PART ONE: The Gate-Keeper
The 2000 millennial year title of the 64 Essays was The Ultimate Personal Survival Guide. It came from a brainstorming session with a business consultant over marketing The Common Sense Book of Change. She was unfamiliar with the I Ching.
We went back and forth with questions and answers about its use and value. Finally, she sat back and blinked. “It sounds like the ultimate personal survival guide,” she concluded.
At the time, it seemed like she’d hit the nail right on the head. She got it!
However, before she drew me out with her questions, I’d taken my answers to her valid concerns for granted. Others were likely to have similar doubts.
So a further step was necessary. A follow-up book was required, one which would lead others to draw the same conclusion that she did. It had to dispel myths and misconceptions which prevent this gravely misunderstood and underrated treasure from getting the international acceptance it so richly deserves.
I’d become certain that the worldwide leadership deficit (and related budget deficits) are explained by an underlying knowledge deficit. For lack of what The Book of Change has to offer, people everywhere remain perplexed as to how and why so much continues to go so horribly wrong, despite the best of intentions.
It seemed urgent to clear the decks. Making this compendium of natural law — the premier leadership training and decision-making manual in China for thousands of years — widely accessible now is necessary in order to fill in this fatal knowledge gap.
Mainstreaming this vitally important information is the first, necessary step towards the positive change which many call for, but remain unable to achieve.
Fourteen years later, after completing a trilogy on change, I find myself in the same predicament. How does one shake up the sleeping public? What will it take to make people worldwide aware of how important this information is, and how gravely we’re at risk due to its absence?
As a possible solution, I returned to The UPSG.
In the process of updating the Introduction, I had an “Aha” moment. In the text, I’d made the conscience connection:
The I Ching is called The Ultimate Personal Survival Guide because it refers to ultimate timeless wisdom. This wisdom is accessible on a personal level, facilitating inner and outer change, one person at a time. This change gives us the edge on survival, influencing who will survive, how, on which levels of experience. And it’s a guide that helps put us in resonance with the ultimate inner guide — conscience.
Taken out of context, however, the title left The USPG open to misunderstandings. It could be misconstrued as suggesting that the benefits of working with the I Ching come from the book itself. However, no physical book, no matter how inspired or useful, is correctly called an ultimate survival guide. Books are just material things.
Conscience alone is the ultimate survival guide. The value of using the Book of Change is that it leads the individual back to personal conscience. It serves to reconnect the user with the eternal center which resides at the hub of the Positive Paradigm Wheel. I’ve renamed this edition of the Essays accordingly.
Exactly what is meant here by “Conscience?” As with each of the 64 Essay terms, definitions of “conscience” have evolved over time. Here, the title Conscience refers to the pristine meaning of the term which associates it with “inner light.”
Conscience in I Ching context is associated with the innermost center of the Positive Paradigm Wheel. This yoga-compatible model, as detailed in Rethinking Survival and summarized below, layers the variables of Albert Einstein’s famous formula, e = mc2.
Einstein’s view of conscience was consistent with I Ching use. He regarded an enlightened person as one liberated from limiting selfish desires, who has turned instead to aspirations of super-personal value. Einstein described the experience of an “inner voice” that brought him closer to the “secrets of the Old One.”
Essay 12 on Values gives a snapshot glimpse of the word’s appropriate use:1
Conscience not only puts us in touch with our own uniqueness; it also connects us with the universal True North principles that create quality of life.
The extraordinary value of the I Ching is that it reveals the secrets of dynamic natural law. Working with its changes opens up access to the middle level of the Positive Paradigm Wheel, the “e” = energy layer of Einstein’s Unified Theory. (See Figure I.1. below.)
This middle level serves as mediating, two-directional gate-keeper between the ever-changing surface rim and the universal, timeless center. You can’t get from here to there, except through the middle layer which, in Western thinking, is effectively taboo, buried in the inaccessible “unconscious.”
To the extent that natural law is a blind spot in the prevailing, linear and exclusively empirical paradigm, we are left powerless to move beyond the surface level of experience. The realm of light and conscience which rests beyond, on the far side of the dynamic energy level, remains functionally inaccessible.
Moral codes promoted by religionists or politicians are sometimes equated with conscience. But they’re no substitute for direct experience. Only by becoming intelligently competent in managing the subtle energies of the middle level is it possible to travel further inwards for the direct, personal experience of inner light.
When the middle level becomes clogged with painful memories, negative emotions and socially taboo urges, it becomes a barrier to deeper knowing. The Book of Change is indispensable as a tool for restoring the unnecessarily “unconscious” to conscious awareness, so that the levels of human potential can be linked and unified.
In Positive Paradigm context, survivors who prevail in dangerous times aren’t those with the most material wealth, possessions or political power. They’re the ones who’ve successfully navigated the middle realm, reached the far shore of enlightenment and returned to the surface with their new information intact.
Those who succeed in linking the levels of experience are genius-leaders in whatever fields they choose to engage. They’re the fortunate ones who’ve acquired the inner wealth necessary to both hear the inner voice of conscience and act on the guidance they receive.
A side note: since 2000, I’ve become familiar with the work of pseudo-radical Saul Alinsky, whose approach to social change is antithetical to the natural law encoded in the The Book of Change. I’ve also been introduced to Claude Frédéric Bastiat’s The Law. This prophetic work has an uncanny resonance with I Ching wisdom which cannot be coincidental. However, rather than disturb the internal integrity of the Essays, this relevant new information will be addressed elsewhere.
New to this edition is the bullet point summary of myths and misconceptions about the I Ching along with quick answers. The Essays of Part II support these answers.
Patricia E. West
The Book of Change is a text that consists of 64 interactive, six-lined graphs — hexagrams — placed within the matrix of a circle, a square, or both. In combination, they map of the natural laws of change. Each graph is assigned a name pictured by a Chinese pictograph. Translations are comparable to Plato’s perfect Ideas.
The 64 hexagrams represent the bare bones of the life process. They are to natural law what basic axioms are to geometry. The open and closed lines the hexagrams are a convenient shorthand used to represent alternating energy valances. A broken line stands for negative (yin) energy. A solid line stands for positive (yang) energy.
For example, the hexagram for Awareness, looks like this:
Each hexagram is like the common denominator of a math equation. Each reduces expanded, complex relationships back to their most simple, recognizable form. No matter how complex or convoluted specific variations on the basic themes become, all experience can be reduced back to these fundamental dynamics.
Over time, readings have been associated with each of the hexagrams. These, in turn, have been elaborated upon by a succession of interpretations. Because the hexagrams are universal, they can be applied to virtually any discipline.
For example, one version of I Ching correlates the hexagrams with DNA discoveries. There’s a medical diagnostic version. Another applies the readings to Jungian psychology. Yet another correlates the hexagrams with meditative Taoist practices. Other versions reflect on the order of family and social relationships, on successful business practices, and on the conduct of war.
The basic readings, however, are descriptive and informational only. There is no moralistic or prescriptive bent. The content is observational and practical: If this, then that. For example, if one squanders resources during times of prosperity, then times of adversity will follow. If one is respectful towards others, then they will be moved to behave respectfully in return.
Using the interactive Book of Change is a powerful way to get in touch with the native common sense (conscience) we’re all born with, but too often forget under the pressures of hectic daily life. It is used first to increase self-understanding, then to create harmony between the inner world of self and outer world of others.
There are many ways to select the relevant hexagram. All involve approaching the book with a quiet, open mind, analyzing the current situation, and then framing a question regarding that situation. These methods are described in The Common Sense Book of Change.
