General Principles of the Oracle
Oracle of Love


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 like this:

Yang has the qualities of leadership, strength and importance. Yin has the opposite qualities of receptivity, weakness 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. Expect the unexpected. Progress goes hand in hand with caution.
2. One's behaviour should be appropriate to time and place. Being flexible enables one to adapt quickly.
3. Things change, even if one just sits and waits.

The 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:







The Virtue of Modesty

The Virtue of Modesty is the central moral tenet of the Oracle. It may be stated as:

When the strong defers to and supports the weak the ensuing dynamic will be robust and self-sustaining.
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 Love 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. A quiet environment allows the finer expressions of the universal spirit to become apparent.

In the random fall of a hexagram forcefulness is minimized, allowing the spiritual influence to become more apparent.

Restraint 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 universal power 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 follows:

  • Personal power should only be used when one is certain that its use is appropriate.
  • 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 the 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 simplicity - 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 behaviour.

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 modest 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 enhance them.

Occasions when action is spiritually appropriate are relatively infrequent so once one is able to refrain from unnecessary expressions of personal power, 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.

Diversity, 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.

Sincerity and Clarity

Another virtue dear to the Oracle is sincerity, meant in the sense of depth of feeling. Sincerity is appreciated in the deep feelings of Love that are the wealth of our relational encounters and because these feelings bring us closer to our spiritual connection.

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.

The 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 relating.

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 interactions 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 turned to one's own mind and body, where, with sufficient attention to subtlety, one can find the spiritual song and respond sympathetically. This enhances the spiritual feeling, which responds in turn, and in turn one attends to; and so one engages in spiritual relation. (Think of meditating, with your eyes closed or with your eyes open.)

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.

Home Hexagram Lookup Table Introduction The Notion of Yin and Yang Free Ebook!