What is IChing? The Book of Changes...
What is the IChing Oracle & Divination System?
The IChing is an ancient oracle divination tool. The first known recording of this practice dates back to 6,000 BC*1… where the original trigrams, an early form of the IChing, were inscribed on the Turtle shells used in divination.
Quite spectacularly, the Otzi man, frozen in ice in northern Europe for 5,300 years, showed signs of arthritis in his joints and has IChing Trigram symbols on Acupuncture points used to treat arthritis in Traditional Chinese Medicine! *2 This demonstrates that Chinese philosophy and Acupuncture medicine were around in Europe 5,000 years ago!
The IChing is more than simply a divination or oracle tool, it’s a whole system of understanding nature, cosmology, man’s position within this system and an extensive moral, spiritual and philosophical treatise on how one could act and train to be of the highest spiritual and moral standard for oneself and humanity as a whole. The IChing is also the root of Daoism (Chinese spiritual and moral philosophy where the yin yang symbol is derived) that has been continuously compiled and added-to by the likes of Confucius and many other feudal lords dating back to antiquity…
IChing – The Most Ancient Divination System
The IChing is the most ancient divination system known so far. The system started with basic three-line symbols associated with natural forces of nature that represent their attributes: Heaven – creative; earth – receptive; fire – hot, rising; water – soft, sinking; mountain – stillness; lake – inward joy; thunder – movement and wind – gentle movement.
Initially, these forces were used to divine the future and present situations from heating turtle shells and later other bones. The creation of this early system has been attributed Fu Xi, the progenitor of modern man in China. Many people who use the IChing think that it could not have been possible for early man to create such a complex and accurate system that seems to understand the natural forces at play and how they interact to divine the cosmological and earth bound situation and give deeply accurate advise as to how to act for the Highest Good in the future.
Forward more than 4,000 years since the first evidence of IChing divination was found to around 1,112 BC *3 and we get towards the end of the Shang Dynasty in China. Here is it said that King Wen, imprisoned by the tyrant Emperor of The Shang developed the current sequence and formation of the IChing, adding 2 trigrams together to form hexagrams or “Gua”. Descriptions of the “changing lines” – as each hexagram is made up of six yin or yang lines – were added and utilised as code for King Wen to communicate with The Duke of Zhou – his son. The code was used to convey secret information on how to overthrow the tyrant of the Shang and create a new dynasty based on magnanimity and serving the people as opposed to tyranny.
More than 3,000 years later and the advice of the IChing still hold true today! The commentary on the decisions, commentary on the symbols (interacting forces) and general advice can often be extremely profound! Ask a superficial question and you will invariably get a deep answer or a “don’t importune The IChing” response!
One of 20th century’s prominent psychologists Carl Gustav Jung was a great fan of the IChing. Understanding the depth of the IChing one can see how it influenced his wisdom on how Jung believed the human mind works and helped him to diagnose and heal people.
C.G Jung even went as far as writing the forward for one of the most respected translations of the IChing, The IChing and The Book of Changes*4.
In this exciting piece of writing Jung describes his theory as to how, scientifically, the IChing divination system works so well.
The IChing – How Does it Work?
In one sense nobody really knows! However, C.G. Jung did a good job of putting forward some theories. Jung writes about how the sub-conscious archetypes relate to the meaning of the hexagrams as well as how synchronicity could work.
Essentially the IChing, as a system of divination, works with complex mathematics combined with synchronicity, chaos and law, or science and the unknown or spirit, combined in one. You could say that the “Golden Mean” or Fibonacci Sequence is found in the IChing, the natural infinite spiral design of life itself. 64 hexagrams are also aligned with 64 nodes of RNA in our DNA and 64 places on a chess board. Its not known where chess derived but its certainly quite a strange “co-incidence” that Chess is about waring Kings and Queens, as is the IChing… Chess, when in the latter part of the game, has literally trillions of different moves that can be made.
The IChing has over 4,000 different answers to your question. Asking a direct question, you will usually get a direct answer, as the IChing never lies. The moment you cast the coins or Yarrow stalks is a synchronistic moment in time, concentrating on the specific question you sub-consciously influence the formation of the answer.
Here comes the magic, how is the IChing SO accurate in describing present situations? Who knows!! At least a prominent psychologist did his best to assert how it could work, the rest will be down to modern science to work it out… if it ever can…
In the meantime, at the very least it’s a great tool to help learn about ones-self, a fun game to develop one-self and reflect on past actions, learn, grow and develop in this eternal theatre of life…
“My experience has been that often the particular hexagram chosen through the throwing of the coins seems to speak uncannily to the issues that are plaguing the petitioner. A pure rationalist would note that the readings are sufficiently open to interpretation to serve as Rorschach blots for projection. Still, a little magic never hurts.” *5
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*1: “The archaeologists have identified 11 separate symbols inscribed on the tortoise shells.
The shells were found buried with human remains in 24 Neolithic graves unearthed at Jiahu in Henan province, western China. The site has been radiocarbon dated to between 6,600 and 6,200 BC.
*2: [Austria in the Otzal region. This 35-year-old man is now known as Otzi the Iceman, he had well preserved clothing, tools, weapons including a copper axe and other devices with him. He died 5,300 years ago]
*3: Zhōu Wén Wáng; 1112–1050 BC
*4: Richard Wilhelm The IChing & The Book of Changes forward by C J Jung:
*5: Article discussing the advantages of using the IChing in psychotherapy: