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.
From the blog
Gathering readings, overturning the block
Here's a lovely message I had last year from PeterS, getting on well with his Resonance Journal:
"I should note that a pressing reason for me to adopt Resonance Journal is the sense that I was building up a collection of readings for which I was taking careful notes (in a MS Word doc) but that the format was not really amenable to really seeing connections between similar past readings, or even readily finding and accessing such readings, and that the further I went and more consultations of Yi I had, the worse the issue would become.
If I’d been smarter, I should have done this months ago, but as it is, I will have to spend a few hours entering my MS Word journal entries into Resonance Journal. It’s a one-time cost, though.
You may be amused, charmed and flattered to hear my most recent casting:
“What if I were to purchase Hilary’s Resonance Journal and port all my readings from the past six months to it?”
Seeing the connections between similar queries and replies, sometimes weeks or months apart, is not only important for hearing more clearly and thoroughly what the oracle would impart, but also a key aspect of my continuing journey of learning to trust Yi."
Hexagram 12 is Blocked - a state of disconnection and not-getting-anywhere, in which 'the noble one's constancy bears no fruit.' Finding connections between readings was only going to get harder as his journal grew, and no amount of imaginative persistence would really help much. (To be fair to MS Word, it was never meant for journalling - the Resonance Journal is also not your best choice for a dedicated word processor...)
Then there's Hexagram 45, Gathering, in the background:
'Gathering, creating success. The king enters his temple Fruitful to see great people, creating success. Constancy bears fruit. Using great sacrificial animals: good fortune. Fruitful to have a direction to go.'
Hexagram 45, the Oracle
That suggests Peter's intention to bring his readings together and see their greater significance. Hexagram 45 has a tremendous sense of an important occasion: the king at the temple, great people, great animals, fruitfulness (three times). Bring everything together with a sense of purpose, bring your best, and expect good fortune.
Describing Hexagram 45, Jack Balkin says, 'You must create or invoke a common narrative through which people can connect themselves back to the past and ahead to the future.' He's talking about a communal sense of continuity of meaning - a bigger, ongoing story - but this is just as relevant on the individual level.
(This is very much the thinking behind many of the Resonance Journal's Yijing-related features. Cast history search is the one I use most often, as a quick and easy way to find previous readings with this hexagram or line, but there's also the Insights pane, just to see which hexagrams are coming up most often, and all the advanced search options to dive into more or less any pattern of hexagrams, lines or trigrams you can think of. All part of Gathering readings, listening for the 'narrative', finding your own connections.)
And that moving line:
'Overturning the block. Before, blocked. Afterwards, rejoicing.'
Hexagram 12, line 6
I do like this line. All the leaden frustration of Hexagram 12 gets jettisoned at once.
A quick 'Cast history' search in my own journal shows a few small occasions when what I'd thought was a Big Unsayable Thing could be communicated easily, and one when I suddenly found I could accomplish something (mobilising a group) that I'd been sure only a quite different kind of person could do. A shared theme: new freedom to communicate. The changing line opens out into the trigram dui, the lake, representing joyful communication and exchange.
So the 'pull' of Peter's Gathering his readings together, convinced of their greater meaning, shifts the block of Hexagram 12 and gets communication flowing. Afterwards, rejoicing.
In my last post, I mentioned all the meaning packed into a tiny space in Hexagram 56, line 6. The nest is burned, line 6 changes, and you can see the bird flying away, into Hexagram 62.
Because the Yijing's lines move, it creates this kind of magic all the time. The different hexagrams are in constant conversation, and their meeting place, the line texts, embody their relationships.
(And yet there are people who prefer to leave the relating hexagram out of readings altogether. To me, this is something like having a rare diamond and refusing to hold it up to the light; I don’t get it at all.)
There are at least 384 examples of this. Here are some of my favourites:
The ancestor with good teeth
'Regrets vanish. Your ancestor bites through the skin. Why would going on be wrong?'
Hexagram 38 line 5, changing to 10
This is one Bradford Hatcher was fond of pointing out. What ancestor could bite through the skin? See Hexagram 10.
A hermit's constancy
'Treading the path, smooth and easy. A hermit's constancy brings good fortune.'
Hexagram 10 line 2, changing to 25
Why is the hermit's path smooth and easy? Could it be that he's Without Entanglement?