Whichever method is used, it yields a hexagram which represents the immediate moment. Each hexagram, however, has the potential to mutate. This is because any one or any combination of the six lines can change into its opposite. This produces one or more new hexagrams.
The “direction of change” reading associated with the mutating line(s) indicate which level(s) are kinetically active and what the possible consequences could be. This information is regarded as a warning, which heeded, may influence future results.
The correlation between actions and predictable consequences is called the Law of Karma. In biblical terms, this law is expressed as the familiar warning, “As ye reap, so shall ye sow.” It is the practical basis of ethics. It underscores the wisdom of the advice,
“Do unto others as you would have them do unto you.” Because actions do, in fact, inevitably return in kind.
Among other things, the I Ching works like a cosmic clock, telling us the time. In the Old Testament, King Solomon expressed the natural, rhythmic alternations of time in poetic form:2
The Book of Change puts its users in touch with these pulsating, alternating rhythms of life. It connects them with inner knowing – call it intuition or conscience – that anticipates approaching changes, the better to prepare for what is to come. It serves as a reminder that our lives change like the seasons of nature. Fall follows summer. Spring follows winter. It lends perspective to the current times and what is likely to come next.
Historically, the I Ching has been held in the highest regard throughout Asia for thousands of years. Its cultural influence has been roughly equivalent to that of the Bible in the West. Leaders in philosophy, religion, healing, government, business and the military were all trained from this single, universal text. It is still widely accepted as the basic manual of relationship dynamics and effective decision-making.
How to Approach the I Ching
The I Ching offers a comprehensive understanding of how the world works. It doesn’t, however, fit neatly into the usual book categories. It can be approached as an historical document or philosophical tract, but is far more than that. It can be used as a self-help book, but is more than that too.
Above all, it’s a practical decision-making tool based on a comprehensive science. It challenges us to jump outside the narrow boxes within which we’ve been taught to reason, to qualitatively change the way we think.
The method of working with the I Ching requires stilling the mind and entering that receptive state in which inspirational thoughts become available. As such, it is an invaluable compliment to the practice of any religion.
Why Use the I Ching
In an age of ever-accelerating, sometimes bewildering change, working with the I Ching helps its users remain focused on the basics. Ephemerals on the surface of the Positive Paradigm Wheel inevitably pass away. Social customs continue to change. Old friends move on or prove fickle. Jobs disappear without warning. Fortunes are lost over night. Buildings are blown out of the sky-line. Loved ones change or pass away. If we neglect ourselves long enough, even health becomes precarious.
The more chaotic the uncertain world becomes on the surface, the more personal balance depends on the opposite and equal anchor of inner strength, accessed with the help of timeless wisdom. The I Ching serves to remind us of the constant within change. It grounds us in unchanging reality, the better to sustain the courage and confidence required to endure and prevail during tough times.
Working with the I Ching gradually changes the way we think, intentionally linking the levels of experience. It disciplines us to ask better questions and to be receptive to answers which extend beyond the parameters of empirical science. The I Ching advises, “It is futile to hunt for deer in a forest where none dwell.”
Issues which can’t be solved with rational logic, money, mechanical engineering or brute force, soften and open in the light of inner wisdom. As such, The Book of Change is an invaluable life companion for everyone facing ongoing personal changes in a rapidly changing world.
Its premise is the assurance that even when social, economic and political chaos seems staggering, taken one instance at a time, there’s always hope. The world at large is an unmanageable unit. But focusing on the smallest unit closest to home, one needn’t be overwhelmed or paralyzed. Whereas forcing change on others is a violation of free will, one can always — especially with the aid of wisdom tools like the I Ching — change oneself.
The important first change is not image or behavior, but more fundamentally, one’s vision of life’s potentials and the way to transform from within. The rest follows. It is, after all, possible to change the hearts and minds of others through one’s example. Perfected, one individual’s life can have a ripple effect that emanates outwards in all directions across the boundaries of time and space. Buddha and Christ both demonstrated this.
Who Benefits from the I Ching?
The natural law is written in our hearts. It is equally available to everyone with open ears and a ready willingness to hear. Those able to think with uncluttered, childlike simplicity resonate most easily with the I Ching call to conscience.
Often, individuals at a cross-roads in life, where they suddenly find themselves in unfamiliar territory or it seems as if they have nothing to loose, take new interest in a book that helps them navigate life’s passages with dignity and grace.
However, the Book of Change isn’t the exclusive property of highly-educated people, nor of a particular gender, age-group, culture, class, time or place. It’s an indispensable basic, a valuable teacher to everyone who chooses to make themselves whole.
A caveat: it’s not those who understand, but those who also follow through who benefit most from the value The Book of Change has to offer. Its concepts may be relatively easy to comprehend. But they’re not always easy to put into practice.
Working with the 64 hexagrams of the I Ching (as well as 64 essays offered here) requires the time to pause and reflect. It’s not like quick food that can be taken in at one gulp and then forgotten. But it nourishes on many levels. Its benefits are cumulative and enduring. Returns on the investment of time and effort made are exponential.
My personal experience with the Book of Change explains the value I place on it. It’s described in Rethinking Survival:3
As to the I Ching, I’d had a hunch about it for a very long time. Dr. Ellsworth Carlson, who lived in Shansi, China during WWII, was an Oberlin College classmate of my parents. When I was nursery school age, he’d bounced me on his knees at Harvard.
As Freshman student, I took his course in Asian History at Oberlin. What stuck with me how vast an influence the I Ching had on Chinese thinking for 8,000 years and counting.
In fact, when I left for Europe, I carried only my violin and one small suitcase. Of that, half was filled with clothes and personal items. The other half contained sheet music and one small book: the Legge translation of the I Ching. It made no sense to me. I could barely get through a page or two before giving up. But I kept coming back to it. There was something important there that I had to know more about.
Finally, with the Wilhelm/Baynes edition that I discovered in Düsseldorf’s International Book Market on Königs Allee, I had a version I could relate to. It literally became my teacher. It gave me a whole new concept of how the world really works. Not just this family or that institution or the other county. Not arbitrary and capricious, fluctuating fashions, but the constant anchor over time.
From it, I could deduce the fundamental energy dynamics of action and reaction which drive relationships, internally at a psychological level, and externally in terms of practical, day-to-day events and their long-term consequences.
It was an extension of the logic my English teacher Miss Elson impressed on my high school brain. But more. It gave me a map of logical consequences, as inevitable as computer language. “If this, then that.”
For example, If you kick people, they kick back (if they can) or otherwise resist. If you are kind, you inspire love and trust in others. If you violate natural law, nature bites back (your mental health suffers; relationships deteriorate; your behavior becomes erratic and social/physical survival is imperiled). Asian cultures call this “the law of karma.” Its operation is also described in biblical terms: “As ye reap, so shall ye sow,” and “to everything there is a season.”
In sum, its 64 permutations map a progression of the AC-DC energy changes which constitute the natural law of repetitive, cyclical change. From my point of view, this ancient, timeless science fills a critical blind-spot in Western thinking, lacking which, all efforts are partial and incomplete.
Put another way, the glaring absence of this information explains why so much goes so wrong, despite even the best of intentions on the part of politicians, priests, coaches and leaders of every ilk.
The Book of Change combines the best of many worlds. On the one hand, it’s pure logic and math. Its binary-digital code long predates both Leibniz’s calculus and computer science.
On the other hand, it leads inwards, serving to link the material world of physical experience (empirical science) with its ultimate source (the realm of con-science).
Working with it, one starts with immediate, practical experience, with the option to travel with it to the opposite end of the reality scale that merges into the apparently mystical. This interactive book, regarded by some as magical, depends on the phenomena of synchronicity to link person, time and events in the decision-making process.
