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Xiao Hu
Xiao Hu
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Which Way I Fly is Hell: Divination and the Shadow of the West Empty Which Way I Fly is Hell: Divination and the Shadow of the West

on Wed 28 Jun 2017, 21:42
By Stephen Karcher, Ph.D.

Yijing is perhaps the world’s oldest and most complex system of wisdom divination. It is one of the few oracles outside of tribal cultures which still contains a “living spirit”. Its oldest texts go back to a time when the roots of a divinatory science were first emerging from shamanism. It represents a process or way of knowing that is antithetical to modern positivism.

The central concern of Yijing links it to those moments in life when one faces the encounter with an “alien” through a personal crisis or conflict. This is expressed by the key term yi, sometimes translated as change or changes. The book derives its oracular function from this term. The second term, jing, is an honorific for classical or canonical books. Yijing is the classic, constant, channel or loom of yi.

Yi in the human world can only be understood in terms of three other key themes: Dao,De,and Junzi. Dao, literally Way, is a central term in most Eastern thought. It refers to the way in which everything happens and the way on which everything happens. De, often translated as power or virtue, refers to the process of manifesting Dao in individual life and action. It suggests a traightening of the inner essence which permits a being to become what it is intrinsically meant to be. The Junzi or Realizing Person is the ideal user of the book. A Junzi, literally “child of the chief,”is someone who strives to conform to his or her inherent destiny as a specific manifestation of Dao. One is a Junzi in so far as one turns to the oracle in order to organize one's life according to Dao and the soul's images rather than wilful intentions.

The first meaning of the term yi emphasizes trouble, break down and flux. Here is one of the earliest uses of the term, a discussion between King Wen and a disaffected Shang prince. King Wen was spiritual father of the Zhou Dynasty (c. 1000-480 BCE), who spent several years in the prisons of the preceding Shang Dynasty (c. 1520-1030 BCE).

King Wen said:
What the king scrutinizes is the year, the dignitaries and noblemen the months, the many lower officials the days. When in years, months, days, the season has no yi, the many cereals ripen, the administration is enlightened, talented men of the people are distinguished, the house is peaceful and at ease. When in days, months, years, the season has yi, the many cereals do not ripen, the administration is dark and unenlightened, talented men of the people are in petty positions, the house is not at peace.
Yi is not the orderly change of the seasons or the transformation of one thing into another. It originates in and is a way of dealing with trouble and destabilizing change It articulates the possible responses to fate, necessity and calamity, the demons which “cross” our path: mobility, openness and fluidity, the ability to change direction quickly and radically, a flexible many - sidedness that uses a variety of talents, to remain available to the unforeseen demands of time, fate and Dao.  The term interweaves the yi of the cosmos, the yi of the book, and the yi, the creative imagination, of one who uses it to “stay in accord with the “on-going process of the Real.”

Yijing consists of a set of oracular texts, organized and displayed through a system of 64 six -line figures or gua, usually translated as hexagrams: all the possible combinations of six whole (__) and/or opened (_ _) lines that are produced by the chance or random consultative process. Together, the texts and figures provide a rhetoric of the archetypes, a vocabulary of the possible modes of being and change. Through the consultation process what the normative mind sees as chance or accident is empowered as a symbolic occurrence, a linking of the literal and the imaginal.

The Junzi, the ideal user of the book, immerses him or herself in the symbols, observing the figures obtained through divination and taking joy in their words. By turning and rolling these words in the heart-mind, the Junzi allows them to symbolize (xiang) the situation, bringing out and fulfilling its spirits or Shen.
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