I Ching Study Guide – Introduction

The images stem from the ideas. The words make the images clear… The images are the trap for the ideas. Therefore, whoever stops at the words will not grasp the images, and whoever stops at the images will not grasp the ideas.

Wang Bi

An Alphabet with 8 Letters…

In the following I Ching course, I would like to teach you how to use the I Ching independently and without any additional tools (such as interpretation literature) for yourself. In my experience, the path to this goal leads through a deepened understanding of the 8 trigrams, those characters that form a hexagram when paired. Imagine the system I want to introduce to you on the following pages as an alphabet with 8 letters…

An alphabet with which all the stories of the world can be written.

How everything began…

I myself started to engage more deeply with the I Ching around 2008, simply… due to a certain disillusionment. This, in turn, arose because in the years prior, armed with Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the original texts, I traveled extensively, occasionally consulting the I Ching . However, each time I did, I felt disappointed. What was stated in the classical interpretation texts usually meant little to nothing to me. They were… empty phrases that could just mean anything

By chance I came across the above quote from Wang Bi and suddenly understood: It is not about a literal interpretation or translation of the original texts – it is about capturing the ideas!

The Images Stem from the Ideas

So, I set out to approach these ideas. I started by looking into the meaning of the trigrams and gradually began to understand what their intertwining means.

On the following pages, I will explain my model of approaching the hexagrams today. It is the result of several years of research where I have tried to revive the basic Daoist ideas behind the I Ching oracle. Most of the following statements are consistent with the classical writings, but there are (a few) exceptions which I will then point out. And yet, sometimes you will find that my study guide does not fully correspond to what you may have read with other authors.

This is partly due to the fact that the original texts of the I Ching are actually quite concise – as I recently found out to my surprise. And that some of those billowing texts regarding the I Ching are not but the fruit of the authors’ interpretational skills (and sometimes imagination).

Aspiration and Limitation of this I Ching Study Guide

That being said, my following remarks certainly will not represent the ultimate I Ching course – but probably there never will be one: Too many people have used the I Ching in too many ways during its almost 5000-year history. But what I hope for is that you will acquire the skill to use this useful tool independently and confidently and find orientation in our eternally changing world.

In the end, what I wish for all of us is that we – just as Wang Bi suggests – go beyond the words and look behind the images, so that we capture the ideas and gain a deeper understanding of reality.