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Ways to consult the I Ching

This corner of Clarity’s devoted to sharing ways to consult- whether with yarrow, two coins or sixteen tokens, or something else altogether. But does this matter at all?

Why the method of casting matters

There are two reasons why the casting method matters: one fairly trivial issue that can nonetheless really get in the way of a clear reading, and one that’s fundamentally important.

The trivial issue: probabilities. In Yijing readings cast with a traditional method, whether three coins or yarrow stalks, the odds of any one of the six lines changing are one in four. As this works out, a reading will typically have one or two lines changing – occasionally none, sometimes three, rarely even more. This range of possibilities is part of Yi’s language: four or five or six moving lines represent greater and greater complexity; no moving lines at all makes the answer so simple that it may beg a question or two.

Because the probabilities are part of the language, departing from them too greatly interferes with Yi’s ability to speak. There are methods of casting that only ever generate a single moving line – no unchanging answers, no multiple moving lines – which is a bit like asking Shakespeare to write in the vocabulary of a child’s first reading book. And some people (not least some authors of casting algorithms for computer programs) carelessly create methods that make moving lines just as likely as unmoving lines – which means pretty much drowning the poor reader in a sea of line texts. No – you need to stick to something near the original probabilities to have a coherent conversation with Yi.

The fundamentally important issue: the method of casting influences the quality of your attention. A message can get through regardless of skewed probabilities, just like you can make yourself understood in a foreign language, but only if someone is paying attention.

How your method of casting influences the quality of your attention is something only you will know. If you’ve never tried yarrow, though, I’d suggest doing so at least once.

Why the method of casting doesn’t matter in the least

It’s been my experience that Yi – or what-speaks-through-Yi – wants to communicate. Any move we make at all towards connecting with this is enough for the message to come pouring through. It’s as if we’re living in a darkened room at noon: even the smallest chink in the blackout defences, anywhere, is enough to let the light in. (And maintaining the blackout actually takes a great deal of effort – it’s just that we do this without noticing.)

You can cast a reading any way at all, and so long as you are asking sincerely and wholeheartedly, Yi will answer.

(You may come across people saying that computer or app readings ‘won’t work’ because you need a ‘personal connection’ to the means of casting. This is nonsense. In the first place, are they seriously trying to say that the key part of a reading, what makes it work, is physically getting your fingers on the coins/ stalks? Is that really what’s important? If so, what’s the vital difference between that and having your fingers on a touchpad or screen? And secondly, I’ve heard several times now of people casting with an app, then casting with coins ‘to make sure’, and getting exactly the same reading. Computer readings work. People are fussy about these things; Yi is not.)