Saturday, June 1, 2013

Dialoging with the I Ching

Now that we understand the hexagram, let’s look at how a typical I Ching dialogue unfolds within the context of Christian discernment.

First, you will need a query. Think carefully about what you want to ask. My query, discussed earlier, was “What is the likely outcome of this book project?” Because I am asking this within the context of Christian discernment, I understand this question to mean, “Is this project something that God wills?” Or, using the stream analogy, is this project going with the flow of God’s stream? If God wills this project, then it will have a positive outcome. If God does not will this project, then it will have a negative outcome. As a Christian, I don’t want to invest a lot of time doing something God doesn’t want done. There are far easier ways to make my life miserable. Ask Jonah.

The reply to your query will be in the form of an archetype number and a set of energy points (moving lines.) As Christians, we understand this as Wisdom’s voice telling us that the answer to our reply will be found by pondering that particular archetype and those particular energy points.

Forming The Query

Forming a good query is critical to getting a good response. If the query is muddled, the response will be difficult to interpret. There are a few basic guidelines to keep in mind in forming the query.

Do not ask yes/no questions. The I Ching does not give absolute answers and it has no language for yes or no. So instead of asking, “Should I take this job,” ask, “What would be the consequences of taking this job?” Even better is a more specific question, “What would be the consequences of taking this job on my family?”

Do not ask the I Ching to predict the future. So do not ask, “Will this stock do well?” I discussed the prohibition on fortune telling in Chapter 2.

Do not ask either/or questions. Such questions presuppose that you already know the answer must be one of two choices. The I Ching needs the flexibility to show you possibilities you haven’t thought of. So instead of asking, “Should I do A or B?” ask two questions, “What would be the consequences of doing A?” and “What would be the consequences of doing B?”

Do not ask for help violating God’s laws. So do not ask, “How can I best hide my affair from my wife?”  Ask for Wisdom that will help you keep God’s laws. So you might ask, “Why do I want to have an affair?”

Do not repeat a question just because you didn’t like the answer. If you don’t understand a previous answer, then ask further questions to clarify the answer.

A good rule of thumb is not to ask the I Ching questions you wouldn’t ask a good friend. When you use the I Ching, you are asking for God’s advice. And God is your best of friends.

Once you have your query, write it down. Frequently the interpretation of God’s response through the I Ching will hinge on the specific wording you used. Ego, if it doesn’t like the answer (which it probably won’t) will try to convince you the question you asked was really something else. Best to have written proof.

Preparation for Dialogue

Before dialoguing with the I Ching, prepare the atmosphere both physically and spiritually. These are my recommendations, but feel free to modify them to feel right to you. First, clear the space you will need for whatever protocol you are following. Light some incense and three candles. The candles represent the Trinity. If you are in the season of Lent (that is, between Ash Wednesday and Easter Sunday) then the middle candle representing Christ is not lit.

Clear your mind by meditating. This is a time when you are letting go of Ego. The length of the meditation depends on your comfort with meditating. Ideally this time period will last twenty minutes, but even a few minutes will be quite helpful. As you feel more comfortable with meditation, this time period can be lengthened.

During the meditation period, sit in a chair with your back straight. Start a timer. Close your eyes and silently repeat a mantra of your choice. I personally recommend the mantra, “Maranatha” which means, “Come, Holy Spirit” in the ancient language of Aramaic, the language Jesus spoke. Maranatha was a common prayer and one we assume Jesus said. It was used several times as a closing in Paul’s letters.

Maranatha is pronounced with four syllables: mar (rhyming with bar), a (rhyming with la), nath (rhyming with the English pronouncement of bath), and a (rhyming with la again.) Say this word slowly and silently, in time with your breathing.

During meditation thoughts will come to you. This is Ego speaking; Ego doesn’t like to be silenced. When this happens, silently say to Ego, “Not right now.” Then go back to repeating your mantra. You may need to do this a dozen times in a two minute meditation. No problem.

At the end of your meditation, hold onto the silence you have created. If you have some specific prayers or psalms that you like, feel free to say them. Include a prayer that God send you Wisdom.

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This page and the entire Christian Interpretation of the I Ching is copyright (c) 2013 by Roger Sessions. All rights are reserved. This material may not be copied or republished without permission.