"Yi has been a steady friend to me, and guided me safely. patiently and lovingly through many a challenging situation."

"I love the feeling of having a wise and honest companion spirit."

"Having a most qualified sparring partner to discuss the dynamics of a given situation."

"I have always regarded the Yi as my friend in all the 60-odd years I've consulted it.">

(Yes, '60-odd years' - and this response wasn't unique. One of my questions was about how long you've been consulting, from 'less than a year' to 'more than ten years' - I should have asked about longer timespans!)

It's direct and personal

This is something I often notice when I'm reading for other people, too: yes, there's wise guidance and rare insight and 'aha' moments, but often what moves people most deeply is the sense of being recognised. The Yi answers our question, and speaks directly to the person behind the question. It's good to be seen by a fellow-human, and something else altogether to be seen by an oracle.

"Sometimes just the sense that the universe is actually listening to my questions, when the answers seem particularly relevant even if not what I was hoping for."

"I'm amazed by how the answers always feel like direct responses to my query, as if I'm having a conversation with a wise friend."

"It feels so personal; my reading is meant for just me."

Exactly. We probably all have examples of responses that jumped off the page at us, sparking a wry grin or outright laughter or tears or just that familiar sense of being slapped with a wet haddock. And it's not always possible to communicate to someone else quite why it felt that way: the oracle's talking to you, and how it does it isn't always translatable.

So how does it do it? With imagery. Anyone can advise you not to be too patient, but only Yi can tell you you're waiting in a bog; any number of books talk about stress and pressure, but you can feel the ridgepole flexing. And, of course, there's imagery - poetry - that doesn't map neatly onto rational advice at all, can't be reduced to it, and speaks straight to the soul in ways we will never understand.

"The way the imagery can surprise and ambush my rational brain and get into the cellar door of my subconscious."

"Yi is always there"

"I find that it offers a non-judgemental space and words of advice regarding the issue that is bothering me. It is there, at any time of the day or night, like a very wise and permanently available being, always willing to offer guidance or at least salve some of my concern and offers a small respite in which I can relax and gain some perspective."

"Knowing that there is always "someone" listening. Knowing that I can ask any question, even (or most of all) the ones I'm not too proud of."

There's no time we can't consult and no question we can't ask. Still obsessing about the thing at three in the morning? Not a problem. You can't break the oracle. (No-one has in the past 3,000 years; you probably won't be the first.)

This is not, of course, a promise that we will like the answer...

Its personality

"Yi's kindness, wisdom, wit and humour. "

Again - exactly! How many tomes of spiritual advice regularly make you laugh out loud?

"He's an old and warmhearted sage, who doesn't judge me but also doesn't care about my primary feelings."

I thought that put it particularly well: being met with kindness, without judgement, but also absolute honesty. Quite a lot of people mentioned getting the answer they needed, not the one they wanted; absolutely nobody used the words 'polite' or 'tactful'.

"I appreciate the sincere and honest feedback"

"I can always depend on an honest answer."

"Honesty, trust, and insight."

"No emotional mush-mash"

"Yi's answers require me to stop fantasizing and get realistic to understand them. "

"Getting encouraged when I need it and slapped back to my senses when I need it."

That's a leitmotif woven throughout the responses: honesty.

The difference it makes

Obviously, we value the oracle because its advice and insights make our lives better: I get to understand people better and do slightly fewer stupid things, and I appreciate it. This respondent's experience seems very close to mine:

"It has helped me broaden my repertoire of actions, gotten me out of defaulting to usual habitual patterns, and thus enriched my life experience."

Yet oddly, this is one area where people's experiences differ a great deal. Compare this...

"Rarely is it suggested what to do or not do in relation to my question. Usually I find out why I asked the question, realizing another question within it. The conversation is a quiet time worth spending, not so much to receive as to participate in an exchange. A wonderful experience always."

... with the first two points this person made...

"Well, first, it invariably issues accurate predictions. Second, I have often used it to cut through tangential issues and get straight to the crux of the matter (in a very 30.6 way) when I need help or support making a decision."

No two people meet quite the same oracle, I think. Every now and then, I'll encounter someone who is quite sure that the Yi has a distinct guiding philosophy, because the tenor of all their readings bears this out. The Yi always encourages Daoist inaction... or teaches patience... or instills decisiveness and the will to act. As many, many people said, we receive the answers we need (and not particularly the ones we want), and our needs are not the same!

'It helps me be more confident'

Here's a theme I hadn't expected. A common objection to divination is that it takes away our agency, makes us dependent on an oracle to tell us what to do. That is a potential problem - the 'is it OK to go out and buy milk?' reading, or - much worse - not following a heartfelt desire 'because the oracle said not to.' (You don’t need Yi's permission!)

But the theme that emerged told exactly the opposite story: the oracle doesn't tell you what to do (which can be quite annoying of it). Instead -

"It helps me to be more confident in my life."

"It tends to validate my own intuition about a situation, which gives me more confidence to make decisions."

