The I Ching/ Yi Jing is the most famous of all the books used
by the Chinese to understand life and the universe. It consists
of a series of eight trigrams combined into a cycle of
hexigrams composed of stacks of broken (yin-female) and
unbroken (yang-male) lines that symbolize the polar
oppositions that underlie all things.
The various combinations of polar oppositions generated can
represent the polar forces of existence, of geography,
sociology, mind, and brain. The I Ching has been used as a
guide to politics, ethics, and metaphysics.
The problem is that the I Ching has been used for so much and
in so many ways that its clarity, its sharpness has been dulled.
To remedy this we have gone back to some basic Western
philosophical antimonies and tried to use them as a sharpening
blade to uncover the deep clear meaning that years of misuse
may have buried under layers of confusion and cross purpose.
It is possible, for example to take the personality disorders
described by Western psychology and find trigrams of the I
Ching that correspond to them, thus the Thunder trigram as
the Histronic, and its opposite, Wind, which penetrates
everywhere as a busy body Paranoid. Mountain rises in your
face as a Narcissist, Flame burns you as an Antisocial, but
Lake pulls down into hollows as an Avoidant, Water Groves
compulsively does its Obsessive number, Heaven is
Schizotypal, and thus far out, and Earth gives way as a good
In a similar fashion, Heaven can be Immanuel Kant's
antimony that gives the cosmos no beginning, and Earth the
opposite that gives it a finite time. Wind can be the Necessary
Being and Thunder its denial. Mountain can be the simple
soul and Lake the complex mixture with nothing simple.
Water Grove can be determinant and Flame can be free.
In terms of artistic temper, Heaven romantic and Earth
realistic, Wind classical and Thunder expressionistic.
Mountain impressionistic and Lake post-impressionistic,
Water Grove baroque and Flame cubist and dada.
The long top line would represent the phenomenological
creative self and the broken line its public relational opposite.
The long middle line would represent a cosmic whole and its
broken opposite would represent local parts. The long bottom
line would represent thermodynamic energy and its broken
opposite would represent information, cybernetics, and
Here we see the three souls of Aristotle, vegetable, animal,
and rational, one and the same with the three gunas of Hindu
philosophy, tamas (vegetative and material), raja (animated
and thus animal), sattva (rational and detached from matter).
These are the lines of the Flame Trigram. A long bottom line
represents the animal energy of rajas, a broken middle line
represents that atomic parts and vegetative cells of tamas, and
finally the long top line is the sattva, the detached conscious
In the Water Grove Trigram we see its opposite. A broken
top line for the public Sanga of the worshipers, A broken
bottom line for the Dharma path as the system of systems, and
a long middle line for the ultimate union of all things in the
This system emerges from the bottom long line of the yang of
the Heaven trigram, the line that represents Shiva, god of flux
and change. This flux is the first law of thermodynamics that
says that mass energy is neither created nor destroyed. This
endless preservation of energy flux is Vishnu, the god of
preservation. The top long yang line symbolizes Brahma, god
of creation that generates the improbabilities that emerge from
the infinite flux that makes them probable. Within this
Heaven trigram of the three Hindu gods lies the Father of the
Christian trinity and the Ideal good that is the product of the
kingdom of Heaven as it brings paradigmatic fruit from the
Wind trigram as Vishnu generates Hen the Brahman Nirvana
One and Brahman generates Pneuma, the Buddha, Christ,
Jiva, Atman phenomenological present here and now of the
anthropic observer. Here is the Neoplatonic trinity of the
Form of the Good. There is the ever becoming God of the
Ultimate Future described by Wolfhart Pannenberg in
"Theology and The Kingdom of God," p. 3 of Una Sancta,
Volume 24, Number 2, 1967. All things good are possible
within this potentially miraculous and marvelous realm which
emerges from the mathematic polar opposite of
thermodynamic energy, mathematical system, mathematical
information, structure and cybernetic potential, weightless,
requiring infinitesimal amounts of energy to enable its
manifestation in finite form.
