The Infinite Wisdom of the I Ching (The Book of Changes)

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    • Type: NeTi
    • Development: ll-l
    • Attitude: Adaptive

    Each event is preceded by Prophecy. But without the hero, there is no Event.
    Due to the many similarities I can perceive between the I Ching, or Book of Changes, and CT/ the individuation process, I thought that a thread introducing the topic might be in order. In addition, I have had an experience of dialogue with the Book quite similar to what Jung described many decades ago (and which is linked in the section directly below), that is, the I Ching itself appeared to be asking me to bring it just a tad bit further into the public view through the pervasive occurrences of Hexagram 50 (The Caldron) when consulting.
    Prior Introduction
    As Jung has already written an excellent foreword to Richard Wilhelm's translation of the I Ching, I'll leave the link to that here for anyone interested:
    Primary Resource
    For a newcomer or for one who is already steeped in the book's teachings, I find the above resource to be invaluable for the Western mind attempting to understand the I Ching.
    This site can also function in place of a glossary, as the I Ching has so many turns of phrase that are foreign to a Western reader it can be extremely confusing upon an initial reading: 'It furthers one to...', 'Perseverance brings good fortune', '...crossing the Great Water'; as well as being full of references most appropriate to Ancient China (ox-carts, marriage customs, etc.). The numerous commentaries and choices of language provided on the website linked above should be able to lead one to an understanding of what the hexagrams are actually attempting to communicate through a convergence of contexts.
    Secondary Resources

    multiple moving lines

    Above is the best consolidation I have found of the many methods of interpreting the results of consulting the I Ching. Part of this resource will be quoted at length in the 'Methodologies of Divination' section further below.
    **I am a practitioner of the simplest and easiest way of consulting the I Ching, which involves taking three similar coins (say, three pennies in the U.S. currency) tossing them three at a time. A result of 'heads' is given a value of 3, and a result of 'tails' is give a value of 2. Add the three values up and you will come up with a number between 6 and 9. 6 and 8 represent broken lines, and 7 and 9 represent unbroken lines. Starting from the bottom and moving upwards line by line, write down each total after tossing the three coins, until six total tosses have been built up and a foundational hexagram has been formed. If one receives 6's or 9's, there is a good deal of nuance involved in understanding what to do with them;
    again, I defer to the section 'Methodologies of Divination' below.**
    For what may be a simpler and cleaner explanation of how to construct a hexagram than what I have written above, I defer to:
    Very Important: Remember to always construct the I Ching from the bottom up, for example: one tosses the three coins, receiving two tails (2+2=4) and one heads (+3) in the toss, which results in a total value of 7. This result of 7 represents an unchanging, unbroken line which resides at the very bottom of the 'tower' of lines one builds up to form the hexagram.
    Right at the start I think I should address the status of the book as one of magic and divination, the realm of the oracle. If one can imagine the Actions that arise from Consciousness as mediating between Energy/Matter and Time, one is on a path to understanding the I Ching. Terence McKenna has stated what I find to be the 'bottom line' on the I Ching with admirable succinctness, "The I Ching is not magic; it is science that we don't understand." The I Ching operates so consistently and so effectively for anyone that dedicates sufficient time and energy to it, that to call it magic would be a great discredit to the working of its spirit. Another quote I find very helpful in understanding the I Ching belongs to William Blake, from The Marriage of Heaven and Hell, "Eternity is in love with the productions of time."
    The wisdom in the I Ching is indeed eternal, but paradoxically one only sees the scope of this eternity by immersing oneself in the productions of time as mediated through the 64 hexagrams.
    Furthermore, the I Ching is not a traditional oracle, wherein one asks a specific question and receives a specific answer (or a rather vague one). The I Ching is not concerned with telling you the exact moment that grandmother will die, but it would be more than happy to show the signposts which will prepare one for that inevitability and that will lead one on a path of healing in the aftermath of such an event.
    To clarify: The I Ching is primarily concerned with how the present mutates into the future, and though of necessity the present branches forwards and backwards, the changing lines of the I Ching inevitably lead one forwards (even if one has to take a few steps backwards to achieve a correct perspective).
    As an aside: something that struck me quite powerfully when articulating the book's workings is that the I Ching operates at its highest level of lucidity when viewed from this level of analysis, "64 [hexagrams] with modularity", which also happens to be the level of analysis Auburn is currently finding most fruitful in automating CT's type descriptions. Automation is exactly what the I Ching does by having its 64 hexagrams form the base of observable reality, with modularity providing the necessary increase in specificity and richness such that one is not simply looking at a skeleton of the world. The I Ching was designed and revised over thousands of years (always surviving the latest ideological purges and occasional mass book burnings of Ancient China) to appeal to humanity now and always, an undying spirit that has attached itself to the book and that guides humanity in its multifarious incarnations. And just as Jung so brilliantly elucidated, the I Ching confirms its own nature with remarkable consistency, always providing the same hexagram when my searches led me to contemplate the nature of the book itself: Hexagram 50 - The Caldron. Please refer to Jung's foreword, linked in 'Prior Introduction', for a detailed explanation of why this is so.
    Although an explanation of the Tao and of the underpinnings of Chinese philosophy I would love to include here as relevant background material, such things are too far outside the modest scope of this undertaking; I am most concerned with simply explaining the I Ching itself, which is already a monumental undertaking in my mind.
    The I Ching began as a simple collection of binary "Yes" and "No" answers to a supplicant's questions, represented by 'unbroken' Yes lines or 'broken' No lines. However, this method lacked the specificity necessary to be truly useful, and gradually two more lines were appended to the original one, such that one is left with eight different 'trigrams' or collections of three lines bundled together. The trigrams represent the most essential and universal (abstract) functions found in nature, and are represented by members of a family: Father, Mother, and Three Sons / Three Daughters.
    The breakdown of each family member's function is as such:

