The Book of Transformations

Lama Anagarika Govinda wrote a smooth, clear explanation of the most ancient of Chinese texts, the I Ching, which is literally translated as the Book of Changes.  Govinda put his emphasis on the interactive way that nature is constantly transforming itself, and how the I Ching reflects those patterns and their consequences in his book (1981), The Inner Structure of the I Ching:  The Book of Transformations.  He recognizes the work’s similarity to a computer: “The question must be right to get the right answer.  Only an intelligent question can exact an intelligent answer.  As in higher mathematics, we are dealing with probabilities rather than certainties (p. 62).”

After quoting Carl Jung’s argument in The Undiscovered Self (1958, p. 16) that self-knowledge is by nature individual and unique, Lama Govinda goes on to say,

“Yet this irregularity which characterizes the individual need not deprive him of a place in the universe.  In fact, this irregularity is part of the universal law, which is not as narrowly circumscribed as our conceptual thought might assume, but which is wide enough to allow more than one possible solution to the same problem, as in higher mathematics.  Laws are the outcome of many contending forces and their final balance may appear to us immutable and unalterable.  But as we are dealing with living forces and not only with dead results, we must understand that even what appears stable to us is part of a flux whose movement is imperceptible to us.  The Chinese called it the Tao.

The momentariness of all elements and conditions of life was one of the main tenets of the Buddhist philosophy of the Sarvastivadins, and yet they maintain the principle of stability in asserting that ‘everything is’ (sarva asti).  In the cinema, a picture which appears perfectly steady is composed of innumerable momentary flashes, repeating the same pattern, so that it appears to us as steady.  The same happens in nature; the same patterns are repeated again and again, while the underlying material may constantly change, so that we think we are dealing with the same substance or the same living being.

This is an illusion which we share with practically the whole of humanity and which was thoroughly demolished by Buddhism, as well as by ancient Chinese thought, as we see in the Book of Transformations, on which Taoism and Confucianism are based.  The Chinese refrained from judging change as ‘good’ or ‘bad’, but showed instead the pattern in which change proceeds, so that people can act accordingly, either making the best of it or avoiding its harmful consequences.  Thus the Book of Transformations shows you the probabilities of life, but does not make predictions of factual events; it respects your free will, leaves the decision to your choice, but points out the likely consequences if you persist in a certain course of action or attitude.  The ‘Oracles’ are there to advise you, but not to determine your future.  Any form of determinism is foreign to them, and those who treat the ‘Oracles’ as a form of soothsaying thoroughly misunderstand the Book of Transformations.  As in a calculus of probability, we need to understand the underlying principles.  The I Ching is not a matter of blind faith, but of insight into the principles of nature.  (pp. 62-63)”

Lama Govinda, having already shown the I Ching to be a binary code building/composing 64 hexagrams, [see the diagram at the right], Govinda then relates this to Martin Shoenberger’s work (The Hidden Key to Life, 1973) on the genetic code, which has 64 code ‘words’, consisting of three letters (as are the trigrams composing each hexagram).  All of plant and animal life came into existence based on the genetic code of DNA.  He quotes Shoenberger who said,

“Only three code words of the genetic code make sense, i.e. have a clear meaning.  They serve as punctuation for genetic ‘sentences’, passages.  Two mean ‘stop’ (the end of a genetic ‘sentence’); one ‘go’ (the beginning of a new sentence).  Applying this to the newly transformed table of the old book of wisdom I Ching, one finds out that the two stop-condons UAA and UAG of the genetic code mean in the language of the I Ching: RETREAT (Chapter 33) and ABSTRACTION [STANDSTILL] (Chapter 12), whereas the starting signal of the genetic code UAG means THE WANDERER (Chapter 56, I Ching).  It was this which C. G. Jung formulated in his funeral address for the inspired translator of the I Ching, Richard Wilhelm: ‘It can’t remain in the dark forever that we are touching here on an Archimedean principle, with the help of which our occidental thinking could be unhinged’.  That is precisely what happened by the manifestation of the I Ching code in the genetic code.”

Govinda continues saying:
“The genetic code not only shows us how apparently opposite forces like male and female qualities compensate each other, cooperate with each other and create infinite new combinations and varieties; the genetic code demonstrates convincingly and for all to see, the difference between dualism and polarity, which has deceived us for centuries, and especially since we have fallen into the trap of pure abstractions, fortified by logical conclusions which seemed to prove the correctness of our lofty philosophical constructions and metaphysical speculations.  Through these constructs we have maintained religious dogmas, even if they no longer had relevance for our present times or represented the real convictions of the greater part of humanity. . . .

One of our greatest prejudices consisted in seeing ourselves in contrast to the world that surrounds us and our desire either to escape from or to govern it.  Both cases were consequences of an ingrained dualism which split the world into self and non-self.  But nature, as we have seen, not only in the genetic code but in all laws of life (which have compelled us to reverse our attitude to our surroundings) is not based on dualism but on polarity.

The difference between dualism and polarity consists, as we cannot repeat often enough, in the fact that dualism is only capable of seeing the incompatible opposites which lead to one-sided evaluations and decisions and cut the world into irreconcilable contrasting parts.  Polarity, however, is born from unity and includes the concept of the completeness of an organic whole.  The respective poles complement one another and are as inseparably bound to each other as the positive-negative poles of a magnet, which cannot be separated and which condition each other.  The mistake of dualism consists in trying to accept only one side of life, namely that which corresponds to our wishes or ideals, or which favors clinging to our present condition, our illusory self and all that identifies itself with it.

Thus, the concept of changelessness is identified with duration or continuity.  [And in the Book of Transformations] DURATION, therefore, is a self-renewing movement of an organized and integrated whole, which proceeds in conformity with unalterable laws. (pp. 63-66)”

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About Michael J. Melville

People describe me as a Spiritual Catalyst because their spiritual evolution speeds up when they share their process with me. Discussing dreams, addictions, sacred medicines, family histories, or personal relationships moves one closer to the core, where the inner child dwells. Once contact with her/him is made, growth resumes.
This entry was posted in I Ching: Book of Changes/Transformations, Philosophy and Psychology and tagged . Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to The Book of Transformations

  1. Great essay, I sort of used the blind faith method, ha. I like the part about the more intellegent the question, the more intellegent the answer. I only wish the author gave himself credit with his name! or maybe its not showing up on my device. Thank you for a well written essay.

  2. Pingback: Suddenly Santa Claus | Ancient Whiteagle Wisdom

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