11 march, 1996
Like the yin takes the yang as its opposite, so does each of these trigrams have a polar partner, demonstrated in this diagram.When I was asked to focus on another reality, I wanted to perform a collision of rural blues, the I Ching, Ken Gergen's theory of self, and the Internet and Buddhism.Then I thought about yin and yang, two interlocking principles siaid to rule, or at least characterize the nature of the universe. These principles are both discernable and describable,
Considering computers, I am intrigued by binaries. Shades of gray must be expressed in black and white, baby, it's either a one or a zero. I've been thinking to myself, life isn't that clear cut, so how is it I am channeling my brain in this taxonomic binarial way.recently in my shamanism class, reading the work of Claude Levi-Strauss, his means of understanding culture was Structuralism, where he identifies the leading binary oppositions in a culture.for months I was bordering on disillusionment.
My roommate Ben is a theory head. One of those guys who tries to convince you of the political inequalities inherent in your use of language, let alone your conception of culture.
for example this is a general table we came up with in class:
here I was torn. I could see these distinctions, but they seemed too general and simultaineously pointed. what about my warm blooded women friends?
I argued this universal feminine/masculine principle, yin yang stuff with him. he was thoroughly critical of any such generalization, especially in light of the years of oppression it has justified.
the dog broke the skin, but just a little, it wasn't a serious wound. more spiritually shaking; my mentor advised casting the I Ching.
I used a web site to do it. Heck, nothing's real, I put so much other faith in computers, I might as well harnass them for divination.
The I Ching provided an answer, or a perspective that was immediately illuminating, with a few details eerily alluding to the situation.The I Ching is perhaps the oldest existing system of divination and one of the world's oldest texts. Originated in Siberia, the first transcription is attributed to Fu Hsi, a ruler of China in the third millenium BC.
i chingI had studied the I Ching before. Reading Philip K. Dick, his story the Man in the High Castle unfolds largely through the characters (and assumedly the author) casting the I Ching periodically throughout. That lead me to write my own story in that manner, and spend a little time mulling over Wilhelm.
book of changes
Throwing stones, or stalks, or bones, or coins determines "bars". Bars can be either yin, or yang (or changing yin or changing yang, sort of like yin prime and yang prime). Sets of three bars are grouped together into trigrams - of which there are eight:
heaven, lake, fire, thunder, earth, mountain, water, wind, as illustrated below.
These polarities I found similar to those listed by my class studying Levi-Strauss,
I found mine when I asked the I Ching about my dog bite. Everything coincided nicely. There was the reassurance of the oracle corresponding with the actual unfolding of events, and a bit of wisdom - be mindful of danger, and be wary of marrying a maiden of great power.the trigrams are also seen as family members in their various archetypal roles: the strong father, the devoted mother, the arousing eldest son, the dangerous middle son, the resting youngest son, the gentle eldest daughter, the intelligent middle daughter, and the joyful youngest daughter.Heirarchy in terms of my limited understanding of Confucian familial relations. But within that is interconnectedness, interdependence - each member of that family has rights and responsibilities; a necessary role to play, a given negative and positive. The yin yang, as the principle of opposition and balance, is implied to exist as the "supreme ultimate" (Wing, page 14), within each and every piece of the universe.
- R. L. Wing, The I Ching Workbook, page 15...no matter what names are applied to these forces, it is certain that the world of being arises out of their change and interplay. Thus change is concieved of partly as the continuous transformation of the one force into the other and partly as a cycle of complexes of phenomena, in themselves connected, such as day and night, summer and winter. Change is not meaningless - if it were, there could be no knowledge of it - but subject to the universal law, tao.later Wilhelm refers to "universal mutual attraction between the sexes" (page 122). - Wilhelm, I Ching, page lvi
The dual nature of the universe both fights against itself and works in harmony according a law of tao, "the immutable, eternal law at work in all change. ... the course of things, the principle of the one in the many." (Wilhelm, page lv)
This notion is illuminated in the gender and energy balance of the trigrams. For each there is a particular power and weakness, and a corresponding opposition.
Beyond familial and human affairs, this is the stated nature of the universe, the nature of nature.
The trigram titlings connote the agricultural origins of the I Ching, "historically, [it] was most widely used as a farming, fishing, and hunting almanac" (Wing, page 8). While tied closely to nature, it was used to interperet family relations (as above), or anything else lending itself to octagonal taxonomy.
