Discovering Divination: A Story

The I Ching, or Chinese Book of Changes, is the oldest of books and a system channeled 3000 years ago by sages to help emperors make better strategic and timing decisions. For thousands of years, this Taoist classic influenced campaigns, relationships, literature and art. I discovered it at age 19 and it has played a profound role in my life, providing guidance for decisions that logic can’t handle (and we know there are many of these in life).

My first encounter was as personally earthshaking as it was hilarious.  A carefree philosophy undergrad at UC, Berkeley, one day I was flirting with a cute girl who showed me the ancient book.  Furthermore, she offered to demonstrate how the system works. Although I was skeptical of what appeared to be a fortune-telling game, I was intrigued by her charms, so I agreed (but secretly making fun of the whole thing).

She asked me to jot down a personal dilemma or subject of interest and toss three coins six times. As I did, she drew a “hexagram” based on the way the coins landed. My first I Ching reading ignored my flippant question and caught me off guard with its response. I got Hexagram No.4, entitled “Youthful Folly,” about “the foolish student who lacks respect for the teacher.” I was expecting something I could have a laugh about, but not at my own expense! Indeed, the dignified I Ching reflected my shallowness and offered me a bit of wisdom about growing up. I was making fun of it and it came back and made fun of me!

Now my curiosity was aroused. I asked my beautiful new friend if I could try it again. My next query was just as trivial, but my attitude was different. This time I was testing the I Ching to see what would happen. Yup. Once again it ignored my trivial query and replied with text “questioning the sincerity of the seeker.” Somehow I was not too surprised the I Ching was reflecting my energy again. I tested it and it tested me back!

That’s when I surmised that the I Ching provides an energetic mirror from its set of  64 hexagram “archetypes,” and reflects motivation and attitude as much as anything else. It can deliver helpful insights and advice only if the seeker is sincere. I learned that the value of an I Ching reading is not about the future or even specific instructions. Rather, it stimulates the intuition. By forcing you to read between the lines, you think outside the box and have to trust your own intuition.

That fateful college day was certainly pivotal to my future as an I Ching author and multimedia I Ching developer. I lost the girl but I fell in with the I Ching! This transformational education did not happen in philosophy class, but it was a learning experience that changed my life more than all of my classes.

Since that day some 40 years ago, I’ve used the I Ching as an intuitive decision-making aid to help me venture beyond black-and-white thinking and develop superior timing. I credit the I Ching for helping me make better decisions throughout my life, including success as an entrepreneur, and more gracefully muddling my way in and out of relationships. As the I Ching says, “Love and no blame.”

Terence McKenna on The Book of Changes (1997)

Terence McKenna spent twenty-five years exploring and developing an ethno-pharmacology of spiritual transformation, in the process discovering Novelty Theory, which was based part on the sequence of hexagrams in the ancient I Ching, or Book of Changes. Terrence is author of many books, including The Invisible Landscape and Psilocybin: The Magic Mushroom Growers’ Guide. Another of his, Food of the Gods: The Search for the Original Tree of Knowledge, is a study of the impact of psychotropic plants on human culture and evolution throughout history and before. He graduated from the University of California at Berkeley with a distributed major in Ecology, Resource Conservation and Shamanism. McKenna died on April 3, 2000, at the age of 53.

I Ching: The Book of Changes—a New Translation

David Hinton is the translator of a new version of the I Ching: The Book of Change. David Hinton’s many translations of classical Chinese poetry have earned wide acclaim for creating compelling contemporary poems that convey the actual texture and density of the originals. He is also the first translator in more than a century of the four seminal masterworks of Chinese philosophy: Tao Te Ching, Chuang Tzu, Analects, and Mencius.

Personal growth becomes fashionable in China

Sean Feng is the founder and Executive Director of Haiwen, a leading provider of the burgeoning personal growth movement in China. Haiwen is a Chinese company founded in 2004, which offers personal and professional development programs and retreats in 23 cities.

Sean earned a BA in Sociology from Simon Fraser University in B.C. and a Diploma in Counseling from the Haven Institute on Gabriola Island, B.C.


