Suprahuman intelligence has from the beginning made use of three mediums of expression—men, animals, and plants, in each of which life pulsates in a different rhythm. Chance came to be utilized as a fourth medium; the very absence of an immediate meaning in chance permitted a deeper meaning to come to expression in it. The oracle was the outcome of this use of chance. The (I Ching) is founded on the plant oracle as manipulated by men with mediumistic powers. ~ Shuo Kua as translated by Richard Wilhelm
Plants. The basis for almost all life starts with plant growth and photosynthesis. True, it is the sun which provides this energy, but the sun’s energy cannot be utilized without this powerhouse, able to generate light rays into something that can be absorbed by other life forms. From this process, we get our food and oxygen, neither of which we can do without. In essence, we, as beings of light, cannot internalize and absorb the light that we need to maintain our physical bodies without the aid of these light-processing-machines. It is, therefore fitting that the I Ching be founded on the plant oracle as this is most likely the most basic of the oracles.
I have always been fascinated by the idea that the I Ching uses the plant oracle. Of course, I knew that yarrow stalks were used in ancient times to do divinations. I just never saw the yarrow-stalk/plant-oracle connection until fairly recently, when I was reading through the Shuo Kua carefully, trying to discern a few puzzling oddities which I could not grasp fully. For those who may not be familiar with the various wings (or commentaries) which were used to explain more fully, the form and function of the I Ching, the Shuo Kua is the eighth wing (out of ten).
I have done divinations using yarrow stalks, but let’s face it, I live in a jungle made up of concrete and silicon (Silicon Valley that is) and yarrow stalks are really hard to come by. I tried for the longest time to at least maintain the traditions and use old Chinese coins to do divinations but even that fell by the wayside when I misplaced them due to a previous move where all my belongings got packed up and warehoused in a storage unit. So what’s a girl to do if she needs to do a divination and cannot get her hands on either yarrow stalks or old Chinese coins?
Why…she uses brand new shiny American quarters, that’s what she does!!!
I admit, the first time I did it, I was a bit on the hesitant side. I felt as if I was doing something that a pure Taoist would frown on.
And then I laughed.
Why would a pure Taoist care about such surface things? Taoists go with the flow. We swim with the dolphins and we swim with the sharks. We bend with the ebb and flow of time. Ancient Taoists used yarrow stalks because they grew everywhere and was easy to access. If one didn’t have money (and most folks back then didn’t have much in the way of hard currency), yarrow stalks allowed for divinations to be done without much fuss. They simply used what was handily available. Later, when coins became more commonly utilized, it was simpler to use coins, so yarrow stalks began to fall out of favor. Now that Taoists occupy the world over, the international scene makes it difficult for us to have, on-hand, a stash of old Chinese copper coins.
And besides, my stash of old Chinese coins are so old that the greenish black stuff rubs off on my hands. They also smell funny, which brings to mind the thought that once the Taoists switched over to using old Chinese coins, would that now change the basis of the plant oracle into the Copper Oracle? And if I use American quarters, would it then be considered the copper-nickel alloy Oracle?
If so, then what, pray tell, is the man or animal oracle, as indicated in the Shuo Kuo where it states that there are ‘three mediums of expression—men, animals, and plants’? Does that mean we have to use animals or humans as a method of divination? Do we throw an animal into the air and see if it lands on its back or its feet? Better yet, do we throw a man in the air and see if he lands on his head or his feet?
Or does it mean something completely different?
(…to be continued)