    Father - Ch'ien the Creative whose attribute is Strength and whose image is Heaven.
    Mother - K'un the Receptive whose attributes are Devoted and Yielding, and whose image is the Earth.
    First Son - Chen the Arousing whose attribute is Inciting Movement and whose image is Thunder.
    Second Son - K'an the Abysmal whose attribute is Dangerousness and whose image is Water.
    Third Son - Ken the Keeping Still whose attribute is Resting and whose image is the Mountain.
    First Daughter - Sun the Gentle whose attribute is Penetrating and whose image is Wind/Wood.
    Second Daughter - Li the Clinging whose attribute is Light-giving and whose image is Fire.
    Third Daughter - Tui the Joyous whose attribute is Joyfulness and whose image is the Lake.

    Not long after the invention of the eight trigrams, each trigram was combined with another to form a total of 64 possible hexagrams, with modularity. Now, where does this modularity come from? It comes from positive and negative lines: positive lines (unbroken) are represented by the number 9 and change into negative lines (broken); negative lines are represented by the number 6, and change into positive lines. Neutral lines are represented by the numbers 8 (broken) and 7 (unbroken). A fuller explanation of how these changing lines affect the oracle will be provided further below.
    What differentiates the I Ching from many traditional oracles is that there is always a right course of action (fortunate) and a wrong course of action (unfortunate) that can be chosen by the individual. Even when action is unwise or uncalled for, there is inevitably a right "attitude" or wrong "attitude" that will reduce or increase the sufferings of Fate. Traditional soothsayers in the West tell oracles of immutable Fate, while the I Ching starts from the assumption that Fate is mutable and subject to human action. The I Ching's function as a Book of Wisdom is what is responsible for its accuracy as a Book of Divination. Where the mystery occurs is in how tossing a set of three coins six times can result in an accurate picture of the reality that surrounds one. Scholars and sages possessing infinitely more wisdom than myself have contemplated this deepest of mysteries and come up lacking; I am content with my accumulations of practical knowledge regarding its efficacy. The I Ching is a method by which reality can be partially 'automated' to provide a useful level of specificity and analysis of the current situation. And by the term 'useful' what I mean is that the I Ching is always and forever concerned with this specific moment in time and space and not with any other, so that the insights it provides one are specifically meant to be useful in the here and now (and indeed one will quickly discover this if consulting the book with any regularity).
    Methodologies of Divination (changing lines)
    Now, there are a myriad of methods as to when one should actually change these positive lines into negative and vice-versa, as many systems of interpretation do not change them automatically. I have my own preferred method that I was fortunate enough to find, and everything that follows in this section is attributable to the first link provided in the 'Secondary Resources' section above, what follows is all pulled from that page:
    "My friend has a very different approach than any I’ve ever read about, and it seems to make sense — more sense than even Huang’s suggestions. He creates a new hexagram for each changing line, and only the lowest line that is changing in that particular sequence is consulted, in EACH new hexagram — basically a progression of time and thus events.
    He gives this example:
    45 with changing lines in the first, fifth, and sixth place.
    Change Hexagram 45, line 1: get hexagram 17.
    Read Hexagram 17, line 5, and change it: get Hexagram 51.
    Read Hexagram 51, line 6, and change it: get Hexagram 21.
    What this means is that the first line in #45 is the first in a series of events or processes that may or may not be a catalyst which causes the event or process that occur in line 5 of #17, and so on. In this example, line 5 in #17 is the only ruling line in the group and is therefore the most important or the biggest catalyst that finally results in #21 (Biting Through).
    For our reading on moving lines, the method works like this:
    58, change line 1, giving
    47, change line 2, giving
    45, change line 4, giving
    Hexagram 8
    The second and fourth lines of Hexagram 58 don’t feature at all.
    In this case you begin with harmony and spontaneity (58,1)…
    ‘Responsive opening: good fortune’
    …but find yourself stymied and oppressed amid plenty (47,2).
    ‘Confined while drinking and feasting,
    Scarlet sashes come from all directions.
    Fruitful to use thank-offerings and oblations.
    Setting out to bring order: pitfall, no mistake.’
    Opportunity is on the way, though, and you encourage this by making offerings, showing sincerity and trust, rather than setting out to introduce an order of your own creation.
    …Perhaps as a result of accomplishing this, you attain ‘great good fortune’ (45,4)
    ‘Great good fortune, no mistake.’
    …and can achieve the naturally right choice of Hexagram 8.
    The idea behind this method is quite different from my usual way of reading. The lines are definitely expected to represent a process, rather than, say, mutual relationships or alternative positions to take within the landscape of the primary hexagram; you won’t get lines from a series of different hexagrams ‘talking to one another’ in the same way. If the subject of your enquiry can be considered as a step-by-step process, you might like to experiment with this. (It’s possible, of course, that both approaches – reading the lines cast, and tracing the process of change – could be informative in different ways.)"
    The I Ching in personal practice, with appended Commentary
    To demonstrate the book in practice, I've chosen my own consultation of the I Ching dated 07/22/19. Many formulate questions in their minds or write their questions out to the oracle, but as I have now been using the book for well over a decade, I no longer ask it anything specific: specific questions can only distract me from the fullest image; that which caused me to consult the book in the first place. The I Ching will tell me what the most important elements are of my current situation from only the tossing of the coins. The soul is always at stake, and no book is more concerned with the articulations of this never-ending dynamic than the Book of Wisdom. For my own sanity I must omit a great many relevant details and passages, for there is so much richness of detail and imagery that I must leave out of even this brief commentary; if one truly embraces the ideas and images contained in the book, the density of meaning to be found is astonishing.
    Here is a screenshot to give a visual sense of how the hexagrams change:

    I will be quoting from the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of the I Ching frequently below (although this whole text was once available online, it has since been removed. I would recommend that translation to anyone, finding it to be the best resource on the I Ching for English speakers, standing alongside the compilations of commentary found in the 'Primary Resourceabove. Before consulting the I Ching on the 22nd, my soul was in a state of intense grief and turmoil, represented by hexagram 18: "a bowl in whose contents worms are breeding... the result is stagnation. Since this implies guilt, the conditions demand for removal of the cause. Hence the meaning of the on what has been spoiled."

    Work on what has been spoiled
    Has supreme success.
    It furthers one to cross the great water.
    Before the starting point, three days.
    After the starting point, three days.

    "What has been spoiled by man's fault can be made good again through man's work. It is not immutable fate...that has caused the state of corruption, but rather the abuse of human freedom... We must not recoil from work and danger--symbolized by the crossing of the great water-- but must take hold energetically. Success depends, however, on proper deliberation. This is expressed by the lines, 'Before the starting point, three days. After the starting point, three days.'"
    In addition there were two changing lines; the 9 in the second place reads as follows:

    Setting right what has been spoiled by the mother.
    One must not be too persevering.

    This refers to "mistakes... as a result of weakness". I was failing to confront something, but also I needed to heed this further advice, "In order not to wound, one should not attempt to proceed too drastically."
    Now the second changing line; the 6 in the fourth place reads:

    Tolerating what has been spoiled by the father.
    In continuing one sees humiliation.

    I will quote the full commentary here, "This shows the situation of someone too weak to take measures against decay that has its roots in the past and is just beginning to manifest itself. It is allowed to run its course. If this continues, humiliation will result."
    With hindsight being 20/20, I now understand that this was referring to my unconscious Fe, and the great difficulties it was causing me as a result of problems that had their origins "in the past" but were just now beginning to become truly unbearable to live with. Several crises were occurring in my life all at once around this time, all of which were outside of my control but all of which were extremely painful. The only thing I could have had control over was in my personal ability to deal with them, but instead this element also became another part of the crisis with its "roots in the past".
    The next step in the process is to change the unbroken 9 in the 2nd place into a broken line, which changes hexagram 18 into hexagram 52: Keeping Still, Mountain.
    "In its application to man, the hexagram turns upon the problem of achieving a quiet heart. It is very difficult to bring quiet to the heart. While Buddhism strives for rest through an ebbing away of all movement in nirvana, the Book of Changes holds that rest is merely a state of polarity that always posits movement as its complement. Possibly the words of the text embody directions for the practice of yoga.