The only winning argument
'Arguing: good fortune from the source.'
Hexagram 6 line 5, changing to 64
No other lines of Hexagram 6 suggest good fortune from arguing; why is this one different? I think it's because it's Not Yet Across, not wholly committed to a position - and as we know, in a time of Arguing, it's 'fruitless to cross the great river.'
'King Yi marries off his daughters. This brings fulfilment, good fortune from the source.'
Hexagram 11 line 5, changing to 5
King Yi was the penultimate Shang ruler, and his daughters were married into the Zhou family, probably to the future King Wen. In a future King Yi couldn't have imagined, the son of this alliance, Wu, would finally overthrow the Shang and inaugurate Zhou rule - while still honouring his matrilineal ancestors.
But all this was generations away for King Yi, and it's equally remote in the Sequence of Hexagrams, where the Marrying Maiden won't reappear until Hexagram 54 (or 'hexagram minus 11', counting back from 64). We have a long Wait for fulfilment.
'No direction to pursue, Stay in the centre and cook. Constancy, good fortune.'
Hexagram 37 line 2, changing to 9
Some of these conversations between hexagrams are about grand historical events; some are altogether smaller. At the inner centre of the home, stay by the hearth and cook. Tend to the small things.
Too much fire
'Traveller burns down his resting place Loses his young helper. Constancy: danger.'
Hexagram 56 line 3, changing to 35
The traveller has been careless, stoking the fire in his lodgings too fast. What inspired his over-enthusiasm? It looks to be the eagerness of Hexagram 35, seizing the day: a gift of horses is good, and a whole herd will be better; a small fire is good, and a big one will be... oops.
But wait, there's more...
There are 384 of these single line changes to enjoy. But what if more than one line is changing? Naturally you can look at each line's destination individually to see how this constant flow of conversation elucidates the text.
But the Yi goes further. I've come across enough beautifully-woven two line changes, clearly expressing the qualities of their changed hexagram, to realise that the authors didn't stop at single lines.
My capacity for seeing these relationships between lines and their resulting hexagrams hits a ceiling round about two changing lines - very occasionally three. Wouldn't it be ridiculous, though, to assume the relationships stop there?
As I was saying in my last post, Hexagram 61, Inner Truth has a hatchling in its name, and a crane with her young in it second line. Its paired hexagram is Hexagram 62, Small Exceeding -
is the pair and complement of
- and this has its own calling bird:
'Small exceeding, creating success, Constancy bears fruit. Allows small works, does not allow great works. A bird in flight leaves its call, Going higher is not fitting, coming down is fitting. Great good fortune.'
Hexagram 62, the Oracle
This bird flies through lines 1 and 6, too, where it doesn't fare so well. I've mentioned this in a previous post, 'Clarity and the flying bird', because those two lines change 62 to 30, Clarity, whose name also means the oriole. (I neglected to mention there that the name Hexagram 30, li 離, actually shows the bird and the net that catches it. Good for the bird-catcher; not good from the perspective of the bird, over in Hexagram 62.)
As I mentioned there, the lines of Hexagram 62 itself draw a picture of a bird in flight, as we see it from below:
Yi doesn't just tell us about the bird, it shows us with its lines.
And then, of course, those lines can move. Scott Davis points out how 56.6 also features the ill-fated bird...
'The bird burns its nest. Travelling people first laugh, afterwards cry out and weep. Lose cattle in Yi. Pitfall.'
Hexagram 56, line 6
...and this line changes to Hexagram 62:
The upper trigram of Hexagram 56, li,
represents all kinds of things with hard outsides protecting soft insides - tortoises, armour, gourds - so it makes sense that it should also describe a nest. And here the uppermost line is changing, the nest is burning away, revealing the image of the flying bird. Moving lines make moving pictures...
And then there is the 'good wine-vessel' to share - apparently a quite new image for the second half of the line. And yet...
The wine-vessel in question is a jue, used for pouring wine in rituals for the ancestors. Yet oddly, Schilling suggests the word could be read instead as 'sparrow'. How come? Here's a quotation from Karlgren's dictionary:
"The cup had the form of a bird (see Couvreur) and our tsiak here and 雀 tsiak small bird are etymologically the same word, hence [爵 is] sometimes used for 雀."