The longevity of ancient Chinese dynasties is attributed to sages who advised their emperors on ways to balance and thus survive historical yin-yang cycles of decay and regeneration. By working in harmony with the laws of nature, rulers succeeded in maintaining social and political stability, riding out the predictable, alternating pendulum swings between extremes.
Even the Communist Chairman Mao, an avowed atheist, owed his success to the I Ching. Its influence permeated both his moving poetry and highly successful, if unorthodox, military strategies.
It took me awhile to get acquainted with the “personality” of the I Ching. For example, sometimes I would query and get an answer that seemed to have nothing to do with my question. Then it would click. Aha! The answer was pointing me elsewhere, to something I’d overlooked and required my attention.
An early incident that gave me respect and trust:
I admit that, as with any good friend, it took a while to break the ice and get to know it. For example, once, when I was relatively new to the book, on an early winter morning in Spring Green, I woke up with a bad feeling and consulted the I Ching for feedback. Its advice, in essence: “Don’t move. Don’t go anywhere. Anything you do now will go wrong.”
My friends debunked it. I was scheduled for a job interview that couldn’t be missed. When the bald tires on my vintage Buick skidded on the ice, spinning me into a snow bank along Willow Gold Farm’s long driveway, they refused to give in. They drove up a tractor and jammed a curved metal hook under the front fender to pull it out. This punctured the radiator, which emptied its yellow-green fluid onto the crystal white snow. I wasn’t going anywhere that day. Or, after their “help,” even the next.
This was definitely a book to be taken seriously!
In another section of Rethinking Survival, I was specific about an abuse situation where the I Ching was a life-saver:
The scriptures were inspiring. Swami Rama cynically perverted them. Dr. Arya, a pundit disciple based in Minneapolis, initiated gullible students in the rituals of guru worship. This aristocratic charmer held Western seekers in contempt and dummed the teachings down.
The powers of this smooth, flamboyant “holy man” were foreign to Western sensibilities. He flaunted a repertoire of magic tricks. He could change blood flow in his feet. He read minds and hypnotized students. He reportedly bilked American students out of thousands of dollars for nonexistent hospitals in India. By his own admission, Indian disciples would have burned his ashram to the ground if they known he was performing sexual tantra (rape) on unsuspecting American women.
In the larger scheme of things, he was small fry. But we were easy prey to someone who knew how to manipulate energy. This middle level the Positive Paradigm was outside anything we’d learned about in school. So we didn’t know where his powers came from or how to protect ourselves.
At his ashram in Rishikesh, India, three of the women he’d seduced got together and traded information. We realized none of us was a “special exception” to his vow of celibacy.
When we blew the whistle, he flipped out. Tantric teachings, he raged, were sacred teachings. Exposing them would damn us forever. We were terrified and backed down. To the detriment of other relationships, I obeyed his command, “Keep still!!”
Covering his backside, the swami told his psychologist henchmen that I was “mentally disturbed.” Protecting vested interests in their careers, they treated me as if I were crazy. It took years to get over the pain, anger and confusion caused by this betrayal.
But I healed. I used yogic introspection to get over it mentally. To repair emotional damage, I turned to Traditional Chinese Medicine. For solace and hope, I looked to the New Testament. But my best friend and advisor throughout was The Book of Change.
I didn’t dare talk with people who knew the swami. They would have turned against me, not helped. The swami’s powers were outside the experience of university-trained therapists. There were no qualified professionals to turn to. Confiding in family was out of the question. If I went to them with one problem, I’d end up with two.
But with the I Ching, I could be completely honest. It has no agendas. Opening my heart to ask my questions was like talking with my True Self. Its answers rang true. Instead of tearing myself apart by warring against abuse of power, I used it to turn inward to the higher authority I could trust: my own conscience.
In Rethinking Survival, discrimination, violence and sexual abuse are linked to an information deficit. The natural law codified in the Book of Change:
. . . fills in an information gap. It’s the missing link in our knowledge banks. In a complete worldview, the dynamic law of change occupies the middle level. It links the outer material surface with the innermost center. You “can’t get from here to there” except through that middle layer.
This explains why many leaders, even with the best of intentions, go terribly wrong. When authorities operate from an incomplete paradigm, they’re blind-sided. Lacking what has been mainstreamed as “emotional intelligence,” they can’t identify the place where things are messed up. When they take a left-hand turn, they don’t understand why. Worse, they don’t know how to return to the positive path.
Here’s the context: Laws of nature emanate from the Divine. It’s a mistake to romanticize (or demonize) nature. It’s a worse mistake to worship nature in place of the Creator. But being competent at the practical, middle (energy) level of three-part experience is essential to the whole. Again, it’s a sorely missed link in our functional knowledge base.
The “subtle” energy realm lies between the outer, surface level of matter and the deepest center of unchanging stillness. As the functional
link between extremes, both on the out-going and the in-going paths, it serves as the unavoidable gatekeeper and mediator between the two. “You can’t get from here to there,” except through this middle level of experience.
Without wisdom and skill at this middle level of experience, spiritual aspirations cannot be realized nor can political policies be effectively implemented. Ongoing sex scandals which plague high-level politicians and Christian clergy give a hint of what’s missing from their training, causing them to fail miserably at great expense to those they should be serving.
Using a well-familiar example from American history, here’s how I expressed the place of natural law in the Introduction to The Common Sense Book of Change:4
THREE LEVELS OF LAW. The American Declaration of Independence names three kinds of law: the laws of man, of nature and nature’s God. The Book of Change is based on the laws of natural change. They emanate from and depend on divine law and serve as the rightful foundation of civil law. . . In Common Sense, Thomas Paine wrote about the relationship of divine, natural and human law in a way that inspired readers at the time of the American Revolution to fight for freedom from tyranny.
Approaching natural law from the deeper understanding of the ancients could inspire a reinvention of democracy now. Sages say that freedom from tyranny begins with dispelling ignorance and overcoming negative emotions. True freedom starts with the self-awareness and self-mastery which can be gained by diligent use of the I Ching.
I had this in mind when critiquing Affirmative Action, and in formulating Positive Action alternatives to achieve the valid goals of the misguided legislation.
In another section of Rethinking Survival, I described my using the opportunity of temporary job assignments to observe the dynamics of work-place relationships inside of schools, hospitals, law firms, corporations, and small businesses:5
In each, I silently observed through my ethnology research eyes how systems consistently break down for lack of I Ching wisdom. Had I wanted to write a book like Barbara Ehrenbach’s Nickel and Dimed, it would have been quite the exposé. But it wasn’t my purpose to embarrass anyone. I honored the researcher’s ethical responsibility to respect confidentiality.
I also produced a small version of the I Ching, intended not only for school-age readers, but for anyone with basic English and an open mind. I explained why as follows:6
There was, as in all things, a downside to the Wilhelm/Baynes version. It was unnecessarily difficult, sexist and elitist. A confusing overlay of cultural baggage obscured its meaning. After working for ten years with every version I could find, I wrote an easy-to-use version called The Common Sense Book of Change, intending to make this treasure available to anyone with basic reading skills.
I fantasized on the possibility of teasing the Chinese into reclaiming their heritage, self-publishing it as small yellow book (the traditional Chinese color of wisdom) in a pocket sized form to replace Mao’s little blood-red book. No matter how many new versions have come out since then, it still works for me.
The story of how it was written is described as one of the many “neatsies” along the way:
A hidden hand has guided and protected me in seemingly magical ways on the adventure-filled, danger-fraught road I’ve traveled. Without this help, I wouldn’t have survived. An old friend with a knack for understatement once gave me a word for miracles. Taking his hint not to take myself too seriously, I simply call them “neatsies.”
At critical intersections, these neatsies have been catalysts of unforeseeable change. Whenever it was time for the kaleidoscope to turn, pointing my life in yet another new direction, these instruments of the hidden hand closed the door of a finished chapter with absolute finality, while opening windows of opportunity which led to the next.
. . More neatsies surround my small version of the I Ching, the Chinese Book of Change. I wrote it in 1975 during the window of time after I moved back from Spring Green to Madison, but before I had a job. As a leap of faith, I concentrated on the writing, putting off a job search until the book was done. This was a bit scary. Money was going to run out very soon.
I sat cross-legged on the bare wood floor of a living room furnished with cardboard boxes. I spread every version I owned in a half-circle around me. They included the Wilhelm/Baynes translation brought back from Germany, of course. There was a battered second-hand paperback by Joseph Murphy, a research fellow in Andrha, India, as I recall, who quoted the Old Testament in the judgments. Others included the spiral-bound Workbook by R. L. Wing, a hardbound version which presented the I Ching as a form of astrology and a hippie-like paperback.
I trusted that the Platonic-like ideas of the I Ching are timeless, the common heritage of all humanity. They’re not the exclusive property of a particular culture or class. Each of these authors was drawing on the same source for inspiration, expressing universal experience from different viewpoints. So I opened my mind, asking for the deeper meaning these versions shared in common.
I was certain that the most powerful ideas are the most simple. They deserve to be expressed in the clearest language with fewest words possible, free of flowery poetry, scholarly hocus pocus, sexist assumptions (the so-called “superior man”) or other distortions. I intended to make my version easy to read – accessible to anyone with basic reading skills and an open heart.
The format just “came” to me. It worked fine. Fifty words, no more or less, for each hexagram. Ten words, no more, no less for each changing line. The images came easily. I worked systematically from start to finish, no looking back. With the exception of “Sacrifice,” which I revisited fifteen years later, I’ve made no revisions.
Eventually, I called this version The Common Sense Book of Change. I like the word “common.” To me, it doesn’t signify “ordinary” or even “vulgar,” as some use the term, but rather “universal.” “Common” is the root of both “communication” and “community.” And the allusion to Tom Paine’s Common Sense isn’t accidental.
Upon its completion, the kaleidoscope turned instantly. Results of the civil service test for Typist III positions came in the mail, along with a list of job openings. I had to put my little book on the back shelf for the time being. But the reward for this leap of faith was immediate. I took it as confirmation from the powers that be that I’d made the right choice to put the book first.
Much later, I drew this conclusion:
The I Ching‘s value, I’ve finally come to understand, is measured by the quality of focused attention, self-honesty and positive intention with which it’s used. Those who dismiss it, who “believe” it is superstitious nonsense, fulfill their expectations. In a way, the book has its own fail safes. Those who approach it with arrogance or evil motives get nothing from it.
But for me, its wisdom has provided ongoing, life-confirming support, most especially when humans failed me totally. Perhaps any wisdom book read with an open heart and concentrated attention similarly opens the personal mind to the guidance of the Universal Mind. This, for me, happens to be an especially useful method of introspection.
As yet, however, an exclusively materialistic. linear paradigm continues to generate the dysfunctional results experienced in every aspect of personal and public life. The powerful benefits to be gained from shifting to the more inclusive Positive Paradigm are blocked by so-called authorities and experts who are highly invested in the limited and limiting empirical science paradigm.
The I Ching is misrepresented with numerous assumptions and prejudices which have effectively kept this critically important information in the shadows.
Therefore, the answers to some of the most familiar assumptions are listed below:
Q. & A.
Question: What does an ancient book from a foreign land have to do with me, here and now?
Answer: Everything. The I Ching as a compendium of natural law is neither time nor place-bound. It speaks to the questions we all ask about the human condition. For over 8,000 years, with good reason, it has endured as the foundation of Chinese healing, governing and military arts alike. No equivalent exists in the West. It fills a fatal gap in the way we think.
Question: If it’s so important, why isn’t it taught in schools?
Answer: Good question! Probably because the objections raised here are taught as assumptions instead.
Question: Isn’t the Book of Change unscientific – just hocus pocus or New Age superstition?
Answer: Like any other wisdom tradition that has endured over time, the I Ching has inevitably been subject to misuse. This doesn’t, however, reflect on its inherent value. This compendium of natural law is so highly sophisticated, in fact, that Western science is just beginning to catch up with it. For example, in the 1800s, Leibniz acknowledged that its mathematical foundations long preceded his calculus. The single and broken lines of the hexagrams are analogous to binary-digital computer code. Further, as described below, its 64 hexagrams are analogous to DNA structure.
Question: Is the I Ching a sacred book, like the Bible? Is it part of a religion?
Answer: Yes and no. Taoists, Buddhists, and Confucians, despite their differences, all hold the I Ching in highest regard. It is used to connect with deity, on the one hand, and consulted for practical advice regarding every aspect of daily life, on the other. Sacred is in the eye of the beholder.
Question: Is The Book of Change pagan and therefore off- limits to Christians? Does it contradict or oppose the teachings of the Old and New Testaments?
Answer: There is no conflict. Natural and divine law are two different but interdependent levels of the Positive Paradigm Wheel of Life. Pagans by-pass divine law, choosing to worship nature instead. In contrast, sages observe and work
with the laws of nature, the better to serve humanity by serving the divine. As elaborated below, both the Old and New Testaments show an understanding of the nature which is compatible with the I Ching worldview.
Question: Can the I Ching be fully understood or appreciated without knowledge of the Chinese language?
Answer: Hindu’s have a similar attachment to the exclusive value of the Sanskrit language, Jews to ancient Hebrew, and Muslims to the original language of the Koran. However, the source of truth is beyond language. Its cultural expression at a particular time and place varies, but the basic essentials are necessarily the same. As translations into English and other languages continue to improve, this will become increasingly apparent.
Question: Isn’t it better to learn about natural law from the European philosophers Locke, Hobbes, and Rousseau, as America’s Founding Fathers did?
Answer: No. Their philosophy is speculation, not science. To some extent, they speak in similar terms. But that’s where the similarity ends. The I Ching is based upon thousands of years of experience by leaders in every field who were trained in the meditative arts and observed their inner states. They then recognized and noted the correlations between inner experience, the processes of nature and the dynamics of human relationships.
What is the Positive Paradigm of Change?
In working with wisdom traditions, I’ve become certain that not only is each striving to express some aspect of a single, unnameable Truth. But further, each is a mosaic piece of a larger picture. When the pieces are put together, the sum is greater than its parts.
The Positive Paradigm of Change is that larger picture. It draws from wisdom traditions, both East and West. It is consistent with biblical wisdom and the essence of I Ching philosophy. It is yoga-compatible. (See Figure I.1.) In addition, it’s equally compatible with modern science.
The POSITIVE PARADIGM of CHANGE
Einsteins Formula of Energy Conversion
When the three variables of Einstein’s famous formula, e = mc2 are placed within the wheels-within-wheels structure of the Positive Paradigm model, the result is the Unified Theory of Einstein’s heart’s desire. Ironically, lacking this structure, he sought it lifelong, not knowing that he already had it.
The Positive Paradigm model is particularly helpful here because it shows at a glance what the I Ching is, as well as what it is not. (See Figure I.2.) It shows the relationship between the surface of material objects which is the realm of empirical science, the middle level of natural law, and the inner realm of conscience.
