Art, Philosophy, Acupuncture – and the I Ching

I am an artist and a philosopher. And on many long journeys I traveled with Richard Wilhelm’s translation of the Book of Changes in my luggage. With varying success. The original texts are, let’s face it, rather inaccessible.

“The artist’s task is to fathom meaning.” – that’s a job description I like. “So, what is the meaning of the hexagrams?” I asked myself. And I set to work. That was in 2008.

In New York in 1983 I had experienced my first acupuncture treatment with Dr. Ching Y Ting, whose grandfather had opened the first school of traditional Chinese herbal medicine in Shanghai and was one of the last royal doctors to work with the emperor in the Forbidden City. Many more treatments followed on different continents, with different treatment concepts and successes. In 2010 I started to deal more intensively with the theoretical foundations of classical acupuncture.

From the very beginning I made the experience that acupuncture not only affects my body but also my psyche. In view of the meanwhile scientifically recognized interrelation of body and soul, this seemed only logical to me. In a book by psychiatrist Leon Hammer I found first evidence for my assumption, in the meantime I have come across numerous corresponding references in the specialist literature, namely that individual meridians are very precisely characterized and represent very specific psychological functions.

Exactly this aspect – individual characteristics and functions – now also characterizes the I Ching’s individual trigrams. And indeed: The order of the later Heaven or Inner World Order according to King Wen, which I discovered later, shows the trigrams in the chronological order of their emergence in the course of the year, a classification that also exists for the functional circuits of acupuncture. So there it is, the nexus between acupuncture and I Ching.

The second aspect that interested me was how the two trigrams, which together form a hexagram, are interrelated. Upper and lower trigrams, first and second core characters, these are terms that are quite common in the work with the I Ching. However, in my experience the fact that when questioning the I Ching the hexagram is built from bottom to top, and that consequently these individual sub-trigrams practically evolve from each other, receives little attention. Accordingly I have worked out this aspect in my interpretation model.

Any intelligent question already contains its equally intelligent response. This in mind, the hexagram’s transformations show us where to focus our attention. So that we, then, in the spirit of Wu Wei, do not do more, but rather less.