Principles of the Oracle
These are general principles that appear regularly
in my use of the Oracle.
The Play of Yang and Yin
Yang and Yin are the two
building blocks of the Oracle’s hexagrams and its philosophy. A
hexagram comprises six
lines, each representing either Yang or Yin, depending on how the
coins fall. Yang is represented by a solid line and Yin by a broken
one. A typical hexagram of six solid and broken lines looks something
Yang has the qualities of leadership,
strength and importance. Yin has the opposite qualities of receptivity,
and being nothing special. Yang has the energy to offer an unending stream of initiatives
to Yin and Yin responds to every one. The
play of Yang and Yin is the dynamo of the cosmos.
The opposition of Yin and Yang
is also a fundamental principle of difference. It allows
things to be differentiated from each other or likened to one
another, and permits the fact of change. The principle extends indefinitely in the sense that
differences can be different and changes can
change, giving rise to a world of immense complexity and variability.
The Oracle sees the world in terms of change.
Its hexagrams describe sixty-four characteristic
motions in Yang and Yin's
dance of change. The most basic teachings of
the Oracle address the
flow of change:
1. Nothing is certain.
unexpected. Progress goes hand in hand with caution.
2. One's behaviour should be appropriate to time and place. Being
enables one to adapt quickly.
3. Things change, even if one just sits and waits.
Cycle of Development and Decline
The simplest motion of the Yin-Yang dynamic is a
progressive development from pure Yin to pure Yang, followed by a
regressive decline back to pure Yin. This motion repeats endlessly in
an ongoing cycle of growth and decay, with every end followed by a new
beginning. It reinforces the teaching that things always change and even
that a death develops into the birth of something new.
The cycle is explicitly represented in the Oracle
by six hexagrams describing the distinct stages of development and by
six hexagrams describing the stages of decline.
The hexagrams of development are:
The hexagrams of decline are:
Virtue of Modesty
The Virtue of Modesty
is the central moral tenet
of the Oracle. It may be stated as:
When the strong
and supports the weak the ensuing dynamic will be robust and
When the strong dominates the weak the result
may be grand but will
be short lived.
The interplay between Yang and Yin, the cosmic
dynamic, endures because Yang
(the strong) defers to Yin (the weak).
To this end, every situation described by the
hexagrams where the
strong behaves modestly and supports rather than dominates the weak is
regarded as favourable.
This Virtue of Modesty is the opposite of
concepts such as 'might is
right' by which the most powerful are seen to have a natural right to
dominion. It clearly demonstrates a morality on the Oracle’s part,
since there appears to be no necessity for the strong to
support the weak, while there is much evidence of the weak suffering
oppression at the hands of the powerful.
Yang, Yin and Spirituality
Yang and Yin's dance of change can be turbulent.
For the Oracle, spirituality is the connection of everything in the universe into
a sentient spiritual whole, whose expression is a more harmonious song of
that in turn influences Yang and Yin's dance of change but does not control it.
The influence of the universal spirit
has universal power
as distinct from our own
personal power. The power of the universal spirit
is supremely modest, a perennial background to the
more forceful turbulence and personal powers of the world.
Universal power is a beacon to harmony but does not enforce that harmony.
Universal power is similar to the classical concept of Tao.
Whereas Tao is regarded as the natural character of the world arising from
the play of Yang and Yin, universal power is the more harmonious influence of
the universe as a mindful spiritual whole.
The universal spirit is not an all-seeing, all-powerful controller of the cosmos
but rather a most modest participant in its adventure. The significance of universal power is
that the absolute background to everything is a mindful and harmonious song that is background by virtue
of its unsurpassed modesty rather than because it is absent.
Such modesty means that universal power
is expressed in subtlety and nuance,
which only become evident in the absence of turbulence and forcefulness.
In the random fall of a hexagram forcefulness is minimized,
allowing the spiritual influence to become more apparent.
on the Use of Personal Power
The complexity of our world allows many
expressions of individuality, as evidenced by the varying degrees of
free will enjoyed by all its inhabitants, including ourselves.
A cacophony of voices obscures the spiritual song
and its harmonious expressions, for
the song is always in the background and its power
more subtle than those in the foreground.
The song of
is there for all to
hear, were we to pay sufficient attention.
The Oracle requests that we restrain our own
personal expressions of power
so that we not distract from
the song of universal power and avoid obscuring and disturbing its expressions. Our social interaction in
general benefits when we behave with circumspection.
Personal power includes all forms
of coercion, including physical force, intellectual persuasion and
psychological or psychic manipulation.
The restraint on personal power is advocated as
- Personal power should only be used when one is certain that its use is
- When one does resort to using personal power, one
should use only enough to
get the job done.
- Personal power should not be used unless one is in
control of it. In
particular, one should be confident that one will know when to stop and
that when the time comes to stop one will have the strength to do so.
Aggressive behaviour in any form is contrary to
Virtue of Modesty
and is always shunned.
The discouragement of personal power is limited
to the actual expression of power and not to the desire behind it.
Desire per se is not discouraged. In fact there is an oblique form of
personal power that the Oracle often encourages, whereby one may
promote an outcome by intentionally yearning for it. No action is to be
taken to secure the outcome other than keeping it in mind or
fantasising about it or teasing it. The most basic expression of this
is simple optimism. Because such intentional yearning is purely an
internal attitude the Oracle does not see it as needing the same kind
of tentative handling as other forms of power.
Reality and Simplicity
The Oracle values reality, the
reality we experience and participate in when we are awake.
It shows no interest in our
dreams or visions, only in waking, real actions that we take
(perhaps to implement our visions or dreams).
Meditation too is only seen to have value if one remains awake, while
trances and drug-affected experiences
are only valued for the different awareness of waking reality they offer.
Though all our perceptions may ultimately be subjective, as long as they are
based on a waking rather than a sleep state they can be relevant to the Oracle.
When casting hexagrams too, meaning should only be afforded to hexagrams cast
when awake and not to hexagrams cast say in dreams.
The Oracle encourages us to have as close and
immediate an engagement with reality as possible. We do this by paying as deep an
attention to the subtleties of the present waking moment as
we can muster. The key to directness of engagement is
- keeping our encounter with reality as free of
unnecessary complication as possible.
Simplicity should be understood purely in these
terms of immediacy of
perception and expression. It does not pertain to the material content
of our lives. Unless indicated to the contrary, the Oracle does not promote
abstinence or asceticism.
Inappropriate asceticism can be as much a hindrance to an immediate
engagement with reality as any material obsession or other habitual
The restraint on expressions of personal power
can also be seen as a valuing of simplicity.
Our own expressions of power can complicate our encounter with
reality by introducing unnecessary expectations that obscure our
perception of it. The Oracle itself is absolutely straightforward and simple
in its statements - it
finds no value in deception or sarcasm.
Appropriateness and Compromise
The Oracle encourages behaviour that is appropriate for
prevailing conditions - physical, social and spiritual. It asks
that we act when the time for action has come and refrain
when our intended actions (or the only actions available to us)
do not suit the time. When the time comes, it asks that our actions be
and consensual. Even expressions of
Love, desirable as they are,
must await an appropriate time.
In consideration of prevailing social conditions we time our actions to suit others as well as ourselves.
In consideration of spirituality we
time our actions to the rhythms of universal power.
Forcing a situation against its appropriate spiritual time will provide
at best a partial success, perhaps having a lesser prospect of enduring or open to
unfortunate consequences. An important use of the Oracle is to
inform us of the spiritual rhythms so that our timing may be spiritually appropriate.
The spiritual rhythms are continually changing so acting appropriately
requires that we be flexible.
Behaviour that is prescribed or habitual is not likely to be adequately
responsive to change.
Ritual activities according to fixed
calendars are more likely to frustrate the spiritual rhythms than
Occasions when action is spiritually appropriate
infrequent so once one is able to refrain from unnecessary expressions of
the bulk of one's time is spent in
spiritually neutral activity. Spiritual readiness is a full-time
occupation but spiritual activity is not.
An activity that is spiritually appropriate is not necessarily socially appropriate
or personally convenient; nor might personal or social convenience be spiritually appropriate. For example,
one may be rushing to keep an appointment while the Oracle is indicating that Love is
spiritually appropriate right now.
Getting one's actions appropriate to all conditions
can be tricky and compromise may be needed.
The Oracle often encourages us to act even if it means
compromising our ideals.
Forcing an ideal will often put one out of touch with reality rather than allowing one to find its rhythms.
Demanding perfection can lead to isolation and
an imperfect but real encounter is often preferable to no encounter at all.
This does not mean that we should not have ideals
but that any steps we take to implement them
should firstly take into account the actual conditions of the moment.
Acknowledging reality for what it actually is is the first step to finding harmony.
When an activity is spiritually significant it is important
to pay attention to its subtlety, for that is where its meaning will be found.
In an appropriate space for spiritually significant activity one would not be
disturbed or distracted from attending to its subtlety.
Balance and Respect
The Oracle finds value in diversity. It
encourages us not only to enjoy
things that are different from ourselves but to enjoy depth in the
scale of a differentiation. For example, the Oracle's appreciation of a
successful encounter between different people is deepened all the more if they
have arrived at their meeting from very different starting points.
Every relationship between different things has a
central point in the
scale of the differentiation where there is a balance between the
opposing elements. This point of balance is special.
A state of balance rather than the taking of any
extreme position is
seen by the Oracle as the most desirable situation in any relationship.
From the central point of balance, there will be less need to exert
power of one's own, and any power that one does exert can be more
easily controlled. As well, a central, balanced position is more
sensitive to movements in the relationship, so it is from here that the
finer nuances of the relationship and the depth of its diversity can
best be appreciated. The second and fifth lines of every hexagram are
considered to have this advantageous position of balance.
We respect others by enjoying their difference
and striving for balance
in relationship with them. Compensatory manoeuvres to maintain a state
of balance, such as accommodation and reciprocation, are seen as
expressions of respect. These are valued as being conducive to
relationship, and reinforce the condemnation of aggression arising from
the Virtue of Modesty. Compromise is often promoted as a way of
rescuing value from difficult situations while demands for perfection
will be disappointed or deceived.
Respect also acknowledges spiritual equality with
others. Even in the
relationship between human and Oracle, an attitude of respect for each
other’s position is preferred to one of subservience.
Another virtue dear to the Oracle is sincerity,
meant in the sense of depth of feeling. Sincerity is appreciated
in the deep feelings of
that are the wealth of our relational encounters and because these feelings
bring us closer to our
Clarity supports sincerity by facilitating the
perception of depth and intensity.
Clarity as a virtue can be seen to reinforce the value of simplicity
as directness of perception and immediacy of contact. It leads to the
total absence of deceit or deviousness in the manner of the Oracle.
Supreme Value of Relating
Attention is the spiritual
jewel of our
cosmos. Relating with another by giving and receiving
attention is to exchange spiritual currency.
Relating is how the
disparate elements of the universe meet so that Love becomes possible. The
bulk of the Oracle’s hexagrams are devoted to the nuances of
The Oracle distinguishes three main modes of
relating, according to how
the participants direct their attention.
Firstly participants may have a side-by-side
orientation to each other and share attention by focusing on a
common objective. Relating in this way constitutes our broader
in society and everyday association with friends and family. At one
extreme it can be formal, structured to custom and ceremony, and at the
other flow freely in a comfortable camaraderie.
In the second mode the participants have their
attention focused squarely
on each other. This is a face-to-face intimacy whose intensity is
unconstrained by any formality or condition outside the relation.
Notably this mode includes successful sexual relation
as the most highly prized expression of Love, with nine
hexagrams devoted to its development.
In the third mode one's attention is directed
No external partners are involved so there are no risks in letting
one's imagination roam widely.
One can freely explore one's own mind and body.
With sufficient attention to subtlety of feeling
we can find the spiritual song and respond sympathetically.
This enhances the spiritual feeling and so one engages in spiritual
We generally engage a mix of these modes,
favouring one or the other as
situations evolve or as opportunities arise. But we often have a
choice as to how we apportion our attention and the Oracle may advise
which modes of relating are appropriate.
The fostering of appropriate relation is the only
spiritual purpose I have been
able to discern from my experience of the Oracle. In particular, I have
never received any counsel that values life only as a
stepping stone to a greater purpose in an afterlife,
neither with the intention of escaping a wheel of death and rebirth nor
by assisting entry to a post-mortal heaven or paradise.