In the last chapter I talked at about categorization frameworks. I gave the example of the postal service’s zip code system that can take a practically infinite number of letters coming in and sort them into one of 43,000 zip code categories. I also talked about Myers-Briggs that can take a practically infinite number of human beings and sort them into one of 16 personality types.
The I Ching is like these, except that it maps questions or concerns into one of 64 bundles of wisdom. The developers of the I Ching believed that there are 64 fundamental bundles of wisdom, and that regardless of question or concern, that one of those 64 bundles will contain the best possible advice. These bundles were identified, refined, and validated over three thousand years. So the developers had plenty of time to test new queries and make sure that they were addressable by one of the 64 bundles.
As you study the I Ching deeper, you realize that these 64 packages are much more than bundles of wisdom. They actually represent universal situational archetypes. An archetype is like a fundamental pattern. So at a deep level, the I Ching claims that it has found 64 fundamental situational patterns, and that any situation you can ever imagine can be mapped to one of those patterns. The details of any particular situation will, of course, be different, but the basic features and the energy of that situation can be understood by understanding which situational archetype the situation maps to. When you call upon God’s Wisdom through the I Ching, you are, in effect, asking Wisdom to direct you to the situational archetype that contains the advice you need.
You will see that these situational archetypes while universal and therefore generic, are still able to provide amazingly detailed advice. You will also see why Carl Jung was so drawn to the I Ching. Jung studied and wrote about the archetypes that describe our personalities. He believed in a “collective unconscious” that was shared throughout the world and linked us all together through its ebbs and flows. For him, the I Ching was a living breathing tool for exploring this spiritual world and dialoging with the Wisdom it offered.
Like all discernment frameworks, the I Ching includes sorting mechanisms. For the I Ching, the sorting mechanisms assign situations that you care about to situational archetypes that the I Ching knows about. There are several sorting mechanisms that are used with the I Ching. I will describe two in the next chapter. All of the I Ching sorting mechanisms share an important common feature: they are based on discernment events that Ego is powerless to control.
The situation that will be mapped into archetypes includes everything about the situation. This includes the subject, question, and the frame of mind of the one in dialogue. In my question about the future of this book, the subject was the book, the question was about the likely outcome of the book, and the frame of mind was mine at the time of the query. If I ask exactly the same query again, the situation will have changed. Before, my mind-frame was characterized by doubt and uncertainty about this book project. If I ask exactly the same question again, my mind frame has changed to one of doubt and uncertainty about the I Ching. The mind-frame is a key part of the situation, so we would expect the I Ching to respond with a different situational archetype, perhaps one that expresses annoyance at being doubted.
There is an aspect of the I Ching that does not have an analogy in either the zip code or the Myers-Briggs frameworks. This is the idea of transformation. Both the zip code and the Myers-Briggs frameworks map to static categories. Zip codes don’t change. Personality types don’t change, at least, they don’t change in any way that is predicted by the Myers-Briggs framework.
The situational archetypes of the I Ching are all subject to flows of energy and this energy has the power to change any situational archetype into any other situational archetype. So the I Ching will tell you not only which archetype your situation maps to, it will also tell you what energy flows are part of your situation and therefore what archetype transformation is likely to occur. I will come back to this idea of transformation once I have explained the basic situational archetypes in more detail.