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Category Archives: Divination tips

‘DIY’ tips for I Ching divination

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

Divination is a relationship

Divination is a relationship

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… Continue Reading

How to make Yi less disconcerting

How to make Yi less disconcerting

The Yijing as a whole is a rather disconcerting book. It can say things we don’t understand, or, worse, things we understand perfectly well but don’t want to know. A reading can be reassuring, can reinforce your thinking, or it can give you a real jolt. ‘I have had this truly brilliant idea, how about it?’… Continue Reading

Advice from Zhu Xi

Advice from Zhu Xi

One of many interesting things I found in Richard J. Smith’s The I Ching: a biography was an account of Zhu Xi’s approach to divination. Zhu Xi (1120-1200) wrote firmly of Yi’s identity as an oracle, not just a ‘book of wisdom’. In addition to creating the yarrow method we use now, he also prescribed considerable ritual… Continue Reading

‘If, then’

‘If, then’

Possibly the most Frequently Asked Question about interpreting readings: ‘This line says one thing, but that one says the opposite! How can I make sense of the reading when it contradicts itself?’ It happens a lot: you ask how to go about something, and one hexagram says it’s fruitful to cross the great river, and… Continue Reading

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