The title itself of this blog post resumes the difficulty that we face. I could have chosen instead “Can I predict the future by using the I Ching?” or “Does the I Ching’s oracle know the future?”.
This is a difficult question, because the answer is “Sometimes yes, sometimes no”. So we have to explore the mechanics that lead us to see the future.
Who is the oracle?
First of all, we need to discuss who or what is oracle. There are several points of view, and according to your opinion you will accept or reject some assertions. Hopefully we can find a common ground later by accepting to examine the spiritual laws that operate in conjunction with the I Ching.
The I Ching operates from our subconscious
This is a minimalist stance. Those who defend it usually don’t trust other castings than those made with yarrow stalks. They think that our subconscious manipulates the stalks and that we end up talking to ourselves. That way, we can only get general advice from the I Ching and certainly not anything that would look like forecasting the future.
The I Ching is a tool, like a compass, that points at the Tao
This point of view is shared by many. Being a tool, the I Ching would not know anything but would resonate when asked something. Just like when you plunge your hand in the water to test its warmth. In this perspective, by asking clever questions, you should be able to predict the future.
The I Ching works with the law of Synchronicity
Synchronicity is CG Jung’s invention. It states that when an event happens, we can see some replicas. For example two people say the same sentence at the same time, the same discovery is made by different researchers, or when you think of a song and you hear it on radio five minutes later. Under that point of view, the I Ching shows situations, and when something happens the I Ching describes it by displaying the corresponding hexagram. It is more than just a compass then because we can attempt to alter the future by changing our attitude or state of mind. Having changed one parameter, then reality should follow.
The I Ching is (the word of) God
There are two difficulties here. The first is to believe in God, and the second is that divination is forbidden by the Bible, more precisely in the Old Testament. For a westerner these two difficulties make it near impossible to think of the I Ching as the word of God. However these difficulties can be lifted by setting aside the Old Testament and studying Taoism and Hinduism. While Taoism does not speak of God, it describes the Tao (The Way) which can be seen as the Formless.
In that perspective, Synchronicity still stands, but can be seen as God’s play, what the Hindus call lila (or leela). What is most important here is that the oracle does not answer with predictions but with decisions. God tells us what He has decided for the matter that we are consulting. And then we can pray God to change or delay that decision, and it can happen sometimes. There we no longer control the future but we are able to negotiate an acceptable issue.
The spiritual laws at work
Whether the I Ching’s oracle is a mere Tao compass or God, we have some constants here, that we can rely on. Each hexagram describes spiritual laws. They are mentioned in the Ta Chuan (Great Treatise):
First take up the words,
Ponder their meaning,
Then the fixed rules reveal themselves.
These fixed rules are described throughout the classical comments. Since we are talking about predicting the future, let’s take just two of them for the sake of the demonstration. The first one is 16.1 and the second 60.1. I will use Wilhelm’s version for discussing them.
16.1, or the forecast trouble maker
When someone consults the I Ching, they often want to learn what is going to happen, but above all they want a positive answer to their concerns. After a rupture, when the question asked is “Will we get back together?”, what should be understood is “What do I have to do so we get back together?”.
So, let suppose that someone asks this question, “Will we get back together?”, asks a I Ching diviner to interpret it, and then the answer seems favorable. If the diviner says “Yes, it’s fantastic, you will get back together!” then there is a risk of triggering the situation described by 16.1 and the situation longed for will not happen:
Enthusiasm that expresses itself
And then there is danger that the person who asked will be disappointed. Did the oracle lie? Not necessarily, but the answer has to be reinterpreted afterwards because it was a misunderstanding. We will examine a real example later.
60.1, the seal of secrecy
This law is quite similar to 16.1, what is said here, is that the I Ching can tell us what is going to happen, but we have to keep quiet about it. If we plan to make a public announcement about it then the situation we expect will not occur.
Not going out of the door and the courtyard
Is without blame.
Richard Wilhelm illustrates this situation very well by quoting Confucius:
Concerning this, Confucius says: Where disorder develops, words are the first steps. If the prince is not discreet, he loses his servant. If the servant is not discreet he loses his life. If germinating things are not handled with discretion, the perfecting of them is impeded. Therefore the superior man is careful to maintain silence and does not go forth.
So, whether you think that the I Ching’s oracle is an expression of your subconscious or operates through Synchronicity, your first move should be to study and understand these spiritual laws and to adapt your conduct to them when you consult the I Ching, and naturally in your every day life if you are so inclined. This is how spiritual progress can be made by consulting the I Ching.
A concrete example: Trump vs Clinton
The 2016 US presidential election has been the occasion to cast a lot of readings trying to forecast the outcome. While doing research recently, I have stumbled upon a thread that I had forgotten at Online Clarity:
This thread lists a lot of questions that have been asked, with the date, and the resulting hexagram. While we are not going to study them all, we can check a few and notice the evolution of the election forecast.
The oracle never lies, but can manage to make us understand the exact contrary of what is going to happen, whenever necessary. Naturally if you think that the I Ching is a tool you will strongly disagree with me. But maybe be you can agree that 60.1 applies. Technically the oracle does not lie because when we receive an hexagram, we can ask follow-up questions, and these questions can change dramatically the former meaning, and in some occasions reverse it. This is how we can fail to interpret a situation properly.
And this is exactly what happened here. The two first questions, asked the 20th of April, are:
Will Trump be our next President?
41.1 (41 > 4)
When one prevails they must stop.
Will Hillary be our next President ?
10.1.4.5 (10 > 4)
10 > 4 – Continuing to rise
One follows a well-defined plan to still have the right to be considered part of the elite.
Naturally, it looks like Hillary Clinton had the lead the 20th of April. So, did the I Ching predict the future at that time? No. We can still argue that it would have been possible to predict correctly by asking follow-up questions, but those follow-up questions would have called for more follow-up questions and our brain would have melted before getting the right answer.
So, what is important to understand, is that the 20th of April, things were not settled, or at least not disclosed. Now let us have a look at the 1st of July readings:
Will Hillary win this election?
41 – Remove
One loses their support and abandons. Accepting the constraints will arouse sympathy.
Will Trump win this election?
15.5.6 (15 > 53)
15 > 53 – Opening one’s eyes
One accepts to see the face of reality.
Ok, so here we have bad news for Hillary Clinton, and the face of reality is that Donald Trump will win.
In September the situation did not change:
Will HC be the next president of the US?
25 – Carelessness
When one overlooks the future, one will not see what is coming.
Will DT be the next president of the US?
51 – Shock
Something is coming which enables the identification of a problem.
On a side note, I usually interpret 51 as Yes, so in my opinion these two readings also show Trump’s victory.
We have seen here, that early readings did not necessarily give outright the proper answer, while the later readings were accurate. This is in total compliance with the spiritual law described by 60.1.
Before I leave it to you to check the other questions and answers, why was I looking at this thread? I was validating Taosopy’s comment for 18.104.22.168 > 15, and I found one occurrence of it there, among the other readings:
Will trump win the election?
22.214.171.124 (26 > 15)
26 > 15 – Answering one last time
One recovers their poise the time to fight their last battle.
So, it seems to say that Donald Trump won’t run in 2020. Can the I Ching predict the future? Let’s talk again about it in 2020!