I used to work with the I Ching before I fell into the black hole of corporate overtime. I decided with all the potential changes in the wind, the Book of Changes was the perfect tool to assess and plan. It was something I wanted to return to anyway and now it seem s so practical. It is also fun to play with mathematically, as it’s based on probability. I have to make it clear, pretty much all the way though school I hated math, culminating with a dreadful instructor and algebra in high school. When I started my engineering curriculum, though, I had to face the dragon. I broke my math phobia with the help of a hypnotist, to the amazement of my trigonometry professor. I still hate some kinds of math. Later on I only survived calculus with the help of a visiting professor who observed me muttering darkly while doing homework and took pity on me. Yet when I went to his office I thought the topology he was teaching his graduate students was magical and beautiful. And when I had to take statistics I did really well and got interested in probability theory.
Once you fall down the mathematical rabbit hole you meet characters as eccentric and fascinating as any Alice met in Wonderland. Then again Lewis Carroll was a mathematician, as well as a writer. My favorite character down this rabbit hole is Gottfried Wilhelm Leibnitz. He preceded Einstein in supposing the relativity of space and time. In addition to inventing a working calculator, he devised the modern binary system. Which brings us back to the I Ching. Leibnitz was as fascinated with it as I am, he being focused on it’s binary nature. He noted the I Ching hexagrams correspond to the binary numbers from 000000 to 111111. A student of law, philosophy and metaphysics he was one of the very first westerners to take a serious interest in Chinese culture. He read books by and corresponded with early missionaries there and found much to admire in the works of Confucius, which he read in the year of their first translation, 1687. How can I not like him when we have so many common interests?
Which brings us back to the I Ching. It is often referred to as a method of fortune-telling and of course it can be used superficially in this way. I, on the other hand, prefer using it as a tool to explore deeper things. Over the course of over the course of the Warring States and early imperial periods (500–200 BC) the basic divination text was augmented by a series of philosophical commentaries known as the “Ten Wings” originally attributed to Confucius. In the 2nd century BCE it was declared one of the “Five Classics” and received even more scholarly commentary. It is in studying the hexagrams with their commentary you can derive great insight from the I Ching into many aspects of life and a deeper understanding of the constantly changing world described by Yin Yang theory and Wu Xing (Five Phases). In addition to myself, others have found in the I Ching sound advice on how to proceed in life. Carl Jung wrote, “Even to the most biased eye, it is obvious that this book represents one long admonition to careful scrutiny of one’s own character, attitude, and motives.”, something I feel a lot of people could benefit from these days.