Karlgren (1923) as cited in Wenlin
I find it hard to see how this...
... is especially bird-shaped, but still... interesting coincidence?
The jue vessel in 61.2 is hao, 'good'. Here is the character hao, as it was written on oracle bones:
'Maybe increased by ten paired tortoise shells, Nothing is capable of going against this. From the source, good fortune.'
Hexagram 41, line 5
'Maybe increased by ten paired tortoise shells. Nothing is capable of going against this. Ever-flowing constancy, good fortune. The king uses this to make offerings to the supreme being: good fortune.'
Hexagram 42, line 2
That's Yi repeating itself, word for word, in the paired lines 41.2 and 42.5.
They're 'paired lines' because 41 and 42 are a pair of hexagrams: the same pattern of lines, but inverted:
41.2 and 42.5 are the same line in that pattern, just seen from the opposite perspective:
Because they're the same line, they have the same text; because of the contrast between them - between Decrease, offering, giving things up for the sake of something higher, and Increase, blessing, a time of plenty - there are subtle differences. Specifically, they use words from the beginning and end of the yuan heng li zhen formula that opens the whole book: yuan for Hexagram 41, good fortune at its source; zhen for 42, constancy's good fortune. As is often true, the first hexagram of the pair shows potential that is realised in the second, where the king can take advantage of this supremely auspicious moment.
Paired text in paired lines is an obvious sign of how carefully the Yijing is crafted. But it's the exception, not the rule - well, it would be a boring oracle if all its paired lines quoted one another. But why emphasise the pairing for these two lines in particular?
I believe this is a playful invitation for us to remember what else is used in divination and comes in pairs: tortoise shells - carapace goes with plastron, and also, plastromancy typically involved pairs of readings on the same issue. ('If we attack the hostile tribe, we will win.' 'If we attack them, we will maybe not win.')
(Aside - and another gem - Bradford Hatcher pointed out that tortoises are mentioned in three places in the Yi: in these two lines, and in Hexagram 27, line 1. Each of these hexagrams has a hard 'shell' of yang lines and a soft, yin interior.)
There are ten pairs of tortoise shells here. Generally speaking, numbers in the Yijing are more qualitative than quantitative: three days are a short time; ten years are a long time. Ten pairs of tortoise shells are a Very Emphatic Oracle: 'nothing is capable of going against it.'
However, with the Yi, I always wonder if there's more I haven't seen. When I counted ten pairs of tortoises hexagrams forward from Hexagram 41, I found myself at Hexagram 61, Inner Truth. And both 41.5 and 42.2 change to 61.
Hexagram 61 is about fu: trust, truth, the quality of presence and spiritual connection that makes this the perfect moment the king can use for offerings to the supreme being.
And let's look for a moment at the two lines that reach back ten pairs through the Sequence of Hexagrams to Decrease and Increase:
'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
'There is truth and confidence as a bond. No mistake.'
Hexagram 61, line 5
There is the bond that reaches across the 20-hexagram gap, and there is the call of the crane, so well-hidden in the shadows, and wine poured out, from one vessel to another...
...an invitation extended to us, through the structure of the oracle, to respond and share.
There's more than one way to engage with the trigrams that make up the Yi's hexagrams. The one that I find most engrossing - that most often shows me hidden beauties of the book, and most often makes for powerful, transformative readings (not unconnected!) - is to look at them in relationship.
When two trigrams are combined to make a hexagram, the result is more than just the sum of its parts. The trigrams connect with one another, interact, and paint a single picture. So to engage with the reading, you let your imagination play with the picture as a whole.
For instance, fire under the earth will feel quite different from fire under heaven. Perhaps fire under the earth is a charcoal burner's fire, earthed up and contained, in contrast to a campfire under the open sky. Or it might be sunset and darkness, with the sun 'inside' the earth, versus the constellations that appear suspended from the sky at night.
The trigram picture is often quite different from the hexagram's other imagery. Hexagram 28 is like a roof beam starting to bend, and it's also like the waters rising to swamp a tree. Hexagram 53 is like the flight of the geese, and like a river winding slowly towards the sea, and like a tree growing on a mountain. Each picture speaks to you in its own right, adding a new layer to your experience of the reading.
But sometimes, the trigram picture matches the hexagram, and everything fits together beautifully. For instance...