8. The I Ching, or The Book of Changes

Content: The I Ching is an ancient book of divination. In fact, to its devotees it is almost a semi-aware oracle which assists the user to reach decisions on questions in their life through the interpretation of messages selected by random castings of coins (or originally, yarrow sticks). This is known as bibliomancy and has been practised using other books, including the Bible, but not necessarily with this depth of choice of random number generation (64 possible choices with alternative meanings on some lines depending on the strength of the random castings)
My thoughts : Another odd book to review. More of a reference book than a work of literature, although there is beauty in the simple messages given via the trigrams (or patterns of castings). To read the actual messages is more like scanning dozens of thoughtful and puzzling hidden truths in peculiarly wisdom-inspired fortune cookie messages (and yes, I know fortune cookies are an American invention)
And yes, I did ask the I Ching a few questions for myself. No – I’m not going to divulge the details on the blog, but the answers certainly seem to lean on the side of common sense! That said, the use of the I Ching could be said to be of most value in making the enquirer think solidly about their question when interpreting the messages, and reach their decision after that process of examination, or even their subconscious feelings, rather than any oracular guidance.
My version was the highly regarded translation by Wilhelm, originally in German, then translated again into English by Baynes (ISBN 069109750X), which I had to get the librarian to fetch out of storage. The lengthy foreword by Jung (the famous psychiatrist) was both interesting and useful in understanding the history and impact of the work.
Favourite lines/passages
More than any particular passage, what I enjoyed most was how each of the 64 combinations are actually a marriage of two trigrams, or three line patterns, and each trigram has a meaning : heaven, earth, thunder, water, mountain, wind, fire or lake. Combining two meanings gives a theme which implies characteristics: e.g. earth on top of water equals groundwater, which is like an army formed by the common people in times of need, unseen until required, so hidden strength ; while water beneath a mountain is likened to the spring rising at the foot of the mountain, a symbol of youthful folly. These characteristics are then tied to action (or inaction) when interpreting the seeker’s question.
Diversions/digressions : only in actually getting some coins and trying out a few questions.
Personal rating 5/10


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