Sunday, December 16, 2007

Use of Divination

Divination is a form of communication. It is communication between Man and Heaven. Through communication, human beings get guidance from above. Therefore, in the old days, divination is a means to get guidance about the fortune, misfortune, success and failure of human endeavours. In Chinese it is known as Ji, Xiong, Cheng, Bai 吉凶成敗.

Divination is not to be used lightly. For example, when the emperor asked his imperial diviners about which horse entered the water first, it was, in a way, an abuse of divination. The diviners could not tell the emperor they could not use divination in such meaningless events. They had to give him an answer but they also knew that they had only 50% chance to be correct because Heavenly would simply not give them guidance.

When Lu State was about to attack Yue State, it involved many lives and the glory or humiliation of a country. It was something that needed guidance. What the diviner Zi Gong wanted to know was the Ji/Xiong and Cheng/Bai of the military action. He did not need to ask whether Lu would win the war and within how many months. He did not even need to ask a question. All he needed was to pass his message to Heaven that he was concerned about the Ji/Xiong and Cheng/Bai of the war.

Although there was a popular guessing game known as She Fu 射覆 played in the old days, it should also be considered an abuse of divination. It is just to satisfy the curiosity of people. If is is used with the purpose of practicing and acquiring technique of divination, it is ok but the accuracy is doubtful.

Today, it is not uncommon to use divination to test the stock market. Let us say, you have studied the market and then decide to invest in a certain stock. Well, you want to have guidance from Heaven whether it will be a profitable investment. Then your divination is simply the Ji/Xiong and Cheng/Bai of your investment in that particular stock. You will use your mind to send this message to Heaven to get an answer. No particular way to ask the question is needed and no time frame needs to be set. The divination should display a picture before you to help you decide whether or not you should go ahead. It may also tell you whether or not there will be quick profit and what to expect. The time frame is taken care of automatically.

Of course, if you have no plans to invest in the stock market but you want to know how the market will behave in the coming year, you can also use divination. As long as you pass your message accurately from your mind to Heaven, you will get the answer. The divination will tell you about the Ji/Xiong and Cheng/Bai if you invest in the market.

What about games like horse racing or other sports? I will talk about this later.


10 comments: said...

Honestly, I still don't see the point what will be so much better by not asking questions.
I guess this may have more to do with a cultural difference, rather than something fundamental to I Ching.

As you explain, *communication* with Heaven is the point.
Will it matter *how* I communicate?
Because asking questions is also a way of *communication*..

In China it was(is) not acceptable to ask questions to an authority/emperor directly.
Because he could be embarrassed by the question, and order to kill the person who asked.
Chinese communication is very indirect.
People naturally used the same approach in their communication with Heaven, I Ching.

In the West we are used to communicate a lot with direct questions.
That's what we consider the more clear communications, and that's what we grew up with.
No need to discuss what is better or worse. That's a large topic.
But bottom line is that for Western people direct questions is the style of communication that comes more natural to them.

Now, how it will make any difference whether you formulate your question in a *message*, or in form of a *question* ?
The information content may be just the same, only it is said differently.
I Ching obviously responds our message/question in whatever language from English to Swahili.
Then why it would not respond to messages that come in form of a direct question?


So, I think your idea of not asking questions will be a very tough sell in the West.

Not only are we not geared so well for these indirect styles.
Many people here have already been asking their direct questions to I Ching for 10 -20 years...

And most convincingly is always results.
Your anecdotes suggest that in those days the emperor talked to diviners, and that divination was used about military affairs.
We can also assume that the emperors tried to use the best diviners in the country.
But as we know from history, most of these independent states have not been able to avoid the humiliation of seeing their country annexed by another power.
And not rarely it was because they had exhausted themselves in useless battles and wars with neighbors.
So if that was with the help of guidance and divination about the Ji, Xiong, Cheng and Bai of the military actions, then what is the logical conclusion?
That we should use exactly the same methods of no-question as they did?
I am sorry, but I would rather pass for such results.

In Europe we had a similar period with ongoing feudal wars between countries, states and smaller fiefdoms.
The kings did not have use of I Ching, but here many countries did avoid the humiliation of being annexed forever by a neighbor country.
I think we cannot overlook this..
It is tough to make the case that these ancient Chinese states benefited from their use of I Ching. That's how it looks from here.

So what is your conclusion or explanation?


Carl Grover said...

Is it possible to use Earth energy (feng shui) in order to enhance communication between Heaven and Man when performing divination?

All is well,

Carl Grover

Joseph Yu said...

