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Monthly Archives: May 2021

Not interpreting the I Ching

Not interpreting the I Ching

This is a challenge I set for Change Circle members in the first week of our Imagery Class: to find a way to respond to a reading without interpreting it. The idea is to create a space where we can interact with all the layers and facets of the Yi’s imagery from the ‘inside’. Instead of dry theorising about the various things an image might represent, we can have an immediate, visceral experience of the reading. Then the imagery-experience resonates with our lived experience, and the oracle gets to work.

For me, this is a way to escape from the trap of ‘knowing what it means’. This hexagram is about overwhelm, that line is about defensiveness… yes, maybe (and also maybe not), but what is it saying to you now? It’s horribly easy to slip into doing a ‘what I already know this means’ reading instead of a Yijing reading.

For a comparative newcomer to the oracle, the same strategy – respond first, interpret later – might be a way to escape reliance on commentaries. That’s just another variety of ‘knowing what it means’ before you have time to respond to the reading, only with the idea that someone else knows when you don’t. Any such advance knowledge, yours or a commentator’s, puts distance between you and direct experience of your reading.

So Change Circle members have been coming up with ways to connect with a reading and defer interpretation. First you experience the imagery in its own terms, from the inside; then you start to ask what this experience reminds you of.

This week’s experiment involves telling the story of a hexagram or line, in the first person, from the inside – without trying to apply it to the question. For instance…

‘The disaster of disentangling
Maybe someone tethered a cow –
Travelling people’s gain,
Townspeople’s disaster.’

Hexagram 25, line 3

‘I promise you I tied Daisy up to this post just like I always do, I used the same good old knots that my father taught me, and now she’s gone! How was I supposed to know something like that could happen?’

‘People in harmony at the outskirts altar.
No regrets.’

Hexagram 13, line 6

‘Well, here we all are! Look at that great dome of sky… it’s so good to get outside. Spread out, now, there’s plenty of elbow room for everyone. Bring the sacrifice! Start the singing!’

‘The vessel with upended feet.
Fruitful to get the blockage out…’

Hexagram 50, line 1

‘What am I doing? I’m cleaning out this vessel is what I’m doing. Yes, I know it’s not exactly ritually correct – OK, so it’s unspeakably disrespectful – but that gunk stuck in the legs was making everything smell odd, and do you think the ancestors appreciate that? No, nor do I. Now if I just give it a couple of sharp taps with this wooden spoon…’

Your stories will be different, of course, and different again each time you come back to a line – and that’s as it should be. The oracle is alive, and there’s nothing set in stone to tell us what its words mean.

I Ching Community discussion

Walking round the pathway of 42.6

Walking round the pathway of 42.6

This isn’t one of those posts where I explore many different experts’ translations and interpretations of a line. Instead, it’s just things I’ve learned from a combination of reading experiences and a line pathway. What’s a line pathway? A line pathway is what LiSe calls ‘mirrors’: a group of four lines, connected either through change… Continue Reading

Clarity: the acknowledgements section

There are a few websites without which this one would be only a pale shadow of itself. Here are four huge thank yous… Hermetica.info This is Bradford Hatcher’s site, and contains much of his life’s work – work that Yi described better than I can. The individual help and support he gave me – for… Continue Reading

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