Clarifications about Taoscopy

Published: Saturday, 17 April 2021

Photo by Polina Zimmerman from Pexels

I have recently stumbled upon this forum post at onlineclarity.co.uk. The people there made some very disparaging comments about Taoscopy, so I thought that further clarification is necessary. First, I will explain how I made Taoscopy then I'll answer to their attacks, because they went far beyond criticism.

The making of Taoscopy

The genesis

In 2010 I wanted to make a Yi Jing app. And to make such app I needed comments naturally. Since I had learned the I Ching by studying Richard Wilhelm's book (I had also read some of Da Liu and James Legge's works), I had planned to use these comments in my app. Thus, I asked for permission to the French and English publishers of Wilhelm's Yi Jing book. The English publisher answered that they had no time for that and I should contact them again in a few months and the French publisher didn't answer until I told them that I was considering other options, and then they replied that they had lost my email.

In the meantime I had prepared a few comments on my own. Comments which were greatly different from what is Taoscopy nowadays. They would be more illustrations of what a situation can represent, based on books or movies. For example in James Clavell's Shogun there is a scene where Toranaga asks his son to bring him the head of his grand-children, and it turns out that it was just a loyalty test. So I would have used that scene to represent 14.3.

So, since it was not possible to get Wilhelm's text in a legal way, and since I was unable to translate Chinese, I had to resort to making my own comments. And this is what I did, and naturally these were very clumsy and mere plagiarism or paraphrase of Wilhelm's comments. I didn't consider other options because at that time, to me, Wilhelm was the truth.

However, I am programmer, and I while I am not the best coder out there, far from it, I always validate my works, one way or another. In computer school I had learned that a program can be proved and I liked that part very much. When I learned the I Ching later I would consult the oracle to validate my analysis. As I was writing a driver for a sound card, I consulted and received:

27.3 (27 > 22)
27.3 (27 > 22) - THE Î HEXAGRAM.

The third line, divided, shows one acting contrary to the method of nourishing. However firm he may be, there will be evil. For ten years let him not take any action, (for) it will not be in any way advantageous.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
27.3 (27 > 22) - I, l’alimentation

Ī : 1. Entretenir, soutenir ; 2. Menton, côté de la bouche ; 3. Profond.

Celui qui agit mal dans la recherche de son entretien déchoira certainement. En dix ans, il ne fera rien qui lui soit avantageux. (Litt. : qu’il ne fasse rien.)

Il rencontrera de grands obstacles.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
27.3 (27 > 22) - Se priver de nourriture

On néglige son approvisionnement.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
27.3 (27 > 22) - Ellátás

Elhanyagolja az ellátást.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex

Wilhelm comments:

Normally a person either provides his own means of nourishment or is supported in a proper way by those whose duty and privilege it is to provide for him. If, owing to weakness of spirit, a man cannot support himself, a feeling of uneasiness comes over him; this is because in shirking the proper way of obtaining a living, he accepts support as a favor from those in higher place. This is unworthy, for he is deviating from his true nature. Kept up indefinitely, this course leads to misfortune. 

After pondering, it turned out that the software I was going to write would use the computer's clock when it could have let the card use its own clock. So, overtime, validating my decisions with the I Ching has become very important to me, and I could not envision writing my own comments without validating them.

The validation of the comments

This is where things did not turn so well for me. At first, I was happily validating the comments I had made, making some changes here and there. The oracle had advised me against publishing examples from song, books and movies so I reluctantly discarded them and moved on. Then it came to hexagram 59 line 4, I was almost done with the comments and the oracle refused to validate my text. I asked a dozen times, maybe more and it was always no.

Naturaly I was shocked because I thought that I knew 59.4 very well. After pondering over this situation for a while, I told the oracle: "You will make the comments", and the oracle agreed.

The making of the first comments

Because I had studied the I Ching for a while, I had my own ideas of what a comment should or should not be, specifically:

  • they should not contradict each other
  • they should not contain mantic formulas such as fortune or misfortune
  • they should be gender neutral and avoid sexism

I also asked the oracle to give me a different text than Wilhelm so I would not be accused of plagiarism. This part has succeeded so well that I have been accused of everything but that. So, we did the titles first, then the comments for each hexagram and line, and it took me about 5 years. Some comments have been made in 10 minutes and other comments in a few weeks. In parallel I published my app and made this site and its companion yijing-oracle.com where I manage not only taoscopy but also the public domain translations that you find on this site and in the app.

