Visionary I Ching Cards

Paul O’Brien is the author of the Visionary I Ching Cards.  He’s an entrepreneurial strategist, philosopher, and raconteur who invented divination software and created the world’s largest astrology and divination ecommerce business, Tarot.com. He is a sought-after advisor, interview subject, and speaker, as well as author of Intuitive IntelligenceThe Visionary I Ching: A Book of Changes for the 21st Century and the Visionary I Ching app for smartphones.

Let the I Ching Guide You Through Uncertainty

We live in an age of high anxiety, perhaps higher than ever during a pandemic. Humans have always had plenty of reasons to feel insecure, but things seem qualitatively different now. Rapid change, and the uncertainty that accompanies it, have accelerated to chaotic levels. As of this writing, during the worldwide coronavirus pandemic and massive social justice demonstrations, we are collectively experiencing fears of a cascading health and economic catastrophe while worrying for a rise in infections among protestors. The pandemic is both slowing us down and accelerating change in new—and hopefully healthier—ways.

Rapidly shifting conditions require new strategies while they offer new opportunities. In the process, we are challenged, as always, to make beneficial choices and skillful decisions. This is where an authentic divination system like the I Ching can help us on an individual level.

Responsible decision-making is arguably the single most important human activity, but it is stressful. We are the only species that can visualize different possible outcomes following from different choices we might make. The quality and good timing of our decisions determines, more than anything else we can do, our success and happiness in life, our ability to survive and hopefully thrive through the cultivation of empathy and a higher more inclusive consciousness.

Even though human beings have this amazing capacity, decision-making is risky and we are not very good at it. We can so easily be too emotional and impulsive or, conversely, overly analytical and procrastinating. So, what can we do to make life’s pivotal decisions more wisely? How can we be smarter about it? The I Ching can help us approach decision-making with calm intention, while gaining more insight into the potential directions you can go. The I Ching is an amazing tool for intuitive decision-making, but what’s wrong with good old-fashioned logic and rational information analysis?

Ever since the Renaissance in the 1600s, the western world has glorified reason and looked to scientific rationalism for the solution to most problems. The assumption was: sufficient data in, good answers out. With the recent dawning of the Information Age—with instant access to virtually unlimited data—it was surmised that logical decision-making would become easier as well as more convenient.

Well, think again. In the process of weighing pros and cons, analyzing statistics, applying probability theory, or toying with computer models, logical analysis is only as good as the quality of the information available. And there’s the rub.

We’ve got too much information, and it’s become virtually impossible to differentiate the reliable from the fake. And even the information we accept as true now has a shorter shelf life, because rapid change makes current information obsolete, and more quickly than ever. We have to stay on our toes. Logical decision-makers often put off decisions while awaiting more information, making themselves liable to miss increasingly short-lived windows of opportunity. Good and timely decisions are a balancing act and an art. So how do we determine which portions of available information are true or meaningful so that we can make the decisions that need to be made? The answer is not to be found in our minds, but in our hearts, in our intuition.

Good decision-making is more an art than a science. Having harnessed powerful computers and artificial intelligence—the ultimate models of left-brain processing—we have become aware of the limitations of left-brained information processing and we are beginning to appreciate a mode of perceiving that is more holistic, that sometimes approaches mystical realization, such as we can get from an I Ching reading.

Since the revelations of quantum physics a century ago, the perceived gap between the empirical and the mystical has been closing. Major credit for bringing these two camps within hailing distance goes to the Swiss-born father of depth psychology, Carl Jung, who introduced the West to the idea of meaningful coincidence, or “synchronicity”—one of the most practical mystical concepts ever, which depends so entirely on intuitive intelligence in order to be useful.

Jung’s work in general provides a backdrop for any serious exploration of intuition. He fearlessly explored the territory connecting scientific inquiry with a person’s inner experience, including what he recognized as a spiritual dimension of consciousness (in deference to scientific nomenclature, he called it the Collective Unconscious). He highlighted the importance of symbolism for psychology—suggesting that symbols point to a deeper truth—and counseled us to interpret and learn from our own unique set of inherited or adopted archetypes.

In a 1952 essay entitled “Synchronicity, An Acausal Connecting Principle,” Jung contrasted the western mindset—influenced by early Greek philosophers who focused on logical details—with the eastern perspective, which focused on the whole big picture, with each part and every detail sharing the qualities of the whole gestalt. Jung’s essay was derived from his introduction to the first mass produced version of the I Ching, the translation by Richard Wilhem and Cary Baynes.

To Jung, the eastern approach that transcended mere logic better described the mysterious workings of the human psyche. It also provided a more contemplative and holistic viewpoint. Jung pointed to a power of discernment that can take advantage of “the irrational functions of consciousness … that is, sensation AND intuition.”

When it comes to making skillful decisions, the question arises: Should we just trust whatever feelings come up? Or are there systematic ways to go deeper and access intuitive intelligence? Fortunately, a number of people—including prominent scientists and business leaders—have rediscovered the ancient Chinese technology for intuitive decision-making and creativity: the I Ching.

