Saturday, January 19, 2008

Asking a question and receiving an answer is for the most part a simple and straightforward exchange, and one that people everywhere engage in everyday of their lives. However, moving from the ordinary to the extraordinary changes not only the character of the experience, but also the conditions that determine whether or not a successful result is achieved. In working with the Yijing, one encounters a unique situation which should prompt a closer examination of any prior expectations and a comparison with actual experience.
The amount of emphasis to place on the question, or on formulating a question for the oracle is an issue that is frequently raised. It is widely acknowledged that the oracle will give a response whether a diviner poses a question or simply casts a hexagram without any preconceived idea. Even if a question is carefully chosen, most people will find that there are times when the Yi has responded in reference to an issue other than that which they initially inquired about. The way to approach this is to keep in mind that these responses are not necessarily based on the inquirer's desire to know, but rather they concern the things that the inquirer needs to know. In other words, the Yi is providing guidance instead of merely giving information. Once this is appreciated the inquirer will find that a different attitude towards the practice of consulting the Yi develops, and the diviner is free to consider the possibility that the oracle may have a message to deliver that supersedes any particular question that one might be focused on.
Consulting without a preconceived idea of what the response refers to may appear to risk even more confusion, but just the opposite is true. This requires the diviner to consider carefully and to engage in some self-reflection before drawing any conclusions. By working in this way, the diviner follows the oracle's lead, instead of assuming the response always refers to the initial question. Of course, this involves allowing more time for contemplation than simply immediately applying the answer to the matter inquired about. Even so, it is an excellent way to sharpen one's perception and to attune oneself to the way the oracle provides guidance.

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