What the I Ching IS (and is NOT)
Rethinking Survival, subtitled Getting to the Positive Paradigm of Change, describes the Positive Paradigm in detail.7 The basics are described here for the purpose of explaining natural law and its unique, indispensable place within the complete picture of Truth:
The Positive Paradigm model pictures an elegantly simple yet complete and correct reality map that accords with the way life truly is. It meets the Occam’s Razor standard: maximum inclusiveness with greatest simplicity. It has the power to give life travelers, wherever their journey starts, a new vision of life’s possibilities and with it, a realistic hope of survival.
. . . The Positive Paradigm’s Synthesis Wheel mirrors the micro-cosmic structure of atoms as well as the macro-cosmic structure of planetary systems. At the microscopic level, its concentric rings mirror the structure of atoms around a nucleus. It equally mirrors the symmetry of the planets orbiting around an organizing star, the sun. On the largest scale of magnitude, it reflects the in- and out-breaths of perpetually expanding and contracting universes.
This familiar atomic structure repeats smallest to largest in the patterns of nature, from snow flakes and intricate flowers to spiders’ webs and sea shells. Similar symmetrical patterns repeat worldwide in the art of every culture — including Native Americans prayer wheels, the colored sand mandalas of Tibetan Buddhists, the stained glass windows of European cathedrals and the intricate geometrical patterns that cover Muslim Mosques, to name but a few. They offer proof of the universal awareness of a central inner reality, of an inner structure common to all humanity, and to a continuity of experience deeper than individual lives or transitory cultures.
. This model was originally called the Synthesis Wheel. “Synthesis” seemed to be the most technically correct choice because that term emphasizes integration of levels of experience, not unlike the term “yoga” which means “union,” close cousin of the “unified” theory of Einstein’s quest.
The paradigm is called “positive” because, in contrast to the limited, exclusively materialistic paradigm of empirical research science, it includes all levels of experience and, importantly, places each level in correct relationship to the others. No part of life’s experience is lacking. No part is distorted or out of place.
This is the harmonious unity each one of us, by birthright, has the potential to experience. Poets describe the joining of the center with the surface as the Marriage of Heaven and Earth.
Einstein’s Variables: Mass, Energy and Light
m. mass. The outer rim of the circle is the realm of the material, manifested world of creation. This level is the abode of empirical science which measures tangible, material phenomena and objects. It is the plane of duality, the fluctuating ebb and flow of mortal life, the ups and down of daily experience. It is the realm into which public school education too often squeezes and flattens children. This is the level of which Einstein said, “The only thing that interferes with my learning is my education.”
Those focused excessively here are unduly attached to material possessions as well as to money, social status and institutional power. Here appearances are more important than substance. Saving face replaces authentic virtue.
Paradoxically, out of balance, abundance on the material plane seems to foster an insatiable sense of lack. Limited connection with the center breeds insecurities and greed. The infinite variations on the same eternal forms are misconstrued as grounds for cultural conflict and competition for illusory supremacy.
When people live primarily on the surface, with the middle (primarily “unconscious”) level clogged and in conflict, systems break down. Attempting to fix problems caused by this inner turmoil at the superficial level can not achieve any lasting, qualitative improvement.
When internal dynamics remained unchanged, apparent re-forms are cosmetic only. Thus authors who write books about changing organizational systems without an understanding of the dynamics of natural law and human nature (much less the central core which illumines the field) miss the point.
Atheists who deny the existence of the inner levels are materialists in the extreme. Yet, however badly religious teachings have been misunderstood and abused over time, this does not alter the functional facts of existence, now confirmed by physics as well as by the consistent testimony of sages throughout the ages.
e. Energy. Much ignorance, misinformation and confusion surrounds the energy level of the Positive Paradigm. The current state of chaos into which the world is degenerating attests to this deficiency, as well as the urgent need to correct it. Only the basics are described here, suggestive of further possibilities.
The middle level is the domain of natural law, whose dynamics are mapped in the Chinese I Ching, the Book of Change. This body of knowledge has evolved over eight thousand years as sages continue to observe the operations of energy and document the repetitive patterns of change. As discussed earlier, natural law applies to the physical world with its recurring cycles of seasonal change. It is equally applicable to humans and their cyclical life changes: birth, growth, decay and death.
The middle layer is the realm of less tangible but still measurable states of energy, including electricity. More subtly, it is the chi, ki or prana described by Chinese, Japanese and Indian traditions as the life force which animates all living beings. In Greek and Christian contexts it correlates with the breath, the psyche.
These subtle energies influence internal psychological states and drive external human behavior, which in turn affects social relationships. Knowledge of these dynamics is essential to personal survival. Effective leadership and the quality of life within organizations also hinges on the amount of awareness brought to dynamics at this level. While some people understand the dynamics of change at a gut level as a simple matter of common sense, systematic logic and deliberate understanding can greatly improve outcomes of the decision-making process.
Daniel Goleman and other corporate consultants following his lead have mainstreamed the importance of this neglected middle level, calling it emotional intelligence. EQ is associated with top performance and pay. They claim it can matter more than measurable IQ. However, neither IQ and EQ, while both necessary, are sufficient. Conscience – integrating the outer levels with the center, is what makes the human whole. (See Figure I.3.)
IQ, EQ, GENIUS & CONSCIENCE
. . . Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) looks at emotions from a complimentary perspective. “E-motion” is an energy-suggestive word, suggesting kinetic potential. It’s closely associated with “motives.”
Each of the basic emotions correlates with an internal organ, giving new meaning to clichés like, “My gut tells me . . .” or “It makes my heart ache . . .” In TCM, anger is associated with the liver, fear with the kidneys, worry with the stomach, and so forth. When the physical body is basically healthy and the energies of the internal organs are harmoniously balanced, each is associated with a specific virtue. The virtue of the lungs is courage. The virtue of the liver is kindness.
Those denied access to material and social resources are often forced inside. Of necessity, turning inward, they develop and depend for survival on strengths drawn from the middle and center of the wheel.
At times, deprivation and hardships yield the opposite and equal blessings of in-sight and emotional fortitude. At other times, however, excessive investment at the middle level results in delusions, latent with the potential for erupting into violence. In any case, making a virtue of necessity by rejecting the material world prevents completion of the pattern. It can’t correctly be equated with spirituality.
Societies which enforce a materialistic worldview and deny the experience of everything not tangible and measurable place severe hardship on those whose inner lives are especially active.
Denying high energy people’s drive and failing to provide practical methods for articulating and harnessing inner energies creatively can literally drive people crazy, to suicide, or at best, underground. Many “sensitives” survive by channeling socially banned, unacceptable awareness into the arts: music and literature, including romance, murder mysteries and science fiction.
c. Light. The innermost state of being is silent yet fertile, that from which all forms emanate and to which all return. It is the alpha and omega, the ultimate and exclusive source of infinite power.
Merging with this all-encompassing source of consciousness is what scriptures refer to, quite literally, as “enlightenment.” It is the “secret place of the Most High,” home of God the Father in Heaven honored in the New and Old Testaments. It correlates with the Hindu Brahman, the Chinese Tao, the Muslim Allah, and the Native American Great Spirit. In Star Wars, Jedi knights refer to The Force. Contemporary pastors sometimes defer to “The Boss.”
The deepest center is the original seed of life from which creative solutions and new beginnings emerge in answer to the prayers and sincere efforts of those who hear and do. It’s the unfailing source deeper than ephemeral fears which gives positive survivors the inner strength to withstand the sudden shocks and catastrophic changes of Titanic times.
It is to this quiet center of refuge that sages retreat in meditation to patiently out-wait misfortune, the better to return renewed when the time is right. It is the healing place to which they turn when life becomes too difficult to endure without solace. It is the escape, far better than drugs, alcohol, sex or even music, that makes life’s challenges bearable and worthwhile.
