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Questioning the question

Questioning the question – Harmen’s Dagboek

Harmen challenges the conventional wisdom that it’s necessary to create a focussed, specific question. He is concerned that you can limit your perception as you limit the scope of your question, and hence miss what is truly important. Instead, he suggests ‘addressing a situation’ to the oracle.

This is good… it’s certainly true that narrowly focussed questions can lead to confusion or missing the important stuff, just as he describes. Sometimes there’s a tendency to focus questions in on manageable things and avoid the difficult parts; Yi doesn’t play along with this.)

But it is also true that we need a clear relationship to the oracle’s answer, so that we know – for instance – whether we’re reading advice or a description. Or which person we’re reading about: a not-uncommon issue when people ask in general terms about a relationship.

But in practice, I think there may be a false dichotomy here. Don’t we always, implicitly, address a situation to the oracle?

(Here’s what I don’t understand: please show me what I’m missing.
Here’s what I aspire to: please offer me a guide.
Here’s the choice I’m contemplating: what if I went down this path?
Here’s what I’m faced with: please show me how best to respond.)

9 responses to Questioning the question

  1. Hi Hilary,

    Thank you for your comments: You say:

    “But in practice, I think there may be a false dichotomy here. Don’t we always, implicitly, address a situation to the oracle?”

    If that were the case, then why the need for questions? Even worse, if you always address a situation to the oracle, even when you ask a question, doesn’t that question distract you from the essence of the situation? For instance, you give as an example, “Here’s what I’m faced with: please show me how best to respond.”. But “what you’re faced with”, that is your personal, subjective view. Wouldn’t it be better to let the Yi tell you what you are facing? Or: “Here’s the choice I’m contemplating: what if I went down this path?”. Wouldn’t it be better to let the Yi tell you what the real situation is, ‘automatically’ telling you what the best choice would be in that situation? When it comes to choice, every hexagram incorporates one.

    I am more inclined to turn it the other way around: every situation contains many questions. But when you use the Yi I think it is wise to let the oracle help you choose the one to work with.

    Best,

    Harmen.

  2. Why the need for questions? Good question 😉

    Perhaps because there’s no such thing as ‘The Situation’, purely objective, altogether divorced from my chosen perspective. What I’m facing depends on how I’m looking.

    I’ve seen evidence in people’s readings that this is how it works. Someone can ask two questions that are ‘objectively’ the same, and receive utterly different answers when they shift their perspective, even a little. Any reading naturally includes the influence of the person’s subjective view.

    So it seems we have two options: to leave that subjective input unspoken, and just to ask for a picture of where I am. Or alternatively, to think about personal perspective, actively to choose ‘where I’m coming from’, and to frame my question with care.

    I actually think there is a time and a place for both approaches. The open, questionless approach can provide a starting point for more focussed readings that ‘try out’ different approaches. Or as you say – letting the oracle help you choose the question to work with.

  3. “I actually think there is a time and a place for both approaches. The open, questionless approach can provide a starting point for more focussed readings that ‘try out’ different approaches.”

    Good suggestion. I hope that when people realize that a question is not a necessity but an option a world of new visions and approaches opens up. That was the thought behind the entry in my weblog.

    HM

  4. Hi Hilary,

    Even I am not an active member I always follow your comments.

    What you said, is what happen to me: When I am going to make a question, even I am concentrated in the subject of the question, I feel that always remain in the background of mind another questions or thoughts.

    That is the reason to get many times answers that are not expected. The way to get the right answers is to go back to my not expressed thoughts or feelings in order to get the rights words.

    Before, I was concerned about it, I thought that I was making something wrong or my understanding or perception were not the best.

    Now, any time that I have a concrete question, I do not ask it, I just get the hexagram and the changed hexagram if it is available.

    Thank you for all your work here. Also Harmen comments are very helpful.

    Warmly
    Leah

  5. Hello Hilary, this is my first post (love this site!) I hope this is an appropriate post for this topic. Being a “new kid”, I’m not sure what’s what yet.

    I always ask a specific question, but sometimes my most startling (in a good way!) answers are not to the exact question I asked, but rather to some other related issue that I have been brooding about. It’s as if Yi is saying “I know you asked me X, but what you really want to understand is Y”). This often happens when my question isn’t clear in my mind, or is a yes/no question.

    Example: I have recently been diagnosed with a chronic illness that can be fatal but isn’t always. I asked “is this illness going take me down?” Instead, the answer threw a new light on my struggle to decide whether or not to undergo a very difficult year long treatment that has only a 20% chance of curing my illness.

    Thank you for this wonderful website, it has so enriched my understanding of Yijing.

    Regards,
    Kathie

  6. Hello Kathie, hello Leah, thank you for posting 🙂

    “The way to get the right answers is to go back to my not expressed thoughts or feelings in order to get the rights words.”
    Exactly. But I would try to express those thoughts first – I usually write for some time before I put my question into words and consult. And in the same way, when I’m reading for other people, I like to listen to them talk about their situation for a while.

    That’s partly so we can home in on what they most want to ask, and I won’t be left wondering if there’s a ‘Y’ that they really wanted to understand while asking about X! (Probably getting that really clear is more important when reading for another person.) But it’s also just so I can pick up on their way of thinking. I know the oracle’s going to use the question as a ‘doorway’ to answer the whole person.

    I’m a very ‘verbal’ person; putting things into words comes naturally to me. I wonder if anyone’s ever put their feelings into pictures before consulting…?

    Kathie, I wish you all the very best for a swift recovery. Unexpected and extraordinary things can happen – you know that, or you wouldn’t be having intelligent conversations with a 3,000 year old book…

  7. The Question is important in that it freezes your assumptions for the moment. You need to be standing on a platform before you can jump.

    A question allows you to look at what if scenarios: What will happen if I do ABC? and What will happen if I do XYZ?

    If your questions are off-base then Yi will talk about the underlying situation and to that extent you realize that you need to rethink your assumptions and reframe your question.

    If you truly have no ego invested in the situation (ie no assumptions) then and only then you can dispense with the question and rather ask the Yi — Tell me like it is– I abandon any preconceptions — I truly am open.

  8. Sometimes I asked specific questions, and sometimes I don’t. It is my experience that the I Ching doesn’t give a hoot either way. Sometimes if I am interested my relationship with a specific person, I might just say the person’s name, and then do a divination. In those cases I am told specifically through the I Ching exactly the most pertinent thing I need to know about my relationship with that person at that specific point in time. It works flawlessly every time.

    Every now and then I don’t even do that much. I just do a divination with no thought in mind whatsoever. However, the unstated thought is perhaps, “What do I need to know right now?” Unerringly, and without complaint, the I Ching responds by telling me precisely what I need to know at that specific point in time. Usually, I do not have any trouble figuring out the subject matter being referred to, but that is not clear, I just ask a follow-up question or two, and that is usually all it takes.

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