Multiline comments

After making the comments for the 64 hexagrams and each of their lines, it turned out that I made, still with the oracle, the comments for all the 4096 situations. It would have taken a lot of time to make them by consulting the I Ching so I resorted more on what people refer as channeling, which is a kind of meditation where the text appears to you. This is very error-prone, and I lose the possibility to validate them, since it would slow down the process, but I have been able to make 16 to 32 comments per day, which is a lot more than if I had consulted. Afterwards I have also translated them in English and that took more time and effort than getting the comments themselves.

Criticism

In 2015 I joined onlineclarity forums, and presented my work there, and while some users have been nice to me, many reactions were cold or hostile toward me and my work. In September 2015 I left their forum in a move that was largely approved and encouraged by that community.

Since then, whenever taoscopy is mentioned on their forums, disparaging comments are made. This is why I have decided to give some clarifications, from my point of view.

Two ways of consulting the Yi Jing

In order to understand the issue, one must understand that there are two categories of Yi Jing practicioners. The first consist of those who rely on the Chinese text, and the other group, which I am part of consist of those who rely on the oracle.  When I started making the comments with the oracle, I had prepared several books to help me, and mainly Wilhelm's book. The oracle commented about that:

17.2 (17 > 58)
17.2 (17 > 58) - THE SUI HEXAGRAM.

The second line, divided, shows us one who cleaves to the little boy, and lets go the man of age and experience.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
17.2 (17 > 58) - Letting a golden opportunity pass

When one accepts the least, they forego the best.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
17.2 (17 > 58) - Letting a golden opportunity pass

When one accepts the least, they forego the best.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
17.2 (17 > 58) - Sui, suivre

Sūi : 1. Respect, soumission, conformité à ce qui doit être ; 2. Complaisance ; 3. Fidélité au devoir ; 4. Conséquemment, en ce cas.

S’il fréquente les jeunes gens et laisse de côté les gens âgés (et sages), il n’est pas digne qu’on ait des rapports avec lui.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
17.2 (17 > 58) - Laisser passer une occasion en or

Quand on accepte le moins bien, on renonce au meilleur.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
17.2 (17 > 58) - Irányítani

Ha valaki beéri kevesebbel, elszalasztja a legjobbat.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex

And I understood immediately that Wilhelm was the little boy when the oracle was the strong man.

If one clings to the little boy, One loses the strong man.

First criticism: Taoscopy is not the Yi Jing

So, at onlineclarity I have been told that my work is not even the Yi Jing since the Yi Jing is a book and only what is based on the text of this book is the Yi Jing. In a way, this point is valid, however when I consulted the Yi Jing to make the text I used Wilhelm's translation so it still has something to do with the Yi Jing.

Second criticism: the text is incomprehensible

This is pure bad faith, why should I even answer to that? I understand that my translation skills are not perfect, and that some of the text needs to be reworked however this is not a valid argument to me. It was said about this line:

When the feeding stops, everyone gets organized to exit.

These are simple English words and the meaning if that when people run out of supplies they leave to get some. You can disagree or not with this sentence, or say that it is not related to 57.2, but you cannot claim that it is incomprehensible.

For other comments than 57.2, this claim is more consistent. For example the old version of 62.3 was difficult to understand. As I already said, I asked the oracle that no contradiction should appear in the text. One important line here is 58.6: Sincerity toward disintegrating influences is dangerous. which contradicts directly 62.3: If one is not extremely careful,
Somebody may come up from behind and strike him. So, in the first versions of taoscopy I've obtained a convoluted comment that would work around these difficulties:

One asks the most able to assess the repairs.

This comment is perfectly valid but requires some thought. Since someone is going to strike you from behind if you are not careful, you need some preparation beforehand, and this is done with communication. Even though it is still difficult to handle and I asked the oracle to revert to a more understandable version.

Third criticism: Taoscopy is misleading

This comes in addition to the claim that the text is incomprehensible. My stance about this is very simple: trust no one but the oracle. Develop a relationship of trust with the oracle and validate your judgments with the oracle. Lets suppose you are on a desert island with no Yi Jing book but the method. There, you could consult and learn step by step, even write your own comments. That would take a lot of time and effort but you could do it. You would point at things and consult, then write down what happened. Maybe your text would mention coconuts rather than melons but the ideas would still be there.

So, if you have any doubt consult the Yi Jing, and if there is an error in taoscopy it will be pointed at. I do not claim that this work is perfect, there are some typos left, and it may have still mistakes.

Personally I find the mantic formulas (fortune, misfortune) in the classical text to be very misleading. Some situations are supposedly good while others are bad, and it is not the case at all. Every situation depicted in the I Ching can be good or bad, or both, it all depends on the context.