. . .Unlike the levels of mass and energy, which can be described at length from experience, the silent center of light is by definition best honored by silence. Or at least as few words as possible.
Returning to the perennial philosophy embodied in the Positive Paradigm is an urgent a matter of human survival. Comparing it to the prevailing empirical science paradigm shows why.
The Positive Paradigm pictures a complex, circular universe: an infinitely interconnected, endless and self-perpetuating reality, a finely woven fabric linked by invisible but unbreakable threads.
In contrast, the exclusively materialistic world view is linear, flat and hollow. Following the projected course of this progressive worldview is like ascending a cliff leads only to an abyss, ending with destruction.
Overcoming Fear of Change
Lacking the balancing anchor of that which is beyond change — that which puts short-term change in perspective — people stuck on the surface of the wheel become fearfully addicted to the familiar. But resisting change doesn’t prevent it from occurring. It only leaves the fearful unprepared to meet change when it inevitably arrives. They’re perpetually behind the eight-ball, left out of “luck,” a day late and a dollar short.
Addressing unnecessary fear was a large part of my incentive for bringing the Positive Paradigm of Change to the public. It speaks to the countless many who struggling in dark, doing best they know how as they continue to live lives of “quiet desperation.” They intuitively know, as I did earlier, that somewhere somehow something is terribly wrong. But they too don’t know where to look, or what to fight.
They feed an insatiable hunger with all the wrong foods. They take vacations to escape from angst, but in the wrong directions, and wake up afterwards, hung over and broke. They hunger and thirst, but things of the world do not satisfy. This is the craving answered in the Sermon on the Mount:8
Jaded and disappointed in the world, cynics ask: “Is that all there is?” On the surface, yes. But they have yet to dig deeper. There are worlds of adventure and danger yet to be explored in the middle realm of the Positive Paradigm Wheel of Life, and beyond, the priceless treasure hidden at its center.
When the original UPSG was written, two popular books stood out as excellent of examples of how Westerners approach change. Both raised but failed to answer important questions. Each served to point out serious information gaps in the traditional Western knowledge base which puts everyone at grave disadvantage in the face of danger. They demonstrate the relevance of The Book of Change to chances of uncertain human survival.
Po Bronson told the stories of 54 people facing change in What Should I Do with My Life?9 He found that his subjects resisted change until they were pushed past inertia by painful losses like unemployment, divorce, debilitating illness or a sibling’s suicide. Most of us, he concluded, only think about making positive changes in our lives. But it’s only personal disaster that moves us to take action.
His book left me with unanswered questions. “Why does change have to be the result of catastrophe?” “Why should life transitions be as haphazard, isolated or painful as those he described?” “Isn’t there a better way to cope with and even benefit from life’s challenges?”
The logical alternative to fearfully resisting change is to accept it, the better to intelligently meet and benefit from it. The Book of Change offers profoundly practical, time-tested information with which to anticipate and successfully meet whatever may life bring.
It gives us a better way to approach and grow from whatever “opportunities” life has to offer. Its method directs us to move past non-specific, general questions like, “What should I do with my life?” to ask specific, practical questions, one day at a time. For example, “What should I be aware of NOW?” and “What are the likely consequences of the immediate action I am about to take?”
The second example was Rudy Giuliani’s Leadership.10 In his response to the world-changing 9/11 terrorist attacks on New York City, the attitudes and leadership qualities he demonstrated bear uncanny similarity to those of an accomplished I Ching master.
Because he intentionally learned from every experience in his career, Giuliani was ready and well-prepared when disaster struck. He insisted on bringing “balance and order” to organizational systems; he placed value on personal self-discipline; he characterized Americans as people who respect life and the rule of law; he demonstrated compassion and ardent protection for those most in need.
In all these ways, his example reflected the virtues systematically cultivated in Asian traditions for thousands of years. Giuliani, apparently a “natural,” was intuitively able to tap into and actually live the law written in our hearts. But to face similar dangers yet to come, the world needs an entire generation of Giuliani-like leaders. The unanswered question Leadership left for the rest of us is, “What about those of us who aren’t naturals?” How do we acquire the wisdom we need to face life’s challenges with similar wisdom and grace?
That’s the question addressed here: “How do I get from here to there?” That practical bridge from “here to there” is mapped out for the rest of us in the I Ching and pictured in its snap-shot essence in the Positive Paradigm Wheel of Change. Working with the Wheel (see the Positive Paradigm Handbook) and its predecessor, the Book of Change, instills a new, more confident attitude towards change in two important ways.
First, change is no longer regarded an threatening unknown, in the face of which all of us are helpless victims. According to the Common Sense Book of Change:11
Everything in nature is subject to change. Nature, however, is subject to invariable laws. Change is therefore predictable. It need not be regarded as threatening. . . the unknown is only frightening until it has been faced. When the patterns underlying change are illuminated, life becomes very beautiful, like a work of art.
Second, change is put in larger context. It is contained within the middle level of the wheel, encompassed on the one side by the material world, on the other by the timeless, eternal center.
From this perspective, working with the I Ching is recognized as a method for maintaining personal poise and social stability in the midst of ongoing change.
The benefits of understanding the level of change as the gate-keeper which leads to the reams of conscience and enlightenment are motivation to master the laws of change, the better to achieve the timeless goals of self-awareness and self-actualization.
Yoga Anatomy and the Hexagrams
Yoga anatomy explains the unifying effect of working with the Book of Change. It isn’t necessary to know about its details in depth to receive the benefits of using the I Ching. However, the basics are highly suggestive as to how the hexagrams work and why their healing effect often seems magical.
Chinese and Hindu versions of yoga each describe subtle energy centers located along the physical spine. They are associated with the flow of energy currents through the nervous system, but at a deeper level. Both traditions draw on this knowledge in the practice of their healing arts. Both prescribe meditative practices that balance these centers for the purpose of achieving spiritual enlightenment. (See Figures I.4 and I.5.)
Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) and related martial arts work with three centers called “tan tiens,” or cauldrons. These correspond roughly with the head, heart and solar plexus. In this tradition, the bottom two lines of the hexagram correlate with the lower dan tien. The middle two lines correspond with the middle dan tien. The upper two lines correspond with the upper dan tien. Tai Chi, practiced as moving meditation, unifies the three centers with holistic effect.
The yoga practiced in India posits six energy centers described as spinning vortexes or wheels, called “chakras.” These subtle centers correlate roughly with the physical anatomy of the brain, throat, heart, solar plexus, genital and anal regions. The six lines of thehexagram each correspond with one of the chakras. The top line corresponds with the ajna center near the pituitary gland, called the third eye. The bottom line corresponds with the base chakra.
Increasingly higher centers correlate with progressive stages of human development. Psychologist Abraham Maslow’s Hierarchy of Needs sums them up. His five stage model starts with basic physiological and safety needs. Once these are satisfied, the
individual pursues issues of love and esteem. Only when these needs are met is one ready to focus on personal growth needs – ultimately “self-actualization.”
Several of the Essays apply of the yoga anatomy idea to familiar experience. For example, Essay 20 below states:
One overlooked knowledge matrix is ingrained in our very DNA. Many striking resemblances between the structure of DNA and
I Ching hexagrams suggest at least one fascinating explanation for how/why this information source resonates with inner knowing.
For example, it can’t be accidental that both the DNA helix and the I Ching matrix are based upon a binary-quaternary code that generates a system of 64 possibilities.
