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tortoise shell with intricate patterns - the ancient oracle would reveal fate for those seeking advice

"What need has nature
of thought or care?
When the sun goes,
the moon comes.
Cold and heat alternate.
The past contracts,
the future expands.
When you can understand
the transformations,
you lift your nature
to the level
of the miraculous."
--I Ching

Lo Shu/Magic Square

In ancient times, rulers consulted oracles where characters were engraved onto tortoise shells or bones. Inserting a heated bronze pin, cracks would form on the reverse side. By analyzing the cracks in relation to the characters, important decisions were made. From the characters carved onto shells and bones, the original Chinese language of pictographs emerged. While other civilizations developed letters and a phonetic system of language, Chinese would remain a language based largely on picture images.

Inspiration of I Ching

Those who could read the oracles were called shih and developed as the scholarly-gentry class who roamed the countryside, advising rulers. While the decaying Chou Empire was giving way to the Warring States Period, speculation and philosophical thought turned toward exploring the foundation for proper government and ethics. It was in this environment of practical concerns that the Hundred Schools arose and Chinese thought entered its Golden Era. As scholars traveled from one feudal state to another, they became government officials and offered rulers ideas for social reform.

Through experience and study, the Great Masters recognized nature as a teacher. They observed the effects of the sun, wind, rain and other elements apparent in the natural world. Eight Primary principles would emerge, describing the forces inherent in change, and they applied these ideas to the human condition. They used these principles as a guide in promoting an understanding of how rulers and their people could practice the way of nature.

Each of the sixty four principles is composed of variations of Yin and Yang lines. Four primary trigrams emerge in each composition and their changing positions describe the current environment and how one can equip themselves to approach it. "Knowing that which is to come can make you the master of your experiences."

“The beginning line is difficult to understand.
The top line is easy to understand.
For they stand in the relationship to cause and effect.”

The beginning line represents the unknown elements at play as something new emerges to set the stage for change. The top line “is easy to understand” because it represents all that has become familiar and the aspect of the situation, which has run its course and is transforming. The upper and lower trigrams describe the current situation as portrayed by the successive movement of the eight elements. Inside of each principle are two additional nuclear trigrams, which suggest a proper approach in meeting changing events.

Each trigram suggests an image and in some cases, the reading is unchanging. In this case, one is asked to appreciate the deeper aspects of this message. At other times, the first situation will be described as changing into a second image. Both images need to be considered as a pathway to enlightenment.

Observing conflict as a pathway to return to Tao, these cycle of interpretations result from sixty-four possible combinations of Yin and Yang lines. The lower and upper trigrams represent nature in a state of transformation. As these natural forces move toward or away from each other, they embody the different types of situations you may encounter. The nuclear trigrams suggest how best to approach the changes. When you emulate nature, these active principles will teach you how to achieve success and use every opportunity as a way to grow stronger.

Picturing the I Ching

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