When consulting the oracle, there is always and there will always be room for uncertainty. Some things are not to be revealed, and while you can ask any question, you won't get answers about everything, and even if you get them you won't be able to interpret them. It never ceases to amaze me how realistic and deterministic some Yi Jing practicioners are.

Fourth criticism: I am obsessive and borderline insane

Well, this one goes beyond criticism and is a personal attack. When I joined onlineclarity forums, my idea was to present my work to the Yi Jing "authorities" that were dwelling there and listen if they would have some remarks about how I could improve my work. In fact I got none of that. I was accused to be insane among other things (like for example, posting there for SEO). They did not tell me: "this comment is ok but that one is not", they rejected all of my work. This aggressiveness did not stop even after I left their forums, but continues each time the word taoscopy is mentioned there.

As for my mental health it has its highs and lows, like everyone else, when I joined onlineclarity I was coming out of a severe depression and it may have affected my behaviour at some point, but that's not what I would call insanity.

You forgot to mention that the voice(s) in his head told him to do this: specifically to correct the mistakes present since Yi's writing... then acted quite dodgy when confronted on his claims.

I usually avoid speaking about my spiritual experiences, and naturally this person is taking advantage of that by interpreting it the way he wants. I don't have to answer to this kind of confrontation, there is an oracle for that.

There is a point that I will make clear nonetheless concerning my spiritual life: I consider that the Yi Jing's oracle is God, so when you consult the oracle you are talking to God, I have also studied Sri Ma Anandamayi's teachings and She explained that everyone out there is God. So, when you are talking to me you are also talking to God, and me too, I am talking to God because both of us are God as well as every living being. We all share the same soul, and this is this soul that is answering to us through the oracle.

Conclusion

We have determined here that communication is not my strong point.What amazed me is that these persons directly attacked the comments without examining them seriously. Why examining them seriously when they have been deemed not serious? They want to attack my credibility but it is them who act dodgy by doing so.

Here is an example thread from the time I was posting on these forums:

Will LAE (= the ones who left Syriza and made a new party) win the majority in the elections?
50.6 > 32


They will return to help Syriza (their friends).

50.6 (50 > 32)
50.6 (50 > 32) - THE TING HEXAGRAM.

The sixth line, undivided, shows the caldron with rings of jade. There will be great good for- tune, and all action taken will be in every way advantageous.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
50.6 (50 > 32) - Returning to one' s former position

One can resume work to help one's friends.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
50.6 (50 > 32) - Returning to one' s former position

One can resume work to help one's friends.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
50.6 (50 > 32) - T’ing, le chaudron

T’ing : chaudron à trois pieds, vase du sacrifice, sacrifice.
 

Un chaudron aux anneaux de jade représente une grande prospérité, pour qui tout est avantage. Elle arrive quand le fort et le faible observent la mesure.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
50.6 (50 > 32) - Retrouver son poste

On peut reprendre le travail pour aider ses amis.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex
50.6 (50 > 32) - Bevonás

Visszatér a munkához hogy segítsen társainak.

Bing DeepL Google Yandex

It is quite amusing because the answer I gave is spot on and yet, I failed to interpret it correctly. Here is the outcome:

Will LAE (= the ones who left Syriza and made a new party) win the majority in the elections?
50.6 > 32

(the most intriguing answer!) NO. The situation is beyond changing (50). They didn't win the
majority (far from, they didn't even get into parliament). So they wouldn't have a chance at
changing anything at all, and the situation goes on as it was (32).

So, they literally had to return to work. Naturally I have never been given credit for this on these forums.

On the other hand I would like to say that onlineclarity forums are a very valuable tool, because they provide a situation with a background, the hexagram and often the outcome, so it is very useful when validating comments. The owner, Hilary Barrett is a decent person, but also makes this site for a living, as she sells Yi Jing lessons and her own translation of the Chinese text. These persons attacking me are friends of her and probably have seen me as a competitor so they went full aggressive on me without restraint. It would be like if you open a shop and a street merchant comes into your shop and starts selling his good from there. So, that was an awkward situation, that could have been resolved in a more peaceful way though. I thought that her forum was a Yi Jing forum open to everyone and not a promotion tool for her business. When I realized my mistake it was too late.

This is all I wanted to say about this, so that you can be aware of what is awaiting you if you ever go there and mention taoscopy in a thread. I do not wish to have taoscopy mentioned on their forums, I have a new account there but use it only occasionally to make searches and sometimes send private messages and I do not plan to post there ever again.

