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,’
‘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: the ‘learn about Yi’ people draw on its help more as their knowledge grows; the ‘learn from Yi’ people find they want to know more, once they’ve got the help they need.
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.
Warm wishes, Hilary”
From the blog
The need for Hexagram 12
Hexagram 12 is called Pi 否 - Blocked, Standstill, Stasis, Negation. It encapsulates the experience of being denied and stymied. The noble one's constancy bears no fruit: despite your best, most creative efforts, it just isn't happening.
The Sequence into this one is (as so often) quite enigmatic:
'Things cannot end with flowing together, and so Blocked follows.'
Hexagram 12, Xugua
Yes, but why can't things end with flowing together? Hexagram 11, Flow, with everything in sync and working smoothly, seems like a perfectly balanced, sustainable state of affairs. Why should it be superseded by this hampering and frustration?
I've always had the feeling the answer to this lay somewhere in the nuclear hexagram of 12: 53, Gradual Development, with its Image of the tree on the mountain, growing immensely slowly. Could being blocked and slowed down this way somehow make for stronger growth?
In his lovely book, The Hidden Life of Trees, Peter Wohlleben explains how a sapling just a few yards high, one that looks to be ten years old at most, could actually be over eighty.
This is because the parent tree, in whose shade it grows, is absorbing about 97% of the available sunlight with its dense canopy of leaves. The tiny trickle of light remaining isn't enough for the sapling to grow; it can only survive.
So at once I think of 'Heaven and earth do not interact' in the Image, and the young plant that can't see the sky and liberate its full potential for growth. Here's a perfect picture of being Blocked and unable to make progress.
But then comes the eye-opening information. This comprehensive shading and 'blocking' by the parent tree is actually known as upbringing. It makes for robust, sturdy saplings, because they form tiny woody cells with very little air. The small cell size makes them more flexible, less likely to break in storms; the density makes them more resistant to fungal infection and better able to heal wounds from browsing deer.
Trees - like those in artificial plantations - that grow freely in full light from the start have a much shorter life-expectancy.
And this is why trees, at least, need Hexagram 12.
Divination means we're connected. It demonstrates that there's no such thing as 'isolation': the cosmos has 100% uptime. You can toss three coins six times, any time, to experience its absolute connectivity.
Yi's connection works, as it always has, through imagery. It doesn't just talk (though it certainly does that, too): it shows. Imagery is how rapport with the oracle happens - how we experience our answer rather than just 'interpreting' it. I think it's to do with feeling seen and recognised.
Clarity is continuing with 'business as usual', more or less, since it all happens online anyway. (I am so grateful for the advances in technology that make this feasible. Anyone who remembers the first Clarity webinars in 2005 will know what I mean!)
But the local club for stroke survivors, where I took over as leader this past January, is naturally not experiencing 'business as usual', since our members are generally over 70 and in less-than-perfect health. We're closed down for the duration... however long that is.
At our last in-person meeting, I suggested we could meet via Zoom video chat, and was met with a resounding dearth of enthusiasm and cries of 'I'm not that techie.' But since now there's a requirement for months of social isolation, I reckon I should go ahead and do my best to make this happen for people.
I've asked Yi how best to continue - how to lead and help the Club through coronavirus season.
Yi answered with Hexagram 22, Beauty, changing at lines 4 and 5 to 13, People in Harmony.
It's a lovely reading that I'll be drawing on for months to come, but for now, since this post's about the gifts of imagery, lets focus in on just one...
'Beautiful like pure white, Like a soaring white horse. Not a robber, but a marital ally.'
Hexagram 22, line 4
A soaring white horse?
Now, I'd say I know what this line 'means' in general, but I was very far from seeing what it was telling me here, so I started in with the Really Obvious Questions. (Much more on these on Sunday!)
What's a horse?
A big, strong animal, bigger and stronger than you, that will help you move things, allow you to travel further and faster, treasured for its speed, power and beauty. Handling one without getting kicked and bitten is a tricky, skilled job.
And a white one?
