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Believe Harmen

Believe me – Harmen’s Dagboek

A good, thought-provoking post from Harmen. Basically he’s pointing out that Yijing readings work within a framework of personal beliefs. This is true of what methods you know and find significant (nuclear hexagrams or not, for instance). I think it can also be true of the meanings you attribute to hexagrams, and – perhaps within limits – the translation you use.

I like Harmen’s post very much. It nicely explodes the idea that we can find The Right Way to interpret readings. And yet… it’s also true that if you take your reading to someone else whose interpretive framework is different from or more detailed than yours, they may cast light on aspects of the message that you’d missed. Or if your translation was inadequate, finding a better one will lead to better understanding of the reading.

So on the one hand Yi’s answers have meaning within your framework for assigning meaning. Some people actually have the experience that the oracle is making allowances for the book they’re using. On the other hand, getting a stronger framework or a better book uncovers stronger and deeper meanings. How to reconcile these two?

9 responses to Believe Harmen

  1. Someone else’s framework can indeed add to your own – but it can never replace it. Someone else’s framework can contain useful information which can help you make interpreting more meaningful and easier – but it isn’t necessary for a good interpretation of the answer. I believe (indeed) that the Yi gives you what you need, and that you have what it takes to interpret the answer. By believing that it isn’t necessary for me to turn to someone else or to page through other books for better meanings. After all, ‘too much is less than enough’. But this is something that can be used with everything. Literally everything can be used as an oracle. Many people use the bible as an oracle, and even the books of Dan Brown can serve as such – if you believe that. But it is without question that the Yi is a good oracle because of its rich imagery. However, the question remains: _is_ the Yi an oracle or do we _use_ it as such?
    I agree with you about getting a stronger framework, but the book you use is part of this, so what is ‘a better book’ depends on your framework. In essence it does not matter which book you use. It is not _what_ you use but _how_ you use it. Naturally you use that which you feel the most comfortable with.


  2. However, the question remains: _is_ the Yi an oracle or do we _use_ it as such?

    My thought on this is that, unless we believe the Yi was handed down to us by the Gods, as some so called “Yi Masters” believe, then it is a human construct; therefore, it is us the ones that use it as an oracle and derive meaning from it.

    As for frameworks, I don’t think all individuals have their own per se, even though we may think we do and struggle to assert our individuality at all cost. The truth may be that we are hardwired with an already made, “big picture” cultural framework, within which we have a good leeway to move and still be individuals. This is the reason why diviners can interpret for other and those other can agree with the meaning being given to them. That doesn’t preempt the individual study of the classic, of course.


  3. I think this discussion is using the wrong concepts. What does the Yi have to do with serious “belief”? Who “believes in” the Yi in the same way they believe in their religion or their country? Who has died for the Yi lately? How many suicide bombers has the Yi inspired lately? Who has committed their lives or their family on the basis of a mere reading? No one trusts the Yi implicitly and unconditionally in the same way they trust in God or science. They never have. Human belief in divination has always been superficial and conditional. The history of oracles is as much about lack of faith as it is about belief. The tension is always there – sometimes the oracle shows its unexpected rightness, sometimes it reveals itself as a fraud. We are not talking here about God’s voice from the burning bush. So I think Harmen is galloping off in the wrong direction.

    On the other hand, I do think divination involves certain assumptions, but granting these assumptions can be provisional and need not involve belief of any sort.

    Personally I think the Yi can be used profitably without believing a word of it.


  4. Lindsay,

    I think you are taking the word ‘believe’ in a religious sense, but I never meant it that way. If you replace the word ‘believe’ with ‘assumption’ in my piece the essence of it will still be the same.

    The Yi is not a religion. It’s not political either. Years ago I was approached by a guy who wanted to start a Yi political party. I wished him good luck with it, and naturally I did not want to participate in it. Never heard of him ever since.