And the person who mentioned predictions first, and decision help second, continued:

"Third, I often use Yi to reality check my intuitions, to help discern when they really ARE intuition versus anxious or hopeful visions."

I think over time this has an incremental effect: we can learn the difference between real intuitions and hopes/anxieties. And in the same way, Yi's teaching me to be more discriminating about my own motivations. A perennial puzzle for me: if I don't take the risk, am I being a) a rational adult or b) cowardly? So I ask, 'What am I really doing, if I take this path?' - and get to know myself better. The Yi isn't replacing intuition or self-knowledge: it's teaching them.

And beyond all that...

As I was saying, it's not just the advice or the insight, or the mentoring or even the friendship: it's the realisation of what is really happening when we divine, and what this means.

If you drop a coin, it falls: we live in a universe with a law of gravity. If you drop three coins, six times, an oracle speaks to you. What kind of universe is this where that happens?

"It makes me feel like 'the universe' or something out there cares and is willing to help me make wiser choices, or just understand my life better."

"It gives me an i­ntimate feeling of being deeply understood and guided by a wise and loving friend. It makes me feel I am swimming in a sea of meaning and that I am not alone."

I Ching Community discussion

Step by step

Episode 44 of the I Ching with Clarity podcast is about an artist getting started with showing her art, one step at a time - Hexagram 46, Pushing Upward, changing to the Repeating Chasms of Hexagram 29, which made their presence felt as an emotional background.

changing to

I hope you enjoy this one! (There's a last-minute update right at the end.) If you'd like to discuss a reading of your own on the podcast, you can book a slot here.

Pairs and perspectives

Hexagrams - you probably know this - come in pairs: 1 with 2, 3 with 4, and so on, through to 63 with 64. Sometimes it's obvious why a pair of hexagrams belong together, sometimes less so. It only really sank in for me recently why Hexagram 43, Deciding, would be paired with 44, Coupling:

'Breaking through must mean meeting, and so Coupling follows: Coupling means meeting.'

Hexagram 44, the Sequence

What you must necessarily meet in the drama of Deciding is the messenger.

'Deciding, tell it in the king's chambers.
With truth, call out, there is danger.
Notify your own town.
Fruitless to take up arms;
Fruitful to have somewhere to go.'

Hexagram 43, the Oracle

The Oracle of Hexagram 43 speaks to a messenger: someone who stands up in the king's court and brings his message. He calls out (the outer trigram is dui, the lake, opening and communicating) with truth (it's deepened and powered by the inner trigram qian, the irreducible truth of heaven). The ripples of change spread outward with the message, from the chambers to the town and beyond. Receiving Hexagram 43, we imagine this as the yang energy of decision rising through the five solid lines, pushing out the last trace of openness/ indecision in line 6.

Only... what would the experience of Deciding have been like for those who received the message? I can imagine that they were quite happy and secure before the messenger arrived. The message irrupts into the peaceful, ordered heart of the king's court, creating openings, breaking through barriers. (43 is also 'breaking through' and the breaching of a dam.)

And this starts to sound a lot like the experience of Hexagram 44. The message tears through things like a whirlwind (Hexagram 44's trigram picture) and life will never be the same again. You need to pass the message along, let it travel out from the royal chambers without making a fight of it...

'Below heaven is the wind. Coupling.
The prince sends out mandates and commands to the four corners of the earth.'

Hexagram 44, the Image

What you will not want to do is set up house with the messenger.

'Coupling, the woman is powerful.
Do not take this woman.'

Hexagram 44, the Oracle

Someone who brings messages like this is not going to fit in as a regular integrated part of your court. This is strictly a one-off.

In other words... broken and solid lines, yin and yang, are always relative. What feels like rising yang in 43 when it corresponds to your own decision, is going to feel like the arrival of yin when it's undermining your status quo. There's a single energetic situation here, the arrival/arising of a force bringing change, but it's seen from two perspectives and hence described in two different metaphors.

How many other pairs work like this - a single energetic 'shape', seen from two different perspectives?

It would be very satisfying to be able to answer confidently, 'All of them!' and introduce a single, grand concept that would help to explain the whole book. And it surely ought to work like that for every inverse pair of hexagrams, since they are all quite literally a single shape seen from two different perspectives. (You can say that Hexagram 44 is Hexagram 43 upside-down - but I prefer to say that it's what you see if you walk round 43 and look at it from the other direction.)

could look like

So we can look at each pair and ask,

'Could both of these be true at once? Is there a place to stand where I'd see this one as that one?'

And disappointingly, I can't always find one - or at all events, not without seriously torturing some hexagram meanings. Sometimes other concepts - like call-and-response - are just more useful to understand a pair. It's a good way to think about them, though.

Think of Hexagrams 37 and 38, for instance.

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

Hexagrams 37/38, the Zagua

Homes have an inside and also an outside. One home, two perspectives.

Or Hexagrams 19 and 20 -

'The meaning of Nearing and Seeing: someone reaches out, someone seeks.'