Perhaps an especially beautiful horse, valued for show and formal occasions? Like a wedding, of course. This one seems to be part of a procession to fetch the bride, so it's meant to be particularly showy and attractive: all part of the display the groom puts on to demonstrate that he's 'Not a robber, but a marital ally.'
What's a robber?
Someone who harms you, steals from you. An outlaw, outside the law, someone who has no place in your world.
And a marital ally?
A friend, someone bound to you, who makes you more secure because you have more connections. (You could call on your allies for help in times of famine, for instance.)
What stands out for me: the line's about how someone or something comes swooping in, giving absolutely clear, unmistakable signs that it is here to help and not a threat.
And so I think one white horse here is the video technology that will help us to stay connected. People do tend to be afraid that technology is some kind of robber, a young lout out to steal their dignity or worse. Time for me to get out the curry comb and start plaiting the mane, I think.
I sent encouraging emails, did some phoning round to ensure help was available where needed, and also spent Wednesday morning making a couple of 'how to access Club via Zoom' videos. And 6 out of 10 members showed up to our first video meeting, including one who's never so much as used email before. I think we can chalk this up as a success.
(Now for a website and some kind of group chat...)
The world may look quite broken at the moment, but Yi's fine. The Well wells. Do come on Sunday if you can. (If we have too many people to fit in the room, I'll try to set up a livestream to Youtube.)
Like I said, sometimes Yi speaks in imagery, and occasionally it simply speaks. Back on March 11th - you know, about six months ago... - the official advice was still to keep social groups running as usual, but I wasn't so sure, and asked Yi for advice. The answer included the following:
'Dispersing blood. Leave, go out and far away. Not a mistake.'
Hexagram 59, line 6
So yes, we closed.
Then this morning I happened to look back at the reading I cast in December 2019, asking for guidance for running the club in the year ahead. And that included this line:
'Negotiating opening, not yet at rest. Containing the affliction brings rejoicing.'
Hexagram 58, line 4
That word I translated as 'affliction' means literally disease. 介疾, set boundaries to the disease, and there will be rejoicing.
The importance of the question
I've mentioned this before, and no doubt will again... the question you ask the Yi matters.
It's important to understand that this isn't about choosing the right wording for your question. The words really don't matter. 'Argh - help!' can be a perfectly-formed question for the Oracle, leading to a perfectly helpful conversation, provided you know what you're asking.
This is why, when I read for people, I like to spend time talking with them - and, more important, listening to them: partly so I can understand what they're asking, partly so I can help them clarify that for themselves.
What do I mean, 'know what you're asking'? That's probably easiest to explain with an example (an imaginary one) of someone who doesn't know.
Let's visit her inner monologue:
'This relationship doesn't seem to be going anywhere - everyone says I should just move on, he's not worth it - I suppose they're probably right, but... - I feel as if circumstances are dividing us - we don't get to see one another - it would be different if we moved in together, wouldn't it? - if only I knew what he really felt - I want to do a reading...'
Imagine she does a reading about her relationship, and receives Hexagram 59, Dispersing.
'Dispersing, creating success. With the king's presence, there is a temple. Fruitful to cross the great river, Constancy bears fruit.'
Hexagram 59, Dispersing
Our imaginary querent is familiar with the Yijing; she knows Dispersing has to do with ice melting, and floods, and the wind blowing over the surface of the water and turning it to water vapour. She has a clear sense of the 'energy pattern' of Hexagram 59: evaporation and scattering.
She can imagine herself as the king in the temple, finding the connection that flows through dispersing. And she knows that 'crossing the great river' implies a commitment, probably something irreversible.
So... would that commitment be moving in with him, or leaving him?
Is this advice to disperse the relationship, make it less close?
Is it saying, 'You're right, the relationship is being damaged by distance, it's dispersing, and so you should cross the great river and move in together, and that really would make all the difference?'
Is it predicting that the relationship will, in fact, disperse, no matter what she does?
Or could it be responding to her wondering about what's going on in his head, and describing how his attention is scattered and not at all focussed on the relationship? (After all, 59 is the opposite hexagram to 55: it’s not inclined to step up and take decisions.)
In short - she can do everything right: get inside the imagery, study text and trigrams, even reflect on related hexagrams, and she still won't know what this reading is telling her, because she didn't know what she was asking for in the first place.
The reading's like one of those mystery photographs you sometimes find on your camera, one you took by mistake without pointing the camera at anything: it shows someone's foot, and some floor, and you have no idea where you were or what this is.
Or - if you can remember map-reading in the days before satnav - she's trying to read a map with no landmarks in view and no compass. She doesn't know how to relate to it or where to start.
To avoid this blurry mess, all she needed to do was decide - before casting - what she wanted the reading to show her. She could ask for a picture of what's happening, or for what best to do - in other words, for a picture of herself following the best path. Or she could ask for a picture from a possible future: 'What if we moved in together?' or 'What if I let him go?'
And in each case, she'd know which way the 'camera' of the Oracle was pointing, and hence what was in the picture she was looking at. You can imagine how she might experience 'Dispersing' as an answer to each of these questions in turn.
So there's a simple picture of why the question's important. But there's more to question choice than just clarity or confusion - there's the deeper issue of the intent of your reading, and the ways you can deepen and expand your relationship with Yi by questioning your question habits. More on this in module 2 of Yijing Foundations...
March 22nd: 'Connecting with Imagery' Workshop
Consulting the I Ching? You will need...
to know what you're asking
a sense of how the parts of a reading fit together, and
to be able to get inside the oracle's imagery.
If you're missing any of these, you'll tend to get stuck and frustrated at some point - but anyone who's missing #3, the ability to relate to the imagery from the inside, is barely going to be able to get started.
('Kings? Birds? Wells? Offerings? What have they got to do with anything?')
I say 'ability', but really this is more of a habit - steps you learn to follow without thinking as you engage with a reading. It's just a matter of knowing the steps and having them become second nature.
And so, last June, I ran an online 'Connecting with Imagery' workshop, which was startlingly popular. And in the run-up to the Yijing Foundations Class (starting March 29th!) I've decided to re-run it, but with new examples. Here are the details:
Online, in a 'Zoom' video chat room which is brilliantly easy to use. Or in other words, at your computer or phone, wherever there's an internet connection.
Part illustrated talk, part interpretation practice, part discussion and Q&A, about...
I mentioned in my post on Hexagram 58 how its meanings of joy, communication and exchange are connected with the action of breaking things open, opening them up. When lines change and Opening is joined with other hexagrams, it seems to be opening them up for exchange and communication - putting their ideas into circulation, or simply getting into conversation.
Line 1: Opening Confinement
The lake trigram's first line changes to reveal kan, running water: the lake's currents, how it moves.
'Responsive opening: good fortune'
Hexagram 58, line 1
He, 'responsive' or 'harmonious', is a rather beautiful character showing a mouth and a stalk of grain. It's the same word you see in the poem of Hexagram 61, line 2:
'Calling crane in the shadows, Her young respond in harmony. I have a good wine vessel, I will share with you, pouring it all out.'
Hexagram 61, line 2
The young chicks he: they 'respond in harmony' or 'join in singing'. This is where Opening begins: by responding and joining in. Singing in harmony demands listening; first of all, you have to open your ears.
So it's perhaps a bit surprising that this line changes to Hexagram 47, Confined, which is pretty much the opposite of responsiveness. What's that about?
An obvious answer is that this line is Opening Confinement. Words may not be trusted (as in 47's Oracle), but responsiveness listens more than it talks; it keeps quiet for long enough to connect.
But I've found this responsiveness is also based on 47's quality of self-reliance: responding, not asking or expecting that the other meet your needs. And it's also 'Opening Confined': responding within limits, within the bounds of the other person's needs - not bawling out Nessun Dorma in the shower.
And also... this reminds me how, when I was about 9 and first expected to sing in harmony, I couldn't do it; I would be so flooded by the other parts that I couldn't hear my own. I had to block my ears to hear my own part first. Perhaps that's Opening with Confining, too.
Line 2: Opening Following
'True and confident opening, good fortune. Regrets vanish.'
Hexagram 58, line 2
This line shows lake's thunder: its power to act and set things in motion. That comes from fu - trust, presence, sincerity, faith - banishing regrets, which imply separation from the present moment, or being in two minds. Fu is always whole and present.
