Friday, November 17, 2006

Re-post: I Ching - Feb 05

From Tuesday, February 22, 2005

I've been using the I Ching regularly throughout the past decade and so it's definitely a key part of my life and I've consulted it regarding every major decision I've made in that time, and some of the minor ones too. About 7 years ago I studied the I Ching very deeply. A lot of books have been written about its history, origins and how it works and the Wilhelm translation contains a lot of chapters about this, which I actually found to be more usefully informative than any of the other books. But, it being 7 years ago and my memory not being a very exact function I can only give you my very rough overview of the necessary bits of knowledge I retained from my studies, which is perhaps as well really, given that it's such a deep subject. I could probably blog about it forever if I looked all the info out again. So if you want to find out more I recommend the Wilhelm translation, which is also linked in my booklist in the sidebar.

To quote from the dust jacket of the Wilhelm translation:

"The I Ching, or Book of Changes, represents one of the first efforts of the human mind to place itself in the universe. It has exerted a living influence in China for three thousand years. Beginning in the dawn of history as a book of oracles, the Book of Changes outgrew its limitations when ethical values were attached to the pronouncements of the oracle; it became a book of wisdom, eventually one of the Five Classics of Confucian and Taoist philosophy."

Taoist legend has it that the holy man Fu Hsi discovered the principles of the I Ching around 5000 years ago when he was sitting by the River Lo, pondering the nature of the universe. He knew the phenomena of *change* to be the only constant in life and, as a scientific thinker he felt that the changes could be mapped mathematically, but couldn't work out exactly how. (At this point I think he placed an order with the Cosmic Supply Company!)

A turtle then crawled out of the river and Fu Hsi noticed some strange markings on its shell. The shell was split into nine sections (like a noughts & crosses board) and each section contained a number of dots, set out as follows:
4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6

This became known as the Lo Shu, or the magic square, and it forms the mathematical basis of every Taoist system, including Feng Shui and the I Ching. You'll notice that whichever direction you add the numbers in the square, the answer is always 15.

From the Lo Shu came the Pa Kua, (Feng Shui compass) with it's 8 directions, 8 principles and the Taoist '8 Strands of the Brocade'. The 9th number in the Lo Shu (5) is always present in the centre. Each of the directional numbers represented an aspect of life as well as a compass direction. So:

The North is represented by number 1 and this direction governs career prospects and the element of water.
The Southwest is represented by the number 2 and this direction governs marriage and the element of earth.
The East is represented by the number 3 and this direction governs health and the element of thunder.
The Southeast is represented by the number 4 and this direction governs wealth and the element of wood and also wind.
The number 5 sits in the centre, as on the Lo Shu. It represents the inner self.
The Northwest is represented by the number 6 and this direction governs the presence of mentors or helpful people and the element of heaven.
The West is represented by the number 7 and this direction governs the luck of children and the element of the lake.
The Northeast is represented by the number 8 and this direction governs education (learning) and the element of the mountain.
The South is represented by the number 9 and this direction governs fame and recognition and the element of fire.
If you compare this list with the way the numbers appeared on the turtle shell, you can see the correlation with the compass directions:

4 9 2
3 5 7
8 1 6

Fu Hsi took the Lo Shu directional principles and elements and combined these with the other universal truth of which he was sure: everything either is, or it isn't. Hence we have yin and yang, dark and light, black and white, female and male and every other pair of opposites that exists. Because, if you think about it you'll realise that it's impossible for something to exist without its opposite also existing. Therefore, everything that is can be divided into either yin or yang.

Fu Hsi drew a broken line _ _ to represent yin and an unbroken line ___ to represent yang. But because life is a series of changes (the Chinese word for stagnancy is death, because when change or movement stops so does life) Fu Hsi recognised that things cannot be described as just yin or yang, but are more accurately always in a state of flux between the two polar extremes. They're either just becoming yin, or just becoming yang, or they're moving away from yin, or moving away from yang.

So we have four kinds of lines to symbolise the state of change of everything that is:
_ _ new (just becoming) yin
___ new (just becoming) yang
and
-x- old, changing (moving away from) yin
-o- old, changing (moving away from) yang.
The old yin will soon become yang and the old yang will soon become yin.

Fu Hsi worked out that the 8 directional qualities of the Lo Shu could be expressed in the form of yin and yang. (I'm missing out complicated explanations for these apparent leaps in reasoning, which are all set out in the Wilhelm translation and elsewhere.)

So we end up with 8 trigrams for the 8 fundamental elements of life:
___
___
___ Ch'ien, The Creative (Heaven, in the Northwest)

_ _
_ _
_ _ K'un, The Receptive (Earth, in the Southwest)

_ _
_ _
___ Chen, The Arousing (Thunder, in the East)

_ _
___
_ _ K'an, The Abysmal (Water, in the North)

___
_ _
_ _ Ken, Keeping Still (Mountain, in the Northeast)

___
___
_ _ Sun, The Gentle (Wind/wood in the Southeast)

___
_ _
___ Li, The Clinging (Fire, in the South) and

_ _
___
___ Lake, The Joyous (Lake, in the West)

By combining these 8 trigrams into pairs, Fu Hsi made the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching, each with its own defined characteristics. And with every line of the hexagram having 4 possibilities (yin, old yin, yang and old yang), a hexagram can be structured in any one of 24 different ways from straightforward yin and yang lines, to all changing (old yin and yang) lines, to any permutation or mixture of the four kinds of lines, giving 1536 possible answers to a question plus another 64 if you follow the changing lines to their outcome in the resulting 2nd hexagram.

