Friday, May 31, 2013

479: The Origine of the Yi Ching

When, in the year 221 BCE., the First Emperor (Shih Huang Ti) of the Ch'in dynasty succeeded in consolidating the small kingdoms and dukedoms of feudal China for the first time into one vast empire, 

he took the most drastic measures ever conceived by an absolute monarch to suppress the spirit of liberty which was just about to bloom. 

He would not tolerate a single thought that did not agree with his. He would not countenance scholars and thinkers who dared to assume an independent air and voice their opinions. 

He silenced all criticism by burying his critics alive, and put an end to the discord of beliefs by burning all the books and documents, that were not in sympathy with the new administration (213 BCE.). 

The effects of such radical measures were just what the Emperor desired. He suppressed all independence of thought and reduced the spirit of the nation to a comatose condition, which lasted for a millennium.

This put an end to the the Period of the Hundred Schools of Thought, or as others call it the Ante-Ch'in period, a period where philosophical thinking  was pluriform and creative.

The oldest books extant in China are the Shu Ching, the Five Books, one of which was the Yi Ching, Book of Changes. It plays a dominant role  in the history of Chinese philosophy.

Strictly speaking, the Chinese are not a speculative people like the Greeks or the Hindus. Their interests always centre in moral science, or rather in practical ethics. 

However subtle in their reasoning, and however bold in their imagination, they never lose sight of the practical and moral aspect of things. 

They refuse to be carried up to a heaven where pure ideas only exist. They prefer to be tied down in earthly relations wherever they may go. 

As you know, our Western reasoning follows the rules of logic, the values true and false. But we went further. 

We developed modal logic, in which we analyze the possible in relation to the necessary, or deontic logic, the field of logic that is concerned with obligation, permission, and related concepts.

Chinese thinking never came even close to this way of using the brain. A fascinating question is how this could happen.

The first speculative philosophy ever constructed by Chinese thinkers was a kind of dualism. It is described in the Book of Changes, the Yi Ching.

But it is not a kind of logical dualism like we know. A dualism of True and False, because this assumes an abstract concept of truth, which was not the way Chinese thinkers operate.

Their thinking is metaphorical, literary and poetic. Thence the famous concepts of Yin and Yang stand not for true and false, 

but have completely different meanings, which relate to how Chinese thinkers saw reality, the world, life.

The Yi Ching, however, is probably the most unintelligible, most enigmatic document ever found in Chinese literature.

It was mainly during the Chou Dynasty (c. 1046 - 256 BCE) that great thinkers focused on the interpretation of the Yi Ching.

It was in this aera, that two antagonistic currents of thought manifested themselves at an early date in the history of Chinese philosophy, and run throughout its entire course. 

One is represented by the "Yi Ching" and Confucius (551-479 BCE.). The other by Lao-tze.

The former advocated a dualism, and showed agnostic, positivistic, and practical tendencies; while the latter was monistic, mystical, and transcendental.