The chakra system of energy transformers which traverse the spine is another knowledge matrix that affects how we process and transmit information. Each chakra filters perception. Each influences the way we interpret experience. . . . One proof of this process is the wide array of Western psychologies, each relevant to a specific chakra issue. Skinner’s is a first chakra psychology based on behavior. Freud focused on sex, a second chakra issue. Adler thought in terms of power, the third chakra. Fromm wrote about love, the fourth chakra focus. Jung was interested in literary symbols and self-actualization, which are fifth and sixth center interests.
Asian sciences, however, have recognized the interactive relationships amongst these concerns. They provide practical methods for integrating the chakras to pave an optimally functioning highway of continuous energy and information.
Essay 38 on Love describes the evolutionary chakra sequence:
Love is the ultimate mystery. It sparks and keeps the life process going, more to be accepted and honored than psychoanalyzed. Plato described seven stages of love. Each is a rung on an evolutionary ladder which leads from a child’s love for parents, to erotic love, to friendship, and eventually the pinnacle of divine connection. These seven steps correlate exactly with the seven energy centers of yoga anatomy.
The seventh chakra, the thousand-petaled crown chakra, is beyond the material manifested world, and is therefore not included in the six-level hexagram structure.
Essay 34 on Fear gives another perspective on the chakra filters:
Fears are part natural, part the result of cultural conditioning. Those which are unreal are best dispelled by analysis and understanding. Those which are justified are best faced by correcting and atoning for one’s own mistakes, then preparing to meet and overcome external dangers.
Working with the I Ching helps us discriminate between appropriate fears which require positive action and illusory fears to release and forget. It is an invaluable aid in the process of cultivating self-honesty for the purpose of self-correction. It’s equally useful in the process of articulating immanent dangers and deciding on the best strategies for effective response.
Primal fears are associated with specific chakras. At the first chakra level, the fear is of physical death. At the second, fear is of loss of sexual prowess or family support. At the third, it’s of loss of material and financial accumulations, along with social connections and influence. At the fourth, fear is of failure in love relationships. At the fifth, it’s of losing face or being judged wrong or inadequate in intellectual matters. At the sixth, fear is being cut off from the creative source.
Most of us function primarily at one or a combination of the chakra levels. Blind spots prevent fluid, integrated thinking, making it difficult to relate to other people’s perspectives. As suggested in the Essays, working with the I Ching helps to open, coordinate and align the specific mental, emotional, and social issues associated with each of the six energy centers. This greatly improves the quality of personal relationships and professional effectiveness.
Further, yoga anatomy has implications for human survival. In this world view, each individual is a miniature of all creation. Every unit, from atom to individual, mirrors the structure of the solar system and universe entire. So restoring order and balance to one’s own life does in effect save a world complete, one life at a time.
Were the vast majority of humans to be wiped off the face of the earth, whether by disease or natural disasters, the human race has the potential to regenerate from a handful of survivors. This has happened more than once. The biblical story of Noah is but one example.
Yoga Anatomy and the Caduceus
The Greek caduceus, the familiar symbol of the Western medical profession, is a vestigial reminder of the origins (albeit forgotten) common to the Western and Asian healing arts, perhaps dating still further back to ancient Egypt’s Hermetic tradition. (See Figure I.6.)
In Greek mythology, the caduceus is the healing staff of Mercury, messenger of the gods. It links heaven and earth.
Far earlier than the Greeks, however, the caduceus is the model of yoga energy anatomy. It comes from a time-tested tradition thousands of years old.
The axis represents the human spine. The pair of snakes winding around the axis represent alternating, cyclical patterns of negative and positive (yin and yang) energy currents.
The six chakras are the intersecting points where the curving snake-like energy forces meet and cross at the axis. These are the major centers of transformation and evolution.
The wings at the top of the axis represent the integrating crown chakra.
The I Ching matrix with its 64 possible combinations of yin and yang lines along with their endless permutations lend themselves to medical diagnosis. For example, Essay 49 on Health quotes The Medical I Ching by Dr. Miki Shima:
The practice of traditional Chinese medicine is based on the recognition of patterns of change within one’s patients. When these patterns of change are harmonious and foster life and well being, we say the patient is healthy or recuperating. . . Without going back to [the I Ching] . . . one cannot fully understand and appreciate the height and depth of the immense body of Chinese medical wisdom.
The six chakras are the intersecting points where the curving snake-like energy forces meet and cross at the axis. These are the major centers of transformation and evolution.
The wings at the top of the axis represent the integrating crown chakra.
The Caduceus and DNA
Just as the I Ching Hexagram structure correlates with the chakras of yoga anatomy, the chakras in turn are associated with DNA. Further, the hexagrams have been directly correlated with DNA. In fact, the Chinese ideogram for the word I Ching looks remarkably like not only the caduceus but also the spiraling structure of the DNA double helix. This cannot be an coincidental. (See Figures I.7 and I.8.)
The science supporting these resemblances is beyond the scope of this book. Although fascinating in itself, it need not become a distraction from the bottom line. Namely, working with the Book of Change has proven to be extraordinarily beneficial for thousands of years. Restoring its popular acceptance now, albeit in an intentionally accessible introductory form like the Common Sense Book of Change, would extend those same benefits now.
The Universal Touchstone
In its essence, the perennial Book of Change is timeless. It continues to help thoughtful users tap into the source of universal wisdom which all enduring spiritual, religious and healing traditions share in common.
As suggested in the discussions of the chakras and DNA, it resonates with a fundamental inner core of experience which, despite surface diversity, all truth traditions share in common. It therefore has the potential to link people of good will across the globe with a basis of shared understanding.
Whether the context be therapy, spiritual practice, personal introspection, or practical decision-making, working with the Book of Change is the quintessential method for cultivating mindfulness and self-awareness. It enables users to move beyond the theory of their personal philosophy and into its practical applications in positive action.
As such, this book touches the heart of all religions as the universal key sought by religious scholars. In The Perennial Philosophy,12 Aldous Huxley sought to identify the common thread which links all human experience:
Rudiments of the Perennial philosophy may be found among the traditionary lore of primitive peoples in every region of the world, and in its fully developed forms it has a place in every one of the higher religions.
Following Huxley, Huston Smith, the premier teacher and devout practitioner of what he calls “timeless wisdom,” writes:13
Twenty years ago I wrote a book, The Religions of Man, which presented the world’s enduring traditions in their individuality and variety. It has taken me until now to see how they converge. . . .
What then emerges is a remarkable unity underlying the surface variety. When we look at human bodies, what we normally notice is their surface features, which of course differ markedly. Meanwhile on the insides, the spines that support these motley physiognomies are structurally very much alike. It is the same with human outlooks. Outwardly they differ, but inwardly it is as if an “invisible geometry” has everywhere been working to shape them to a single truth.
As suggested in the illustration of the human spine and the subtle energy centers offered here, the I Ching maps the permutations of that “invisible geometry.” Working with the Book of Change has the effect of helping to dig deeper than surface differences, returning us to that structure which shapes everyone everywhere to “a single truth.”
The Tower of Babel Factor
The gift of language sets humans apart from animals. It provides the building blocks of communication. It’s the foundation of civilizations and the necessary glue of cultural continuity.
That being said, humans are the only creatures capable of using language to rationalize greed, lie to others about their actions and deceive themselves.
For this reason, there was quite a while when I stopped talking to people, other than to exchange empty greetings and conduct routine business exchanges. Attempts to communicate about anything of substance seemed futile. There were too many secrets to hide and too much jealous competitiveness to make the effort seem worthwhile.
During this time, working with the Book of Change kept me in touch with the deeper, better side of myself and the universe. When this work led me to reestablish meaningful connection with others, my first thought was to ask how this was possible.
