The I Ching is one of the oldest books of humanity and those that are preserved in China. It is estimated that it was written some 1,200 years before our era and that it is of Taoist origin. The name in Spanish means ‘book of mutations’.
In the West, the I Ching was popularized in its facet of oracle. However, more than a divinatory text, it is a moral guide and a philosophical and cosmogonic treatise. Its function is not so much to predict, but rather to call for reflection and provide elements to decide on the basis of intuition.
“The future is as irrevocable / As the rigid yesterday. There is not a thing / That is not a silent letter / Of eternal indecipherable writing / Whose book is time”.
-Jorge Luis Borges, Poem for the I Ching version of Richard Wilhelm-
Now, what has come to this day is not the original I Ching. This suffered several transformations over time. Texts were deleted and added, mainly to make it more understandable and enrich it. Let’s deepen.
What is the I Ching?
The elaboration of the I Ching started from the idea that the only constant in the world and in life is change. Likewise, it is based on the principle that everything a person does can cause changes in the universe. What we do not do is also included there.
In the same way, it raises the opposite principle. That is to say that nothing we do or fail to do is so important as to alter the essential course of the universe. It is possible to modify the easier or more difficult things, but it does not change them fundamentally.
The I Ching, or book of mutations, aims primarily to elicit reflections about who we are, how we feel and how we can act to harmonize with the universe. This is achieved through messages that are encrypted to a certain extent and that each person must interpret. His own interpretation marks the course to follow.
Ambiguity and uncertainty
The I Ching can not be seen as a divination book in strict sense, because it does not start from the idea of a destiny already written. Quite the opposite. You are consulted to clarify what should be done in certain circumstances. This means that, finally, it is the consultant who must make a decision, based on the oracle.
The answers offered by the I Ching are not absolute. You can not ask him, for example: “Will I win the best garden contest because of the beautiful work I have done?” Faced with a question like that, you will not find an answer in the text, because the very thing of this oracle is to respond in terms of uncertainty.
Some people explain this ambiguity with examples like the following. When someone has an adopted child, does that person have children or do not have them? The deepest and most valuable questions do not have conclusive answers and this is what is highlighted in the book of mutations.
Therefore, to consult the I Ching, it is not only necessary to learn to interpret your answers, but also, and fundamentally, to have the elements to formulate the right questions. Otherwise, there is no benefit in the query.
Carl Jung and the I Ching
Carl Gustav Jung frequently used the I Ching. He saw it as a means to access unconscious contents, which was very valid in the context of his psychoanalysis. In fact, Jung wrote the prologue to the most classic translation of the book of mutations, a task carried out by Richard Wilhelm.
For many theorists, Jung’s concept of “synchronicity” is closely related to the experiences he had with the I Ching. According to this concept, nothing that happens in reality is the result of chance. There are invisible lines that connect some facts with the others and result in each reality, as it is presented.
For Carl Jung, one of the ways to access the understanding of that synchronicity was the I Ching. The book of mutations allows knowing the how and not the what. It also allows access to what for and not why. By properly consulting it, what seems dispersed in our life, finally connects and has a meaning.
The I Ching can not be read as an ordinary book, since it has the structure of an oracle. At the same time, it is possible to read it a thousand times and it always looks like a different book.