I Ching on economic troubles

One of my resolutions is to cast the I Ching oracle once a week, to ask the universe for insight on a wide question or concern and share the results.

I am using the free I Ching reading feature on — I decided to ask the Oracle about our dismal economy, so I type into the screen was “Best way to relate to depressed economy?”

While I am shaking the coins (placing my mouse over them on the screen), I begin a guided meditation with my eyes closed, letting the breath be deep and slow, sitting upright with hands in prayer position. My prayer: “I surrender to the Truth. May divine wisdom flow through this I Ching reading to increase our clarity, adjust our attitude, and guide our way.”

The results were uncanny:The Present Hexagram that I cast was #39, Temporary Obstacles, with changing lines 4 and 6, which takes us into the Future Hexagram #33, Retreat.

This reading (below) speaks for itself, and with incredible clarity. Temporary obstacles leading to a retreat. Pretty straightforward. And the two changing lines offer two clear alternatives — one positive, one not as pleasant.

What I take from this reading is that this is a time to accept things the way they are and retreat in the face of what are in reality “temporary obstacles.”

Keep your head about you, focus on small details and, as the first changing line #4 clearly advises, be sure to line up as much support as you can before making any bold moves.

This is not a time to just ‘try harder’ at whatever you are used to doing, but to button down the hatches a little bit, to ride out the storm, always trying to remember that this recession is a “temporary obstacle,” which will turn into an up cycle in time.

There may be little you can do but ride out this wave’s trough cycle, just trying to stay on your surf board, focusing more on inner balance than great outward results. Another perfect reminder from our ancient sacred oracle, the I Ching!

For the full text of hexagrams and changing lines that were cast in this I Ching reading, see below. (Text excerpted from the I Ching that I originally produced 31 years ago.)

Continue reading “I Ching on economic troubles”

Paulo’s Discovery of the I Ching

Paul O’Brien, who went on to develop the world’s first divination software program in 1988-89, explains how divination systems work and how he became fascinated with the I Ching when he was a teenager

Divination using a computer — can it be real?

When the idea of divination software first occurred to me (1987), even though I was not prejudiced against computers, I was concerned about whether PCs could truly be programmed to facilitate authentic I-Ching (and later Tarot) experiences for people. (I tell the whole story in my new book.)

This continues to be an issue for many Tarot fans even to this day, who sometimes ask me “Isn’t it necessary to feel the energy of the cards in your hands to get a real reading?” My response is to point out that cardboard is not really such a good conductor of energy, and that the real energy of Tarot is not in the cards but in the archetypal symbols, which represent potentialities inside of us, no matter how they are displayed outwardly.

Nevertheless, I had to prove it for myself that computers could aid and not obstruct real divination — and I was a bit obsessed to find the truth of the matter — which is why I spent most of my life savings to develop an I-Ching software program in 1988. At the time, my friends thought I was nuts!

For some karmic reason, it was vitally important to me to find out. I wanted to be able to personally use the I-Ching discretely in the office (of the incredibly dysfunctional software company I worked for). But to invest so much in that seemed a bit crazy. I was doing it for a market of one (myself) … I certainly had no idea, intention or plan of starting a new industry!

I had the idea (and a manual I-Ching reading encouraged me) that it would be possible to program the computer to help in the process without hindering, to be a “transparent” technology — i.e. one that did not interfere with the user’s energetic connection to the way the coins landed (or which cards were picked in Tarot). In other words, I had to be careful not to let the computer take over the process and do too much.

As soon as my programmer, an artist and I completed the first multimedia I-Ching prototype, I used it and fell in love with it. Why? Because it was energetically true … and best of all it worked! Soon after that I threw caution to the wind, quit my high-paying job, and started Visionary in order to share my invention with the world. I had no business plan and almost no capital, and little did I realize that I would have so many sleepless nights flirting with bankruptcy for the next ten years. But even the suffering, it seems, was a necessary part of a slow-birthing manifestation process.

The important thing for me in the beginning was that I was able to prove that the concept was sound. My subsequent sense of mission about producing authentic software-facilitated divination led to the later realization that the internet could provide universal access to these sacred tools in an inexpensive way that really worked. And here we are!