Having conversations with a 3,000-year-old book?
The Yijing’s a wonderful, fascinating oracle. It can be absolutely direct () – and it can be quite tricky to relate to. You might ask about your job and receive an answer about marrying as a second wife – or ask about a house purchase and receive an answer about wading rivers – or about your relationship and receive an answer about making a summer offering.
The Yi is full of very simple, concrete, 3000-year-old imagery like this. How do you work with it?
Since you’re drawn to the Yi, I know you’re open and imaginative: willing to engage with an image on its own terms and try to get inside it. When Yi talks about horses, you imagine a world where nothing travels faster than a horse, and look for what inner or outer elements of your life represent that horse-spirit you sense in your reading.
And when Yi talks about a summer offering…
…then your imagination probably needs some help. What is a summer offering? What did offerings mean to the people who wrote this line? And how does this relate to our modern world, and what might you actually do to ‘make an offering’ now?
What you need: imagination food
This is why I wrote Language of Change: as food for your imagination. Not to ‘translate’ the ancient imagery into dry abstractions and ‘tell you what it means’ – heaven forfend… – but to open a door into it for you, so you can understand your reading from the inside. It’s a quick-reference glossary for your I Ching readings, designed to be used alongside an I Ching translation, making it quick and easy to look up the key words and phrases from a reading.
Three things went into writing this:
- umpteen years’ reading experience – both with my own readings, and with a great diversity of clients (which means I’ve seen a lot of very different offerings made, rivers crossed etc)
- studying the Yi itself: looking at every occurrence of many common phrases and concepts (see the full table of contents) to tease out their shared meanings and see the bigger picture
- plenty of background reading on ancient Chinese life, belief and customs
Language of Change Table of Contents
- Setting out to bring order
- Path (dao)
- Wading the great river
- Having a direction to go
- No direction brings harvest
- Carts and carriages
- Compass directions
- Southwest versus northeast
- The south
- West versus east
- Small people and noble ones
- Great person, see the great person
- The King
- The king assumes his place (/enters his temple)
- Feudal lords
- The people and crowds
- Good fortune and pitfall
- Regrets, no regrets, regrets vanish
- No mistake
- Nothing that does not bear fruit
- Blunder, calamity and blunder
- Yuan heng li zhen (‘from the source creating success, constancy bears fruit,’ separately and together)
- Marriage in general
- The woman’s marriage
- ‘Not robbers, marital allies’
- The man’s marriage
- Summer offering
- Outskirts altars
- Balkin Laws of Change
- Barrett I Ching
- Heyboer Yijing
- Huang Complete I Ching
- Karcher I Ching Plain and Simple
- Karcher Total I Ching
- Lynn Classic of Changes
- Ritsema/Sabbadini Original I Ching Oracle
- Wilhelm/Baynes I Ching
For each entry, I’ve distilled my pages of notes into something compact and easy to use, so that if you’re getting stuck with a reading you can quickly turn to the glossary for some high quality imagination-food. Here’s the entry on feudal lords, so you can see how it’s laid out.
Language of Change: Feudal lords
3.0, 3.1, 16.0, 18.6 and 35.0 (in the person of Lord Kang), as well as in the Image of Hexagram 8.
A ‘feudal lord’ was a local ruler, given authority over his ‘fief’ by the king, and responsible for representing the king’s authority there. The king would choose a worthy representative to send out to a new domain, equipped with both the symbolic and practical means of establishing his dominion. The new feudal lord built a walled town and founded a temple; he had social and military power – he levied taxes on local produce – and a religious role. Each lord owed fealty to the centre, source of his orders and authority, and was allied and connected to other state lords.
In an age with no communication faster than a horse, feudal lords are not just a token ‘local government’. When Zhou conquered Shang, establishing feudal lords – both from their own kin and among local leaders – was a way for them to extend their reach to areas they could not possibly control directly. Later, alliances between powerful feudal states would bring down the king.