Over the centuries since Fu Hsi set down the structure of the I Ching, others have added to its content, namely King Wen, the Duke of Shou and Confucius (Kung Fu Hsu) and the present I Ching is the result of their efforts: 64 hexagrams consisting of 384 changing lines and their meanings. These and their combinations represent every situation (problem) that life can present - Fu Hsi's mathematical map of changes. The maths in the I Ching has been found to correlate with the underlying structure of DNA which repeats throughout the universe, so Fu Hsi was right to look to mathematics for his map of the universe, as do our modern physicists now.

To correctly define (divine) the present situation in order to cast an I Ching reading, we must access the same deep level of consciousness as that reached by Yogis and mystics in meditation. This level of consciousness is hidden from our day-to-day conscious minds because it functions only in the present moment. The present moment is connected, as if by a thread, to infinity/eternity and so this inaccessible part of our minds can access an overview of everything that is, was and will be. We just can’t be consciously aware of it unless we’re hypnotised, or dreaming, or meditating, or dowsing! Or… drawing a card, rolling a die, selecting yarrow sticks, or tossing coins. The infinitesimal moment of apparent chance situations, when the outcome could go either way and everything hangs in the balance to be influenced by something as subtle and seemingly random as a muscle twitch, this is the power of that deeply subconscious, magical part of our mind. (I think it’s also our spirit, the essence of who we are and the spark of life which hides behind the wall of our chattering conscious space-time dependant thinking.)

To cast an I Ching reading, you need 3 coins of any description, but with a ‘head’ and a ‘tail’. Hold the coins in your hands for a minute and focus on your question or, better still, write it down. Or do both!

Then throw the three coins six times, marking each of the six results as follows:

Three heads: changing yang. Unbroken line --o-- with an o in the middle
Three tails: changing yin. Broken line -–x-- with an x in the middle
Two heads and a tail: yin. Broken line -- --
Two tails and a head: yang. Unbroken line ------

And construct your hexagram from the results of the six throws, starting at the bottom and working upwards.

I’ll form a question in mind about the wisdom of explaining the I Ching in my blog in this way and cast a reading by way of example.

My first throw produces 2 tails and a head. This gives me unbroken yang
in the first place.

-----

My 2nd throw gives me 3 tails: changing yin in the 2nd place, above my unbroken yang:

--x--
-----

And my 3rd throw is another straight yang, which I place above the previous changing yin:

-----
- x -
-----

Throw number 4 is three heads: changing yang in the 4th place:

--o--
-----
- x -
-----
Number 5 is a straightforward yin, so a broken line:

-- --
--o--
-----
- x -
-----

And my last throw produces 2 tails and a head: unbroken yang again. This is placed at the top of the hexagram.

-----
-- --
--o--
-----
- x -
-----

By looking at the resulting hexagram, we can recognise two trigrams of Li (Fire), one on top of the other. Looking up the 64 hexagrams in the I Ching book I can see this is indeed Hexagram no.30: The Clinging Fire. Because it has changing lines I’ll skip the main definition for Fire and read only the changing line definitions in the 2nd and fourth places:

“2nd: Yellow light. Supreme good fortune. Yellow light is a symbol of the highest culture and art, whose consummate harmony consists in holding to the mean.
4th: It’s coming up is sudden; it flames up, dies down, is thrown away. Clarity of mind has the same relation to life that fire has to wood. Fire clings to wood, but can also consume it. Everything depends on how the clarity functions. Here the image used is that of a meteor or straw fire. A man who is excitable and restless may rise quickly to prominence but produces no lasting effects. Thus matters end badly when a man spends himself too rapidly and consumes himself like a meteor.”

Also relevant is the resulting hexagram when the changes are complete – so the old yin in the 2nd place becomes yang and the old yang in the 4th place becomes yin, giving us Ken (Mountain) on Ch’ien (Heaven): Number 26, Ta Ch’u, The Taming Power of the Great.

-----
-- --
-- --
-----
-----
-----

Here I’ll read the main definition of the hexagram because this is how my situation will turn out:

“Perseverance furthers. Hold firmly to creative powers and store them up. The superior man acquaints himself with many sayings of antiquity and many deeds of the past in order to strengthen his character thereby.”

Well, I’ve lost this blog entry twice in the writing and taken up a whole afternoon and a lot of energy writing it, so I’ll interpret the meaning of my reading as follows:

Fire: changing line in the 2nd place: The I Ching is the best thing to be blogging about.
Changing line in the 4th place: When you try to do too much too quickly you get careless and lose your work.
Taming Power of the Great: New hexagram resulting from the changes: Keep working, keep trying. Studying the past is very important. (It would be better to use the knowledge to strengthen my own character?)

You might think this reading doesn’t really tell me much that I couldn’t have worked out by myself with common sense, but I didn’t really ask it a very specific question. Earlier today I asked about the DfES/LEA draft guidance and received the very auspicious 46 Sheng (Growth) changing to the even more auspicious 11 T’ai (Peace). The commentary stated: “A time of confidence and spiritual affinity with the rulers above. The small departs, the great approaches. Good fortune. Success.” – which I take to mean that with negotiations HErs will end up with a good set of guidelines as did the Scottish HErs.

Reading back in my diary I can see that I was feeling vaguely unsettled on the 14th January of this year, so cast a reading, which resulted in the following commentary: “You long too much for joys that can’t be obtained in the usual way. You enter upon a situation not altogether compatible with self-esteem. Perseverance furthers. Wait for the right time to change things. Do the right thing, not necessarily the thing you want to do. Don’t tread upon paths that don’t accord with the natural order.” – which made a lot of sense to me and fitted with my circumstances at that time.

Whenever I’ve had a difficult decision to make I’ve tried to follow the advice resulting from my I Ching readings and have then made what I now consider to be the best decisions for me and my loved ones at the time.

posted by Gill at 1:20 PM 9 comments

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