The I Ching predicted the Brexit vote.

brexit-1478082_640The politicos and bookmakers may not have seen this coming, but the I Ching accurately predicted the outcome of the Brexit vote.

On concerns such as this where there are clear, limited options about how a situation will unfold, I generally structure the reading into discrete questions that ask about each possible outcome. In other words, I don’t try to force the I Ching into answering basically a yes-no question because the results can be hard to interpret, given the I Ching’s complexity.

So, concerning the Brexit vote, here were my two questions:

  1. What is the probability the U.K. voters will vote to exit the E.U.?
  2. What is the probability the U.K. voters will elect to remain in the E.U.?

I Ching reading in progress

Probability for voting to exit: The reading was Hexagram 18 (title: “Work on What Has Been Spoiled”*) changing to Hexagram 2 (“The Receptive”). There were 3 change lines, in the second, third, and sixth positions.

Hex 18 often signifies a situation that has gone into decay, but which the querent has an excellent chance to rectify, if he or she is patient and can wait for the right time. When it’s the first hexagram attained in the reading (as in this case), the I Ching often describes how the situation can be rectified through the change lines.

The second and third change lines of Hex 18 concern inherited problems, i.e., those attained from the “mother” (second line) and “father” (third line). Given the importance that Chinese culture (and, hence, the I Ching) placed on family relationships, the querent is advised to be as careful as possible in instituting reforms, especially for the sake of the mother. In remedying problems brought on by the father, the I Ching mentions that while these are necessary, “there is slight regret”**. The sixth line says: “Not serving kings and lords; Highly elevates his own pursuit.” At this point the querent is advised to stand outside of the situation, and pursue what he or she believes to be right, as opposed to prevailing wisdom. In other words, not to follow what the politicians advocate!

Hex 2, the destination hexagram (resulting after the 3 change lines turned to the opposite yin/yang polarity), connotes pure yin and provides specific guidance for the realms of earth and humanity. This hexagram, along with the purely yang Hex 1 (“The Creative”), form the introduction to the whole book. The querent attaining this hexagram is promised a “sublimely prosperous and smooth” path as long as he or she is able to follow the time, and not try to exert undue control over the outcome. As a side note, the text also says that while friends will be found in the southwest, they will be lost in the northeast, which maps to the areas that voted for and against Brexit! This is an example of how the I Ching sometimes weaves in additional (and concrete) information into its responses.

Probability for voting to stay: The reading was Hex 11 (“Peace”) changing to Hex 22 (“Grace”). There were 2 change lines in the second and sixth positions.

Hex 11 is generally rather propitious, as its structure depicts that yang (i.e., light) is overthrowing the darkness of yin and, therefore, a situation is improving overall. However, the 2 change lines tell a different story.

The second line talks about “fighting a tiger with bare hands.” While this indicates struggle, the outcome is not necessarily defeat if the querent is able to eliminate selfishness in relationships and not go to extremes. The sixth line, however, spells disaster: “Castle wall returns into the moat. Use no multitude. To your own country, make your self-blame known. Being steadfast: humiliation.” As events often unfold in order of the lines, the sixth line in this reading can probably be relied upon as the one that is more accurately predicting the outcome. You need not be an I Ching scholar to see the outlook is dark!

Hex 22, the destination hexagram, talks about focusing on aesthetics, with a “slightly favorable” outcome, suggesting that the losers will be able to maintain some decorum while suffering their humiliating defeat.

Final thoughts: It is important to note that my intention in performing this reading was to: 1) sharpen my own skills as a reader, and 2) satisfy a personal curiosity about the I Ching’s reaction to this important world event. My intention was not to: 1) test the I Ching, or 2) use the outcome to influence a wager. Had my intention been either of the latter two, the unstated questions would, in fact, be different:

What is the probability that the I Ching can correctly predict that U.K. voters will elect to leave the E.U.?

Or: What is the wisdom of betting that U.K. voters will elect to leave the E.U.?

You must be very clear what you’re asking! The I Ching will answer the question you intend, not the more socially desirable one that you state. I will endeavor to guide you in asking the right question — and discourage you from asking things that will elicit confused responses or, even, a rebuke. The I Ching has many ways of doing that!

Finally, it’s important to note that I asked these questions at noon U.S. Eastern time on the day of the Brexit vote, June 23, 2016. The I Ching was commenting on voting that was in progress. I had not watched the news to gain a sense of how the voting was trending. (Given current election-reporting practice, it is doubtful I would have learned much.) I agree it would have been potentially more interesting to have asked these questions a day or two before. However, I refrained because I feared the temptations to test or wager could have sullied my pure-as-possible inquiry.

However, I must confess to feeling a bit inflated that I was able to divine the correct outcome. In such moments, I must always remind myself that the wisdom derives from I Ching, not myself. With its timeless knowledge of the workings of heaven, earth, and humanity, it sees the seeds of future events, and can predict how they will grow.

*Titles vary by translation. For this blog, I used those developed by Richard Wilhelm and Cary F. Baynes in one of the first authoritative I Ching translations to appear in English, The I Ching, or Book of Changes, (1950/1967). (R. Wilhelm & C.F. Baynes, trans.). Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press.
**Passages quoted in this blog are from Huang, A. (1998). The Complete I Ching: The Definitive Translation by the Taoist Master Alfred Huang. Rochester, VT: Inner Traditions.