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.”

What Love Is And What it Could Be

Carrie Jenkins is the author of the new book, What Love Is And What It Could Be. Carrie is a professor of philosophy at the University of British Columbia, Vancouver, a nationally elected Canada Research Chair, and the principal investigator on the collaborative research project The Nature of Love, funded by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada.

I Am Not I

Jacob Needleman is the author of I Am Not I. A philosopher, author, and religious scholar, Jacob teaches philosophy at San Francisco State University. He is also the author of The New Religions, a pioneering study of the new American spirituality, Money and the Meaning of Life, A Sense of the Cosmos, The Heart of Philosophy, Time and the Soul, Why Can’t We Be Good? , and other books.

The Philosophy of Childing

Mounting evidence shows that we begin our lives with a moral, intellectual, and creative bang, but childhood isn’t merely a state of “becoming.” Maybe if we can find a way to embrace the defining qualities of youth, we can grow into and through an adulthood defined by wonder, curiosity, imagination, playfulness, and compassion. Christopher Phillips is the author of the new book, The Philosophy of Childing: Unlocking Creativity, Curiosity, and Reason through the Wisdom of Our Youngest. His writing and activism inspired the Socrates Café and Democracy Café gatherings—meet-ups in which people of all ages exchange ideas and philosophies while embracing the Socratic Method—and today there are more than six hundred ongoing gatherings around the world.

Yin-Yang: The Symbol of the Tao

The symbol of the Tao — a circle enclosing two equal interlocking paisleys — is referred to as the “tai chi” symbol, or sometimes as the “yin-yang.” The outside circle represents the universal Tao, the “way” or “path” associated with a life lived in harmony with the cycles of change. It is also the closest thing in Chinese metaphysics to western concepts like ‘God,’ because the Tao also implies infinite potentiality. The dark paisley within the circle is the yin energy, which contains a white dot in the middle representing a yang aspect, to remind us that nothing is all yin or all yang. The same but opposite is true about the white paisley with its black dot. The circle is shaped like a wheel to convey cyclical movements, such as seasons and orbits, but also karmic returns.

Yin is conceived of as the feminine principle, (soft, tranquil, dark, receptive, flowing and containing) while yang is the masculine principle (hard, aggressive, light, focused and solid). Everything, including every individual personality, contains elements of both. The world, or the ‘Tao,’ is a mixing of black and white into myriad shades of gray.

The Chinese call the world’s oldest book “I Ching”, which translates as “Book of Changes.” This greatest of the surviving Taoist classical works was designed to serve as a divination system — for reading and interpreting life changes wrought by the constant interplay of the yin and yang universal energies. (Incidentally, I composed my first modern version of the I Ching text in 1989.)

The Taoist/Confucian tradition posits that juxtaposing a set of the possible permutations of yin and yang with elements of Chinese creation mythology produced the foundation of the I Ching. Pairing up the various combinations of yin (the literal ancient meaning of which is the shady north side of the hill) and yang (meaning the sunny south side of the hill) gives you four primary symbols. With the addition of another yin or yang line, the eight trigrams emerge.

The earliest composition of I Ching interpretations is attributed to King Wen. Toward the end of the Shang Dynasty, when the unjust emperor Zhou Wang imprisoned Wen, he reportedly used his confinement to meditate on the trigrams, pairing them up to produce sixty-four possible hexagrams. Each pair of trigrams took on a meaning specific to their combination. In what we might assume was an enlightened state of mind, King Wen assigned each of the sixty-four hexagrams a name, adding a few sentences to explain its meaning. It is said that his son, King Wu, added additional interpretative text, bringing the I Ching closer to its current form.

In every chapter of the I Ching, we have six lines consisting of a unique mix of yin lines and yang lines, making up 64 patterns. Each of these 64 hexagrams is an archetype of the human condition or human situations, based on the placement of yin and yang lines within it. The I Ching has for thousands of years been considered a sacred tool, a system that was originally only used by the nobility and sages to coordinate human activity with the natural rhythms of the Tao, the cycles of change.

When I first incorporated Visionary Software in 1989 to publish Synchronicity, the first ever I Ching software, we developed a company logo that incorporated the Tao symbol, knowing that our business had to be about balance and integrity if it were to be of real service. The pioneering subatomic physicist Neils Bohr also used it when he was knighted in 1947. His family had no coat of arms, so he created one. He chose the yin-yang symbol and inscribed it Contraria sunt complementa (opposites are complementary).

The yin-yang symbol of the Tao is always good to have around, for it provides a clear visual reminder of how change, which is the only constant, operates in the world. As human beings have a special role to play in this world, the I Ching was encoded to help us interpret the patterns of change in society as well as our individual human lives, giving us a greater ability to anticipate and, indeed, play a co-creative role in positive or ‘lucky’ changes that sometimes just seem to happen. It is said that the symbol of the Tao and the use of the I Ching support within us the “Three Jewels of the Tao” — love, humility and moderation. Here’s to the emotional intelligence of Taoism, one of the most uplifting and practical philosophies of all time!

A Manual for Creating Atheists

Dr. Peter Boghossian is author of the new book, A Manual for Creating Atheists. Peter is a full-time faculty member in Portland State University’s philosophy department. His main focus is bringing the tools of professional philosophers to people in a wide variety of contexts. Peter has a teaching pedigree spanning more than 20 years and 30,000 students – in prisons, hospitals, public and private schools, seminaries, colleges and universities, Fortune 100 companies, and small businesses. His fundamental objective is to teach people how to think through what often seem to be intractable problems.

Does God Have a Future?

Just watched a most excellent debate on the question “Does God Have a Future” on Nightline, which took place last March 14 at Caltech, between Deepak Chopra and Jean Houston on the side representing spiritual mysticism, and Sam Harris and Michael Shermer representing scientific atheism. All I can say is “Wow, thank you God!” (irony intended)

Even though it is divided up into several segments (most with a commercial) by ABC News on their site, I was enthralled by the entire thing, which I watched over the span of 3 days.

For someone like myself who is constantly deepening his own understanding, reading and studying about consciousness and belief systems, it was utterly fascinating … and lol entertaining! This discussion in an age of crazy fundamentalisms is more than relevant. If we are to survive and thrive, we need to evolve our belief systems one way or the other. Check it out and let me know what you think here.


Stephen Mitchell was born in Brooklyn in 1943, educated at Amherst, the Sorbonne, and Yale, and de-educated through intensive Zen practice. His many books include the bestselling Tao Te Ching, The Gospel According to Jesus, Bhagavad Gita, The Book of Job, Meetings with the Archangel, Gilgamesh, The Second Book of the Tao, and The Iliad. When he is not writing, he likes to (in no particular order) think about writing, think about not writing, not think about writing, and not think about not writing.

The Demartini Method

Dr John Demartini is a world leading inspirational teacher, philosopher, speaker and author. John was also one of the stars of The Secret. His scope of knowledge and experience is a culmination of 34 years of research and studies of more than 28,000 texts into over 200 different disciplines ranging from psychology, philosophy, metaphysics, theology, neurology and physiology.