I’ve been searching for meaning for as long as I can remember. Past ventures include experimenting with tarot cards, astrology, palm reading, numerology and visiting a psychic. Given this, it makes perfect sense to me to explore a topic I am passionate about, but in a different culture. For this assessment I will be focusing on I Ching, a Chinese divination practice that dates back thousands of years.
Divination is an attempt to communicate with spirits and the unseen facets of the universe. Modern psychology argues that divination works through accessing the unconscious mind’s wisdom (ibid). I Ching (我清) is a form of divination which dates back thousands of years. It was created in text form around 1000BC, but was developed and practiced much earlier. I Ching is based on cleromancy, which considers seemingly ‘random’ numbers cast by probability – for example rolling a dice – to be decided by supernatural influence.
My fascination lies with how strongly embedded divination is within the Chinese culture. Fortune telling practices command respect in Chinese society and cement business culture. The role of fortune tellers is often similar to that of business consultants and psychotherapists and they are respected as such. Divination is even mentioned in the Chinese constitution.
Brief Methodology of I Ching
After the subject makes an inquiry, three coins are tossed six times to construct hexagrams. The assumption follows that the coins land in a way which reflects the nature of the inquiry, a concept which Carl Jung, a renowned philosopher, dubbed “synchronicity“. At a basic level, this means that ‘random’ events or coincidences are meaningful and worthy of attention.
These hexagrams are drawn up in lines and symbols, representing the energies of yin and yang, before being analysed. There are four possible combinations of each coin toss and 64 of hexagrams. Each has a unique meaning or translation attributed to it.
My Experience with Deepware Changes
I dove straight into my research. I chose the highest-rated (free) app for I Ching on the Google Play Store, Deepware Changes. I pondered a ‘serious’ question about a friendship I’ve been considering recently; one which I recently made the difficult choice to break away from because there was no moving forward from an issue. The friendship had grown to a state of convenience; it was simpler to ignore disagreements and feeling hurt – but that didn’t make the friendship right.
Using the app, I simulated a coin toss six times. The combination of the different faces (which can be seen as head/tail or yin/yang) created the hexagrams studied. The results were fascinating and certainly accurate more often than not – certainly more than simple probability would allow. It explained each hexagram to me with both a visual depiction and a caption explaining which element of the hexagram I was looking at and which result I had generated. Here’s a combined portion of my result.
“Care for common interests. Any disagreement must be overcome. When there is a climate of mistrust, no common targets can be achieved. Everybody becomes a stranger for the others. Insecurity reigns. Coexistence is established. Every person occupies (their) place in society. However, (it) is not true feeling or love (that) unites people.”
It really fit the question, if I’m being completely honest with myself. One voice in my head whispered oh my God it actually worked, over and over again. A second is mindful that this traditional Chinese art has been translated from Mandarin, which has a completely different dialect and alphabet to English. Does this impact on the accuracy of my results?
How is this part of the Hypermediation of Globalisation?
Marshall McLuhan claimed, during the 1960’s, that the medium is the message; the actual content of the prediction is of less importance than the way it is communicated. This is particularly relevant in the case of I Ching; what can its existence in the digital universe tell me, compared to a traditional face-to-face reading? What happens to its authenticity?
Assuming the theory of synchronicity, the accuracy of results should be the same regardless of whether the coins are physically tossed or an online replicator is used. Digital I Ching also holds the benefits of being globally accessible, fast, convenient and low-cost or free (have a go at this quick online I Ching reading).
“Many people’s experience is that computerised I Ching readings are just as valid and useful as those made using more traditional methods” (psychicscience.org)
The internet, via both online readings and apps, has had a huge impact on the practice of I Ching. To reference this week’s seminar discussion, the internet wizards (who pave the paths through which globalisation spills) are dynamically changing the world we live in.
The practice of I Ching is a victim of global flow; an ancient practice of fortune telling has effectively spilled over physical and cultural borders to the smartphone screen of an Australian media student in Wollongong. Without the internet, would I be sitting in my bedroom receiving a traditional I Chine reading? I doubt it. What does this mean and what are the implications of such a dynamic feat? It’s my mission to explore these questions over the duration of this research project.
*I actually have a Samsung, not an iPhone – but I needed a cool title