Passion is the inside of thermodynamic energy and mind is the
inside of mathematical system. Passion universalizes as
affection and faith and mythology and individualizes as desire
and ambition and choice. Mind individualizes as analysis and
consciousness and collectivizes as order and coherence and
consensus and mechanism. Mechanistic mind is the collective
unconscious that has its roots in collective passion. Thus, the
movement of the planets is not just mechanical gravity but
allurement (primitive love) as well.
Collective passion is the trigram Lake and individual passion
is the trigram Flame. Collective mind is the trigram Waterpit
and individual mind is the trigram Mountain. Creative passion
is the trigram Heaven and expressed passion is the trigram
Thunder. Ideal mind is the trigram Wind and factual mind is
the trigram Earth. Passion as Heaven is mutation, as Lake is
recombination, as Thunder is maladaptive expression, as
Flame is extinction and natural selection. Mind as Wind is set
point, as Waterpit is mechanism, as Earth is product and as
Mountain is input and analysis. Thus, Mind and Passion rule
all things as the Yin and Yang bottom lines of all trigrams.
Another way of looking at this would make Water Pit and
Lake the collective unconscious, the Egg, the id, centered on
the right hemisphere posterior parietal occipital temporal lobe
association areas and their connections to the limbic lobe,
rhinencephalon, paleocortex, amygdala, hypothalamus, and
brain stem. This is the womb, the neurological equivalent of
Out of these connections comes left brain fact and left brain
concrete recognition centered on Earth and Thunder, on the
left brain sensory association areas in left hemisphere
temporal, occipital, and parietal lobes (hearing, seeing, and
touching). This is the realm of the emerging libido, the Child
of transactional analysis.
Emerging from these primitive connected and disconnected
stimuli comes primitive response in the form of the Flame and
Mountain trigrams, in the form of Freudian Ego and
transactional analysis Adult.
Finally, the transactional Parent emerges and the Freudian
Super-Ego, with the Heaven trigram and with Wind. Here the
spirit of the person merges with the ancestors as a wind blown
toward the heavens, now death comes as well as rebirth, now
Wind teases Lake, the spirit reincarnates in new birth and the
Jungian cycle is complete.
We have come out of the phlegmatic temper of the watery egg
and moved toward the melancholy temper of the earthy child
and its tears of need. Finally the choleric fire of the adult
teases out the sanguine hopes of heaven and the rising spirit
returns to the ideal state, the Zamani, the Dreamtime realm of
the ancestors from which it came, only to return again through
the samsara of rebirth to this land of tears, the Sasa of real
time and space, of left brain fact and left brain particular
But, the cycles of society are the reverse of this and break,
not on the central sulcus of the right hemisphere, but on the
central sulcus of the left hemisphere of the cerebrum, and
move not clockwise, but in the counter direction.
So the lowest class is the class of the histrionic child, of Earth
and Thunder, of biological reproduction and alcoholic
intoxication and drug addiction. From this class comes the
codependent lower middle class of Waterpit and Lake, of
masochistic and dependent compliance, of avoidance of
public display, of ideological loyalty and collective wealth.
These are the peasants that barely survive to nourish their
many needy children. This is the blue stripe that emerges
from the green.
Out of this comes the white stripe, the paranoid and schizoid
purity of the compulsive upper middle class, the class that
compulsively trains the older child, the class rooted in things
like the college and the academy and the disciplines of the
professional occupations. This class maintains various
mechanisms of the compulsive church and state. It is the class
of the Parent, of the Holy Father Priest, and the white lab coat
of the doctor and the scientist. This class is Wind and Heaven
and the white of the snow covered peaks.
