Who Will Win the First Presidential Debate?

I decided to go out on a limb here, and ask the I Ching about the outcome of the first presidential debate between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump on Monday, September 26.

Of course, in most cases, determining which political candidate has “won” a debate is generally a subjective exercise, often colored more by the observer’s politics than the candidate’s performance, but sometimes clear winners do emerge, especially in the case of particular pointed exchanges.

For this reason, crafting the questions was especially tricky. But I needed to come up with some sort of standard, so I decided to ask the I Ching to comment on how the “mainstream” press (e.g., the CBS and NBC networks) would rate each candidate’s performance. (Later, as the election nears, I will ask the I Ching to comment directly on the wisdom of the electorate choosing each candidate.)

So, concerning this first debate, here were my three questions:

As analyzed/reported by the mainstream press, what is the likelihood that…

  1. Donald Trump will be judged the “winner” of the Sept. 26 debate?
  2. Hillary Clinton will be judged the “winner” of the Sept. 26 debate?
  3. There will be no clear “winner”?

Likelihood that Trump is the winner: The reading was Hexagram 27 (title: “The Corners of the Mouth [Providing Nourishment]”*) changing to Hexagram 42 (“Increase”). There was 1 change line, in the fifth position.

I like to call Hex 27 the “you are what you eat” hexagram because it can be positive if you are taking in nourishing substances (including ideas, practices, etc.). However, the I Ching is not affirming that the querent is making positive choices. Instead, the text includes the admonishment, “Pay attention to what is in your mouth”** and does not include any judgment of resulting good fortune or misfortune. The outcome depends on what the querent chooses to put in his/her “mouth.”

Here the I Ching seems to be saying that some will find Trump’s performance “nourishing,” even while the I Ching is withholding judgment on the actual quality of that nourishment. The change line, however, ends with the judgment: “Not appropriate to cross great waters.” There will be some weakness in his performance; Trump will be judged by some as not up to the task of being president. However, his performance in the debate may inspire people to believe that his motives are pure, that he does want to help the people of this country. The second hexagram, Hex 42, is also somewhat positive even though, again, the text does not contain the judgment of “good fortune” or “misfortune.” But it does indicate that it is “favorable to have somewhere to go.” However, the structure of the hexagram suggests a situation where what is “above” (e.g., spiritual principles) is decreased to bolster that which is “below” (e.g., material concerns).

The bottom line: the media will report that Trump did not strike out, but that he did not hit any home runs either. And his performance will stoke deep questions: How good will he really be for this country? Will he be serving higher principles or base instincts?

Likelihood that Clinton is the winner: The reading was Hex 7 (“The Army”) with no change lines.

Readings without change lines are generally problematic unless the question is asking whether a current situation will prevail for at least a short while. Hex 7 describes a situation where power (including military power) comes from the people, not from the ruler. In this case, I believe it indicates that the media will report that Clinton’s performance won’t move the needle much in terms of her support, but that ratings remain strong. Hex 7 could also be alluding to the fact that Clinton will continue to appear hawkish in this debate by emphasizing how she plans to defend and promote U.S. interests and principles throughout the world.

Likelihood there is no winner: The reading was Hex 8 (“Holding Together”) changing to Hex 49 (“Revolution [Molting]”) with change lines in the first, third, and fourth positions.

This is by far the most interesting reading. Hex 8 is about a large group of people coming together to seek “union” centered around a leader, even though some “restless factions” may “lag behind.” I believe here the I Ching is referring to the anticipated large U.S. audience for the debate, and is predicting that it will result in heightened general interest in choosing the country’s next leader. There will be talk of how to get closer to people’s core concerns, how to prevent the “wrong person” from ascending to power, and how to unite the country.

The resulting hexagram, Revolution, indicates that, because no clear winner will emerge, the debates will stoke a dynamic process where more and more people will become engaged with how to “abolish the old and bring about the new” in our country’s leadership and practices. Given that both Trump and Bernie Sanders addressed this need for a “revolution” in their disruptive — and unexpectedly successful — campaigns, Clinton could now be challenged more than ever to demonstrate how her presidency will embody the “revolutionary tempest” now shaking American politics.

My next blog will analyze the seeming accuracy of the I Ching’s answers — and my interpretation of those answers. Stay tuned!

*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.


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.