For as long as there have been humans on Earth, we have sought to find answers. Wise women and wise men have been cherished throughout history for their ability to throw ‘light’ on complex problems and situations. In our modern age, more people than ever find at least comfort and, often, guidance in some kind of fortune telling. My grandmother used to read tea leaves, using the pattern left when the (leaf) tea was swirled out of a cup at the end of a routine or ritualised consultation. Her advice was often sought.
I had a interesting childhood. I was raised in a mystically-active family, but felt the pull of a scientific career – ending up in computing. I never had any trouble reconciling the two, but was always hesitant to talk about it to other scientific types… There is a ‘religion’ of despising such things among the purists of science. Their prejudice is a strong as any of history’s zealous priests. Having said, that, the scientific method has brought immense benefits to mankind.
I was comfortable with divination because I could always see a bigger picture… Let me try to describe the basis of this:
What happens ‘inside me’, in terms of consciousness, is not really separated from the ‘out there’ of the world and its constant changes. I felt this long before I could offer any explanation for it. I knew that if I changed how I felt about someone, their behaviour to me would miraculously change, too. This doesn’t mean that I always did this, far from it…. our emotions are very strong with those we dislike and often override the still small voice of inner guidance.
We began this consideration of ancient Chinese wisdom by looking at the work of Lao Tzu (The Book of the Way – Dao Je Jing); (see The Old One and the Gatekeeper series).
The other great ‘book’, older than the Dao Je Jing, is the Book of Changes, otherwise known as the I Ching. Adopted by pop culture in the 1960s, the Yin Yang symbol was seen on everything from notebooks to tee-shirts. The Yin-Yang symbol is a later development, and has been associated with I Ching because its elements representing Yin – black, and Yang – White, are found in the broken and unbroken lines of the Hexagrams that are the ‘divined’ basis of the reading.
The Yin Yang symbol illustrates an idea from ancient times that the ‘whole’ is in constant motion – change. And that change, itself, is the real nature of the world. Things can be opposite yet still exist harmoniously. Each thing contains its opposite. Each thing becomes its opposite when it has reached its fullness and begins to decline.
We must learn to ride that constant change and be at peace with this. This is quite a statement. We are used to reality being the solidity of what is – and endures. Within the I Ching, the reality is shifted ‘upstairs’ to that process of change from which we take snapshots of our reality, much like, in quantum physics, how an electron in an atom obligingly reveals itself under quantum measurement, but is otherwise indeterminate in velocity and position.
Evolved and educated to seek stability as a basis for survival and prosperity, human nature finds this idea of harmony through change a difficult concept to embrace. Without stability, we reason, ‘fortune’ may be a fickle companion.
This idea has its parallel in Newton’s older and simpler non-quantum physics. Objects that move seldom do so with constant speed (velocity) – unless they are spacecraft. Newton showed, through a maths process called differentiation, that the derivative of a formula for velocity (speed) would produce a formula for acceleration. The latter is far more revealing, since it is linked to the real world of force. Force gives rise to motion, in the first place.
To slow an object requires force – imagine the sting of catching a well-struck cricket ball! Equally, to make an object move away from you with a throw requires the force of an uncurling arm. The ‘speeding up’ – acceleration, is equal to the force divided by its mass: the amount of substance it possesses.
Driving a car is, for example, a continuous process of acceleration and deceleration; controlled through exploding petrol in an engine moderated by the right foot. No wonder driving takes a while to grasp… Perhaps the difference between a driver and a watcher of fortune is that the driver is following a short-term goal of getting somewhere, whereas the ‘fortune hunter’ just wants to feel secure.
It’s a dramatic conclusion, but the universal Sea of Being does not offer security. Instead, it offers a science of personal change and an opportunity to learn how to sail.
All this may seem academic. However, in order to see that there is a ‘higher science’ of existence that lives happily in a dimension of ‘change’, we need to have these proven models to align us, correctly, with the potential to see differently.
This is the goal of the I Ching…
If we see the ‘out there’ as divided, we are not in harmony with the inevitable currents of change. If we see it as a fluid medium which must change, we begin to bring our consciousness into the ‘now’, taking new nourishment from the fact that its sparkling presence is the result of that constant ‘replenishment’. The present state cannot do anything put ‘perish’ to make way for the next packet of the new…
Science has shown us that both matter and energy cannot be destroyed. We can only change the form – the organisation – of its substance. Nor can we know that substance as something separate from our own consciousness.
The I Ching is a ‘book’ of collective wisdom, drawn from truly ancient times, and refined over the centuries. One of the most insightful teachers I know refers to it as a ‘Solar Work’ and uses it, herself, to describe the inner detail of a pattern of events. She has done this for many decades and views the I Ching as a constant and reliable companion.
This ‘book’ has been condensed into 64 ‘cores’ of wisdom, rendered as hexagrams, as in the image, below. The process of consulting the I Ching is one of ‘drawing’ a randomised reference to these hexagrams and reading the wisdom it offers, at various levels of detail.
You can even buy an App for your mobile phone…. good ones, too. The best give you a choice of having random numbers generated for you or letting you throw three coins and entering the results to get the reading.
We will look at this, the consulting process, in the next post. For now, it is important to consider the idea of divination, itself…
The elements of effective divination are:
- To have a repeatable process of consultation – ‘looking up’ a guiding text or picture in response to a question, a feeling, or just to set a reflective theme for the day.
- To actively feel a connection to the external actions. In the sense of my explanation, above, to know that there is no real separation from in-here and out-there, other than what we are taught about the pre-eminence of reason over everything else.
- To loosen the faculty of reason and let something else speak, by way of inspiration.
- To open and close the process with respect… and a certain feeling of love for something that is letting us ‘touch’ another reality.
Next week, I will consult the I Ching before writing the Thursday blog. We shall see what it has to offer us in terms of describing itself!
Stephen Tanham is a Director of the Silent Eye School of Consciousness, a not-for-profit teaching school of modern mysticism that helps people find a personal path to a deeper place within their internal and external lives.
The Silent Eye provides home-based, practical courses which are low-cost and personally supervised. The course materials and corresponding supervision are provided month by month without further commitment.