The text will go its own way, if you don't like it is then change it as it is public domain. It is by all means much better than the classical text, even though it is not perfect. When I reflect upon this, I realize that the classical text has been done in a similar way than taoscopy: they have consulted many oracles, then wrote down what happened, and finally have organized their results into a book. But after 700 years people have forgotten that it all came from the oracle and have deemed the text to be sacred and stopped improving it.

So, I'll repeat it one last time: when in doubt, consult the oracle.

Replies

freedda  Friday, 14 May 2021 at 01:46 am

Recently, someone in the Facebook I Ching / Yi Ching Divination Group I belong to mentioned using your app; this made me interested, and then I found your post here 'Clarifications about Taoscopy.' I looked at the post you mention (and link to) on Onlineclarity – and realized that I offered my response (post #23) to what this person's reading was about (I think I stayed out of the Taoscoy fray however).

And all this made me a curious about what Taoscopy. But after reading your post and some snippets of your text, I have to conclude – what you are sharing here may be based on the Yi Jing, or might be your ideas and thoughs about it, but it is not really a translation – and not really even an interpretation – of the Yi. Here are the points I'm making to back up this statement.

Point 1 - about “The making of the first comments”. You say: “I had my own ideas of what a comment should or should not be, specifically:

* they should not contradict each other
* they should not contain mantic formulas such as fortune or misfortune
* they should be gender neutral and avoid sexism”

My Response: I'm not sure if these are still the guidelines you are using. But assuming that they are, what you've using these, is you have completely altered and changed what the Yi Jing says. And this means that what you are offering is not the Yi Jing, but something that is based very loosely (at most) on the Yi.

The Yi is full of contradictions. But why shouldn't it be? We are faced with a multitude of different situations and problems - If my house is burning, it makes sense if the Yi (or anyone else) tells me, 'get out of your house, now!' Or if I were standing outside freezing in the snow, it makes complete sense that the Yi would give me 'contradictory' advice: 'Get your butt inside before you freeze to death.'

Therefore, why would you want to get rid of the Yi's many contradictions? That makes no sense

The Yi is full of what you call 'mantic formulas' and to get rid of them would change the Yi beyond recognition. Removing 'Misfortune', 'Good Fortune', 'favorable', 'brings remorse', source of enthusiasm' means you are making major – and unwanted and unnecessary – changes to the Yi, which means what you are giving us is no longer the Yi! 

As far as being gender neutral and avoiding sexism: I'm not sure what this means (perhaps you can give examples) or what the point of this is. My sense is, we are all grown up boys and girls here and we are all fully capable of gleaning meaning from an ancient text – even if the images it offers are not as humane, compassionate, or as politically correct as we'd like them to be.

Even if I agree with the reasons behind your changes, what you are doing is completely arbitrary, and it makes me wonder, how far would you (or did you) take this: would you get rid of the dragons in Hex. 1 and 2 because they don't really exist? Would you get rid of the lines about 'stepping on a tiger's tail' because it implies cruelty to animals? Would you not have a man offering his daughter in marriage because it is ageist, sexist, and patriarchal? 

Point 2: In the section, 'Two ways of consulting the Yi Jing', you say, 'there are two categories of Yi Jing practitioners. The first consist of those who rely on the Chinese text, and the other group ... consist of those who rely on the oracle.”

I gather you did a reading about these two categories, and your interpretation is 17.2 – “Letting a golden opportunity pass. When one accepts the least, they forego the best.” And from this you 'understood immediately that Wilhelm was the little boy when the oracle was the strong man.' “ If one clings to the little boy, One loses the strong man.”

My Response: You are dividing Yi Jing users into two arbitrary categories of your own making, and these two categories make no sense: as I see it, the Chinese text IS the Oracle. What you are saying is like someone saying: 'there are two categories of eaters: those who like Pork and those who like meat from Pigss!

Besides this I have no idea the point you are making here? It seems incomprehensible! 

Point 3 about the First criticism: Taoscopy is not the Yi Jing.

You say, 'In a way, this point is valid, however when I consulted the Yi Jing to make the text I used Wilhelm's translation so it still has something to do with the Yi Jing.'

My response: what you are saying is that your comments and taoscopy are based on the Yijing but are not really the Yijing. That pretty much validates this criticism of you. To 'base' what we say on something is far, far different than either translating or interpreting it - and far different that the thing itself. 

Point 4: about the Second criticism: the text is incomprehensible. In your defense, you quote your version of 57.2 - “When the feeding stops, everyone gets organized to exit.”

