CHAPTER I. The Changes in the Universe and in the Book of Changes

1. Heaven is high, the earth is low; thus the Creative and the Receptive are determined. In correspondence with this difference between low and high, inferior and superior places are established.

Movement and rest have their definite laws; according to these, firm and yielding lines are differentiated.

Events follow definite trends, each according to its nature. Things are distinguished from one another in definite classes. In this way good fortune and misfortune come about. In the heavens phenomena take form; on earth shapes take form. In this way change and transformation become manifest.

In the Book of Changes a distinction is made between three kinds of change: nonchange, cyclic change, and sequent change. Non change is the background, as it were, against which change is made possible. For in regard to any change there must be some fixed point to which the change can be referred, otherwise there can be no definite order and everything is dissolved in chaotic movement. This point of reference must be established, and this always requires a choice and a decision. It makes possible a system of co-ordinates into which everything else can be fitted. Consequently at the beginning of the world, as at the beginning of thought, there is the decision, the fixing of the point of reference. Theoretically any point of reference is possible, but experience teaches that at the dawn of consciousness one stands already inclosed within definite, prepotent systems of relationships. The problem then is to choose one's point of reference so that it coincides with the point of reference for cosmic events. For only then can the world created by one's decision escape being dashed to pieces against prepotent systems of relationships with which it would otherwise come into conflict. Obviously the premise for such a decision is the belief that in the last analysis the world is a system of homogeneous relationships--that it is a cosmos, not a chaos. This belief is the foundation of Chinese philosophy, as of all philosophy. The ultimate frame of reference for all that changes is the nonchanging.

The Book of Changes takes as the foundation for this system of relationships the distinction between heaven and earth. There is heaven, the upper world of light, which, though incorporeal, firmly regulates and determines everything that happens, and over against heaven there is the earth, the lower, dark world, corporeal, and dependent in its movements upon the phenomena of heaven. With this differentiation of above and below there is posited, in one way or another, a difference in value, so that the one principle, heaven, is the more exalted and honored, while the other, earth, is regarded as lesser and lower. These two cardinal principles of all existence are then symbolized in the two fundamental hexagrams of the Book of Changes, THE CREATIVE and THE RECEPTIVE. In the last analysis, this cannot be called a dualism. The two principles are united by a relation based on homogeneity; they do not combat but complement each other. The difference in level creates a potential, as it were, by virtue of which movement and living expression of energy become possible.

This association of high and low with value differentiations leads to the differentiation of superior and inferior. This is expressed symbolically in the hexagrams of the Book of Changes, which are considered to have high and low, superior and inferior places. Each hexagram consists of six places, of which the odd-numbered ones are superior and the even-numbered ones inferior.

There is another difference bound up with this one. In the heavens constant movement and change prevail; on earth fixed and apparently lasting conditions are to be observed. On closer scrutiny, this is only delusion. In the philosophy of the Book of Changes nothing is regarded as being absolutely at rest; rest is merely an intermediate state of movement, or latent movement. However, there are points at which the movement becomes visible. This is symbolized by the fact that the hexagrams are built up of both firm and yielding lines. The firm, the strong, is designated as the principle of movement, the yielding as the principle of rest. The firm is represented by an undivided line, corresponding with the light principle, the yielding by a divided line that corresponds with the dark principle.

The fact that the character of the line (firm, yielding) combines with the character of the place (superior, inferior) results in a great multiplicity of possible situations. This serves to symbolize a third nexus of events in the world. There are conditions of equilibrium, in which a certain harmony prevail, and conditions of disturbed equilibrium, in which confusion prevails. The reason is that there is a system of order pervading the entire world. When, in accordance with this order, each thing is in its appropriate place, harmony is established. Such a tendency toward order can be observed in nature. The places attract related elements, as it were, so that harmony may come about. However, a parallel tendency is also at work. Not only are things determined by their tendency toward order; they move also by virtue of forces imparted to them, so to speak, mechanically from the outside. Hence it is not possible for equilibrium to be attained under all circumstances, for deviations may occur, bringing with them confusion and disorder. In the sphere of human affairs, the condition of harmony assures good fortune, that of disharmony predicates misfortune. These complexes of occurrences can be represented by the combinations of lines and places, as pointed out above.

Another law is to be noted. Owing to changes of the sun, moon, and stars, phenomena take form in the heavens. These phenomena obey definite laws. Bound up with them, shapes come into being on earth, in accordance with identical laws. Therefore the processes on earth--blossom and fruit, growth and decay--can be calculated if we know the laws of time. If we know the laws of change, we can precalculate in regard to it, and freedom of action thereupon becomes possible. Changes are the imperceptible tendencies to divergence that, when they have reached a certain point, become visible and bring about transformations.

These are the immutable laws under which, according to Chinese thought, changes are consummated. It is the purpose of the Book of Changes to demonstrate these laws by means of the laws of change operating in the respective hexagrams. Once we succeed in completely reproducing these laws, we acquire a comprehensive view of events; we can understand past and future equally well and bring this knowledge to bear in our actions.

2. Therefore the eight trigrams succeed one another by turns, as the firm and the yielding displace each other.

Here cyclic change is explained. It is a rotation of phenomena, each succeeding the other until the starting point is reached again. Examples are furnished by the course of the day and year, and by the phenomena that occur in the organic world during these cycles. Cyclic change, then, is recurrent change in the organic world, whereas sequent change means the progressive [nonrecurrent] change of phenomena produced by causality.