This is 58 zhi 17, Opening's Following: creating alignment, bringing us into accord.
A few years ago, I asked Yi about the experience of resonance, and received 58.2.5 to 51:
Line 3: Opening Deciding
'Coming opening, pitfall.'
58, line 3
I believe the most straightforward translation of this enigmatically laconic little line would be 'Pending Opening' or 'Opening to come' - that is, 'coming' is a marker for the future tense, and this is opening in the future.
In practice, in readings, the line tends to be about someone looking to the future, anticipating what it will bring.
Think of the trigram dui, and the character dui, and where this line is located: at the surface of the lake, open to the sky, or the open mouth, calling to the ancestral spirits. There's a quotation from one Jules Renard (unless it's a Chinese proverb): "Man who waits for roast duck to fly into mouth must wait very, very long time." This line might be for him.
It points us towards Hexagram 43, Deciding - the hexagram where the messenger comes to the king's court, 'with truth, calling out, there is danger,' notifying the town, advocating a 'direction to go'. Hexagram 58 Opens up the message and brings it all into question; now, there's an active interplay between what you expect (anticipate? dread? affirm?) and what's coming.
The problem with this line might be how it 'decides' what shall come - I've seen it comment on the practice of affirmations for wealth. ('I receive £1 million effortlessly! I receive £1 million effortlessly!') Also, its future-orientation is a problem in itself, which is how Bradford Hatcher sees it: 'Waiting for one great ship to come in, one can miss two ships' worth of rowboats.'
Line 4: Opening Measure
'Negotiating opening, not yet at rest. Containing the affliction brings rejoicing.'
Hexagram 58, line 4
Once again, the lake flows into the river - but this time, it seems it's important to set limits to its flow.
Stephen Field makes an interesting observation here: the word I've translated 'Negotiating' is actually Shang, the name of the dynasty conquered by the Zhou (the people who first created/discovered the Yi as an oracle). Could these be 'Shang discussions' - making settlements after the conquest? Perhaps. In that case, you might want to 'contain the affliction' of restless or aggrieved people within borders, to avoid contagion.
And you can imagine this as 'Opening with Measure', using the wisdom of Hexagram 60 to find a workable agreement. The line would call for 'Opening Measuring', too: opening up questions of measure, contracts and borders.
I wrote more about this line and its connection with Hexagram 60 in this article on 'borders and boundaries':
Line 5: Opening and the Marrying Maiden
'Trusting in stripping away, There is danger.'
Hexagram 58, line 5
This is the one line that doesn't mention dui, 'opening'. Instead it speaks of fu, trust-truth-confidence, and stripping away - which is the name of Hexagram 23, where the mountain is eroding into the earth. You could imagine either of these as 'peak dui': trusting, being wholly available, without reserve or second-guessing; stripping away, breaking open the protective covering so there is no roof separating your altar from the heavens (see my first Hexagram 58 post) and everything lies wide open. Trusting stripping away - a reminder that another word for 'open' is 'unprotected'. Yi says this is dangerous; it doesn't say whether not it's wise.
This line changing reveals the Marrying Maiden - because any marriage, let alone the marriage of a powerless girl, is the ultimate in removal of outer, protective layers. It's the end of self-containment: now you are opened up and joined to the other.
Line 6: Opening Treading
'Opening that pulls.'
Hexagram 58, line 6
'Pulling' here is yin, 引, as in drawing a bow. So it carries associations of drawing something towards oneself, and a pull that creates tension. It also means leading, guiding or prolonging. I've seen readings where it describes sexual attraction, or the seductive power of a cult, or a drug, or advertising. But it's important not to be 'pulled' out of true by any one reading experience: Yi, after all, isn't saying whether this is good or bad.
(Indeed, the further you travel upward and outward through Opening, from the inner to the outer trigram, the less the lines have to say about an ultimate outcome - the more 'open-ended' it becomes.)
'Opening that pulls' is Opening Treading, Hexagram 10:
'Treading a tiger's tail. It does not bite people. Creating success.'