If the best I had to offer humanity was the same book which had kept me whole, how could I persuade others of its value? Language seems to militate against the effort. Slick labels had been slapped on the book that led to out-of-hand rejection. “Foreign.” “Ancient.” “Unscientific.” “Unchristian.” “Pagan.” “Superstitious.” “Difficult.”
The first thing that had to be done, I decided, was to rescue the language from being used like a weapon to attack other points of view. It had to be restored from its status as a smoke screen spun to camouflage self-serving intent.
That’s was quite the opposite of the language I’d learned to love and respect in high school. There, we were taught to regard language as the premier tool of logic. When used with Sherlock-like diligence, applied the powers of keen observation and heightened awareness, it could solve mysteries — not only to detect the crimes of evil-doers and the nefarious plots of national enemies, but the mysteries of life and the universe.
Turned inwards, used with self-honesty, language becomes an essential means of introspection to cultivate self-awareness. For the truth-seeker, language a the necessary vehicle of information both on the inward quest and on return journey to share its benefits. But even people with the best intentions use the same words to mean very different things. They miss each other coming and going, only vaguely aware of the disconnect.
Tracking the meanings of words, I was fascinated to find that their evolution is systematic. In some cases, the same word means not only one thing, but its exact opposite as well. I outlined chapters for The Yoga Dictionary: Answering the Tower of Babel Dilemma. It listed key terms, their original meanings and their changes.
The Sixty-Four Essays included in Part Two are the off-shoot of this project. They’re meant to be used, as it the I Ching itself to cultivate an attitude of mindfulness in the conduct of daily life. experience. They’re meant to bring attention to the complexity of words we take for granted, so as to communicate more carefully and effectively.
Meditation practices use breath-awareness to slow down the noisy mind that ordinarily operates at the most rapid, beta brain wave frequency. It cultivates alpha waves associated with relaxation and the still slower theta waves associated with deep learning and inspiration. This level of attention is also the one required to receive optimal benefit from reading the Essays.
Most recently, working with the Positive Paradigm Wheel has further explained the dynamics of the English language:14
The Positive Paradigm model solves the Tower of Babel dilemma. Plug conflicting definitions of key concepts into the various layers of the wheel. This works for “Communication” and other key terms as well.
The “positive” word is an important example. Webster’s Dictionary lists seventeen (!) different uses. They span the continuum from center to surface, with many gradations along the route. At the core, “positive” refers to that which is absolute, unqualified, and independent of circumstances; that which has real existence in itself. At the middle, energy level, the term is used describe an electrical valence. As an attitude, positive can mean either confident or dogmatic. At the surface, positive may mean showing forward progress or increase, making a constructive contribution.
Key concepts as well as individual words can also be plugged into the levels of the Wheel with useful results. For example, see Figure I.9 for the multi-level connotations of the often used phrase, “Common Sense.”
The Three-Part Essays
Like the 64 images of the I Ching, each of the 64 Essays in Conscience: Your Ultimate Personal Survival Guide is self-contained. Each essay is a miniature world complete. Each invites the reader to slow down and think carefully, taking the time to examine current beliefs and apply timeless wisdom to daily life.
There are three ways to approach the Essays. The first is to read them in the numerical order. There is a logical sequence to the Essays. Initially, they seemed to tell a story, and were ordered in what seemed to be the correct progression.
However, they don’t have to be read in sequential order. A second, equally viable, approach is to review the alphabetical table of contents which is also provided. If a particular subject seems immediately relevant and interesting, then that’s the one to choose.
Third, the same coin-toss method used in working with I Ching can be used to select which essay to read. See The Common Sense Book of Change for a description of this method and for the selection matrix.
Regardless of the order in which the Essays are read, working with the same consistently mindful, connecting focus applied when consulting the Book of Change will yield similar benefits here.
Each Essay has a three-part structure, providing structure-within-structure.
Part One: Though the I Ching itself is deemed inaccessible and is rarely taught in public schools, the number of influential thinkers whose ideas intuitively resonate with the conscience which rests at the heart of the Positive Paradigm’s timeless center are without limitation either in time or place. Their commentaries serve as a bridge between the more familiar and the less known. They may also serve as a link back to the authors.
Their contrasting voices reflect the yin-yang, old-new, East-West dynamic which is the very essence of the I Ching’s view which everyone everywhere share in common.
Part One quotes Chinese philosophers inspired by working directly with the I Ching, including Confucius, Lao Tzu and Sun Tzu.
Quotes from the Old and New Testament which especially resonate with I Ching wisdom include the psalms of the musician/poet/ healer/warrior King David and the words of his direct descendant, Jesus Christ.
The Muslim tradition is represented by Sufi mystics Rumi and Pir Vilayat Kahn. The mysteries of ancient Egypt are alluded to by Isha Schwaller de Lubica.
Modern day medical practitioners, healers and teachers quoted include Barbara Ann Brennan, Andrew Weil, Dean Ornish, Patch Adams, Daniel Goleman, Howard Gardner and Depak Chopra. Psychologists in synch with I Ching wisdom include Carl Jung, Abraham Maslow, Erik Erikson, Carl Rogers, Scott Peck, and Nathaniel Brandon.
The tai chi, qigong and martial arts teachers whose disciplines are based on the I Ching are countless. Among them are Bruce Lee, Stuart Alve Olson, Deng Ming Tao, and Kenneth Cohen as well as Chungliang Al Huang.
Also included are voices of Westerners in synch with I Ching wisdom, from Plato and Christopher Columbus to William Shakespeare and Albert Einstein; from Abraham Lincoln and Sir Winston Churchill to Martin Luther King, Jr. and Nelson Mandela; from Norman Vincent Peale to Peter Drucker, Scott Peck, Steven Covey, Jim Loehr, Norman Cousins, Tony Robbins and, yes, “Dr. Phil” McGraw.
Creative women writers in harmony with I Ching wisdom quoted in the Essays include Emily Dickinson and Virginia Woolf, Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, Naomi Judd and Oprah Winfrey.
Part Two. “The Front,” lists the range of definitions assigned to each concept. We often use the same words differently and therefore speak at cross-purposes, thinking we understand each other when in fact we don’t. Sometimes the same word is actually used to mean one thing and its opposite. To dispel such confusions, this section explores the full spectrum of the term’s meaning, with emphasis on its use in I Ching context.
The Front” supplies the apparent, “up front” dictionary definitions. It shows how the language, reflecting life itself, is subject to change. Words shift meaning according to time and context.
Part Three. Just as the coins sometimes used to derive I Ching readings have two sides, every idea has its shadow, opposite side. A contrasting final section called “The Back” therefore balances each Essay to make the picture whole. It briefly defines each idea’s mirror opposite, as well as inversions and perversions.
Although The Book of Change is held in highest esteem by philosophers of every nationality, as well as the followers of the world’s enduring religions, it is important to note that the I Ching itself is not a religion. It is a map, expressed in binary mathematical code, of natural law. It explains not only the observable patterns of natural events, but also repeating cycles of dynamic personal life, social systems and nations throughout history.
In its essence, the perennial Book of Change is timeless. It continues to help thoughtful users tap into the source of universal wisdom which all enduring spiritual and healing traditions share in common. It resonates with a fundamental inner core of experience which, despite apparent diversity, all truth traditions share in common. It therefore has the potential to link people of good will across the globe with a basis of shared understanding.
Whether the context be therapy, spiritual practice, personal introspection, or practical decision-making, working with the Book of Change is the quintessential method for cultivating mindfulness and self-awareness. It enables users to move beyond the theory of their personal philosophy and into its practical, positive applications.
As such, this book touches the heart of all religions. It is the universal key sought by truth seekers, be they physicists or philosophers. It embodies The Perennial Philosophy of Aldous Huxley, the common thread which links all human experience.