Related English phrases
- Support network
Ideas for interpretation
Think in terms of what feudal lords provided for the king: a representative who holds territory on their behalf, someone who maintains peace and order, a source of information and resources, help in raising and commanding an army, a means of implementing their decisions – and generalise from there.
In the broadest terms, a feudal lord is someone (or occasionally something) who makes your sphere bigger. Feudal lords help you; they enlarge your scope and make more of your own potential accessible to you. More specifically, they could be a source of information, someone you delegate to, a network of support and communications you can draw on, or a way of safeguarding and protecting your achievements.
‘Setting up feudal lords’ might mean…
- installing an internet connection
- starting up a baby-sitting circle
- business networking
- calling on spiritual guides and helpers
- getting an assistance dog
Out of respect for the oracle and your relationship to it, each entry starts with the literal meaning of the image – no anodyne abstractions (the prepackaged junk food of the Yijing world, and about as nourishing). From there come ideas for interpretation, and examples (drawn from experience) to bring more possibilities into view.
Quick and easy to use
A glossary is only useful if you can find what you need in it – and that’s especially tricky with a Yijing glossary, where you’re working from a translation. The same Chinese character might be represented by several different English words – and sometimes the same English word is used for different Chinese characters.
Language of Change gets round this with two methods of instant look-up: the multi-translation index, and the indexed translation, so that what you’re looking for is only ever a few clicks/taps away. It’s available in both pdf format (readable on any device) and in mobi format (for Kindle).
So imagine you cast Hexagram 45, read the words ‘it furthers one to undertake something’ in your trusty Wilhelm/Baynes, and wonder what this really has to tell you. Then you can either…
1) click ‘Wilhelm/Baynes’ in the multi-translation index, scroll down the list of entries and find:
“Undertake (something/ anything) 2.0, 3.0, 14.2, 22.0, 25.0, 25.2, 41.0, 41.6, 42.0, 43.0, 45.0
Undertakings, undertake something 11.1, 41.2, 54.0, 54.1″
There are two entries, because there are two different Chinese expressions translated with the same English words. You click the first entry, that mentions 45.0.
or 2) visit Hexagram 45 in the indexed translation, and click the final words of the Oracle, ‘have a direction to go’.
Either way, you’re transported to the entry for ‘Having a direction to go’, with its ‘literal meaning’, ‘related English phrases’, ‘ideas for interpretation’ and ‘example applications’.
Three ways to get Language of Change
Language of Change is available…
- As part of the Resonance Journal – Clarity’s journal software for Yijing readings, dreams and synchronicities.
- Included in Change Circle membership
- As a separate purchase here for £7 (about $10 or €8): click to order
Oh, and there is a Very Simple Guarantee: if you don’t find Language of Change massively helpful with your readings, tell me so, and I’ll refund your money.
Unsolicited testimonial: Language of Change is supremely worth buying. I almost always have it open in my pdf reader, along with various other of Hilary’s pdfs, and Bradford Hatcher’s book.
It contains a voluminous amount of information. Plus, its structure and thoroughness teach how to think about Yi, and how to look at your own readings. The “great person” doesn’t have to be a person, for example! And since we don’t have feudal lords in the 21st century, it helps to know they can translate to “helpers” or “infrastructure.” Of course, Hilary points out the pitfalls of relying on any collection of suggestions, but when you see it as ways to think, it’s easier to come up with more of your own.
It’s also a paragon of organization and thus a pleasure to use. Every little section is bookmarked, there is a ton of intra-document linkage, and there are not one, but two indexes. The multi-translation index shows how eight authors in nine books translated the same phrase (and that does make a difference sometimes). The indexed translation writes out the entire I Ching in order, every Oracle, Image, and line text, and links everything back to the glossary. So if you’re working with line 7.2, you can just click on the bookmark for hexagram 7 line 2 to find all its glossaried parts.”