Then "early Chinese scholars, desiring a more sophisticated method of investigation into the universe, combined [the eight trigrams] to expand the possible representation of cosmic and human affairs" (Wing, page 15). By pairing the trigrams, the number of possible represenations was now sixty-four. These sixty-four hexagrams are more abstract, conceptual in their meanings; creative, retreat, benefit, grace are some examples.
While the original eight shed enlightenment through narrow characterization, the sixty-four expand the potential for illumination through symbolism: for example, Inner Truth, hexagram 61,Inner Truth. Pigs and fishes.(Whatever pigs and fishes may mean to you at any given moment, "Perseverance furthers" is a good thing to be reminded of.)
It furthers one to cross the great water.
- Wilhelm, page 235
The I Ching is most often employed as a diving tool; taking a contended moment in time, applying chaos, and then matching the result against the structure of the I Ching,I initially suspected that binaries being at the core of the I Ching would determine a staid system, but the I Ching expands to reflect the complexity of nature through the study of patterns and the aknowledgment of chaos, through randomness - "by introducing a random element into the experiment, the Eastern experiementer would feel certain that the farthest-reaching factors of universal truth would be taken into account." (Wing, page 28)
a random event is juxtaposed against a fixed system of psysical laws in order to expand the conceptual awareness of the investigating scientist. - Wing, page 18
Within the symbolism of each hexagram, and in the relations between the hexagrams, there is a sense that the I Ching is about relationships. Again, this is demonstrated by the familial relationships interpretation; also the eight trigram composition of the hexagrams, any one of the sixty four hexagrams is somehow closely allied with if not made up of similar elements as the others.
And of course, the I Ching returns always to the yin yang, the supreme ultimate. Even in the casting of the divination, the answer is never one but two:Interesting to ask whether or not casting the I Ching determines the future state of affairs, but implicit in seeking guidance from the Book of Changes is that your actions are thereby informed.Though they are called "The Judgements," the historically provided interpretations of the trigrams yeild inherent duality; for Conduct, hexgram 10, "This can be a brilliant and inspiring time. It can also be a time of danger" (Wing). They demand interpretation, making the judgement relative to the observer.
It is because the I Ching puts your question, your situation in a larger context. The I Ching provides perspective. It's like being able to consult a wizened old uncle who always sez the right thing, always a cryptic truism that could inform opposite opinions on your part.
Not that the I Ching does not judge its binary oppositions; there is a primary, and a secondary, a best and a worst.
What is good is flow, with the tao, what is bad, evil is outside, contradicting the flow. Virtue is "a sincere commitment to one's standards and ethics. The man of virtue will remain steadfast in his principles and integrity" (Wing, page 30). Each agent is responsible for determining their truth and abiding by it; the tao and the I Ching favour those folk.
As to whether the I Ching is in fact divinitive; perhaps you mostly project your problem onto the symbolism. Asking about your new job and recieving a reply involving a caldron encourages interpretation and self-reflection.
The critical role in divination is that of the wisdom-seeker. By bringing up your problem, you have already opened your mind and stepped back enough to frame your situation; "The I Ching insists upon self-knowledge throughout." (Wilhelm, I Ching, from the foreward by Carl Jung, page xxxiii)
This is perhaps best illustrated by the questions typically addressed the I Ching. It is not so much a matter of "what is going to happen?", like fortune telling, but rather "what am I to do?" (Wilhelm, page liii) or "what does this mean?". As Wing puts it, "you must develop develop your own individual approach through the active use of intuition." (page 29)
Whether or not it was "right," the I Ching provided a grounding between us that allowed my mentor and I to move forward on a more enlightened path. The dog was no longer a spiteful beast, but a role-playing spirit messenger. Whether I took the I Ching's interpretation literally, or even close to heart, approaching it for wisdom cultivated independent contemplation, exploring the symbolic meaning of a seemingly random situation. .
So here goes:
I used two print sources for this paper, the second being a more informal and modern interpretation of the first.
Richard Wilhelm, The I Ching, or Book of Changes, Third Edition, Princeton University Press, Princeton New Jersey, 1967
R. L. Wing, The I Ching Workbook, Doubleday, New York, 1979
I found a number of I Ching related Internet sites as well, but since I wrote the bulk of the paper offline, I did not have a chance to explore or integrate these.