Dear Danny

You miss the point altogether. Divination is not to know the outcome but to ask for guidance. Asking a specific question is asking for the outcome. Without asking the question is the same as asking for guidance how to get the best result or to suffer from the least damage.

The divination about Lu invading Yue illustrates this point. If the diviner asked the question whether Lu would win within a certain time frame, the mind is set on the win/loss outcome. Without asking a specific question the mind is ready to receive advice to get the most beneficial result.

You may be right about the western mind focusing on knowing the future while the eastern mind focusing on receiving advice and guidance about the future.


Joseph Yu said...

Dear Carl,

Yes and no. Yes, for the average diviner. No, for the real expert, divination can be done anywhere, anytime.


Mary Catherine Bax said...

Dear Joseph, Danny and all,

I have found that when I ask a specific question, I limit myself to what Heaven wants to communicate.

This is Heaven's language, not ours.

Mary said...

Hi Joseph,

I probably still miss your point, but that's OK.


My own experience is this: I ask the I Ching my direct questions, and what I get is guidance.
I don't need to ask for guidance in order to get it. The I Ching gives me.

For example I have a certain plan.
I directly ask the I Ching if my plan will succeed.
Yes, this is asking for an outcome.
Maybe the answer I get shows an unfavorable outcome... So then I decide not to carry on with the plan.
How can you say that I didn't get guidance?

I get the very same guidance that somebody obtains who does not ask directly, like in your example of Lu invasion.
In fact that diviner is not doing anything very different then I do.
He looks at the outcome of the situation as given by the future hexagram, and if it is not favorable then he decides the guidance is to scrap the war plan.

So, I can't see what is the difference as far as our results go...


Maybe what you are trying to say is that there is a difference in "attitude", which will then supposedly influence the results..

The person who asks direct question displays a mind focus toward result, win-loss, etc..
The person who only sends up a message, is humbly waiting for guidance..
Is that the difference you are trying to point out?

Well, there is a lot to say on that point, and things are not always what they appear to be on the surface.
Somebody who only asks for guidance appears to be more humble, but is he?
Deep down he may be much more greedy for a certain outcome than the person who asks the direct question.
The style in which the message/question is sent to heaven, is in itself not conclusive.
People try to be clever, but the I Ching is not blind.
It will see the inner attitude and motives of the diviner, rather than the outer expression.

Do we really believe that these emperors who only asked "guidance" before they attacked another country, were really so humble?
Or was there just below the surface already their ego desire to become more powerful and rich by attacking a neighbor country?
(Confucius' deep disappointment with the moral level of the emperors in his days, rather suggests the latter..)
"Asking guidance" is then merely a beautiful word to cover up ugly motives.
Because poor people will be killed, woman will be raped, and houses will burn,.. only for the beautiful plans of a mad emperor.

In that sense the person who asks direct question has at least one advantage.
He is not trying to cover up his motives for consulting the I Ching, he is not ashamed about the result he is trying to achieve.

And I think that's a more important point.
If my plans are creative, then there is no need to hide my intention by merely humbly "asking for guidance".
What can be wrong with expressing my goal, result, win-loss I am aiming for, when the plan is creative?


This is how things can easily turn upside down.
A farmer may come and ask : "what will be the weather for next summer?"
He is asking a direct question and a time-frame.
But his intention is good, because he merely wants to know what crops best to plant in order to be able to feed his family.
So the I Ching can give him a clear guidance.

And that's the big advantage of asking questions.
I can ask general question and I will get general guidance.
I can ask specific question and I will get more specific guidance,
I can ask a question with a time-frame, and I will get more specific guidance for that time-frame.
As long as my intention is creative, then I Ching will not stop helping me.

But if my intention is destructive, then I can ask as humbly as I want, and trying to hide my interest in a certain outcome, but why the I Ching would guide me in my destructive purposes?
I think that's why all these states lost their independence.
They were thinking the I Ching would give them guidance in their military actions, but instead they got punishment.


Faked humbleness will be worse than honest arrogance.
That's why I rather ask my direct and open questions to I Ching.

If others are happy with the results they get by merely "asking for guidance", then that's fine with me.
But I think they are tapping no more than 10% of the potential that I Ching offers.


Joseph Yu said...

Dear Danny

It has nothing to do with the attitude. What I said was: No particular way to ask the question is needed and no time frame needs to be set.

It is different from saying: No particular way to ask the question should be used and no time frame should be set.

For example, a child asks his father, "Will I get a football for my coming birthday?"
This is a specified question with a time frame. The child communicates with the father well using this question.

His father may reply, "Yes, if this is what you want."

His father may also say, "No, I will give you a computer."

