Thursday, August 31, 2006

how the i ching "works"

I recently found a blog called Attempts, by Stephen Frug, which recently discussed the I Ching in a recent post called: Changes, The Book (Part Two) and shared the following interesting sentiments which are fairly close to my own understanding of the text:
The I Ching does not predict the future. All it does is give you something to chew on, stimulate your unconscious mind. There is absolutely no evidence that randomly throwing coins predicts future events. But reading selected passages from the book itself is quite good at shaking up your accustomed patterns of thought. And sometimes it can be eerily on point, in part because the reader brings his or her own unconscious thoughts and desires to the reading of a text that is by nature ambiguous and subject to multiple interpretations.

The rest of the entry fleshes out and develops this idea, but the above is the core.


Julaybib said...

I'm not sure I would use terms like 'unconscious' to define my own response to reading the I Ching, but the text itself is fascinating. It's just a shame it tends to be associated with the more dweebish end of syncretist new-age hippyism, instead of being viewed in the context of traditional Chinese faiths.


The Muslim Anarchist

Abdul-Halim V. said...

Could you say a little more about how you read the I Ching then? Do you ask it questions? My guess is that if you "consult" the I Ching sincerely, then that means you have a problem and you "don't know" the right course of action. But if use the I Ching to get an answer (perhaps the verbal/textual equivalent to an inkblot) then that suggests you really knew the answer all along but just needed a "jolt". That's probably what was meant by unconscious.

DA said...

Actually, the same guy who introduced me to Islam introduced me to the I Ching. He explained it as "You will gain insight if you use this book correctly. But don't fuck around with it. Don't use it to avoid making your own decisions and don't ask it trivial questions."

In the Hagakure, Tsunetomo explains that the I Ching is not an oracle of change, and it's name (i) contradicts this ( I only study modern Chinese, not ancient, so I can't verify this). He says that an evil man will go the way of an evil interpretation, and a good man the way of a good interpretation; which kind of plays into the whole archtype thing.

Anyway, whenever I read the Wilhelm translation, I definately feel there is something "real" there, and that it is not a fortune-telling system. At the same time, I don't really know exactly how it works or on what level. I've heard explanations ranging from "unconscious mind" to "allah speaking directly to usthrough it".

I've been studying Taoism for 5 years. Some people study it a lifetime and don't understand it. I'll reserve judgement on this socre fot a bit.