Example 1The best way to get an idea of how you might use the I Ching is to observe it being used. So let me give you an example of a recent dialogue I held with the I Ching.
As I was thinking about writing this book, I had a number of concerns. Most Christians I discussed the idea with reacted with skepticism. It was clear they thought the I Ching had no place in a Christian life. Yet I felt drawn to this project. I believed (and still believe) that the I Ching is has much to offer Christianity and perhaps can be a bridge between Western and Asian philosophies. But I was getting little encouragement from others.
So I did what I often do when faced with a difficult decision. I opened it to an I Ching dialogue. I asked God this question through the I Ching: What outcome should I expect from a Christian I Ching book project?
Of course, The Christian I Ching didn’t exist at that point so I used the Richard Wilhelm/Cary F. Baynes translation of the I Ching that I discussed in the last chapter. I’ll take you through my dialogue with the Wilhelm/Baynes I Ching regarding my question. When reading the I Ching text, you will notice many problems with the writing. The images are difficult to interpret. The language is archaic. There are allusions to historic Chinese events that are not part of our cultural background. And the discussion is usually sexist. But keep in mind that Wilhelm’s German translation was written over ninety years ago and Baynes’s English translation of that over sixty years ago.
In The Christian I Ching, I will address all of these issues and more. So please set these issues aside for the moment, and look instead at the deep currents of wisdom that flow through the I Ching.
So again, my question: What outcome should I expect from a Christian I Ching book project?
The I Ching responded with a judgment and an image.
SHOCK brings success.
Shock comes-oh, oh!
Laughing words -ha, ha!
The shock terrifies for a hundred miles,
And he does not let fall the sacrificial spoon and chalice.
In the Wilhelm/Baynes I Ching, we have this commentary:
The shock that comes from the manifestation of God within the depths of the earth makes man afraid, but this fear of God is good, for joy and merriment can follow upon it. When a man has learned within his heart what fear and trembling mean, he is safeguarded against any terror produced by outside influences. Let the thunder roll and spread terror a hundred miles around: he remains so composed and reverent in spirit that the sacrificial rite is not interrupted.
This is the spirit that must animate leaders and rulers of men-a profound inner seriousness from which all terrors glance off harmlessly.
The image was as follows:
Thunder repeated: the image of SHOCK.
Thus in fear and trembling
The superior man sets his life in order
And examines himself.
The Wilhelm/Baynes I Ching explains this with a commentary:
The shock of continuing thunder brings fear and trembling. The superior man is always filled with reverence at the manifestation of God; he sets his life in order and searches his heart, lest it harbor any secret opposition to the will of God. Thus reverence is the foundation of true culture.
How do I interpret this? To start with, the judgment (“SHOCK brings success. Shock comes -oh, oh! Laughing words – ha, ha! The shock terrifies for a hundred miles”) tells me that the book will be successful. It also tells me what this success is likely to look like. Many people will be shocked and many will ridicule the book.
Most Christians, if they have heard of the I Ching at all, dismiss it as a fortune telling device. So when I come out with a book that claims the I Ching has an important role to play in Christian discernment, it is easy to believe the book will be met with shock and derision. But, of course, people must read the book before they can be shocked by it. So financially, the book is likely to be successful.
However there may be two kinds of shock associated with this book. The first is shock as in “I am shocked at what he is saying.” The other shock is a much deeper and more profound shock, the shock of recognition that comes when God’s Word is made manifest and one realizes that one’s life can never be the same. This kind of shock seems to be what the Wilhelm/Baynes commentary describes, “The shock that comes from the manifestation of God within the depths of the earth makes man afraid, but this fear of God is good, for joy and merriment can follow upon it.” I pray that this shock will also come from this book.
The remainder of the judgment (“And he does not let fall the sacrificial spoon and chalice.”) is reassuring to me. It is talking about items used in a religious context. From the context of my question, these items seem to be representative of Christianity as an institution. The I Ching is telling me that this book will not “let fall” the institution of Christianity. I would be heartbroken if this were not so. I am deeply Christian. My goal in writing this book is not to take anything away from Christianity, but, on the contrary, to enrich Christianity by giving Christians a wonderful tool for discerning God’s Wisdom. I pray nobody will turn away from Christianity because of this book, but instead be drawn to its fullest mystical potential. These words from the I Ching give me hope for success in this.
The I Ching isn’t finished with me. It next tells me how to deal with the fallout from the book’s success. “Thus in fear and trembling the superior man sets his life in order and examines himself.” I am far from immune from the siren call of Ego, and the book’s success (assuming the I Ching is correct) will be a great temptation to let Ego run amok. I must approach this success not with pride, but with “fear and trembling.” Can I do this? It won’t be easy, I have a boisterous Ego. I will need your prayers as well as mine. And I’m sure I will need help recognizing when I have failed.
The message was that this move would be nourishing to her daughters. Now, two years later, it is clear that the I Ching was correct. Both of her daughters have flourished in their new home.
The message was that purchasing a house would be a drain on her emotional reserves that she could ill afford. She followed the advice and did not purchase a house. Now, three years later, she has completed a Master’s degree in education and has a teaching certificate. Although she did extremely well in the program, the program was psychologically very taxing. It is clear in retrospect that the added burden of worrying about home ownership would have made this program impossible to complete. Now she is in a position to be self-supporting for the first time in her life. And, by the way, property values did not go up. They went down.
The message was that her niece needed to ignore my friend’s wishes and lead an “army” of her friends to share in the joy of supporting her. Her niece followed this advice. Because of this, my friend was blessed with a peace-filled death surrounded by many close friends who loved and cherished her.