I have been fascinated by the Yijing (I Ching in Wade-Giles) since the first time I read in the 1960s in the Wilhelm edition with Carl Jung’s forward. Since then, I have read the Yijing in many translations, and with many different commentaries. I use the Yijing for divination as well, as what would be the point in not doing so? Jung made the case that the Yijing works through synchronicity, a term which he coined in the 1920s. Basically, synchronicity is the coincidence of two or more seemingly random and disparate events that, nevertheless, are meaningful. I have found many examples of synchronicity attached to my life.
A recent example: A couple of weeks ago, in the morning, Ron Kovic came to my mind. Kovic is the peace activist, who was paralyzed during the war in Vietnam after being shot by the enemy. Kovic lives in Riviera Village of Redondo Beach where I live, and I have spoken with him frequently. It’s good to have someone who is keeping the peace movement alive. We both once lived on Long Island at the same time in the 1960s, I on the North Shore, he on the South, both, however, in the Town of Oyster Bay. I have no idea why Kovic came to mind, but he was there. Without thinking, I decided to turn on the television while I dressed, and slipping through the channel menu I noticed that the movie Born of the Fourth of July was starting. It is the Tom Cruise (playing Kovic) movie directed by Oliver Stone which is based on Kovic’s life, and I decided to watch it for a while as I had not seen the movie in years. I watched it for a while, and then went on with my business. In the early afternoon, I was at the Coffee Bean and Tea Leaf, reading and having a cup of tea on the patio next to the Good Stuff Restaurant. In a few minutes, Athena (her real name), one of the managers of Good Stuff, came out to clean up some tables on their adjacent patio. As we know each other, we greeted each other, and Athena asked me, “Have you seen any movies lately?”
“No, not in the theaters, but I did watch a bit of Born on the Fourth of July this morning,” I replied.
“Oh, Ron Kovic. I’ve known him for years,” Athena said. Kovic is a regular at Good Stuff.
We chatted a bit about Kovic and Athena went back inside to work.
A few minutes later, suddenly Ron Kovic was riding at a fast clip on his motorized wheelchair. He zipped behind me so quickly that I didn’t have a chance even to wave hello. He went past me and Good Stuff up PCH. A few minutes later, Kovic returned, going into Good Stuff. I waved to him, and he went in. Athena later told me that she had said to Kovic that we had been talking about him just a few minutes earlier.
All these events are basically random; yet, they are meaningful together. Jung uses synchronicity of this kind to argue that there an order deep within all things that can only be found through such odd events as my Kovic day. It would an order that is not the usual causal order that we are accustomed to in physics, for example. It is an order where various events and moments occur together in an acausal way, Jung argues. He likened the difference between classical physics and quantum mechanics. He never really described what that order is; he only pointed the way. I think it is more like the Dao, the path, the way.
When dividing yarrow stalks or throwing coins to form the hexagram or gua, one is simply creating a chance event which the gua explains. If there are moving lines or yao, an additional gua is formed. The process is rather simple. One finds the hexagram in the Yijing and meditates on it and the moving line(s). That describes the basic moment, and the second hexagram what is to occur at the end of the moment. So, for example, I asked the Yijing as I am writing this post, “How will this blog post on the Yijing do?”
The Yi replied hexagram 63, water over fire, with the fourth line moving, changing to 49. Gua 63 is variously translated “Already Fulfilled,” “After Completion,” or simply “Fulfillment.” It basically indicates a state of something perfected after which things will go into flux again. The moving line in the fourth place is a warning: “The finest clothes turn into rags. Be careful all day long.” Thus, I am warned to be careful the whole day, be careful about what I write and say. Gua 49 is the fire in the lake, the symbol of Revolution. In the Yijing, the revolution refers to a good revolution from Chinese history and therefore this hexagram is regarded as something good. One abolishes the old and then eventually puts in a new and better order. So there is going to be something I write here that will lead to a change in order out of a moment where I am warned to be careful all day.
Let us consider what I have done here. I explained my interest in the Yijing, and its operation through synchronicity. I explained a synchronism that involved Ron Kovic. Yet, there is more now. For Kovic was wounded in a revolution that was happening in Vietnam. In fact, one of the great books to come out of the war was entitled Fire in the Lake by Frances Fitzgerald. Since the time Kovic changed his mind about the war, he has been a peace activist, trying end all wars. In that sense, Kovic is a revolutionary. The initial 63 means that the fortunes are at their peak, but I am warned to keep alert and to follow the correct path, or else things will go badly with me. It appears to me that this warning embodies something of my acquaintance with Kovic as well.
I think there is a lot more going here than I see on the surface. So, I ask the Yijing, “How should I conclude my blog post?”
The reply is wind on wind, 57, variously translated as “Proceeding Humbly” to “the Gentle” or simply “Wind.” The top line is moving, and changes the whole picture to 48, “the Well” or “Replenishing” or “Penetrating.” Wind is about healing and cultivating humility. Fortune changes like the wind. So, don’t be impulsive and be ready for those changes. The moving top line is not very pretty. It says, according to Alfred Huang:”Proceeding humbly underneath the bed. Loses his means of substance. Being steadfast: misfortune.” The point is very obvious. If mired by fears and doubts, there is no going forward. Must keep the right path.
However, the transformed hexagram is 48, the Well, a rather good gua. The well is the center of all social life in ancient Chinese villages. You can move a town, but not the well. One should not in any way over use the well. This quiet and calm hexagram basically means to hold one’s present position to maintain peace and tranquility. It also means it is incumbent upon the writer to replenish his readers with that gift of nature, water. When there is a continuing supply of water in the well, the people thrive.
Interestingly enough, in the controversial Bible code, my name appears in its Hebrew transliteration in Genesis 26 where Isaac opens some wells of his father. One Jewish friend of mine explained to me that the well is a symbol of wisdom, which is as good a coincidental ending as I could find.