Talking with Yi is a conversation – and with regular readings, we develop a relationship with the oracle. We habitually talk about it as a person: ‘Yi’ rather than ‘the Yi’; something we can ‘get to know’ rather than just ‘learn’; something that speaks. (The roots of the word ‘oracle’ are in Latin orare, ‘to speak’. Oracles can talk.)
The reason Yi speaks is, of course, because it has words of its own. Tarot speaks through images; Yi speaks through the patterns we call hexagrams, but also in words, like we do. I think this leads to a different experience of divination: having a conversation with a person, versus applying a system. Yes, just as with tarot, there’s a system of symbols to learn and apply, and skills to develop – and beyond that, Yi also has something to say. Yes, there’s water above heaven (clouds in the sky, inner constancy in the face of outer uncertainty, and so on…) – and also, Yi says, ‘Wait, with truth and confidence…’
Consequently, a lot of good divination advice is also good relationship advice. Talk openly and often; be honest and straightforward. Let no topic be off-limits. Have boundaries: keep your autonomy, don’t become dependent on having Yi tell you what to do. And so on.
Also, of course, we are actually talking to a 3,000 year old book, or something that speaks through the book – and however we conceive of this speaker, it certainly can’t get bunions. Talking with Yi is also not like talking with a human being.
This has a lot of implications. Some of them make it rather like talking to an infinitely wise person, beyond ordinary human limitations: someone who can’t possibly misunderstand your question, but whose ideas of what constitute good or bad fortune might be quite different from your own. However, another is that you will tend to hear Yi speak in your own inner voice.
By ‘inner voice’ I mean both the tone of voice, and also the kind of thing it can say. If your own inner voice is hypercritical, or sarcastic, or sanguine, then your Yi will tend to sound like this, too. Yi is not your inner voice, of course, and it can and will shatter that illusion from time to time and sound unmistakably other. However, it remains true that it’s harder for a pessimist ever to hear Yi being optimistic, or a laid-back character to hear Yi being fiercely critical, or vice versa.
And this is why, even though your relationship with the oracle is an absolutely individual one, and you are the only true authority on the answers you receive, it’s also good to share a reading with another person and listen to their response – because you get to hear the reading speak with a different voice. I’ve had a few I Ching chats with Change Circle members recently, and it seems to me that what I contribute is only partly familiarity and skill with the ‘system’ of how Yi makes meaning; it’s also how I make it possible for people to hear Yi differently. The same kind of thing happens in Clarity’s forums: ‘Here’s how I hear the reading,’ we say. ‘Does that resonate for you?’ And then, perhaps, comes that unmistakable sense of being spoken to.