Opening up to New Translations of the I Ching

Consulting an Oracle can be an interesting experience.  Probably the oldest oracle in the world (yes way before Greek civilization even started) is the I Ching.  Translated from the Chinese picture language, the Book of Changes has a wide range of interpretations.  It is true that “a picture is worth a thousand words” and that’s what creates the problem.  Each Chinese character is a picture, so any translation of the I Ching must rely upon the way it has been interpreted in the past by thousands of people.  A consistent and coherent text is desired, yet is impossible to produce. Wilhem-Baynes The standard text in my lifetime has been Richard Wilhelm’s translation into German and Carry F. Baynes’ translation of the German text into English.  Since this was a very important work published in 1950 and with a forward by no less than the founder of analytic psychology, Carl. G. Jung, it has carried a lot of weight over the years.

Recently I discovered a new translation of the I Ching (2002) by Stephen Karcher, who, according to the jacket cover, “pioneered an approach to divination that was largely based on Jungian psychology.”  I was excited to use Karcher’s translation.  When I opened the book, and mind you I have been consulting Wilhelm’s translation since the 1970s, I was overwhelmed by the huge amount of possible interpretations of every word in the 64 basic concepts.  Even for an experienced person like myself, the book was daunting.  I decided to put it aside for a while and slowly return to consult it in conjunction with my familiar text.

In July an elder in the Native American ceremonial community referred a thirty-year-old man to me.  She felt he needed a mentor.  I decided to consult the I Ching before my first meeting with him.  Throwing three coins six times I created a reading (#58) called Tui: The Joyous, Lake in the Baynes translation.  This reading is one of my favorites, and since I was familiar with the text, decided to read Karcher’s translation.  He calls Tui OPEN.  Here’s his translation,

Communication, self-expression; pleasure, joy, excitement; persuade, exchange; the marketplace.

Open/Expression describes your situation in terms of communication, pleasure and exchange.  Its symbol is the dancer and medium who gives voice to the spirits.  The way to deal with it is express yourself openly and interact with others.  Make an offering and you will succeed.  Cheer people up and urge them on.  Talk, bargain, barter, exchange information.  Enjoy yourself and free others from constraint.  This is pleasing to the spirits.  Through it they will give you success, effective power and the capacity to bring the situation to maturity. (p. 616)

The one changing line was at the top, which says

Don’t let go of this opportunity for connection.  Draw it out as far as possible.  Express yourself.  Keep the possibilities open.  You will be very sorry if you simply let go.  This could be a lasting source of joy and pleasure. (p. 623)

On the basis of this reading of the Oracle, I opened myself up to this man, shared a lot of my personal history in response to his, and was amazed that we were both excited and happy to have just spent three hours getting to know one another.  He was born under the Greek astrological sign of Aries as were my three oldest sons.  There seemed to be an amazing rapport between us which felt very magical.  I knew it would be easy to be the good father to this man.  He introduced me to his companion over dinner one night and we talked about Native American and Greek mythology, Jungian psychology and dream interpretation.  He moved into town and was going to attend a Native American Church ceremony with me.  Plans changed and this week I invited him to join me for dinner and a movie.  He wanted to join me, but not at the movie.  He asked me to leave the theater and meet him at a night club down the street.  I knew he wouldn’t ask this of me unless he was desperate, so I joined him.  He had lost his job, had a disagreement with his lover, and needed to talk.  It was a long flow of stories of his childhood, relationship with his parents, his father’s death, his step father’s physical abuse of him and his mother, and his flight from all the pain into professional sports.  He was a very successful and internationally famous athlete.  And like many young men today, he was lost in all the admiration and extraordinary parties and their excess use of drugs and alcohol.

The amazing thing about my consulting the I Ching is that I remained open to this man and went much further to bond with him than I would ordinarily do.  And he has reciprocated.  After lunch today we were walking back to his apartment and he said, “having you in my life feels like I won the lottery!”  And I feel the same way about him.  He’s fun, funny, smart, open, vulnerable, transparent, and is trying to walk his talk.  And yes he’s human and he’s got problems, but he values having a mentor, someone he can call when he needs support and companionship.  I feel very lucky to have a new friend like this in my life.  So I returned to the I Ching and read the Wilhelm/Baynes translation of that line today.  Here’s what it says,

Seductive joyousness.  A vain nature invites diverting pleasures and must suffer accordingly.  If a man is unstable within, the pleasures of the world that he does not shun have so powerful an influence that he is swept along by them.  Here it is no longer a question of danger, of good fortune or misfortune.  He has given up direction of his own life, and what becomes of him depends upon chance and external influences. (p. 226)

Wow, what a different interpretation this is!  And imagine what a different approach I would have taken with this in my head.  I wouldn’t have been open.  I would have been very cautious and might have refused to mentor him.  The I Ching is very accurate, but like any oracle, it speaks in symbols, which are, by their very nature, ambiguous.  My choosing Karcher’s translation that day led to exactly what it predicted.  “Don’t let go of this opportunity for connection.  Draw it out as far as possible.  Express yourself.  Keep the possibilities open.  You will be very sorry if you simply let go.  This could be a lasting source of joy and pleasure. (p. 623)”  And it has been very rewarding.  He trusts me and has let me get so close that he shared his childhood memories with me, including his most treasured intimate objects from his early life, before the abuse started.  And yes, he is very seductive.  His shadow is accurately portrayed in the Baynes translation.  Both descriptions, as contradictory as they are, apply.  He is, like all of us, a mixture of good and bad, trying to attain balance.  And since I took a positive, open and self-expressive attitude, I earned his trust quickly.  It was just what he needed.

What I often wonder about is the divine nature of our unconscious choices; they are synchronistically divine.  It is as though the hand of God directs us.  Why would I abandon my usual practice and read Karcher that day?  Perhaps because the spirits were directing me?  Could be.  Take a look at the reading again,

Open/Expression describes your situation in terms of communication, pleasure and exchange.  Its symbol is the dancer and medium who gives voice to the spirits.  The way to deal with it is express yourself openly and interact with others.  Make an offering and you will succeed.  Cheer people up and urge them on.  Talk, bargain, barter, exchange information.  Enjoy yourself and free others from constraint.  This is pleasing to the spirits.  Through it they will give you success, effective power and the capacity to bring the situation to maturity. (p. 616)

I also feel like I won the lottery.  I have a trusting friend who sees me clearly, and surprisingly, one who is able to process the transference like a dancer or a surfer riding a wave.  I am sure there will be challenging times ahead.  There always are when you are trying to mentor someone.  But I am glad that I listened to my intuition and opened myself up to change.  Like Robert Frost said, “two roads diverged in a yellow wood, and I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.”

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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, Jungian Psychotherapy, Philosophy and Psychology. Bookmark the permalink.

2 Responses to Opening up to New Translations of the I Ching

  1. Pingback: The Empty Couch | Ancient Whiteagle Wisdom

  2. Pingback: The Mystery of the Medicine | Merlin and the White Eagle

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