And you say: “These are simple English words and the meaning (is) that when people run out of supplies they leave to get some. You can disagree or not with this sentence, or say that it is not related to 57.2, but you cannot claim that it is incomprehensible.” 

My response: I don't know if incomprehensible is a good fit, but I sense of what this person was saying. First, your 'interpretation' of 57.2 - 'Understanding the needs: When the feeding stops, everyone gets organized to exit', is completely different than any other 'translation' I've read.

None of the different translations I've ever read has 'feeding which stops', nor 'people getting organized', nor 'understanding of the needs' – those are all words you have added. That you may have interpreted this line in this way is fine, but that's not what the words of the Yijing are, nor is what they mean! 

Second, as to your statement: “When the feeding stops, everyone gets organized to exit.” I understand those words, and they are in the correct order and make sense, but what they mean is open to very broad interpretations of meaning: your words can mean many different things. 

So, for you to impose only one meaning (to your words which are not part of the Yi in the first place), is extremely misleading. 

Point 5 – about the Third criticism: Taoscopy is misleading. You said, “My stance about this is very simple: trust no one but the oracle.”

My Response: I might agree with this, but the big, huge problem – as I've already pointed out – is that you are not offering us The Oracle, but only what you think it means – and those are two entirely, and possible contradictory, things.

What you are sharing is unrecognizable for many of us as the Yi - and that I suspect is where the claim of it being 'incomprehensible' comes from.

There is a very simple fix to this very big problem: You just need to clarify that Taoscopy IS NOT THE YI JING, but is only your words and thoughts about the Yi! This way, it both validates what you are doing here, and it also invalidates criticisms anyone has that this is not the Yi!

Finally, A related overarching critique I have of your site and your 'interpretation' is that you tell us what you think the Yi means, where the Oracle offers us images, and we can then interpret our own meanings based on that.

An interpretation that removes the Yi's imagery (as you often do), or alters it (as you often do), or tries to interpret it (as you often do) is not really the Yi in my estimation.

Regards, D

taoscopy  Tuesday, 18 May 2021 at 12:22 am

Thanks for the lengthy answer.

About contradictions, my opinion is that the comments are guidelines. So you cannot recommend being careful about being enthusiastic such as in 16.1 and at the same time tell people "Great Good Fortune! You will meet success!" such as in 42.2. Something is wrong here. This is caused by the mantic formulas, which (still in my opinion) should be totally removed from the text. The effect is that we consider that some lines are good and others bad when neither are. Any given transformation can describe a good or bad situation, it depends on context, it can also be good in a way and bad in another way. That it would no longer be the Yi is not really my preoccupation. My goal is to interpret the oracle correctly.

About the two categories, they make perfect sense. If you rely on the oracle first then whenever you make an interpretation you can ask the oracle to validate it. And if the outcome is negative then you have to question yourself and  perhaps also the comments. If you rely on the book, then you can interpret the way you like, it's much more freedom naturally, and also more convenient but then did you really interpret correctly? I think not always.

Taoscopy is a set of comments made by consulting the I Ching's oracle. This is a good description of what it is.

About 57.2, this is the way to go: you google 57.2 site:onlineclarity.co.uk and look for questions that contain this reading. Actually this was already a post on onlineclarity: https://www.onlineclarity.co.uk/friends/index.php?threads/57-2-53-the-name-or-indication-of-a-country.31607/ and OP interpreted it as a disadvantaged country which seems correct to me. Your beef is that it does not seem to be the same comment than what you are used to. This is not really a problem to me.

When I say trust the oracle,  I mean that you can ask questions about anything. So you can ask about taoscopy and see where that leads you. You could ask the oracle if those comments are mine only or if they come from consultation. That would be a good start. I don't have to clarify further than what the subtitle of this site mentions: "The Yi Jing comments made by consulting the oracle". Since the original Yi Jing comments have been made that way, I don't see any difference in the method.

You seem to think that those are my comments, but they are not, my comments were far from that good. Now the Yi Jing is made of 3 things: the comments, the hexagrams and the consultation method. If your claim is that only the comments represent the Yi Jing, then I would disagree. You live and breath by the comments, and did not think about consulting the oracle to check the validity of taoscopy's comments yet you refuse to be considered as being one who belongs to this category. Now if you were telling me "Ok, I have consulted and obtained this answer" then now we could talk. However when I say "trust no one but the oracle", it is not addressed at you, but at those who don't know which one of us is right: these people can consult the Yi Jing and then make their own appreciation.

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