Like it or not, we are living in a whirlpool of change. Everything around us seems to be dissolving into confusion. When we experience ourselves as passive victims of this dark rushing river of change, we feel cut off, isolated, angry and panicked. If we can become a part of the deep dialogue this falling apart represents, we connect to the creative energy that is re-shaping the world we live in.
Stephen Karcher, translating the Dao De Jing
I Ching, or Change as it is usually called, is a book, a technique for using the book, and a spiritual practice or Way that has been treasured in the East for thousands of years as a guide to navigating the voyage of life. The name of the tradition, Change (I or Yi), points at its central focus. it suggests both destabilizing change, a time of troubles when all the structures we usually rely on melt down, and a way to deal with that change through a transformation of what the old Chinese sages called our heart-mind, a transformation that dissolves fixed patterns of thought and inspires imaginative mobility..
Change is a living stream of images or symbols that unfold the Way or Dao. At a critical point in the historical evolution of this great tradition, during the early Han Dynasty (c.200 bce-200 ce), a series of Confucian scholar-bureaucrats codified and organized the symbols of Change. They turned the tradition into moral and social philosophy by redefining yin and yang, the two powers that were the basis of the old cosmology, as good and evil and making them literally gender specific: Yang became morally good and gender male, and Yin became morally evil and gender female. They then enshrined these definitions in the texts of Change, creating new interpretations of all the lines and hexagrams that became part of the great civil service examinations. It is this version of the I Ching that most of us encountered as we first began to explore the tradition.
The translations you encounter here in Living Change, the Guideways for Change, are an attempt to break the hold of this approach and return us to the imaginative depth and power of the original images. It uses archaeological discoveries and the re-construction of Early Old Chinese, the language of the oldest parts of the text, to recreate the myth and ritual world of Old China, the bedrock of the tradition before it was turned into moral philosophy. It calls on the newest research in archetypal psychology, chaos and complexity theory to illuminate the ideas and practices used by the ancient sages to create the magical mathematics behind the sacred cosmos.