Divination: Art or Science? (3) The Blind Archer

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:

(Figure 1: the mysterious archer’s matrix of 8 x 8 = 64 squares)

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.

(Figure 2: the values derived in the coin method range only from six to nine)

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.

(Figure 3: working from the bottom upwards, we threw totals of 8, 7 and 9. Odd is an unbroken line, Even is a broken line)

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:

(Figure 4: So far, we have formed a trigram (three lines) from the three-coin drop. The trigram is only half of a hexagram)

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.

(Figure 5: Completing the Upper trigram creates the final hexagram)

We can now return to our Archer’s matrix and add the vertical line to find the intersection:

(Figure 6: Our hexagram is resolved to a ‘target square’)

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.

(Above: The Rivendale Review offers an excellent and free PDF book on the I Ching. Check out his other books while you’re there…)

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?

(Figure 7: The final table – from three coins to an answer)

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‘.

(Richard Wilhelm’s classic book on the I Ching)

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:

———-

18

Decay

Poison

Renovation

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:

The Old One and the Gatekeeper: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Divination – Art or Science?: Part One, Part Two This is Part three, the final post.

©Stephen Tanham

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.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Divination: Art or Science? (2) : An Old Fire

(Above: image Pixabay – originated by Adesala)

The man, still distinguished though his hair and moustache were now silver, sat before the fire. Once more, he was alone in his home by the lake. Before him, the old kettle, as black with age as he was white, rattled on the small iron grate beneath it. The flames from the burning wood flickered up around its sides and the noise from within said the water was approaching the boil.

Carl Gustav Jung kept his retreat primitive. Here was where he came to be alone, not to entertain. Here was where he experienced life as it was before the modern world fabricated its layers of comfort and distraction. There were no wires, no heating, or lighting. Running water was taken from a mountain stream. Burning wood, like that in the fire, was the only comfort. Each morning and evening, he bathed in the icy waters of Lake Zürich.

He looked again at the kettle on the fire… and smiled. ‘Chi Chi’. It came to him quickly, bringing a smile.”No-one in their right mind would put water over fire, surely?”, he mused to the morning’s sunlight, filtering in elongated patterns through the old window shutters.

His mind raced over the numbers and meanings of the I Ching Hexagrams to locate the one triggered by the kettle and the fire. ’63 – After Completion’. A very strange notion to the western mind… How could you have anything meaningful ‘after’ completion? “Live happily ever after,” he smiled into the cold morning air. “But life’s not like that, is it? It goes on, round and round. What rises falls, what falls rises.”

(Above: The traditional Tai Chi symbol, depicting Yin and Yang – the eternally dancing polarities of creation)

His memory took him deeper into the meaning of the hexagram. The water in the kettle was now boiling, rocking the vessel on its narrow base. He knew it would not fall; knew that he had designed the iron support well, allowing most of the heat from the surrounding burning wood to get to the kettle and heat the water. The Chi Chi hexagram told of the need for intelligence in the control of such potent forces – brought together in sophistication, even in this simple technology. Everything the mind of man was good at… if only the heart of man would catch up..

He probed deeper, letting his eyes gaze into the middle distance, a kind of trance state he found creative.

The luxury of something completed was dangerous – especially if the stakes were high, such as a societal upheaval, like a war, or a rift in the population. Healing that was long and hard, and required mediators who could bridge both sides. When people were exhausted with hatred and division, they turned to such wisdom… and the wholeness came back; allowing differences, seeing differences as an essential part of the whole. Then came the greatest danger – when the pot came to the boil and the tea was ready to make and drink. The potent forces of fire and boiling water had not gone away. The stewardship into the making of tea was filled with danger – something no-one would entrust to a child…

The wise one would extend their vision beyond the fire, beyond the tea, into the field of tranquility and know that only vigilance and the continued drinking from the fountains of wisdom would hold it that way… for a while, at least. For the universe knew no permanence. The universe was change.


The above is part fiction, yet wholly true. Carl Jung did have a ‘primitive’ dwelling on the shores of Lake Zürich. He was so influenced by his personal discovery of the I Ching (via his strong friendship with Richard Wilhelm, the scholar and renowned sinologist who carried out the classic translation of the Book of Changes) that he described it as ‘the end of my loneliness’. His idea of ‘synchronicity’ exactly mirrored the I Ching’s concept that the well-crafted oracle could become a ‘purse of the now’ (my phrase) into which we delve for help, comfort and advice.

In the previous post of this series, I promised to carry out a reading in preparation for this post. The question posed was: what is the relevance of the I Ching to the readers of this blog?

The method of the reading will be discussed in the next post. The answer I got was that quoted in the semi-fictional story, above: ’63 Chi Chi’. The content of the story is an attempt to give a first-level understanding of its implications.

Personally, I find it describes well the nature of our slow emergence from the tragedy of the Covid-19 virus, and the folly of ‘rushing back to the beaches’. The wise ones will go inside their wisdom and wait until their inner senses tell them the time is right. Then the wheel will turn, again, and we will be on with the next set of challenges. There are many that await us. You may find your own, individual meanings in the readings of Chi Chi. I hope you do.

The I Ching comforts us that, no matter how horrific the face of the tyrant, they are not bigger than the Cosmos and its wheel. Their arrogance and power will be the seed of their own undoing. There are many parallels of undoing in the world at the moment.

Carl Jung was a sincere and dedicated investigator of the inner nature of mankind. His concepts of synchronicity, archetypes, and the nature of extroversion and introversion fitted well into the deep and parallel map of life on Earth as given in the I Ching. In his introduction to Richard Wilhelm’s classic translation he says many things. For me, the most profound is:

“The method of the I Ching does indeed take into account the hidden individual quality in things and men, and in one’s own unconscious self as well.”

In the next and final post in this series we will look at the method of taking a reading from the I Ching.

Previous posts in this series:

The Old One and the Gatekeeper: Part One, Part Two, Part Three

Divination – Art or Science?: Part One, This is Part Two

©Stephen Tanham

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.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.

Divination: Art or Science? (1)

(Above: The Yin Yang symbol depicting polar opposites united in their life)

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.

(Above: A hexagram as used by the I Ching)

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:

  1. 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.
  2. 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.
  3. To loosen the faculty of reason and let something else speak, by way of inspiration.
  4. 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

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.

Steve’s personal blog, Sun in Gemini, is at stevetanham.wordpress.com.