The enduring mystery of Hexagram 10 is why anyone would want to get close to a tiger - now, or three thousand years ago, when the chance of being eaten was that much closer. And yet we do: power attracts. In 58.6, it's 'opened' to us, experienced as a force of communication that pulls.
Release the arrows
Archery in Hexagram 40
Hexagram 40 is Release: its core theme, from the simple decision of the Oracle to the clear air after the storm of the Image, is the release of tension. That might remind you of archery, which is a special, intentional kind of tension-release: deliberately drawing the bow, creating tension, and releasing it into the arrow's line of flight.
I can imagine this in the trigrams of Hexagram 40, too: the inner trigram kan reminds me of the bow under tension, and outer zhen - thunder, associated with sudden, swift movement - looks like the flight of the arrow. (The Shuogua, the Wing that describes trigram attributes, says kan represents 'bending and straightening; bow and wheel.')
Its two arrows
But for all these imaginative associations, archery is actually mentioned in just two lines of Release: lines two and four.
'In the field, taking three foxes. Gaining a golden arrow. Constancy, good fortune.'
Hexagram 40, line 2
‘A prince uses this to shoot a hawk, on the top of the high ramparts. He gets it. Nothing that does not bear fruit.’
Hexagram 40, line 6
In line 2, the hunter finds release from the foxes: he overcomes deception (including self-deception) with directness. We can tell this as a story of using the arrow's gift of directness to overcome the wiles of the foxes, or as gaining that quality by overcoming them. And the story of how this line changes to Hexagram 16, Enthusiasm -
- can be told in the same two ways. This can be the Release of Enthusiasm, of your powers of motivation and imagination, when they're no longer foxed; it can also be that the clear, strong, spirited motivation of Hexagram 16 provides the energy to see beyond delusions (for instance, seeing beyond busy-work to what's really important).
Line 6 shows the right moment to bring down something oppressive that looms over you. Wilhelm identifies the hawk as another person, 'a powerful inferior in a high position'; I've found it can also be one's own hesitancy, as with that task that grows ever bigger and more forbidding the longer you put it off, or imaginings, as with not daring to approach someone because of the imagined importance of their opinion.
This line joins Release to Hexagram 64, Not Yet Across, suggesting a release from the suspense and hesitancy of 'not-quite-yet', and also a reminder that, with hawks just as with river crossing, you only get one shot at it, and the fruits of the task all lie in the future, on the other side of your venture.
But what really catches my attention here is the way those two archery lines together change to Hexagram 35, Advancing:
'Advancing, Prince Kang used a gift of horses to breed a multitude. In the course of a day, he mated them three times.'
Hexagram 35, Advancing
Archery is the fully intentional version of Release, and it's all about seizing your moment: you can't build up gradually, taking a quarter of a shot today and half of a shot tomorrow; you have to be ready to see your opportunity and act. And this is entirely the spirit of Hexagram 35: now is the moment to breed the horses; the sun (upper trigram li, fire) is shining over all the earth (lower trigram, kun) now, so make hay!
Compare LiSe's vivid imagining of Hexagram 35...
'Prosperity does not arrive by itself, it visits the people with the right attitude. The one who always carries along arrows is probably the only one who comes home from a walk with a rabbit for dinner. The lord of Kang grasped the opportunity of a gift to breed a meadow full of horses. The first one who sees a gap in the market builds up the multinational. Grasp the small chances, do not wait for the big one to arrive, stay alert with eyes and ears and hands ready, and a quiver filled with arrows.'
...with what the 'Master' in the Dazhuan has to say about Hexagram 40, line 6:
'The hawk is the object of the hunt; bow and arrow are the tools and means. The marksman is man. The superior man contains the means in his own person. He bides his time and then acts. Why then should not everything go well? He acts and its free. Therefore all he has to do is to go forth, and he takes his quarry. This is how a man fares who acts after he has made ready the means.'
The Dazhuan, Wilhelm/Baynes translation
But this connection is altogether easier to see than it is to describe: you need only look at the Chinese name of Hexagram 35:
And there, hidden in plain sight, are your two arrows: the golden arrow of the line 2, and your one shot at the hawk at line 6.