Philosophical Insights

Mysteries of the Mind

How Carl Jung Utilized the I Ching

Sep, 03 2023


Carl Gustav Jung, the Swiss psychiatrist and psychoanalyst, was a man of deep spiritual inquiry and intellectual pursuits. One of his lesser-known, but nonetheless intriguing, interests was in the ancient Chinese divination system known as the I Ching. This article aims to shed light on Jung's fascination with the I Ching and his incorporation of its principles into his groundbreaking theories on synchronicity and the collective unconscious.

What is the I Ching?

For those unfamiliar with it, the I Ching, or "Book of Changes," is a Chinese divination text dating back thousands of years. It is based on 64 hexagrams, which are symbolic representations of different conditions or situations. Consulting the I Ching involves a methodical ritual of casting coins or sticks to arrive at a hexagram, which then serves as guidance or advice.

Jung's Introduction to the I Ching

Jung was introduced to the I Ching during the 1920s, a period when he was delving into various Eastern philosophies and religions. It was the English translation by Richard Wilhelm that particularly caught his eye. Impressed by the depth of wisdom in the ancient text, Jung saw parallels between the I Ching's principles and his own theories.

The Principle of Synchronicity

One of the significant ways Jung used the I Ching was to develop his theory of synchronicity. He defined synchronicity as a meaningful coincidence where two or more events happen simultaneously, but without a causal relationship. The I Ching, in Jung’s view, served as a bridge between the conscious and unconscious realms, allowing the seeker to recognize the synchronous events in their life.

The Collective Unconscious

Another reason Jung was captivated by the I Ching was its resonance with his concept of the collective unconscious. He believed that the I Ching tapped into universal archetypes that existed in the collective psyche of humanity. The hexagrams, according to Jung, were not mere symbols but representations of conditions and transformations that resonated with the shared human experience.

Personal Use and Endorsement

Jung not only studied the I Ching intellectually but also used it personally. He endorsed the practice as a valuable tool for introspection and guidance, especially for those on a journey of self-discovery and personal growth. In his foreword to Wilhelm’s translation, he even mentions his "shock of recognition" upon encountering the wisdom of the I Ching for the first time.


Carl Gustav Jung’s engagement with the I Ching was far from a fleeting interest. It was a profound intellectual and spiritual pursuit that influenced his theories and practice. For Jung, the I Ching was more than an ancient book of wisdom; it was a mirror to the human psyche, a tool for exploring the realm of synchronicity, and a bridge to the collective unconscious. Through his embrace of the I Ching, Jung offered a Western validation to this ancient Eastern wisdom, contributing to its rise in global popularity and scholarly attention.

By understanding Jung's relationship with the I Ching, we can better appreciate the depth and scope of both, and perhaps even gain new insights into our own lives.