The firm and the yielding displace each other within the eight trigrams. Thus the firm and is transformed, melts as it were, and becomes the yielding; the yielding changes, coalesces, as it were, and becomes the firm. In this way the eight trigrams change from one into another in turn, and the regular alternation of phenomena within the year takes its course. But this is the case in all cycles, the life cycle included. What we know as day and night, summer and winter--this, in the life cycle is life and death.

To make more intelligible the nature of cyclic change and the alternations of the trigrams produced by it, their sequence in the Primal Arrangement is shown once again [fig. 3]. There are two direction of movement, the one rightward, ascending, the other backward, descending. The former starts form the low point, K'un, the Receptive, earth; the latter starts from the high point. Ch'ien, the Creative, heaven.

I. North




II. South




Figure 3

3. Things are aroused by thunder and lightning; they are fertilized by wind and rain. Sun and moon follow their courses and it is now hot, now cold.

Here we have the sequence of the trigrams in the changing seasons of the year, and in such a way that each is the cause of the one next following. Deep in the womb of earth there stirs the creative force, Chên, the Arousing, symbolized by thunder. As this electrical force appears there are formed centers of activation that are then discharged in lightning. Lightning is Li, the Clinging, flame. Hence thunder is put before lightning. Thunder is, so to speak, the agent evoking the lightning; it is not merely the sounding thunder. Now the movement shifts; thunder's opposite, Sun, the wind, sets in. The wind brings rain, K'an. There is a new shift. The trigrams Li and K'an, formerly acting in their secondary forms as lightning and rain, now appear in their primary forms as sun and moon. In their cyclic movement they cause cold and heat. When sun reaches its zenith in the sky, cold sets in, symbolized by the trigram of the northwest, Kên, the mountain, Keeping Still. Hence the sequence is (cf. fig. 3):

1a -- 2a
1b -- 2b

2a -- 3a
2b -- 3b

Thus 2a (Li) and 2b (K'an) are named twice, once in their secondary forms (lightning and rain), once in their primary forms (sun and moon).

4. The Way of the Creative brings about the male. The Way of the Receptive brings about the female.

Here the beginning of sequent change appears, manifested in the succession of the generations, an onward-moving process that never returns to its starting point. This shows the extent to which the Book of Changes confines itself to life. For according to Western ideas, sequent change would be the realm in which causality operates mechanically; but the Book of Changes takes sequent change to be the succession of the generations, that is, still something organic.

The Creative, in so far as it enters as a principle into the phenomenon of life, is embodied in the male sex; the Receptive is embodied in the female sex. Thus the Creative in the lowest line of each of the sons (Chên, Li, Tue, in the Primal Arrangement), and the Receptive in the lowest line of the daughters (Sun, K'an, Kên, in the primal Arrangement), is the sex determinant of the given trigram.

5. The Creative knows the great beginnings. The Receptive completes the finished things.

Here the principles of the Creative and the Receptive are traced further. The Creative produces the invisible seeds of all development. At first these seeds are purely abstract, therefore  with respect to them there can be no action nor acting upon; here it is knowledge that acts creatively. While the Creative acts in the world of the invisible, with spirit and time for its field, the Receptive acts upon matter in space and brings material things to completion. Here the process of generation and birth are traced back to their ultimate metaphysical meanings.

6. The Creative know through the easy. The Receptive can do things through the simple.

The nature of the Creative is movement. Through movement it unites with ease what is divided. In this way the Creative remains effortless, because it guides infinitesimal movements when things are smallest. Since the direction of movement is determined in the germinal stage of being, everything else develops quite effortlessly of itself, according to the law of its nature.

The nature of the Receptive is repose. Through repose the absolutely simple becomes possible in the spatial world. This simplicity, which arises out of pure receptivity, becomes the germ of all spatial diversity.

7. What is easy, is easy to know; what is simple, is easy to follow. He who is easy to know attains fealty. He who is easy to follow attains works. He who possesses attachment can endure for long; he who possesses works can become great. To endure is the disposition of the sage; greatness is the field of action of the sage.

This passage points out how the easy and the simple take effect in human life. What is easy is readily understood, and from this comes its power of suggestion. He whose ideas are clear and easily understood wins men's adherence because he embodies love. In this way he becomes free of confusing conflicts and disharmonies. Since the inner movement is in harmony with the environment, it can take effect undisturbed and have long duration. This consistency and duration characterize the disposition of the sage.

It is exactly the same in the realm of action. Whatever is simple can easily be imitated. Consequently, others are ready to exert their energy for him, because it is simple. The result is that energy is accumulated, and the simple develops quite naturally into the manifold. Thus it grows, and the sage's mission to lead the multitude to the performance of great works is fulfilled.

8. By means of the easy and the simple we grasp the laws of the whole world. When the laws of the whole world are grasped, therein lies perfection.

Here we are shown how the fundamental principles demonstrated above are applied in the Book of Changes. The easy and the simple are symbolized by very slight changes in the individual lines. The divided lines become undivided lines as the result of an easy movement that joins their separated ends; undivided lines become divided ones by means of a simple division in the middle. Thus the laws of all processes of growth under heaven are depicted in these easy and simple changes, and thereby perfection is attained.

Hereby the nature of change is defined as change of the smallest parts. This is the fourth meaning of the Chinese word I--a connotation that has, it is true, only a loose connection with the meaning "change."

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