Thoughts on the I Ching
The I Ching is a living text that originated in China about 5,000 years ago. It is a book of wisdom, and as such it provides a template for deep contemplation of the world. It is an oracle, and as such it is an incomparable source of guidance for individuals and communities.
The I Ching – also known as the Book of Changes – is a mirror of the perpetual change and transformation of heaven, earth and “the ten thousand beings” in the flow of time. Flickering alternations of opposites – such as light and dark, movement and stillness, arising and passing – are elaborated in images of sky and earth, fire and water, thunder, wind, and forests, mountains and wetlands. These images are constellated into 64 situations that are familiar to any of us – for example times of new beginnings and cyclic endings, times of having to wait or of having to go forward, times of gregarious exchange with others, or times when it is best to withdraw and be quiet. In all these situations the I Ching guides one toward becoming a Junzi – a term whose etymological roots show a person who is able to join heaven, earth, and humanity.
The text of the I Ching has shape-shifted over many centuries: it began with ideograms scratched next to cracks in turtle shells; later it was written on bamboo, silk and paper, and made into books of commentaries written by scholars from the many philosophical orientations of China. What began as an oracle used by shamans and diviners in the forests of ancient China was brought into the courts of Chinese emperors and into the studies and classrooms of philosophers such as Confucius and Wang Bi. Over the course of 2000 years it has been contemplated, discussed, and commented upon by people who think deeply about the world and the place of human beings in it. With the first translations into European languages in the 17th century, the I Ching entered the Western mind stream, where it has continued to guide, to fascinate, to confound, and to inspire all who study it. Over the years it has been consulted by scholars, householders, community leaders, parents, teachers, merchants, farmers, students, dreamers, poets, lovers, wanderers, meditators … people who seek insight into the revelation of mind within the phenomenal world. The I Ching speaks to those who seek the comfort of wisdom, meaning in the midst of hope and fear, and who want to think, act, and live in accord with the great unfolding of the world in the course of time. The oracular wisdom of the I Ching can be accessed through a chance operation such as picking marbles out of a bowl, casting coins, or sorting yarrow stalks. Consulting it broadens one’s view of the relationship between human community and non-human, the visible world in relation to invisible worlds, and the world of the living to that of the ancestors.
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Influences: Cyrille Javary; Pierre Faure; C. G. Jung; Richard Wilhelm; Rudolf Ritsema; Stephen Karcher; Wang Bi; Al Huang; Howard Bad Hand.