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The I Ching or the Book of Changes


Translators C F Baynes and Richard Wilhelm

review by Steven Guth

Su Fu and the authorOn the left is Su Fu and on the right is the reviewer. Su Fu was a master at fortune telling. He appeared to do this by recieving inputs from a local water Deva. The reviewer tried to copy Su Fu's skills as well as his facial expression. The review tells the story.

I will assume that you have heard of the Ching, if not you will find lots of reviews about it on the web. Briefly, its a Chinese text dating back thousands of years to the very birth-times of written language. It has been, and is used by many to clarify the present and suggest possible outcomes for future events.

"The Book of Changes" contains ecognosis, knowledge about how the planet earth is put together. The Ching's wisdom transcends the current material reality dictated by modern Science, yet it is science, and ancient science that has recorded information so that humans can make 'sense' about the unfolding of events.

"Sense?" Its interesting that Wilhelm who translated the original Chinese into German from Chinese sources a hundred years ago used the word "Sinn" where Baynes used the English word "Tao". I have recently translated a medieval German book, "The Abramelin" into modern English by having the book read to me so I am sensitised to language usage. (To see some of the Abramenlin material visit external link www.araki.de and click on the right masonic pillar). "Sinn" means "sense" or "to make sense". It starts with an airy, open "S" and ends with a deeply resonating "nn"; the word itself changes "air" into "earth". Wilhelm's choice of an appropriate German word to explain the daily significance of the Tao was brilliant. I think that he really did understand the material he was working with.

Myth contains much ecognosis, it explains the hidden workings of the cultures created by humankind to sustain itself on the planet. So please grant me the musing below which explain much about the Ching. Remember, "The true Tao is the Tao that cannot be spoken."

Two Up. Have you heard of it? Its a gambling game that Australians where addicted to last century. I've played it, its a ritual that opens the door between the "now" and the possibility of future wealth or poverty. Its played with two coins flipped into the air at the same time. The possibilities are double heads, double tails or a head and a tail. A head and a tail requires a reflip, a double is a win or loose. Its simple, heads and tails . Yes and no, yang and yin. It can often take many tosses to get a positive or a negative result, the tension opens the door between the "now" and the future with its wealth or poverty.

I suspect that the game came to Australia with Chinese miners during the gold rush era in the 1800's. Even now, my Chinese mother-in-law uses two coins, or better yet two crescent shaped, palm sized pieces of wood flat on one side and round on the other to communicate with the Kwan Yin statue that resides on the family altar. Tossed into the air there are 3 possibilities, Yes, no and a split which the Chinese call, "The gods are laughing at you, come back later." I can imagine Chinese miners tossing a couple of coins in the air and asking, "Is there gold under this hill?". The success rate must have impressed the Irish and English creators of Two Up.

More myth. Lets consider the way written languages are constructed. Lets just consider the simple ''' and ,,, marks. These shaped like my mother-in-laws dowsing tools also resemble the well known yang and yin symbols. What does the comma and possessive tense ask us to do? To pause in the flow of words and to consider a change in the unfolding flow of words that we are moving across our eyes.

Is my story telling helping you understand how the Ching was first put together?

I guess what happened was that people, lets call them Monks to keep things simple, searched around for signs that would foretell if things would turn out badly or well. God knows, I've seen my "Bible Reading" Christian friends open their bible at random, stick a finger on a line and read out a quote. The quote, properly interpreted, would give them a yes, no or a warning about a future possibility.

Kuan Yin Statue at TamaLanSee monastery

At TamaLanSee monastery near the river Kwia in Thialand. A 12 metre high Kuan Yin Statue set in its garden park. This statue was erected by Su Fu, the reviewer's teacher from donated money. The money came as gifts from clients who had busines success because of Su Fu's fortune telling.

Infront of the statue - on a little table - is a bamboo cup in which are placed 64 numbered bamboo sticks. This form of access to the I Ching is common in Asian temples and is discussed in the review.

My Thai Chinese Master Su Fu was an expert at advising business people about their investments. He collected absurd levels of donations from people who had profited from his divinations. Using the money he commissioned huge statues like the Kwan Yin attached.

Now, how did Su Fu see into the future? He held the questioner in a firm gaze - whether a villager asking about his wife or a millionaire businessman handing over a red packet - and unfocused his mind. Into it came a visualisation simpler but similar to those in the Ching. Modern in form he than interpreted what he came to his inner eye. Here is an example, it shows the difficulty of the process. "I see the businessman (who asked about the advisability of a new venture) standing in front of a bucket, water comes out of the earth and the bucket is overflowing. "Hearing this I thought, "Great, the venture will brings more money than one can cope with, an overflowing bucket means success." But no, Su Fu cautioned, "The venture is not good, you will loose things, it will all run away, out of your control."