Finally comes Flame and Mountain, the fire of the sun and the
exploding fire of the volcanic peak. This is the true upper
class of the antisocial sadistic paranoid narcissist robber
baron, the conquering emperor, of Alexander the Great and
Napoleon. It is the red stripe of the blood of aggressive
Egotism and individualistic adulthood rooted in malignant
power and accumulated wealth. It pushes the blue class, the
lower middle class into submission by its ability to martial the
information and management skills held by the upper middle
class, along with the loyalty of the lowest classes, which it
gains by supporting the lowest classes need for sexual
pleasure and addictive chemicals, the spoils of environmental
The realm of Earth and Thunder is the realm of science and
business, of fact and material expression. The realm of Water
Pit and Lake is the realm of government and literature, of the
ideology and communication that generate the social order,
maintain the classes of social communication and regulative
association. The realm of Flame and Mountain is the realm of
design and mathematics, of individual expression and
planning. The realm of Heaven and Wind is the realm of
theology, metaphysics and magic, of fantasy and hope, of
what should be, what is worth striving for.
As Wolfhart Pannenberg and Alfred North Whitehead point
out, the infinite God does not exist in the finite realms of
Earth and Thunder. Earth and Thunder are shadows, hints of
the evercoming kingdom, the improbable probability that is
the Brahma of creation emerging from the boundless Vishnu
as the endless flux of Shiva.
In this parsimony breaking possibility an eightfold trigram of
religious potential emerges with Hinduism as Heaven,
Christianity as Wind, Islam as Water Pit, Buddhism as Lake,
Humanism as Earth, Confucianism as Thunder, Skepticism as
Mountain, and Shamanism as Flame. Hinduism as the
schizotypal and Buddhism as avoidant, the Chinese of Li Po
as borderline, and warrior shamans of raiding tribes as
antisocial. The Christianity of Calvin as paranoid and of
Catholic liturgy as compulsive, dogmatic Islam as dependent,
the science oriented consumer as narcissistic (new age
Finally what is true? The harmony of possibly, of possible
ideals becomes true for us when we identify with it, connect
with it. It is not a matter of having what we want, or of fact.
It is a question of our inner goals, what we are worthy of
working for, what goal gives worth to our ambition, what
quest is worthy of our belief, our allegiance. What would we
work for, what is so noble that we would give our allegiance
to it even if there were only the smallest chance of it ever
That is the quest we stumble over, that is the elephant in our
living room, the ring of Middle Earth thrown in our own
parlor. For only when we chose realm of the elves, though
every elf be leaving Middle Earth, do we discover that the
ring of material power we thought we desired is something we
really need to destroy. When we think clearly about our real
needs, and discover the pleasures of the goblins are hollow
and not morally worthy of our time and energy.
So Narnia and the Shire are in front of us. We can follow
Aslan the Lion and Gandalf, walk with the fellowship of the
ring, or with the Witch, with the Necromancer. It is our
choice. The Hell of our own moral isolation or the Eternal
Christmas of the Heart that is our reunion, our loving and
harmonious fusion with the greater whole. This reunion is
variously known as Islam, Nirvana, Brahman, and the Holy
The choice of it belongs to the Heaven Trigram. Its possible
variations wash in from the literature stored in the Lake
Trigram. The Wind Trigram illustrates its deep structure
through the images and patterns that make up the I Ching.
The Flame Trigram lays out the changes themselves and their
various alternative interpretations.
In Dilemmas (Cambridge, 1954), Gilbert Ryle compares the
rules of physics to the rules of bridge and poker. He points
out that the rules of poker have to do with the "systems" of
these games (pp. 90 -91). Ryle sees philosophy as "litigation"
of conflicts between different systems of doing and thinking.
The I Ching has been used as a system of metaphysics and
magic in China for more than two thousand years. It has its
own systems, its own rules, its advantages and disadvantages
as a playing field for the game of thought about virtue and the
good. Its uses in this regard have been a topic of discussion for
Chinese philosophers since Confucius first promoted the I
Ching for these purposes more than two thousand years ago.