The I Ching, since its Western revival in the 1960s, has been dismissed as “new age” in the popular media. It is, however, anything but new—having been used by emperors, sages, and ordinary people in China for over 3000 years. Today, this oracle is more and more commonly put to practical use by creative counselors and their more highly aware clients.

Jung was enchanted with the I Ching due to the way it seemed to put individual psychological elements in context, as part of a seamless whole. “There is no need of any criteria which imposes conditions and restricts the wholeness of the natural process… In the I Ching, the coins fall just as happens to suit them.”

Traditionally when a person consulted the I Ching, they drew sticks or tossed coins and recorded the results as a 6-line pattern called a hexagram, which was then interpreted from a book. Now there are online readings, a Visionary I Ching app, and our latest production: the Visionary I Ching Deck featuring 64 beautifully illustrated cards with original watercolors by Joan Larimore, along with a booklet of interpretations. But regardless of the format you use to derive a hexagram reading, you may wonder how any sort of truth could be divined from seeming happenstance.

Two Chinese sages, King Wen and the Duke of Chou, devised the I Ching oracle some 4,000 years ago to strengthen the connection between the psychic and the material realms. An individual seeking insight and advice approaches the I Ching prepared to resonate inwardly with one of its sixty-four archetypal patterns. As Jung put it, the I Ching oracle interprets an “inner unconscious knowledge that corresponds to the state of consciousness at the moment.” In other words, it stimulates our intuitive intelligence.

Intuition exists outside the stream of ordinary thinking consciousness and can present itself in many ways—from a vague hunch to a fully developed vision. It may arrive as a mathematical equation, as an invention or as simply a hunch about the best path to take. And so it is that an answer to a long-unsolved quandary can seem to just pop into our heads. But events oozing with connective portent that have no apparent causal relationship are hardly random. Something in the external world triggered inner knowledge, and the two realities intersect within our working mind. The I Ching offers us a way to reliably produce this phenomenon of meaningful coincidence.

Not only did the I Ching fascinate psychologist Carl Jung, it also attracted the attention of his fellow scientists, the famous physicists Werner Heisenberg and Albert Einstein. Heisenberg, discoverer of the Uncertainty Principle, even had the yin-yang symbol representing the binary polarity of the I Ching’s 64 patterns added to his family’s coat-of-arms.

A more recent example from the world of business is an old friend of mine, Paul Wenner, a successful entrepreneur who had a cause. In 1985, he founded Gardenburger, Inc. to provide a healthy vegetarian fast-food alternative. Much sweat equity and thousands of decisions later, Gardenburger rose to become the world’s fastest growth stock in 1994. Today Paul is a multimillionaire, the author of a major book on vegetarianism and a booklet entitled Ten Secrets to Success.

A surprising number of people in the Western world use the I Ching at work as well as at home. Years ago, I consulted the I Ching often, as the single parent of a teenage boy! The I Ching software program named Synchronicity—developed by my first company, Visionary Software—was surprisingly popular in the business world when it first came out. One customer said he was able to close a three-million-dollar because of using the I Ching program to reorient himself during lengthy negotiations. He consulted the oracle on his PC before every meeting, to center himself and stimulate his intuition. The I Ching is a great way to prepare for negotiations and support critical decision-making—whether with a potential business partner … or a teenager testing boundaries.

This age of massive uncertainty we’re living through is stimulating greater fear and anxiety every day, leading to confusion, mistrust, cynicism, stress and plenty of bad decisions. It is no wonder we seek answers that can guide us through the morass of misinformation and propaganda. Parched for guidance and wisdom, it continues to be my intention to help people realize how tools of ancient wisdom like the I Ching can provide clarity, increased insight, and wisdom, while supporting our most important skill—intuitive, timely and wise decision-making. By helping me do this since I was 19 years old, the I Ching has enriched my life in every aspect.

visionary I Ching cards and guidebook

The Toltec I Ching

William Douglas Horden is co-author of The Toltec I Ching: 64 Keys to Inspired Action in the New World, which integrates the wisdom teachings of the indigenous peoples of ancient China and Mesoamerica. He’s also the author of In The Oneness of Time: the Education of A Diviner. William has studied the I Ching for fifty years. Horden’s teachers include I Ching Master Khigh Alx Dhiegh and a traditional shaman of the Tarahumara tribe of the Copper Canyon of Mexico.

Intuitive Intelligence

Paul O’Brien is a successful entrepreneur who developed the world’s largest online astrology service out of his basement, which he sold for millions in 2007. He authored The Visionary I Ching: A Book of Changes for the 21st Century and produced the Visionary I Ching app. Paul founded and runs the Divination Foundation, an educational nonprofit focused on cultural evolution—also the theme of Pathways, a radio show and podcast he has hosted since 1984 (archived on Divination.com). His new book, Intuitive Intelligence: Make life-changing decisions with perfect timing comes out September 10, 2019.

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.

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.