After a while some people asked me about their success in this or that. Yes, visualisations came in ways that made sense and I could pass on my interpretations. "Will I be successfully elected in the next four years?" I saw a sick person lying in bed; meaning, "No, you won't even stand for election how can you be successful." What could I say to answer the question? ... Perhaps you can now see one of the difficulties with fortune telling. How do you say, "Forget about elections, go look after your health" - without altering the life path of the person seeking your help. To say something like that is too take on a person's karma. I gave up fortune telling as too difficult, too dangerous.

Are getting the feel of how to use the oracle? Are you getting an understanding of how the I Ching was constructed 4,000 years ago when the devas and gods left images about the future on deer's hearts and tortoise shells.

Back to the story. How did Su Fu and I get images? This is a vital question. Who or what happened to make images appear? I believe that in the Thai village the resident landscape angel sized water deva did the work. Being old, wise and used to working with people (see www. Homodyamics) she could in some way transcend the boundaries of space and time.

Now, this belief of mine is reinforced by and interesting fact. Another story, another digression. Kwan yin temples usually have divinisation tools available below the altar, a few sets of the crescent shaped yang/yin, yes/no pieces and cups in which are 64 flat bamboo sticks each with a number and an I Ching character written on them. This is how the Ching is consulted in what is left of the neo classical Chinese world.

Once a regular visitor to Singapore I frequently dropped into Waterloo Kwan Yin temple - surely famous the world over. It used to overflow onto the street with beggars, flower sellers and stalls where Ching interpreters sat with their well thumbed books awaiting their clients. Infront of the altar a dozen or two people would be kneeling, facing Kwan Yin and bouncing in their hands to an increasing rhythm bamboo cups in which resided 64 marked sticks. They would be praying to Kwan Yin for exam passes, success with their boss, a safe childbirth ... anything. Eventually a stick would jump out of the cup. The stick with its number and character was Kwan Yin's response. Needing interpretation a mental note of the number was taken to a stall holder who would look up the Ching, enquire of the circumstances and make an inspired, legalistic or all too human an interpretation. Dissatisfied clients checked with another stall holder or recast the sticks.

Over the years I have visited many temples and cast my inner eye over many statues of Kwan Yin. Many seemed to contain - that is be a focal point for local water devas. (To learn more about this ecognosis phenomena see my review of Marko Pogacnik's book "Nature Spirits and Elemental Beings".) Perhaps the success of the Waterloo street temple can be found in the correspondence with its name. Kwan Yins have many similarities with the Virgin Marys that reside in grottos like Lourdes which contain energetic manifestations keen on co-operating and helping people. (For more on Kwan Yin see my review of John Blofeld's book, "Bodhisattva of Compassion")

When you cast the I Ching at home what happens? I think Wilhelm understood what was happening. This is from the a footnote in Book 2 Chapter 10.

The way in which the Book of Changes works can best be compared to an electrical circuit reaching into an situations. The circuit only affords the potentiality of lighting; it does not give light. But when contact with a definite situation is established through the questioner, the circuit is activated, and the given situation is illumined. Although this analogy is not used in any of the commentaries, it serves to explain in a few words the entire meaning of the text."

OK, so this beggars the question. What flows down the circuit. what creates the excitement in a game of two up? I suspect that this is as varied as the location, the questioner and the thought Elementals attached to a book or translation. In some places the resident landscape angel may power the circuit. In some the destiny, the ancestors, the guides that surround the questioner may use the circuit. Consult a monk like Su Fu and he will have his guides that may or may not help him to help you. On occasion - more frequently if care is not taken - mischievous forces ... Elementals, discarnate beings and god knows what, can use the circuit to create havoc in your mind and life.

Bit remember that a book like the I Ching is a talisman. A definite carrier of the energy of its creator. A book like the I Ching has a lineage, an oral tradition, attached to its contents. A hundred years ago when Wilhelm worked in China he associated with people like Mr Lao (mentioned in the preface) who may well have been initiated into the lineage.

I consider Wilhelm's book a pretty good talisman, a good way to reach the I Ching spirit ... have you seen any Chinese scholars, water devas or headless Elementals around your place? Buy the book or organise a game of Two Up, open doors that lead from the "now" in your life to your choice your future.

Canberra 5.12.01

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