Another child may ask his father, "Sunday is my birthday, is it?" His father sees that his eyes spark with an anxious look. It is another way of communication. He did not specify that he wants a football for his birthday.

The father may say to his child, "I know that you want to have a football for your birthday. Let's go to buy the one you like on Saturday. There are other good things in the shopping mall. You may change your mind and end up with something else."

This does not limit the father to give an affirmative or negative answer.

As you said, asking a question is a form of communication. I am not saying that it is wrong to ask a question. I am saying that asking a question in a specified way with time frame should not be taken as a rule. It limits the answer you can get.

If there is a beautiful stream and you fetch water with a cup, you will get a cup of water. If you use a bucket, you will get a bucket of water. If you just jump into the stream, you can enjoy the water bathing in it.

Joseph said...

> I am not saying that it is wrong to ask a question. I am saying that asking a question in a specified way with time frame should not be taken as a rule. It limits the answer you can get.

OK, that makes sense.

In that case I think the piece you wrote will easily be misunderstood, as it kind of suggests that asking specific question to I Ching is a "mistake" (that has been passed on from book to book..)


Yes, asking a question limits the answers I can get, but that is exactly my purpose in asking: narrowing down the scope, so I can see more specific details.

It is like using a camera with or without zoom lens. Without the zoom I can take picture of the landscape , but I may not see much detail about that beautiful little duck in the corner. With zoom lens I can get a sharp picture of the duck, but now the bigger landscape will not be visible in my photo.

It all depends what picture I want to get, but anyone will agree that a camera with zoom lens offers more possibilities.

Using specific questions is like putting a zoom lens on my I Ching camera. But if I can't keep my hands still , then the picture may get more blurred than in the landscape. The success will not be guaranteed.


The metaphor of the stream is a good one.
Well, in a clear stream there is also fish that can be caught.
But I am unlikely to catch a fish by just throwing in a bucket or by taking a bath..
Only with specific approach a fish can be caught. And it will take practice.
This is what happens when one asks specific question. One may catch a fish...

Of course, everybody needs to drink, and everybody takes bath.
But not everybody likes fish.
Those who don't like fish will not be forced to.
And those who like fish will not be stopped from trying.
Such is life..


Joseph Yu said...

Dear Danny

***In that case I think the piece you wrote will easily be misunderstood, as it kind of suggests that asking specific question to I Ching is a "mistake" (that has been passed on from book to book..)***

Well, I write what is in my mind. There is a mistake that has been passed on from book to book. The mistake is NOT "asking specific quesion to I Ching". The mistake IS that "the question must be asked in a specified way with a time frame".

JY said...

Yes, you write what is on your mind, and people write back how they understand your piece.
That's how it may become clear if some clearer distinction needs to be made and where.
Like in this case.
That is the function of feedback.


I think we should mention that most I Ching books in the West are about divination with classic text.
It does not have an inbuilt time based calendar approach like in Wen Wang Gua.
That's why specifying a timeframe can be useful if one wants to do classic text divination.

Personally I have a lot of I Ching books, both in English and in Dutch, and I don't remember books that say you *MUST* specify a timeframe.
Far from it being passed on from book to book.
Some books give example divinations and the examples typically range from very broad unspecific question on a certain topic, till very specific detail questions with timeframe.

Just picked up two random books from my IC library, and had a quick look.
One is by Cyrille Javary, a man from France (published in 1989).
His book has a 4 page chapter about "The question of the question?"
This is the first line: "You do not ask the I Ching what tomorrow's weather will be, or which football team will win on Sunday.."EOQ

Another book is by Joop Van Hulzen, from Holland, and it is hands down the worst book on I Ching I ever bought.(publ. 1994)
Yet, even this book discusses the problem of the question in great detail.
He discusses pro and con of 6 types of questions that people tend to ask, and the first one he mentions is asking for guidance.
The other 5 are: questions of attitude, questions of prognosis, questions of insight, questions of being, yes-no questions

I do not necessarily agree or disagree with what these authors write, but it gives you an idea of the diversity of opinions that exist on this point in the West.

So I wonder, where have you seen these books that say we MUST use a timeframe?
Or are it Chinese books?


There are many more interesting methods being tried in the West, besides the asking of direct question.
A friend of mine likes to work this way:
If you come to him he first obtains a hexagram, and looks briefly into the text and line texts.
And then he will say: "Now you can tell me what you have come for.."
And then he does the reading based on the hexagram he has obtained first.
The idea is that by divining first, his mind is more clean of any possible preconceptions or prejudices about the topic.
He can receive the answer with an empty mind, because he doesn't know the question yet..
And he has very good accuracy.
Of course, the disadvantage of this technique is that you can only use it for other people.