The I Ching or Book of Changes draws its origins from ancient Chinese agricultural calendars (which were, moreover, the earliest forms of Chinese writing), used in practice to plan agricultural activities. Only later did it develop into a full-fledged sapiential and oracular text; the earliest known edition dates from the time of the Han dynasty, between 206 BCE and 24 CE.
The Chinese were among the first to observe the movement of the stars, even before the Chaldeans and Babylonians, and they established a relationship between the movements of the stars and the succession of seasons. Hence the original use of the eight trigrams as an agricultural calendar useful for defining the succession of seasons and climatic changes.
In Chinese culture it is attributed divine origins: Fu-Hui, a mythical character with a horned head, had the opportunity to witness the separation of Heaven from Earth after the initial Chaos, and later saw a Dragon-Horse emerge from a river; the mythical creature had graphs marked on its back. Fu-Hui transcribed the signs and came up with the original eight trigrams, called Cuà. The simplicity of the basic signs of the I Ching, (
) is impressive and suggests the quantum leap of ancient man in the act of encoding and attributing meaning to an abstract sign. The 64 oracle responses of the Book of Changes are the result of combining the original eight trigrams with themselves. Each sign consists of 6 whole (yang) or broken (ying) horizontal lines.
The simplest and most popular method of consulting the I Ching is the three-coin toss.
To consult the oracle of the I Ching, it is advisable to find a quiet moment in which to concentrate and be clear about the question to be asked. In general, it is appropriate to consult the oracle only for important matters-to deal with problems on which it is difficult to make a decision-to understand the meaning of a particular emotional or vital situation. To choose a personal orientation in life or in relation to other people. It is recommended to write the question on a paper or journal with the date and to transcribe the hexagram of the response; doing so gives you the opportunity to reread both the question and the response after some time.
To understand the response, it is good to try to understand its essence, without interpreting the words literally; it is useful to meditate a little on the response and the natural symbols it offers us to stimulate an intuitive understanding that relates the response to our question. In some cases, when the response seems particularly obscure to us, it is best to let both the question and the response settle and come back to it after some time.
Carl Gustav Jung, a great admirer and popularizer of the I Ching, presents it as a monument of Chinese thought and notes how in the oracle’s answers there is a continuous invitation to self-knowledge.
Jung reminds us that in order to understand the short phrases with which the I Chingle expresses itself, one must consider that the ancient Chinese mind is very rich in a profound wisdom that tends not to appear at first glance, but must be discovered through careful intuitive reflection, and that the personality of the questioner is also involved in the oracle’s response.
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