How to ask
I Ching on Advice
The I Ching consists of 64 hexagrams which are described in the Book of Transformations. It is through the intuitive interpretation of the individual hexagram that, according to the I Ching, people can learn to act correctly in life’s situations.
The one who asks the I Ching for advice must, through interpretation of the hexagram, form his own opinion about what it is that the I Ching answers the question.
In Homer’s Illiad, it is told about the beautiful Helen, who is the starting point for the entire war about Troy. But nowhere does Homer write anything about Helene’s height, hair color, eye color or any characteristics of Helena in general – Homer is content simply to write that she is the most beautiful of the most beautiful.
And thereby leave it up to the reader to form his own opinion about what he/she thinks the most beautiful of the most beautiful looks like. In the same way the I Ching works. The answers are cryptic and full of associations and metaphors for the I Ching consulter to find his own individual answers.
The I Ching has its origins in China and here the use of metaphors in the language is very widespread. The Chinese place great importance on not losing face or making others feel they are doing this. Therefore, metaphors are often used in what is said and written. By making it possible for the recipient to interpret the message themselves, it is possible to get out of almost any situation with honor intact.
The word metaphor comes from Greek and means to transfer – you transfer something from one area to another (from Greek metaphora ‘transfer’, from metaphorein ‘carry, carry over’). In principle, metaphors are all linguistic expressions that do not convey the intended meaning unless they are understood in a different sense than their literal meaning.
Carl Gustav Jung believed that you get the best out of the I Ching when you “know yourself”. Or at least aware that we humans see the world through each of our sets of glasses.
In psychology, we talk about the principle of subjectivity: a person acts based on his own understanding of a situation. Which is easy to forget in everyday life where we rarely have time to analyze why we think the way we do. We don’t think about why we think one is beautiful and the other messy, why we like one and not the other.
We will simply have to generalize and put labels on the people and experiences we meet in our daily life, as otherwise we would be completely confused and unable to get out of the place.
However, being aware of how we form our opinions and decisions is important to be aware of if we ask the I Ching for advice. It is through the intuitive interpretation of a hexagram that we must form our own opinion about what it is that the I Ching answers the question.
If you choose to use the I Ching for existential escapism and self-deception, this is exactly what you will get.
You will understand how a hexagram is interpreted if you follow the review of how the first hexagram can be interpreted.
The first hexagram consists of six unbroken yang lines, which symbolize the male, positive and active force. Ergo, it is not surprising that the hexagram is considered to be strong, without weakness, its essence is energy, power.
Since all the lines are currently yang, they are on the way to transform into their opposite, i.e. the hexagram K’un, the receiving one, which is made up of six yin lines. In this encounter between the purely male, yang, the creative, the outgoing – with the opposite, the purely female, yin, the receptive – the strength of the creative is united with the gentle and the receptive.
Let’s look at what the verdict is for the hexagram Ch’ien, which we are trying to find out how to interpret.
The creative achieves overwhelming success,
Progress through persistent correctness
The creative works sublime success,
Furthering through perseverance.
Confucius explained the hexagram in the following way: “Greatness, persistent correctness, is indeed the cancer, the energy, the power that looks at the basis of the creative; all things have arisen from creativity”.
The verdict indicates that the hexagram expresses the great wise man’s path to success. Because he sees with great clarity, and is able to distinguish between cause and effect, he climbs the six steps at the right times and climbs steadily toward heaven. Each step is a necessary preparation for the next step.
Heaven’s movement is powerful. Therefore it should
superior wise man make himself strong and invulnerable
The movement of heaven is full of power. Thus
the superior man makes himself strong and untiring.
Since there is only one heaven, the meaning of the two heavens, the two versions of the trigram Ch’ien, the heaven is movement.
A complete development of the sky constitutes a day, and repeating the sky twice is an image of each day being followed by a new day. This creates the image in time. Since it is the same sky, a development that never stops or changes, we also get continuity, the image of the creative power that is in man.
The wise should learn to develop with the same steadfastness and strength. She must make great efforts to constantly reject what is unnecessary and superfluous in relation to what she has chosen as her own right path.
Let’s take a closer look at what we learn about the hexagram Ch’ien / The creative, the creative. Overall, we actually get a whole little life story. We start in the bottom line with the untested, not yet mature man (or woman) and follow up through the hexagram this development towards becoming a great man.
We start from the bottom line and move up towards the sky (Tao). It is said that the creative energy when it is in the lower line is hidden, i.e. internal, but that as you approach the sky, i.e. go up through the hexagram, you meet light that causes the germinating seeds to grow.
Various dangers lurk along the way. He (or she) can, for example, be misled when the masses begin to notice the talents and thus come to go after the external – wealth, fame etc. – or choose to continue with his studies as the lonely professor in his laboratory.
It is important to be aware that the hexagram does not indicate some of the paths as the only correct ones. You could immediately imagine that there was something about it being the right thing to turn your energies inward and concentrate on becoming wise. But this the hexagram says or denies very clearly by repeatedly using the phrase “Go without shame”. So when you have made a decision, it is right for you and you have nothing to be ashamed of.
When the person in the story has risen to the higher ranks and has gained a great position, power, influence and the like, the hexagram warns not to fly higher than the wings can carry. You can say that in this way it ends where it started, namely with an admonition that you must be careful not to throw yourself into something you cannot control.
This is not the time for action.
Wait for the right moment.
Or let the environment work for you,
while you control the process in secret.
Hidden dragon. Do not act.
The dragon is symbolic of a great electrically charged dynamic energy that sometimes creates thunder and thunderclouds. In winter this energy retreats into the earth, while in early spring it is brought back to life and appears in the sky as lightning and thunder. As a result, the creative forces again begin to stir on earth.
Here in the bottom line, the creative force is still hidden in the earth and has no effect. Translating this to the affairs of men, it is understood that this is a symbol of a great man not yet discovered, not yet sprung forth.
In order for him to become the great man he is destined to be, he must be true to himself, and not be influenced by the success or failure of others, but have confidence in his own strength and wait for time.
The one who draws this hexagram is therefore encouraged first of all to look at time, let time work for you. The message is that you are destined for something big, are on the right path, but should not rush the time, do not rush into it before you are mature, ready for it.
A person can benefit you.
Be consistent with him.
Dragon appearing in the field.
It furthers one to see the great man.
Here the effects of the light-giving forces begin to show. This means that the great man will show himself in the field he has set out to master. At present, he has no decisive power or position. However, what sets him apart from everyone else is the seriousness and zeal with which he immerses himself in his undertakings.
He stands out as a man you can immediately trust, and his influence on those around him is much greater than he himself is aware of. Such a man is predestined to achieve great influence and power, which is why it is auspicious to seek him out.
Beware of others’ desire to exploit your
creative force does not dissipate your energy.
Stick strictly to your vision and your integrity.
All day long the superior man is creatively active.
At nightfall his mind is still beset with cares. Danger. No blame.
An opportunity for influence opens up for the great man. His fame begins to spread. The masses begin to flock around him. His inner strength can catch up with the increasing outer activity. There are many things that need to be sorted out and when others sleep in the evening, he is plagued by stress, thoughts and planning.
Danger lurks here at the dividing line between the dark and the light. Many a great man has succumbed to the masses flocking to him and tricked him into their game. Ambition has destroyed his integrity. But true greatness is not destroyed by temptations along the way. He who remains true to himself and his destiny will avoid the pitfalls.
You must decide for yourself whether you want to use
your creative power extroverted or introverted.
Wavering flight over the depths. No blame.
A place of change, decision is reached. The big man is presented with two options. Either he can strive for the heights and come to play an important role in the world, or he can retire to peace and develop himself.
He can choose to take the path of the holy man (the introvert) or he can choose to take the path of the hero (the extrovert). There is no general law as to what he should make of these choices. If the person is honest with himself, he will find the path that is right for him. This path is the right one for him, and he should choose it without guilt or remorse.
You have a great influence on the outside world.
And the outside world looks to you for inspiration.
Flying dragon in the heavens.
It furthers one to see the great man.
Here the wise man has understood the higher spiritual contexts. His influence spreads and becomes visible throughout the world. Anyone who sees him must consider himself lucky, blessed.
Confucius says of this line: “Things that belong together vibrate together. That which constitutes our inner nature seeks its equal. Water flows towards that which is wet. Fire is attracted to that which is dry. Clouds (the breath of heaven) follow after the Dragon. Wind (the breath of the earth) follows the Tiger. That which is originally born of the sky feels attached to all that is above us. That which is born of the earth follows the pull of all that is below us .Every one follows his own.
Your goals are too broad
in relation to your creative power.
You risk being left behind
high-flying and unrealistic.
In that case, you will regret your actions.
Arrogant dragon will have cause to repent.
When a man climbs so high that he loses connection with other people, he becomes isolated, which necessarily results in failure. This line warns of overly unrealistic and high-flying plans that exceed one’s abilities. Such a pursuit will end in a gigantic fall.
Whoever has to interpret the I Ching is given a range of information to deal with.
Description of the individual hexagram, the individual lines, the shadow side of the hexagram, the two trigrams that the hexagram is made up of, Notes of Confucius, etc.
It is through the intuitive interpretation of the individual hexagram that, according to the I Ching, people can learn to act correctly in life’s situations.