I Ching, also known as the Book of Changes, is an ancient Chinese system of divination. The first traces of its use date back to the third millennium BC. The well-known psychoanalyst Carl G. Jung considered it an exceptional method of analyzing the subconscious and saw in it numerous points of contact with his theory of synchronicity.
In the history of divination, the Chinese I Ching occupies a unique place. It is ancient and modern, elementary and sophisticated at the same time. It is a system that has been used in China for thousands of years. The basic technique of the I Ching has much in common with the simpler methods of divination, but in the interpretation the soothsayer is linked by a series of complex philosophical principles.
While the origin of the hexagrams (the drawings and combinations of the various lines) is unclear, the part of the commentary describing them has been attributed to the legendary figure of the Chinese emperor Fu Hsi.
The Book of Changes took shape by King Wèn Wang around 1100 BC. and was later modified by his son, Duke of Chou. In the 5th century BC, it was commented by the sage Confucius and it is said that he made use of the system all his life. Confucius is credited with the assertion that the book has as many layers as the earth itself, and many scholars today are ready to testify in favor of the accuracy of this description.
The Book of Changes remains difficult to interpret even for those who manage to overcome the asperities of philosophical terminology and the difficulty of translating an archaic and multi-layered language. It follows that scholars have interpreted the book in thousands of ways and the great difficulty in understanding the work has contributed to increasing its mysterious attraction.
Much of the book’s popularity today is due to the enthusiasm of Carl G. Jung, a Swiss psychologist and philosopher, whose analytical psychology system contains the principle of synchronicity or significant coincidence. Jung, speaking of the Book of Changes, declares his permanent interest in – this oracular technique, or method of exploration of the unconscious – and highlights the relationship it has with its principle of synchronicity.
He says that the use of the I Ching considers the coincidence of events in space and time as signifying something more than mere chance. That is to say that there is a peculiar interdependence of objective events between them and also with the subjective psychic states of the observer.
The Book of Changes can be consulted in several ways. According to the classic method, 50 stalks of yarrow are divided in various ways, starting by dividing each pile by subtracting small groups of 4 stems from it. But it is too long and complex a process to be described here.
On the other hand, today’s technique for consulting hexagrams is simpler, it consists in throwing three coins. If there is a preponderance of heads, a Yang line is formed. With a preponderance of crosses a Yin line is formed. This is done six times, forming a hexagram which is then searched for in the I Ching.
Traditionally, I Chiing serves to enhance the depth of reflection and self-analysis. It can even be used to induce a meditation-like state of consciousness. Experts say that maximum concentration is essential, because the sayings to be interpreted can be obscure.
For example, the 14th hexagram, ta yu (abundance), says – there will be great progress and success – and – the Superior Man represses evil and distinguishes what is good. The wisdom of the reader and the profound knowledge accumulated over centuries of interpretations say the followers, are the key to a good reading.