  5. Yi political party? The mind boggles. It must have either the longest or the shortest manifesto in the world.

    Yi as religion I’m more familiar with; for some reason, its adherents also tend to be its one true prophet.

  6. I do not think it is helpful to discriminate “religious belief” or “political belief” from other types of belief. To me, “belief” simply means the acceptance of a proposition as true without personal verification involving proof or evidence. Rather than distinguishing one kind of belief from another, perhaps it is more useful to consider belief on a spectrum of intensity.

    We live our lives embedded in a web of weakly-held beliefs, a tissue of generally-accepted ideas we never choose to verify. If these ideas turn out to be false or misleading, we adjust them accordingly. On the other hand, most of us also hold very strong beliefs. These cannot be changed easily, and include ideas about values, personal relationships, cosmology, morality, social decorum, political order, religious authority, and so on. Somewhere in the spectrum of the intensity of commitment lie our beliefs about divination and the nature of the Yi. Almost none of the ideas about divination can be rigorously verified or proven, either by argument or experiment or evidence, so the only ground on which we can approach the subject of the Yi is on the ground of belief.

    So far this sounds like a confirmation of Harmen’s argument, but it is no great revelation to say we must approach the Yi on the basis of belief (or faith). I think we have little choice but to do this in all matters of metaphysics and philosophy (these form the underpinnings of the Yi whether we realize it or not). I’m not sure where this line of thinking takes us, especially since the closer we look, the more we see how much we rely on belief in all areas of life. The range of things we can personally verify is narrow.

    I also think the subject of “belief and Yi divination” is especially tricky because no claim is made that the predictions of Yi must come to pass or that its presentation of situations is inevitable or fixed. In a situation of constant flux, the Yi only offers suggestions about outcomes or possible profiles or outlines of circumstances. It is very difficult to believe in any particular reading as a sure representation of reality, because it embraces so much uncertainty and openness.

    So I would say that what we believe in when we “believe in” the Yi is the process itself. Somehow the whole exercise of divination is valid, not simply the concrete results, not just the “answers,” if you will.

    I would also speculate this about using the Yi in the twenty-first century: Yi divination is much closer to reading a novel or watching a movie than it is to consulting an authoritative or expert source. Yi divination involves a similar suspension of disbelief. We know a TV show is fiction, its characters are only actors, the plot is improbable and illogical, time is condensed as if by magic. Yet the show engages us, and we feel that fiction is real and true on some level. So it is with divination. It is not so much a case of belief as one of imagination. We provisionally accept the premise of divination, we play by the rules, and we try on the result in the same way an actor assumes a role. The Yi suggests something to us, and we ask ourselves “what if” this is true? The Yi presents us with models of present, models of the future. We are free to play with them, keep them or discard them – but the process of exploring different roles and actions in our imagination is the great benefit of divination.

    I would conclude that divination – like art, drama, literature, religion, and so on – is yet another manifestation of homo ludens, man at play. The power of divination is the power of play, serious play. Divination is a game. It has little to do with the world of fact or verifiable results. Its purpose is to explore possibilities and exercise the imagination. To me, it makes more sense to put divination in the realm of “make-believe” than in the realm of belief and conviction.


  7. Hi All, first time posting…

    I have studied and practice(d) many things, along with passages of time where there has been a very loose connection to any of these disciplines and just relied on a level of intuitive instinct.

    I find that there are times within ones life that dictate or inform the degree of focus and adherence to any ‘seeming’ outside generated/ inner interactive influenced action or thought especially when seeking direction, guidance, or answers.

    It (the methods employed for discovery) all work, or It all doesn’t work, or in works part(s) — so many combinations of of so many variables.

    If the solutions are passed through via bible, oracle or man, yet shrouded in some ‘code’, we all have to decipher what that means to us individually. I think that is the clear “truth” of choice and will built into interpretation… Those of us who have consistently monitored ourselves to having a very intimate knowledge of who we are are perhaps better able to discern the meanings in the message. In any and every case We do have our own individual codes built around and upon so many variables that point to the variety of personality and individuality that exists of life.

    Above the Oracle of Delphi is: Know thy Self.

    When we decide what is good for us individually without being swayed by groups or masses–perhaps the solutions becomes easier to see.

    Groups aware of this can be very useful congregations when supporting and accepting differences and encouraging the growth of individuals as each member may require. That would be the groups goal, and the reason as well as the benefit of the group.

    I wonder if The way in wich any outside influence can be of assistance to us, is from Each operating with the awareness of ‘who am I’?… what am I?… If we do not feel clear of our own identities, then how open and prepared to be open to discovering this?

    As I write this am time forces me to truncate my full thoughts as to all the things, examples, that I might pull to relate my ideas more clearly or completely…
    I will just finish in this way;

    I think perhaps that what truth and what ‘fraud’ that appears to come from the Yi, is the reflection of where we are at any moment and time. I think that perhaps we can understand the voracity of readings and guidance from the stand point of do we embrace or are we afraid to find, lose, save that part we associate as our true self in order to find, lose, save our true self. The self that is discovered, unearthed, defined, revealed through the daily process of living and all the choices that we make that may reinforce or corrupt it.

    It is, after all, our choice to discern what is what self is. Do we not just choose the means by which we facilitate ourselves?

    As a footnote: I too balance each day; sometimes more effectively than other days, so I do only offer this as my own exploration into the ‘philosophy’ behind my being-ness (and doing-ness), in that it might conjure inspirational feedback for myself and others.


  8. Luis said: “However, the question remains: _is_ the Yi an oracle or do we _use_ it as such?”

    The thouht that immediately popped into my head was: is the sun a timepiece or do we use it as such? I suppose the answer is that the sun is a timepiece _when_ we use it as such. Might not that answer serve for the Yi as well?

    Every thing you do works within the framework of personal beliefs; how can you do otherwise? You are what you think (which is subject to change without notice, especially during an “Ah-ha!” moment), and that’s the way you interact with everything around you.

  9. Greetings all

    My background is in cognitive-behavioural therapy. I’m not the resident expert on it but its stock and trade for helping people is in the area of engaging beliefs in terms of rational or irrational and determining a cognitive, behavioural or emotional corrective to help achieve balance or a more rational view. The aim is to help the person move towards what I will offer or invite you to consider as a way of integrating Harmen’s ideas.

    I am glad that Harmen’s idea does not relate to languages where we all develop our own particular language?? = no communication and sharing of meaning as a community. I accept that Communities of meaning form around people sharing similar ideas and is probably the basis of cult, and culture. The strongest indication of that is the language we use.

    Arnold Mindell, through Process Therapy approach uses two useful phrases which may help balance out the idea of working with one’s OWN framework of belief.

    When it comes to application of that meaning, I think we move into understanding how it impacts us as in individual, however when we try and interpret that into our community framework, we’ll probably get into negotiating that meaning with others until a portion of it reaches consensus, but maybe some portions of it will be your own personal view.

    As such, I am probably sharing this as my non-consensus view and trusting it will reach a degree of consensus :o)

    He talks of Consensus Reality: This is where we can all observe and agree about the phenomena we observe and arrive at a reasonable consensus.

    He speaks of Non-consensus reality, which is not shared by all, distinctly personal or group related, and not shared by the wider community.

    What I believe Harmen is talking about is this Non-consensus reality.

    For me the I Ching works with both concepts. In terms of representing things we are in consensus about, and allowing us the freedom of discovering personal meaning within that consensus reality, to arrive at a distinctly personal message which may not be shared by all, and so be your non-consensus reality.

    In terms of cognitive-behavioural its about determining whether or not your beliefs reasonably match reality.

    If your system of beliefs enable you to match reality with your inner map, and you can function within your community with reasonable harmony then maybe this is what Harmen is really trying to share? If they don’t community has its own way of letting you know! :o)



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