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Not being psychic

Not being psychic

Do you need to be psychic to read the I Ching?

Well, if you do, I’m in trouble. Yet this is something readers – maybe mostly tarot readers – often claim: that their psychic powers have been apparent from early childhood, and it was always clear that they were destined to become a reader.

Me? Well… when I was four I intended to be an opera singer; when I was 8, I planned to run away and live in the jungle like Tarzan; by the time I left school, my lovely German teacher was predicting I would become either a professor or a prominent barrister. I was too busy stressing myself silly about exams to have much of an opinion, but if I’d had to guess I would have gone for academia. ‘I Ching diviner’ was not on the menu.

But after six years, I got fed up with writing essays about literary criticism instead of literature, heard of the I Ching, stumbled across Legge in the Oxfam bookshop and Ritsema/Karcher in the library, and you know the rest. No special psychic gifts were involved – just a series of coincidences that had me falling into this work by mistake, and then noticing I’d landed somewhere I could do something useful.

…because, as I was saying in my previous post about not being special, this isn’t about who I am, it’s about what the universe is.

This is a universe where oracles work.

My favourite analogy for this is that we live in a dark room with its shutters tightly closed, with blazing bright daylight outside. All we need to do is let the light in. (And incidentally, it doesn’t matter if you do this by operating a well-oiled latch, or tripping over the wastepaper bin in the dark and falling headlong through the shutters – you still get the same light.)

Once you’ve let the light in, the rest is

  1. remembering that oracles work
  2. practice

Remembering it works comes first, because without that, you wouldn’t practise. Instead, you’d find a reading baffling and give up. Here’s the great secret: being confused at first is normal.

Stephen Karcher went so far as to say that you should be confused at first, because all your ideas should have been thrown into disarray. I wouldn’t go that far – sometimes a reading speaks with perfect limpid clarity straight away (funnily enough, this seems to happen especially often for beginners). But a quite normal, natural journey through a reading might begin with something like the first line of Hexagram 30, Clarity:

‘Treading in confusion.
Honour it,
Not a mistake.’

So my path through a reading often looks something like this:

  1. Ask.
  2. Be confused.
  3. Dive headlong into the confusion, unfold it and develop it into questions. (See Yijing Foundations for much more on those questions.)
  4. Expect answers to the questions to arrive

No, I’m not psychic – no more than anyone else is.

And… increasingly often, when reading, the part of the reading I feel like dwelling on more than usual, or the illustrative example that pops into my head, turns out to be exactly what resonates with the querent, what was needed to open those shutters for them. I have no sense of tapping into any special knowing; I just don’t forget that oracles work.


psychic with crystal ball

5 responses to Not being psychic

  1. I notice your path through a reading follows the first hexagrams –

    1. Create a question.
    2. Receive an answer.
    3. Be confused.
    4. Fools dive in anyway.
    5. Wait for the answers to the questions to arrive.


  2. In order to learn to swim, one must get in the water. Confusion is when you are in the water and the wave is tumbling you about. Or your fear of drowning is causing you to flail about. Swimming is when you learn to trust the water to be water. Then the water teaches you how to interact with it. You float, you become proficient, you learn to direct your intention through it. This is like learning to ask questions. If you pay attention, it becomes clear the seed of the answer is in the question. Clearer question, clearer answer. This is the way. Of course it works. Is Is. Thanks for reiterating the most important thing: One must REMEMBER this is where we live. Thank you for this teaching.

  3. It may be that the power we call “psychic” is in fact nothing more than paying attention to things most other people don’t, but which are all around us everyday.
    A few years ago I’d arrived to a Reserve drill early and sure enough, there was Venus rising in the east just as big and bright as you please. I was standing in the parking lot regarding it when our Battalion’s Sergeant Major came up and asked what it was and I told him. He didn’t believe it for an instant, and I handed him the copy of the “Farmer’s Almanac” I buy every year and keep in my satchel.
    “Why wasn’t it there yesterday?” he asked.
    It was, I told him, just like the rest of the week if it wasn’t cloudy out.
    “Then how come I didn’t see it?”
    Were you looking for it?
    There you go, Sergeant Major.

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