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Meaning of Taoism

Interpreting the I Ching

At the core of the I Ching is a method of interpretation that relies on intuition. While suggestions from the text are offered, the final meaning must be determined by those who cast the coins. This is only possible through deep reflection about our personal situation in life. Through the suggestions found in the I Ching, we have a tool to investigate areas in our lives that might otherwise be overlooked. Once we come face to face with these recommendations, it is much more difficult to deny, ignore, misidentify, or misunderstand situations that may require our attention.

We can depend on the I Ching to be thorough. Remember that its 64 hexagrams are grouped under eight houses, which themselves represent the eight primal forces of nature. As far as we are concerned, the houses represent the eight principle conditions of life. By virtue of our humanity, all of us are subject to the laws that govern those houses.

The hexagram we cast explains these laws to us in detail, so that we are encouraged to attend to the relevant matters in our lives. Whether or not there is any working relationship between the coins we toss to derive a hexagram and our actual life situation is not of paramount importance. What does matter is that we use the cues offered by the I Ching to study our own lives. The text would be valuable even if we studied hexagram readings randomly. If this text can be said to have a heart, then this simple idea must be it.

Because of its simplicity and directness, the information presented in the book has great power. It has an uncanny ability to put us in touch with the deeper layers of our minds and the vast storehouse of knowledge each of us possesses unconsciously.

Unless one has profound intuitive abilities, access to these levels is usually only possible through dream analysis, hypnosis, or in certain situations, by therapeutic analysis. Fortunately, the I Ching still exists. As a result, we have a simple, gentler method to probe the hidden regions of our minds. To use this system, one must understand the system of divination and recognize that the I Ching is a means to communicate with our innermost selves, not just an attempt at prediction or a commentary on life’s possibilities.

Centuries of research now accompany the original text. Of course, the additional commentaries are often very valuable and offer great insights into the meaning of the primary work. But they also have the dubious effect of obscuring the original intention. The purpose of the text is to put each of us in touch with the source of our own creativity and inspiration, not to lead us by the hand toward the visions of others.

Ideally, The Book of Changes is read with a fresh and open mind, leaving room for its archetypal images to work their own magic. Later, after we become well-versed in the I Ching and have formed our own conclusions, the commentaries offer great insight. This strategy allows the ideas of others to assume a place of secondary importance, as the original authors intended. The Book of Changes becomes a tool of great personal significance. For those who practice faithfully with the I Ching, this is exactly what happens.

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