    Keeping still. Keeping his back still
    So that he no longer feels his body.
    He goes into his courtyard
    And does not see his people.
    No blame.

    "When a man has thus become calm, he may turn to the outside world. He no longer sees in it the struggle and tumult of individual beings, and therefore he has that true peace of mind which is needed for understanding the great laws of the universe and for acting in harmony with them. Whoever acts from these deep levels makes no mistakes."

    Mountains standing close together:
    The image of Keeping Still.
    Thus the superior man
    Does not permit his thoughts
    To go beyond his situation.

    "The heart thinks constantly. This cannot be changed, but the movements of the heart-- that is, a man's thoughts-- should restrict themselves to the immediate situation. All thinking that goes beyond this only makes the heart sore."
    The 6th in the 4th place is the active, changing line here,

    Keeping his trunk still:
    No blame.

    "...though able to keep the ego, with its thoughts and impulses, in a state of rest, is not yet quite liberated from its dominance. Nonetheless, keeping the heart at rest is an important function, leading in the end to the complete elimination of egotistic drives. Even though at this point one does not yet remain free from all the dangers of doubt and unrest, this frame of mind is not a mistake, as it leads ultimately to that other, higher level." Here I needed to meditate and bring as much rest to my heart and ego as I was capable of at this point.
    Now the 6th in the 4th place is changed from a broken line to an unbroken line, resulting in hexagram 56: The Wanderer. I will quote the key idea here, "A wanderer has no fixed abode; his home is the road. Therefore he must take care to remain upright and steadfast, so that he sojourns only in the proper places, associating only with good people. Then he has good fortune and can go his way unmolested." Although this hexagram later proved to be critical in leading me to the next hexagram (38: Youthful Folly) only two days later, and ultimately to the external guidance I needed to break through the choke-hold on my soul, that is a story for another time and beyond the scope of this piece.
    Concluding Remarks
    I by no means have the level of expertise I would prefer to have on this subject, but I am an avid practitioner of the I Ching's teachings, and would be happy to answer any questions that I can.

    • Type: SeFi
    • Development: ll--
    • Attitude: Seelie

    @rondo - there is a lot of information here that I need to process and I haven't managed to check the links, but you caught me with this thread.
    And leaving divination aside just for a bit (I will come back to that later) - since there are members, do you think they can represent the functions ? I mean :

    Father – Ch’ien the Creative whose attribute is Strength and whose image is Heaven.
    Mother – K’un the Receptive whose attributes are Devoted and Yielding, and whose image is the Earth.
    First Son – Chen the Arousing whose attribute is Inciting Movement and whose image is Thunder.
    Second Son – K’an the Abysmal whose attribute is Dangerousness and whose image is Water.
    Third Son – Ken the Keeping Still whose attribute is Resting and whose image is the Mountain.
    First Daughter – Sun the Gentle whose attribute is Penetrating and whose image is Wind/Wood.
    Second Daughter – Li the Clinging whose attribute is Light-giving and whose image is Fire.
    Third Daughter – Tui the Joyous whose attribute is Joyfulness and whose image is the Lake.

    I am not sure how to make the connections, but I think if this is correct, Father and Mother should represent functions that are on the same axis and the same should be true for First Son and First Daughter, Second Son and Second Daughter and Third Son and Third Daughter.
    This actually shows here - they look like pairs of opposites :
    The strange thing is that some time ago I imagined some symbols of functions arranged in a circle. Like the zodiac. And then I thought maybe not exactly a circle but something close to a circle...:) Now I see a possible way of depicting it. 🙂
    Another wild guess - if they are the functions (which I suppose is true because they reflect everything there is, right?), the symbols might show some CT signals too ! Because just looking at them, they seem to show certain patterns of movement/concentration of energy...
    I have to check what exactly strength and receptivity represent. Is strength the heavy one and receptivity the light one? Or is it the other way? 🙂 Because Earth would normally be the heavy one and Heaven the light one, but strength, force sounds heavy to me, compared to receptivity.
    I can see how Thunder starts with an unbroken line and then it has 2 broken lines - I think this shows the first sound the thunder makes (the unbroken line) and the rolls and rumbles (the broken lines)
    Or Li - Fire - there is a broken line inside and two unbroken lines outside, above and below it (which is the opposite to her Brother K'an, the Abysmal, that has one unbroken line inside and 2 broken lines above and below it).
    I don't understand this completely but here I think the unbroken lines outside (in Li) show extroversion (fire burning) and the opposite, with the receptive lines outside and the forceful one inside, well, introversion...the gorge. 🙂
    I think it's too early to say, hey, looks like Fe and Ti. :)) The Flame & the Void, Fire and Abyss. But I don't know the system and the culture ! I just feel maybe they could be correlated, which would be awesome.

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