The archer stands before our target. His skill is deadly; he never misses, but there’s a catch: he’s also blind… and he never speaks, except with his arrows. No-one knows how he does what he does, but if you ask him a question, he will fire his arrow at the target. The place where the arrow lands is his answer to your question.
The target looks like this:
You are allowed to touch him, once, before he fires the arrow. You touch him with your sincerity; with your voice if you wish – though your focussed thoughts will do fine. After that the arrow flies into one of the 64 squares of the matrix of truth.
He never misses because his arrow always lands in the middle of one of the sixty-four squares. The squares represent the Hexagrams of the I Ching – the ancient Chinese book of Changes discussed in the previous parts of this series – see references at the end of this post.
You may not see him (or her) as a Divine Archer. This is just how I have chosen to illustrate the process; but it does represent how I see him when I cast my own coins.
If you look at the archer’s matrix, you will see the same words written along the top as are written down the side. The words are: Heaven, Thunder, Water, Mountain, Earth, Wind, Fire and Lake.
Casting the coins is how I know what the Archer has done in response to my question. As with other oracles, there are various methods for arriving at (in this case) one of the 64 squares, but throwing three coins is the most commonly used I Ching method.
Here are all the possible ways that three coins having heads and tails can fall. The values are explained, below.
How we consult the Archer from the coin drop:
We count heads as value three. Tails as value two.
We shake three coins in our closed hands and drop them, together, onto a flat surface.
From these number values, we are going to construct a series of horizontal lines to form our hexagram. Each line is derived from the value of the coin-drop. We begin these lines at the bottom of our space and add each new one on top of the previous.
If the number is odd (seven or nine) we draw a line that is continuous, and we write the value of the coin-drop next to it.
If the number is even (six or eight) we draw a line that is broken in the middle, then write the value of the coin-drop next to it.
The lines we are drawing are the yin and yang lines. Yin is broken – ‘Yielding’; and Yang is whole – ‘Active’. What we have created, above, is half of a hexagram, which is known as a trigram. But a trigram is far more than just half of the whole, it is the essence of the I Ching.
Consider the diagram, below:
A hexagram is made from six of these lines stacked together in two groups of three. In Figure 4, if we look down the emphasised left column, under the word ‘Lower’, we can identify our lower trigram as SUN – meaning Wind. Within the archer’s matrix, we can see a (red) row of squares next to SUN. Our target square lies somewhere within this line, but to find where it is we have to complete our hexagram by adding the ‘Upper’ trigram. Both, together, will then point to the ‘address’ of our answer.
We can now return to our Archer’s matrix and add the vertical line to find the intersection:
From the above, we can see that the union that resolves our ‘reading’ is the intersection of two variants of the same eight figures. Each of these is reached by casting three coins to determine the balance of Yin-Yang and hence the whole or split nature of the line.
It is worth pointing out that the Yin and Yang lines are a binary system. They result in only one of two possible states, and therefore can be indexed as a simply binary number of ones and zeros. I am indebted to Michael Graeme for pointing this out in his (free) summary of the I Ching which can be downloaded from his website: The Rivendale Review.
Back to our Archer’s matrix… We have made our sincere request for insight; have created the ‘wings’ of our bow using two arms of eight figures, and the arrow has been fired by the blind archer. Where did it land and what does it mean for us?
Cross-reference the combination of Wind below and Mountain above and you will come to the square marked in red in Figure 6. This is now revealed to be Hexagram 18. To obtain our answer we look this up in a reputable table of I Ching wisdom. The classic text is Richard Wilhelm’s book ‘I Ching or book of changes‘.
I’ve had my copy (above) for nearly thirty years. It’s battered but much loved. We mentioned Michael Graeme’s free PDF book before. He has had decades of experience with the I Ching, so let’s see what his highlights are for this Hexagram. Bear in mind that, like last week, I did this divination on the day of preparing the blog – Wednesday.
Michael’s text for Hexagram 18 reads:
Work on what has been spoiled
~Keywords: Obsession, Narrow Minded, Dogmatism, Degeneration, Old Fashioned, Corrupt, Rotten, Decaying… Renovation, Cleaning Out, Purging.
When we follow something with a sense of enthusiasm, we may sometimes forget to ask what is right, or we may become careless and allow corrupt influences to assert themselves, So, after Following comes Renovation.’
I can’t think of a better summary of what we’ve been watching from America over the past few days… and also the spirit of the thousands of brave people standing in front of lines of bewildered soldiers who have orders to kill citizens if necessary…
Got to Micheal’s website and look up Hexagram 18 for a full reading. It’s a free PDF text.
A final technical note about the figures in red on Figure 5. The dropped-coin values of 6 and 9 are considered worthy of special attention in a reading, and will be given special notes in the hexagram text. They are representative of the periods of greatest change, like the peaks and troughs of the classic waveform. It is also customary to change these lines to their opposites and create a new hexagram, one which is then read in the context of providing further emphasis to the primary hexagram.
Copyright notice: All diagrams used in this post have been created by the author and are copyrighted 2020.
Previous posts in this series:
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.