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Dangers of experience

Ah – experience. People phone me up to say they’d like an interpretation from someone who has more of the stuff. We gather it in journals (and Change Circle’s WikiWing); it crystallises into a clear inner sense of what lines and hexagrams mean; it’s worth more than any 20 commentaries put together… so naturally I have to be contrary and write about its dangers.

Here’s one danger – after you’ve done a few hundred readings for people, you start to recognise their situations. There are patterns of human behaviour that are very, very recognisable – like, for instance, the man who hangs onto two women by keeping each one believing that, one day, he’ll commit to her alone. So when you hear the seventeenth woman explaining how loveless his relationship with that other woman is, and how he only stays with her because it feels safer, or because she entraps him with guilt, or something… well, you recognise the pattern.

And there lies the giant pitfall: that you (and when I say ‘you’ I mean ‘we’ or just ‘I’) start to read whatever hexagrams are cast through that pattern you already know. The insidious thing is that most of the time you’ll be quite right to recognise the pattern, it’ll lend you easy insight, and people will be delighted with how ‘accurate’ you are. But you are still basically engaged in a pattern-matching game, not in divination.

And here’s another – subtler and more difficult to check, I think. You have a powerful experience or two with a line; this goes into the journal and into your hexagram notes (if you keep such things), and it makes a tremendous impression on you. You come to ‘know’ that this is ‘what the line means’, and for all subsequent readings you will be looking for that same meaning.

Unfortunately, this is a bit like seeing two red cars and then knowing that all cars are red – which is not very helpful when crossing the road.

What’s the answer? It does help to have more examples, to build a real experience-based understanding of a line. Working on the book, I took whatever experience I’d already garnered over the years – and then went off and gathered a further half dozen readings or so for each line to check my ideas. (Interesting!)

But much more important than the collecting is somehow distilling the experience to its essentials. It’s easier to see this process with hexagrams than with individual lines, I think. Take Hexagram 23, Stripping Away: I’ve seen it in readings referring to surgery, and to death. What it means isn’t either of these, though, but something more like having what is no longer viable cut away. So 23 in a reading could just as well indicate that it’s time to shed some part of your self-image, or to replace the staircarpet.

Naturally, with a hexagram, any extreme misconceptions are likely to be corrected quite soon by other readings. With a line, that you might see only once in several years, we need to be that much more wary.

I don’t really have a conclusion for these ruminations beyond the obvious: divination is something that happens quite independently of experience. You create a clear, clean inner space where you can bring together person, question and oracle – a unique meeting – and you watch/sense the connections as they arise. Then experience comes in, to enrich your awareness.

2 responses to Dangers of experience

  1. Sharing our experiences is indeed like telling the ‘old hat’ story of our lives that we are constantly in the process of shedding.

    I read that the author Doris Lessing, who became known all around the world for her novel The Golden Notebook, had already moved in in her own consciousness by the time her work became famous. At the height of her popularity, she personally no longer identified with the focus of that work. But it seems that many other people benefited from reading her book, which was very well-written and timely.

    It wasn’t until I came across the work of Esther and Jerry Hicks, the Law of Attraction people, that I was exposed to the idea that our life experiences are created by our own thoughts, expectations, and deeply held beliefs. The practical dictum, ‘Seeing is believing’ became transformed into, ‘You’ll see what you believe.’ We experience what we’ve already been pre-programmed to experience, according to our earliest conditioning.

    It seems to me this increases the burden of responsibility on those of us who use words to communicate. We do not want to create negative or limiting beliefs in other people.

    Yi is often saying something counter-intuitive or not in accord with the personal wishes or belief system of the querant. We all sometimes believe Yi is telling us to go ahead, when we want to go ahead, for example. I have sometimes thought that by relating a personal story, I could reinforce my understanding of what Yi’s message to the querant might be, making it more palatable. But often this backfires miserably.

    What is the poor diviner to do? We’re damned if we do, and we’re damned if we don’t.

  2. Oh, I don’t have too much trouble when Yi is saying something not in accord with the personal wishes or belief system of the querent. I do all I can to offer the images and stories of the oracle, and Yi and they will take it from there. (Never forgotten Stephen Karcher’s advice when I was just starting on phone readings: trust the oracle.) The difficult part is when Yi obstinately refuses to accord with the personal wishes and belief systems of the diviner.

    I wasn’t actually talking about literally sharing experiences – only rarely is one a good fit – so much as about being influenced by them to the point where we/I become convinced we/I know ‘what a line means’ or ‘how these situations always turn out’.

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