The Discussion

[13:28] herman Bergson: Thank you :-)
[13:28] herman Bergson: And for your information Merlin...
[13:28] Debbie DJ: Thanks Herman.
[13:28] herman Bergson: next lecture(s) will deal with the Yi Ching in detail
[13:28] Merlin: Yes, the I Ching definitely has a practical side
[13:29] Debbie DJ: Herman does the Yi Ching pre date 221BCE?
[13:29] Merlin: Ooh, well perhaps I should come to those then
[13:29] herman Bergson: The thing is....
[13:29] herman Bergson: the original texts may date back to 2400BCE....
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: aaa ok
[13:29] Bejiita Imako: old stuff then
[13:30] Debbie DJ: 4600 years old?
[13:30] Merlin: I have also noticed that traditional Chinese thinking is very different from ours
[13:30] herman Bergson: a thousand or more years later the Chinese themselves actually didn't know what the texts really meant
[13:30] herman Bergson: It certainly is Merlin
[13:30] Merlin: There was a time when all the books were burnt, and I think the I Ching survived it
[13:30] herman Bergson: Yes Debbie...probably that old :-)
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:31] herman Bergson: Yes that was in 221 BCE
[13:31] herman Bergson: as I just told :-)
[13:31] Merlin: In those days when books were burnt they were totally eliminated, not as it would be now, with copies everywhere
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: so lots of old history lost
[13:31] Bejiita Imako: what a shame
[13:32] herman Bergson: that indeed...but the Shu Ching survived...
[13:32] Debbie DJ:  ✧✩**✩✧ G I G G L E S ✧✩**
[13:32] Debbie DJ: The cloud is risky for long term interpretation...
[13:32] herman Bergson: I guess that that book burning Emperor yet had some respect for those
[13:32] Bejiita Imako: its a bit same thing today when they censor the internet and prevent free speech and all about human rights and so
[13:32] Merlin: well it was more recent than I thought if only around the time of Pythagoras
[13:33] Merlin: hehehe
[13:33] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:33] herman Bergson: Yes indeed...
[13:33] Merlin: Sees signs of digression creeping in
[13:34] Debbie DJ: Maybe social cohesion is more important than high technology ?
[13:34] herman Bergson: For some reason the Yi Ching was considered a kind of holy book....which not even an emperor dared to burn
[13:34] Merlin: Oh, I didnt know why
[13:34] Merlin: or had forgotten
[13:35] Bejiita Imako: ah
[13:35] herman Bergson: and the thing is....the book is so enigmatic that you can interpret it any way you like
[13:36] Debbie DJ: I wonder what thought processes brought it into being? Its like a sudoku puzzle in a way
[13:36] herman Bergson: So the First Emperor (Shih Huang Ti) of the Ch'in dynasty could always be pleased with a pleasing interpretation :-)
[13:36] herman Bergson: yes debbie.....
[13:36] herman Bergson: and another thing is....
[13:36] herman Bergson: it has a kind of mathematical structure with its 64 diagrams....
[13:36] herman Bergson: Pythagoras would have loved it....
[13:37] Debbie DJ: exactly
[13:37] Merlin: I have certainly noticed the translations vary a lot
[13:37] Debbie DJ: and it appeared so early?
[13:37] herman Bergson: The Chinese didn't do anything with that feature
[13:37] herman Bergson: I don't think the origins are really known Debbie
[13:38] herman Bergson: There are a number of ..sort of mythological stories about it...
[13:38] Merlin: Well I see it in common with the Tarot as being a kind of map of all possible states of being
[13:38] Debbie DJ: The Chinese used the feature to give people a guide.... random guide.
[13:38] herman Bergson: but they are not historical
[13:39] Merlin: I think the I Ching has some very good points but some of the inner reasoning is bizarre....
[13:39] Merlin: and rather like astrology
[13:39] herman Bergson: it is kind of similar like the origine of the old testament...
[13:40] Debbie DJ: Its a social device i think.
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes Merlin....
[13:40] Bejiita Imako: ok
[13:40] herman Bergson: Yes something like that Debbie....
[13:40] Merlin: Yes I suppose they both go back about the same amount of time ... since early writing was possible I suppose
[13:40] herman Bergson: s our popular knowledge believes it is a book of divination
[13:40] Debbie DJ: When did the old testament appear?
[13:41] herman Bergson: But that is not really the case...
[13:41] herman Bergson: The Old Testament is a collection of many many old hebrew texts....
[13:41] MerlinMerlin listens
[13:42] herman Bergson: Like the Yi Ching is too....
[13:42] Merlin: Oh I thought you were going to say more about divination
[13:42] Merlin: and why the I C is not for that
[13:42] herman Bergson: The y way the Chinese saw the divination power of the Yi Ching was more as a kind of support....
[13:43] Merlin: Well you can use almost anything for divination but.....
[13:43] herman Bergson: When they took important decisions they used the Yi Ching to show whether it would turn out good or bad...
[13:43] Merlin: the good thing about the I Ching is that it is constructive
[13:44] herman Bergson: It was not really meant to predict future events
[13:44] Debbie DJ: Yes. and prompts action.
[13:44] Bejiita Imako: aha
[13:44] Merlin: It tells what to do in a given situation
[13:44] herman Bergson: It was a counseling device....
[13:44] Merlin: Not just tells what that situation is, like say the tarot
[13:45] herman Bergson: It tells what to do in a situation when you are already in that situation and ponder about how to act
[13:45] herman Bergson: I would say
[13:45] Debbie DJ: Thats how it was used in my youth.
[13:45] Merlin: I think it tells what to do in any situation
[13:46] Debbie DJ: Persuading people that their decisions are ok.
[13:46] herman Bergson: lecture(s) we'll elaborate on this subject in much more detail...
[13:46] herman Bergson: Something like that Debbie
[13:46] Bejiita Imako:
[13:46] Merlin: For example from memory. Oppression.... Stake your life on carrying out your will
[13:46] herman Bergson: Thank you all again for your interest..^_^
[13:47] Merlin: TY to you too Herman
[13:47] herman Bergson: Class dismissed :-))
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: YAY! (yay!)
[13:47] Debbie DJ: Fascinating. I know so little about this topic.
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: hmm this can be an eye opener indeed
[13:47] Merlin: well I am glad you see that a reason to be interested Deb
[13:47] Bejiita Imako: ok cu soon again all
[13:47] Bejiita Imako:
[13:47] Debbie DJ: bye bejita

No comments:

Post a Comment