MAY 16 03 – The art of seeing omens is more to do with allowing nature a breathing space to reveal itself. It is nothing overly complicated, just a silent space to see. To see an omen is an interaction of an event with consciousness. To avert an omen, since this too is possible, falls into the category of magic and fluid reaction. Merely consulting the Yijing will not lead in itself to experiencing omens, although the Yijing does show in its images certain categories of omen. But this is not the same as experiencing an omen and knowing its meaning. To experience something as an omen. The Plum Blossom method is said to be founded on Shao Yong's experience of an omen, that of the two sparrows falling dead at his feet out of the tree at the same time. Of course, this is just a story, but an interesting one.

Omens are regarded by some as foretelling events. Certainly I have experienced many omens in my life and continue to experience them. But it is hard to write about omens since thought is not involved, it is direct knowing triggered by the catalyst of an event. Such events tend to be unusual but not necessarily strange. Their 'strangeness' comes from the interaction with consciousness. If it is something unusual and 'big' (on its own small scale) then it will often point to something beyond oneself, such as an event on a national or international scale that will touch you anyway when it arrives (via the news). It is hard to discern what such omens mean beforehand, but it retrospect they can seem blindingly obvious. Such omens are probably more unusual.

Most omens are on a personal scale. Certainly I have been saved from injury, possibly even death, by quick and quite spontaneous reaction to omens. In my teenage years, I knew my grandfather had just died by an omen. There was an omen the very moment my father died and I knew it was over (he wasn't expected to make it through the night).

The night my father died, but before I knew for sure, I received hexagram 28/3:

The ridgepole sags to breaking point. Misfortune.

I was keeping a kind of vigil in the house I grew up in, my mother asleep upstairs, dad was in hospital in a coma, his adrenaline and nor adrenaline being reduced and finally taken away. I'm not sure I expected there to be an omen, but oddly enough there was apparently a lunar eclipse that night, which I had overlooked, I only read about it in a newspaper astrology column as it was actually happening. Naturally it seemed significant, and of course I unlocked the backdoor to go and see if I could see it. As I did so, at about 3.15am, part of the plaster above the doorframe came away and smashed to the floor. The moon didn't look eclipsed to me, but the time I opened the door and the plaster gave way, like the ridgepole breaking or the rafter caving in of 28/3, was the time dad died. His heart stopped at exactly 3am, they said. Like a clock winding down.

The third line of hexagram 28 is one of Ko Hung's 'instances of irretrievable loss'. He cites also hexagram 50/4, where one of the legs of the caldron gives way and spills the duke's food. Ko Hung gives a made-up example of his own that I think is rather picturesque: 'Climbing a rotten rope to view a nest.'

Hexagram 28 (left) is a death omen hexagram. On the morning a friend's mother died, he received 28/1: 'Spread white rushes underneath.' He opened my eyes to the real meaning of that line: the white rushes are spread under a coffin. In the top line, someone drowns. Sometimes I have thought some lines have only one real meaning, and you find out when those circumstances arise.

But what is an omen to me may hardly even be noticed if it happened to someone else, so it is not a stand-alone thing, it is a function of consciousness to be able to recognise an omen. But it is clearer-cut than something in need of interpretation. Omens are powerful and direct, utterly out of the blue something speaks. Some omens can precede an event by mere seconds, others by weeks. Those that precede an event by seconds can save your life. Some people have experienced such things but because they do not 'believe in omens' they do not realise the degree to which their unconscious action at the time was determined by an omen that influenced their behaviour, even if only, for instance, to the extent of slowing them down because they were startled. Another example: When you walk a different way home, do you know why you did that? Look very closely at your world and you will see things you have never noticed before.

Omens aren't difficult, all you have to do is open yourself to seeing them. Frankly, some people don't want to start seeing omens, and many who might see omens would be disturbed by them and would probably be influenced by them in erratic ways. So a prerequisite would be a centering in oneself obtained through years of practice. In that process, also, one will have been weaned off the sterility of analysis to partake of direct knowing. Just look around, omens are everywhere, in the simplest things, from the rising of smoke to the formations of birds, to what is brought to you by strangers in the street. Listen to people, witness the world, this is all that needs doing. In relation to the Yijing, those who study the Yijing would have a powerful tool in their minds if they understood the oracular language of the text through its omens. This requires a more literalistic appreciation of it, to delve down beneath its concrete imagery before deducing its symbolic meaning (opposite of Wang Bi's stance). But what makes one set of circumstances an omen, and another set of circumstances just an event is a mystery that only consciousness can answer. Those who have experienced omens will understand this without need of words. The study of omens goes to the very heart of what makes something meaningful.

Ultimately, one is very foolish to believe in omens, but more foolish still not to.