A Five Minute History of Chinese Philosophy and the I Ching

The Creative I Ching is a tool for connecting spiritual potential with physical reality. It is effective regardless of the practitioner's spiritual and religious beliefs. Whether you are Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Taoist, Buddhist, Jewish, atheist or agnostic, or any of our indigenous brothers and sisters, we all share a similar spiritual connection with the universe that can be recognized, nurtured and enhanced. There are as many creation stories as there have been different cultures in our species. The following is history as seen from the Taoist/Confucianist perspective. It is intended only to share the process by which the I Ching has developed over the centuries, and is not at all a required belief system to energize the practice or the connection to spirit which results from that practice.

And the story goes:

So, once upon a time, the people of the world lived in caves. They wore animal skins and hunted in packs. There were no families. Children were brought up by the entire clan and survival was a matter of chance. Then, many thousands of years ago a mythical sage named Fu Hsi (Pao Hsi) came along and taught the people to build houses and to farm and live together as families and wear clothes. He was also responsible for the beginning of Chinese philosophical thought. His basic idea was a single straight line, called Chi, or ridgepole. (The Trigrams, explained below, are also ascribed to him, although I believe they came later as outlined here.)

The idea being that above the ridgepole of the house was heaven, and within the house was earth. This idea also signified the divine power of the universe, as once there is a ridgepole, there is physical existence. It's like a room that's all blue. All the walls, the floor, ceiling and all the furniture and the people and their clothes all the same color. Nothing can be distinguished because it's all the same. Now if someone picks up the mat in front of the door, and the floor underneath is green, then now you can see the green and also for the first time you can see the blue. There are contrasts and so there can be awareness and where there is awareness, there is existence.

Eventually, the idea of duality took hold and a second line, broken in the middle, became the contrast to the ridgepole. This broken line came to represent the receptive ability of the universe.

The filled line became known as "Yang" (the 'a' sounding like 'ah', so pronounced yahng). The broken line became "Yin". Yang represented the creative power of the universe, and yin representing the receptive power. These two ideas were put together in time to create a metaphor for the 4 seasons of the year.

Spring was shown as the creative power rising up through the receptive power.

Summer was shown as the doubling of the creative power.

Autumn was the rising of the creative power up and out of the receptive energy, and

Winter was the absence of creative energy.

Some time later, a third line was added. This three line symbol called a "Trigram" became the basis for a very formal spiritual practice called the "I Ching" (pronounced 'ee' ching). There are 8 possible combinations of filled and broken lines. These 8 trigrams represented Heaven, Earth, thunder, wind, light, water, mountain and lake. Soon the Trigrams were doubled into 6 line figures called "Hexagrams". There are 64 different Hexagrams, each with its own meaning and attributes.

That's where the spiritual practice remained until the father/son team of King Wen, the founder of the Chou dynasty, and the Duke of Chou were imprisoned by the last emperor of the Yin dynasty, the evil Emperor Ch'ou Hsin. In fear of their lives, the Duke of Chou spent his time putting meaning to each line of all 64 Hexagrams. The lines were written in rhyme so they were easier to memorize. The Hexagrams and lines were determined by counting 50 stalks of the yarrow plant.

The final touches of the practice were added by Confucius around 600 BC. He became known as the "master" of the I Ching, even though he only practiced it in the later years of his life. The basic idea was that good fortune and misfortune were revealed by the Hexagrams. In a time of good fortune, moving ahead was furthering. In a time of misfortune, holding back was best. Important questions of timing were tested by I Ching masters to determine what should be accomplished and when.

All 10,000 things of Chinese philosophy were hidden in the Hexagrams and lines. Either the counting of the stalks or eventually flipping 3 coins determined the good fortune and misfortune of all circumstances.

That brings us to me. The magic of this practice was undeniable. It actually did work. I found the practice by reading a forward to one version written by Carl Jung. His idea of 'synchronicity' came from his study of the I Ching. I took up the practice with my typical reckless abandon, and eventually found I had some very fundamental differences with its basic philosophy. I don't believe in duality, the required balance of good fortune and misfortune (known to us as the Tree of Good and Evil.) So I began the process of rewriting the text to reflect multiplicity, or compliments and contrasts replacing opposites. I call this the theory of Constructive, or Creative Relativity.

I eventually threw the whole thing out and redesigned it from the ground up. "The Creative I Ching" is the result of that work. It takes all the misfortune out of the template and replaces it with more, but contrasting, good fortune. Now reflecting the idea of creative change, the Hexagrams are grouped into 3 circles. The first circle of 4 Hexagrams, called the Inside Circle, establishes space and time. The Inner Circle of 8 Hexagrams is derived by placing the "Sequence of Earlier Heaven" under the "Sequence of Later Heaven". This Circle represents the way energy moves from the Wu Chi, or the potential of metaphysical space into the T'ai Chi, or physical space. The 52 Hexagrams of the Outer Circle reveal the four required elements of Creative Existence. The Space for Change is outlined in the thirteen Hexagrams of the House of Conception. The Idea for Change is outlined in the thirteen Hexagrams of the House of Creation. The Quality of Change in the House of Compassion, and the Awareness or Existence of Change in the House of Completion.

So that's it. Flipping the coins or counting the stalks gives you the Hexagram in effect at any time. Moving and non-moving lines change the current Hexagram into a new one as you move into the future. Our connection to Spirit is enhanced by the practice, and the Hexagrams and lines reveal the type of energy that is the foundation for the manifestation of the physical universe.

My version outlines spiritual energy as it moves through metaphysical space into physical space, and includes a yearly calendar and a 12,480 year calendar representing that flow of energy into the future.

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