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A Multitude of Paths to the I Ching

Prepare                      Cast Coins                          Read The Text                    Examine The Image                   Online Reading

                                 Yarrow Stalks

This page is meant to suggest how you might approach the I Ching. The ways listed are only a few of the thousands of cultural and spirtual traditions, beliefs, and faiths which inhabit the world. Further, it only represents what I have learned so far, which is likely to miss the point for many readers — I invite you give the I Ching a try with your own viewpoint. I have included links to sample references on occassion - the Bibliography has more.   Jim Olsen

choose your path

The I Ching has a long history of being approached from different perspectives, different ways of understanding the book. The Book of Changes has, through the ages not only given its wisdom but been given knowledge by its thoughtful and wise followers.

Scholars and sages in China developed what historians call Schools of Thought — each with its own way of interpreting the I Ching, each providing a commentary on the I Ching — spreading beyond China's boards and moving to the West.  

As the book moved west, Schools of Thought saw the classic to the world of Western Science, Psychology,  Religion, Mysticism, and many other world-viewpoints.


As you read the I Ching you will be participating in a long tradition to see it through your eyes, your traditions, mixing it up with the Daoist, Confucian, and Chinese Cosmology that lay within the text at the time it was written.

Reading A Hexagram

Reading A Hexagram

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practical I Ching: tap your subconscience

Reading For Insight

Your subconscious mind is always at work, noticing subtle clues, observing patterns to "optimize" your responses to life's events and survive in dangerous situations.


The computer in a smartphone can execute several million operations in the time it takes for a single neuron of the human mind do its work. But, your brain and the nervous system connects the 100 billion neurons in a richly connected network which makes up for the "slow" processing speed. It adapts: for example, the neural network often responds faster to things you have learned to fear.


The primary survival mechanism is to create a framework of anticipation — you survive by "expecting" something and are biased to see and understand things based on these expectations.


Many of the complex, anxiety producing, situations require understanding a situation that goes beyond these preconceived expectations. This knowledge of the unexpected, and often unwanted, can sit latent, hidden from

your conscious, chattering, narrative that carries you through the day.


Your subsconcious may work on a problem that was downloaded, behind the scenes, hidden from your conscious narrative when life's events require you to focus on something else. 


There are many ways to tap this font of knowledge: visualization, meditation, a dream, a good nights sleep — and the I Ching


Divination is the act of understanding the hidden mechanisms at work — one of which may be your own subconscious mind. When you tap what is hidden to bring it forth for examination — by your conscious mind, that part of you which puts words to ideas, which attempts to deduce things, you are taking the first step of divination.


What lies beneath may remain hidden unless it is brought forth. The I Ching is a tool for tapping the subconscious.

Reading your I Ching hexagram for tapping you subconsious


• First, let the words and images settle.

   - Try not to rush to figure it out.

• Second, "evaluate."

   - Is it insight?

   - Or your Ego's cleverly disguised desire.

• The challenge

   - telling the difference between insight

       and what you hope for

• Journal - invaluable for learning the difference

 I Ching the therapist: person-centered therapy

"What's on your mind?" might be the starting point for such a session, where you are being "listened to" and are prompted to tell your own story, pushing further into your own thoughts — the therapist adds no real content, it is all you —  it is your personal insight is drawn out.​​

This works in many settings. 

Reading For Therapy

Reading your I Ching hexagram, the therapist


• The I Ching words conjure up a story, your story. 

• That is I Ching words mean.

 moral advice: Confucius advises

Reading For Moral Guidance

This additional "layer" of text, which now sits on the same page as the older layer, took the Book of Changes from just a divination manual to a book that added moral guidance.


The Superior Person (translated by many in English as man) is the Confucian ideal of how you should respond to the reading and the situation you are in.

Confucius taught an ethical system which included such things as the Golden Rule and moderation. The Image Statement and some of the commentaries are attributed to Confucius or his followers. ​

A few hundred years after the Judgment and Line Statements were written, the Image Statements and Commentary were added.

