The Inner Structure of the I Ching, the Book of Transformations

The Inner Structure of the I Ching, the Book of Transformations

The Inner Structure of the I Ching, the Book of Transformations

The Inner Structure of the I Ching, the Book of Transformations

Excerpt

The I Ching consists first of those trigrams invented nearly 5,000 years ago by Fu Shi, then of the main text written nearly 3,000 years ago, by King Wen and his son, Duke Chou, then of the Confucian commentaries. There are, beside that, many other commentaries in what are called the 'Wings' of the I Ching, some of which Wilhelm translated, but which I have not translated in my edition. The kuas, meaning the trigrams and hexagrams, are -- as you know -- used very often indeed for divining the future. And that is one of their perfectly proper functions. But their main function, I think, had nothing to do with divination. I think King Wen and Duke Chou were great sages who had a marvelous intuitive knowledge of natural principles and that they used these kuas as means of helping us to see into nature's ways with a view to bending ourselves to suit those ways instead of trying to conquer nature and win power over it. With the I Ching we learn how to adapt ourselves, to fit in smoothly with nature. You see, the Taoist principle is always to swim with the current rather than against it. But even swimming with the current requires some knowledge of the current's vagaries. If you swim with an unknown current you don't know what might happen to you. So the I Ching teaches us how nature's currents flow and makes it easier for us to fit in with them.

The aim of the I Ching is extremely lofty, yet not at all ambitious. The ancient sages who mastered the I Ching did so not because they were ambitious to become great leaders and masters of men. Not at all! Their purpose was self-mastery. Why? Did they learn how to master themselves in order to become supernatural beings? No, not at all. They learned to master themselves in order to be of maximum service to the community in which they lived and to the human race as a whole. King Wen and Duke Chou's part of the I Ching reveals how very profound were the intuitions that must have come to them as a result of tremendously high-powered meditation together with a discursive study of nature. Confucius saw in their wisdom a guide for statesmen, prime ministers and people like that. So his commentaries are very much concerned with how a man who has mastered the I Ching and mastered himself can be of use to his emperor or ruler in helping him to guide the State. But we ourselves, as . . .

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