Divining the Way to Harmony

Updated: Feb 21, 2020

To know harmony is to know the eternal. To know the eternal is to know enlightenment.

Divination is the art of gaining insight into a question or situation by the interpretation of signs or omens. The goal of divination is to encourage well-being by helping a person live in harmony with the universe around them. One of the best known systems of divination is the I Ching. For some 3,000 years, people have turned to the I Ching to help them uncover the meaning of their experience and to bring their actions into harmony with their underlying purpose. The central idea of the I Ching is that divination is a means of coming into harmony with the ultimate reality of the universe. We can use the oracle to divine the way to harmony with the Tao (the absolute principle underlying the universe). It is a pathway to the infinite Tao, the unknowable force that guides the universe and everything in it.

The I Ching emerged in China as a fortune-telling guide. According to legend, it was Fu Hsi, the first emperor of China, who originated the linear yin/yang system of the I Ching. He discovered the symbols in the pattern of markings on the shell of a turtle that emerged from a river. It began with eight three-lined symbols called trigrams, which represented all of the fundamental phenomena in the universe. When doubled, the eight trigrams became sixty-four six-lined hexagrams. This doubling process produced trigram relationships, such as “Heaven and Earth unite,” the symbolic elements of the hexagram for “Peace.” The underlying premise of the I Ching is that the sixty-four hexagrams represent the basic circumstances of change in the universe. When you consult the I Ching, it responds in the form of a hexagram (or hexagrams if there are changing lines) that provides guidance for your specific circumstance at the moment.

Otherwise known as the Book of Changes, this archaic and enigmatic text was the fountainhead of Taoist and Confucian thought. Its philosophy encompasses such issues as ethics, social values and personal responsibility. It conveys archetypal paradigms and perspectives that serve as models of ethical and harmonious living. Over time, the symbolism of the I Ching was interpreted in commentaries by thousands of Confucian, Taoist, and Buddhist adepts, inspiring a renaissance in philosophy, religion, art, literature, science and medicine throughout East Asia, and eventually the West. In short, the I Ching became, in the words of a nineteenth-century Chinese commentator, “the mirror of men’s minds.”

The wisdom unveiled in the I Ching is simple and consistent: if we relate correctly, keeping ourselves in harmony with the universe, all things work out beneficially for all concerned. The I Ching reflects the philosophy that all events (past, present and future) are part of a single, interrelated whole. It describes the universe as a vast, singular entity in which all things are in continuous cyclical change. The central theme is that all things move in predictable patterns or cycles, therefore no situation is static or immutable.

The original text of the I Ching was organized by King Wen of Zhou around 1150 BC and remains virtually unchanged to the present. It consists of sixty-four hexagrams or six-line symbols which consist of upper and lower trigrams. King Wen is credited with having stacked the eight trigrams in their various permutations to create the sixty-four hexagrams. He is also said to have written the judgments which are appended to each hexagram. Each hexagram is accompanied by a text containing folk poetry, historical tales and commentary. These ancient writings describe the conditions associated with the sixty-four archetypal patterns of cyclical change. They convey the laws and principles pertaining to time and change. The hexagram symbols reveal the patterns through which change manifests itself in the ebb and flow of time. According to renowned I Ching scholar Richard Wilhelm, “The hexagrams and lines in their movements and changes mysteriously reproduced the movements and changes of the macrocosm.”

The I Ching is a codebook of archetypal patterns in which the hexagrams counsel appropriate action in the moment for a given set of circumstances. Each moment has a pattern to it, and everything that happens in that moment is interconnected. Based on the synchronicity of the universe and the laws of probability, the I Ching responds to an inquiry in the form of a hexagram. By evaluating the hexagram that describes your current pattern of relationship, you can divine the outcome and act accordingly. The oracle serves as a gauge – a precise means for placing oneself in relation to the pattern or way of cyclical change, and that way is known as Tao.

The I Ching is a microcosm of all possible human situations. It serves as a dynamic map, whose function is to reveal one’s relative position in the cosmos of events. The hexagram texts address the sixty-four archetypal human situations. The commentary of each hexagram reveals the optimal strategy for integrating or harmonizing with the inevitable for a given condition. It provides the appropriate response to your inquiry. It affords a holistic perspective of your current condition and discusses the proper or correct way to address the situation. To align yourself with the universe, consult the I Ching.

Source: – Lao Tzu, author of the Tao Te Ching and founder of Taoism

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