Reading your I Ching hexagram, the moral advisor


• There may be many paths suggested.

• Choose the Superior Person.

• Choose truth and benevolence.

 I Ching in nature: living in the Dao (Tao)

Two Chinese sages are considered the founders of Daoism as a philosophy of life: Laozi and Zhuangzi. Living insidenature as it changes is easy — as learning and attempting to impose moral mandates upon others falls away. 

The connection with Deep Ecology is apparent. The I Ching’s Law of Change has its roots in the Dao and the manifestation of Yin-Yang.

Reading For Living in the Dao

Reading your I Ching hexagram, nature calls


• Calmly accept what surrounds you

    - everything behaves according to its nature.

• Act or not act as part of the natural cycle.

 the mystical I Ching: way of the ancients

Reading For The Mystic

sacrifice, with references to omen-words, talismans, and familiar poems. The oldest layers of the I Ching are still there, in the book you have in your hand. Daoist mystics have carried the tradition forward to this day.

The I Ching is rooted in ancient Chinese cosmology, where Yin-Yang process is ever present. The development of the cosmology, with its Yin-Yang and correlative concepts arose out of stories of fantastic creatures. In its oldest incarnation the I Ching delivered word-magic, advice on the proper ritual 

Reading your I Ching hexagram, the mystic and magic


• The mini-model universe reveals itself in images.

• Are there hints of how to twist march of fate.

 the I Ching affirms: positive affirmation, the method of the ancients

Reading For Affirmation

The outcome of your reading will almost always be contingent upon your actions and attitude — and it is essential to pay close attention to these, because what the reading suggest is likely to happen may change significantly for better or worse depending on how you respond to the advice on how to approach your situation.

Positive affirmation, self-affirmation a features in populary self-help books, spiritual traditions, and several therapy methods.


In forming your question, you express a positive intent to take some course of action. The reading is usually, but not always, is what is likely to happen if you take that course.     

Reading your I Ching hexagram for Positive Affirmation


• Your words manifest what's about to happen.

• Are there hints of how it will unfold?

 I Ching affirms: through the Divine Mind

The New Though Movement, Christian Science, and other tradtions believe that with the right attitude, affirmation, and prayer, that the power of the Divine Mind can manifest your intent  —  even heal the sick — and always to heal yourself. 

Does you reading confirm your intent, or must you do more work to approach the divine with the faith and a pure heart.

Reading For Affirmation

Reading your I Ching hexagram, affirmation through the Divine Mind


• Let the Divine Mind affirm.

• If your intent affirmed or is there caution?

I Ching foretells your fate: but not your inevitable destiny 

The Old Norse would say the three Norns at the bottom of the Tree of Life weave the web of your fate — as did the three Fates of the Greeks. The may say that Fate is inexorable. But, not so the I Ching. While the world and the heavens go forth, each thing changing according to its nature, creates a situation for you to face.   The I Ching says 

you have the power to influence your destiny. You cannot change what the Fates have delivered to you —  but the future provides possibilities — your choices will affect how the possibilities of the future unfold. 

Reading For Fate

Reading your I Ching hexagram - your fate is not your distiny


• The Fates are inexorable. Your fate yet to come.

• Do not argue with what is.

• Guide your fate within it.

I Ching and the Will of the God, the narrow gate

Reading For Will of the Universe

understand the purpose fully. But, prayer or meditation will help us get the idea — beyond what words can express. The I Ching may help you choose how you might fulfill the purpose intended. 

God has a purpose. The Universe has a purpose. It is your job to further that purpose, in thought and deed.


We must humbly admit that our finite minds are too limited to

Reading your I Ching hexagram - aligning with the will of the universe


• God's will - how can you further it? 

• Superior Person walks through the narrow gate.

Reading Because It Works

An advisor who gives good advice, divination that works for you, needs no explanation. 

Reading your I Ching hexagram that just works


• Your Journal make you your own expert.

 I Ching just works: pragmatic


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