All kinds of mind, all kinds of entrance
The Yijing can speak to all kinds of people – I think this may be one way in which it’s unique.
Tarot, for instance, is undoubtedly a multi-faceted system, but to use it fluently you’d better be moved by its images and able to imagine yourself inside them. Astrology, likewise: it’s vast and varied, but you’d better have a good spatial imagination and be not easily bamboozled by a forest of numbers, symbols and charts.
(Note: I don’t know much about either of those systems, so I could be completely wrong about what they require of their users.)
Yi, though, has many aspects and dimensions, and any one of them will serve you as a way in…
I first came in through the door marked ‘Words’, which is probably the biggest and simplest. When you consult the Yi, it answers you in words, just like anyone else would. You can hear those words as poetry, or story-telling, or the teachings of a guide.
(What best to do about this invitation to speak at a conference? 59.2.6 to 8. ‘Disperse and Seek Union where you belong.’
‘Dispersing, flee to your support.
Leave, go out and far away.
Not a mistake.’
The conference topic isn’t the Yijing; it’s not my ‘support’. Run away, run away…)
If you’re more of a visual person, Yi has several doors open for you. The most accessible is the trigrams. Every hexagram is built from two trigrams; together, they paint a picture. You can walk into that picture, look around, sense the energies at work.
(In Dispersing, the wind is blowing over the water, moving, mingling and evaporating; the water rises as mist and drifts away.)
Less obviously, the Chinese language itself has visual roots – the pictorial elements of each word are like a distant substrate of images, all woven into the poetic whole.
(Dispersing: looking out over the floodwaters…)
Rhythm and movement
If you process through bodily experience, you might be more drawn to the rhythmic, kinaesthetic sense of each hexagram as a kind of ‘energy diagram’.
(I can feel the magnetic pull of the single unbroken line of Hexagram 8 –
– but maybe you can also feel how the wind of 59 drags at the water and scatters it…
Is there a sense of something shifting and unstable there?)
Everything I’ve mentioned so far is contained within a single hexagram – but then there are the relationships between hexagrams, another way in.
There are different kinds of cause, and different families of hexagrams (nuclear families, trigram families, decades…) where you can map out commonalities and differences. And there are contrasts, different ways ‘this is not that’, giving the logical mind something to chew on.
(59 is not 60, Measuring: this isn’t a matter of finding an agreement and a balance. In a different way, it’s precisely not 55, Abundance: centrifugal, not centripetal. And I could so easily confuse myself by imagining it as its Shadow, 6, Arguing, instead of letting it dissolve.)
Just as importantly, there are stories – as told in the little vignettes within hexagrams, and through allusions to a reservoir of legend and myth, but also through the Sequence of Hexagrams, both its little steps and its bigger arcs, and through the unfolding of nuclear hexagrams.
(The nuclear story of Dispersing – called to Release, working through Nourishment, coming home to Gradual Progress…)
Maybe all this helps to explain why I’ve met engineers, artists, musicians, authors, translators, physicists, programmers and mathematicians, all equally drawn to Yi, and in unique, equally vivid relationships with it.
Two bits of advice
If you try to enter through all the doors at once, you might never get inside. So first, choose one!
Or in other words, concentrate first on whatever comes naturally to you. Your way of approaching a reading and the insights you glean from it will be different from anyone else’s. (You may learn from a teacher, but you’ll develop your own unique relationship with Yi.)
Don’t forget what the core of the book is: structure and words, with the magic coming from the relationship between the two. (Ignore either one, and you lose the essence.) But let it speak to you according to however you can most readily listen.
And second, once you’re getting to know the oracle, try something that doesn’t come naturally. You don’t want your awareness of Yi to shrink down to the limits of your own default settings. For me, since I’m naturally drawn to words and stories and can’t visualise for toffee, that means walking into my hexagram’s trigram scene, and maybe pausing at the moving line to watch what’s happening there. It’ll be different for you.