Much like Don Quixote and his monomania with knights and chivalry novels, my non-fiction “monomania” is with the Yijing (or “I Ching,” as popularized by the Wilhelm/Baynes translation and the Wade-Giles transliteration of Chinese). I read extensively on the subject and I know for a fact that I’ll never exhaust it in a lifetime. The thing is, for those reading and still stuck in the conceptual visualization of the Yijing as the exotic Oriental version of the Tarot and a hippie Ouija board, the classic is so much more than an usable oracle that the exegesis inspired by it, over thousands of years, is only second to the Bible (although, if I request a recount, it would most likely come up in first place). Unfortunately, most Western media, and users, focus only in the oracular usability of the classic and, because of it, it is often derided and belittled as quackery. Well, their loss, not mine.
In the meantime, my so called “monomania,” takes me to the most varied reading paths. Hard to believe for most, I know. See, serious students of the Yijing can find many parallels between the inherent imagery of the classic and subjects that, at first sight, seem unrelated to it. One of the cornerstones of Chinese philosophy is “correlative thinking” and, although it runs against the grain of Western philosophy and its use of logics and analytics, its metaphorical toolbox is a spring of ideas and associations. Carl Jung, to name just one philosopher (yes, philosopher), realized the truth of its potentiality and applicability in Western thought. As the classic, and its exegesis, becomes more available to Western philosophers and writers, its use in metaphorical comparisons and the pursuit of meaning is slowly becoming commonplace. One such writer is the psychologist Stan Gooch. In the early 1970’s he published “Total Man, an evolutionary theory of personality” and, in part of it, he touches on the Yijing. The book has fourteen chapters divided within six parts. Part five, “The Rise to Tyranny of Western Consciousness,” includes Chapter 11, “The Momentary Universe,” which talks about the Yijing from a Jungian perspective.
I had to chuckle at this statement in said chapter:
The foregoing is not in any sense offered as evidence of the value or validity of the Book of Changes. There is nothing to prevent one regarding it still as a very complex folly, as a tragic monument perhaps to the wasted energies of a considerable section of humanity over a considerable period.
Of course, the disclaimer was perhaps needed as part of the natural Western defensiveness against all things outside “rationality and logic” and as a service to the those readers that would automatically take exception to such concepts. Such disclaimers are chicken soup for their sensitive souls, in my opinion. Finding comfortable shelter while confronted with incomprehensibility.
The chapter is actually very good and goes on to explain some points of view on synchronicity.
What I really like to quote though is not directly related to the Yijing. I comes from the preface and I think it is a handy way to put things in the proper perspective, specially for those attached to “rationality and logic” that think they can make a “science” out of everything that can find its way towards an empirical explanation:
The social scientist, erroneously, as I believe, has adopted many of the practices of the physical scientist on the implicit, often explicit, assumption that psychology and sociology are sciences. I myself on the other hand, together with some other psychologists, consider the wholesale application of the methods of the physical sciences to the study of human behavior to be among the major disasters of our time. This does not mean, however, that I believe those methods have no place at all in behavioral studies–though I have no space here to outline my precise position. The point I do wish to make very briefly–a slightly different one–is this. Because of the fact that we ourselves are the objects of the psychologist’s and sociologist’s studies, we cannot grant the psychologist the same automatic authority that we grant the professional physicist or chemist. Rather, the position resembles that which pertains in democracies in respect of Parliament. The people elect representatives to govern them–individuals whom they consider particularly suited to do so–granting them by such election a mandate to run the affairs of the country as they think best. It is when a point is reached that government behaves in ways deeply unacceptable to the people that that mandate is withdrawn. So it must be, I think, with the social sciences. We in a sense grant, or have granted, a mandate. But we do not thereby lose our inalienable right as human beings–the objects of the psychologist’s study–to reject not merely his findings but, if necessary, even his methods.
The book is out of print and hard to find, cheaply. A good read, nevertheless.