The Sage and Me
A Review of A Guide to the I Ching
by Terry Lamb
Not too long ago, a very close friend of mine remarked that my energy was different. She said that she had always thought of me as being balanced, but now I seemed softer, more feminine in a positive sense. Although this is something that I have aimed for, I could not think of what I had done to accomplish this state of being. I promptly put that puzzlement on the back burner.
When several more people remarked that I seemed "clearer", more feminine, at peace, happy, calm, I began to feel that perhaps I should look at this metamorphosis more closely. Then, one day recently, as I was consulting the I Ching, I realized to what I could attribute this change for the better. I can define its source as my relationship with the Sage.
This is what Carol K. Anthony calls the advisor behind the suggestions for conduct given in the I Ching. In her book, A Guide to the I Ching, I have found the single most remarkable source of wisdom to guide my personal growth. It has allowed me to step out of a fixed, overly planned, and anxious reality where my actions were taken on the basis of design (what I think will produce the desired affect) rather than truth (a centered approach, inwardly independent of attachment to a given result). The former reality is that created by the ego, very popular in our modern life. The latter is a more a process than a reality. It places me in the now, with no fixed ideas as to outcome or designs to manipulate others with. This leaves me open to the force of the Creative, allowing it to lead me "through the small door of the improbable, which will open only at the precise moment of need." (I might add that the precise moment of need is not always when we think it is.)
There isn't a page in the book that does not have a penetrating statement by which we can gain a glimpse of enlightenment. "Ambition, at its beginning, exists only as an ill-defined discontented mood." "Great things cannot be accomplished until we have achieved inner stability not disturbed by ambiguous situations." It has answered some of my most profound questions and helped me to understand the inner purpose behind what was a confusing and extremely disheartening period of my life. It continues to lead me through experiences large and small and help me to overcome the anxieties and emotional reactions that have been damaging to my life in the past.
The I Ching, or Book of Change, is a Chinese oracle laid down by four authors, first appearing at about 3000 B.C.E. It arises out of the oldest of Chinese philosophies, predating even Taoism, which nonetheless can be applied very naturally to the I Ching. It consists of 64 figures, or "hexagrams" made up of six lines, either broken (yin) or solid (yang). Each hexagram evokes a general image which is tied to a general principle involved in the operation of the universe. Each of the six lines contains a specific image and advice which relates to the principle represented in its hexagram. To consult the I Ching, in response to a question, concept or feeling, you toss coins, throw yarrow sticks, or (for those on the cutting edge of technology) use an I Ching program on your home computer or the Internet.
The hexagram obtain in this way is the Sage's message to us. The philosophy of the I Ching is simple: if we relate correctly, maintaining inner independence, all things work out well for all concerned. If we respond from ego, out of balance with the Creative, even our "good luck" disappears. Through the hexagram we draw, the Sage tells us how to get or stay in balance, adhering to inner independence and keeping the ego, or childish heart, disengaged. It does so by drawing us gently back to our center; it does not tell us what is right and wrong. It says, "return to the path," "keep to your course," leaving it to you and the Sage to work out what is inwardly correct in your situation.
Two concepts are very important to following the path of the I Ching: the Creative force and inner independence. The Creative is the manifest force of the Cosmos which will assist us in our lives whenever we get out of its way. It is the nature of the Creative to "be ironic, to make the unlikely work, and to bring success 'one day late'." It often requires us to wait passively until waiting seems totally unreasonable and a sure course to destruction. This is because it is not until we surrender to the wisdom of the Creative and give up our ego's childish desires to control our fate that the Creative can work for us. It will not support the "Inferior Man" (ego). Inner independence is the adherence to inner truth which invokes the working of the Creative in our lives. In order to gain and maintain inner independence, we must be free of negative emotion--desire, guilt, fear, anxiety, anger, vanity, pride--and the pretensions of intellect.
Anthony's book needs to be used with a basic book which contains the images of the I Ching itself, since hers is a commentary and does not contain the entire text. Although her interpretations are based on the Wilhelm-Baynes translation, it is not necessary to use that one. The annotated bibliography below gives some suggestions.
I have studied the I Ching for many years; it was my first oracle, first
encountered 20 years ago. It has been a kind friend, a wonderful guide, now the
more wonderful through the enriching insights of A Guide to the I
Ching. I have not yet achieved perfect inner independence, but I am working
on it, and I am definitely better at it today than I was twenty years ago!
Anthony, Carol K. A Guide to the I Ching. Third Edition. Stow, MA: Anthony Publishing, 1988. $14.95.
Huang, Kerson and Rosemary. I Ching. New York: Workman Publishing, 1985. This is a simple re-translation from the original using the Chinese scholarship of the last 50 years, most notably that of Gao Heng. The hexagrams are re-imaged by taking the character associated with each hexagram back to its original symbolic meaning, for instance, 27 is called The Cheeks rather than Nourishing. This book is the most direct link I have found to the original without being a scholar of the I Ching in Chinese.
Reifler, Sam. I Ching: A New Interpretation for Modern Times. New York: Bantam, 1991. In this book the oracles are rendered beautifully as poetry by Alan Ravage, which sometimes makes the image of a hexagram or line easier to see and interpret. However, I find Reifler's interpretations to be judgmental, irrelevant and lacking in understanding of the intent of the Ching; he has not been able to break through the inhibiting constructs of Western philosophy. I use this book for its imagery but I ignore the author's commentary.
Wilhelm/Baynes. The I Ching or Book of Changes. Translated and interpreted by Richard Wilhelm in German. Translated into English by Cary F. Baynes. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 1967. The classic translation and interpretation of the I Ching, but not necessarily the best. An intermediary language (German) comes between the original Chinese and English. A German cultural "cast" is placed upon the work which I find removes me from more directly experiencing the Ching as I might with a direct Chinese-English translation.
Wing, R.L. The I Ching Workbook. A useful beginner's interpretation, but with no translation of the original Chinese text. Interpretations are simple, straightforward and non-judgmental. It also gives a method by which you can keep track of what hexagrams and moving lines you receive to detect patterns. Should not be used alone, since it removes you from the original text completely.
Click here to look at Carol K. Anthony's website.