Hexagrams 19/20, the Zagua

R.J. Lynn translates,

'The concepts underlying Lin (Overseeing) and Guan (Viewing, Hexagram 20) in some cases mean "provide" and in others "seek".'

and adds a footnote:

'Han Kangbo comments: "If one stirs oneself to oversee others, this is referred to as 'provide,' but if others come to view oneself, this is referred to as 'seek'.'

So this could be a single encounter.

Or how about 41/42, or 47/48, or even 35/36, which of course are as different as night and day...?

I Ching Community discussion

Sharing the I Ching

Have you ever tried to explain your relationship with the I Ching to someone? Maybe explaining how you took a decision, solved a problem, reached an insight?

Or do you find it simpler just to avoid the subject altogether?

Naturally, I find myself mentioning the oracle more often than most: more or less every time someone asks the 'What do you do?' question. And then there's usually perfect befuddlement, and then I need to try to explain - at least a little - which I always used to find quite awkward and embarrassing. I'm sure you know the feeling. But... why is that?

Of course, there's always the chance that the person you're talking to will hold a religious conviction that divination is the work of the devil, you are inviting in evil spirits, and so on. (More of a chance if you're in the US, I imagine.) Then, I think, you have to respect that this person is genuinely, altruistically afraid for you - and hope to change the subject soon.

This isn't the source of the awkwardness, though, or not for me. I think that stems from another religion, one that seems to permeate our culture more completely: scientism. Divination, it says, is obviously not real. Why not? Because it can't be: there is no scientific explanation for how it could work, therefore it can't. This is obvious; everyone knows.

It follows that anyone who believes otherwise is obviously nutty, totally fruitcake, several sandwiches short of a picnic. Divination is present in popular culture as a bit of a joke (headscarf, crystal ball and so on) - 'for entertainment purposes only' - but to admit to doing readings and taking what an oracle says seriously is tantamount to admitting that you have a whole colony of bats in the belfry.

(A few weeks ago I had the 'what do you do?' conversation with a new friend, and watched his face as I told him. The 'Oh, just as I was starting to think you were intelligent' reaction was written there clearly enough, though he hid it very politely as he changed the subject. Ah well - never mind.)

The thing is... you don't have to be a dogmatic believer in scientism to feel its influence. Twenty-four years ago, if someone asked what I did, I was liable to respond with an embarrassed mumble - something along the lines of


I suppose that's because I grew up in a world - and a family - where everyone knew divination wasn't real. It's taken me a while to be able simply to tell people what I do and how it helps people.

And - who knew? - it turns out some people are actually interested. I've found myself sitting down drawing hexagrams on the back of an envelope in a coffee shop, or asking, 'Imagine you were asking about taking on another voluntary role and someone told you that the house's main roof beam was bending under the strain - what would that mean?' Maybe scientism is only a slightly brittle layer over the surface of an older knowing?

Incidentally... one of the most open, interested people I've talked to about this, a woman who asked excellent questions about what kinds of things people ask, and what the answers are like, and how they help, and why I value the oracle and what I believe it reveals about the nature of reality... turned out to be a vicar. (I didn't find this out until later, when there was an opening for me to ask what she did.)

I've also had a couple of lovely encounters with people who know the I Ching themselves, and remember a reading that might have changed the course of their lives. The oracle, it turns out, is a big part of the reason why my local greengrocer moved to this (southwest!) part of the country. And there was this encounter I wrote about in the 'Aha!' answers thread back in 2008:

I'd gone into Oxford to buy something specific, and after a lot of hunting round I found what I was looking for. But for some reason I decided to walk on and look at the next shop I'd been going to visit anyway, where I happened on a pot of minute beads that I thought would make the ultimate portable set of 16.

When I took my beads to the till and explained what they were for, the shopkeeper was fascinated. She didn't know you could consult with beads, but she had a history with the I Ching. She remembered there was a time when she 'wouldn't get out of bed in the morning without casting,' and she remembered vividly how the oracle could give her a firm kick when needed.
But most of all, she remembered the time in the 70s when the oracle talked her out of carrying cocaine through customs. She'd already agreed to carry it, but still asked the I Ching for its comment. It said something about the small fox that soaks iits tail in the water and can't complete the crossing; she changed her mind.

(You see what I mean about a reading that might have changed the course of a life!)

This hardly ever happens: most people have never heard of the I Ching. (Someone should make a website about it or something.) But you never know...

Anyway, I'd encourage you to be unafraid to share. Yes, some people might think you're deranged, and you certainly can't make anyone change their mind (about anything, ever, but particularly not about their religion). And if you've learned from a reading what to say to someone else to help them, it might help them more if you can conceal your sources. I've seen Hexagram 36 in this connection a few times -

'Brightness enters the earth's centre. Brightness Hiding.
A noble one, overseeing the crowds, uses darkness and light.'

Hexagram 36, Brightness Hiding, the Image

But by speaking up, you might have a delightful encounter with a fellow-fruitcake - and you might even spark someone's interest and the beginning of a beautiful friendship.

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