Sunday, February 19, 2012

On "The I Ching" by Peggy Jones **

Not a book I would have ever expected to have found myself reading, the ancient book of divination, The I Ching, finds a new, more modern voice in the words of Peggy Jones. It is precisely for this reason that I chose Jones's version: it seemed more interesting than standard editions. Jones, in addition, is a Jungian analyst, which means one gets a perspective that fits well with C. G. Jung's own work. And, I would have hoped, Philip K. Dick's.

In the biography written by his wife, however, she had noted not only the influence of the I Ching on Dick's life but the lack of influence on his writing. He said the I Ching was a waste of time, yet he used it at times almost religiously. Other than that the two novels of Dick's on this list I've read so--Martian Time-Slip and Dr. Bloodmoney--center, in part, around attempts to read the future, I didn't really see much connection to Dick's work.

What I did note was how useful it is to me that a book has a narrative or a clear argument. Without those things, as in a work like the I Ching, I have a have hard time keeping focus. Jones's I Ching had many interesting lines and comments, but I couldn't order them into any kind of schema that would help me to be able to keep them in mind. The next to last hexagram "After Completion," for example, encourages us to enjoy the moment after something has been completed. That one would come upon this by luck (or fate, I suppose, if one actually believes in the I Ching system) suggests to me that every moment is a moment after completion, a moment to be appreciated. And a moment that cannot be hung on to--nothing stays completed.

There was a thought about fire, how it devours and yet is not anything "real" in the sense that we can lay our hands on it. This seemed somehow profound to me at the moment I read it, but I can't think of why so now.

The system itself can be put into practice by the tossing of coins. A certain number of heads versus a certain number of tails leads to a broken line or a solid line. Six lines compose a single hexagram, which leads us to the book for the interpretation.

Alan Watts suggests that the real point of the I Ching isn't so much the divination principles but that it is an expression of the rather spontaneous and from-the-gut nature of all decision making. We might think that we reason out our decisions, but we never have full information, and in the end, we are choosing by feeling, by the moment, haphazardly--and as such, we might as well be tossing coins.

No comments: