An Alternative Interpretation of the I Ching: Embracing Diversity

Requirements for an Alternative Interpretive Text

I would like to conclude my discussion of the background to the I Ching with some personal reflections on my own set of requirements for an alternative interpretive text. Specifically, I would like to explain which aspects of my cultural background, our liberal, westernized world including our image of humanity, are important to me. After all, it is my cultural background that forms the foundation from which my texts on trigrams and hexagrams have emerged.

The Unity of Body and Soul: Recognizing Ourselves as Physical and Spiritual Beings

This insight is not commonly emphasized in our Western world, especially in conventional medicine (although it is in well-established in holistic systems of Asia, such as TCM and Ayurveda). So, what does this insight have to do with interpreting the I Ching? Well, knowledge can be gained not only intellectually, through the mind, but also through the body. I have gained understanding about life through my dedication to Eastern disciplines, such as taking Taiji lessons, practicing and continuing to do so. And also through acupuncture, as a patient, through studying reference books, and by learning the fundamentals, such as pulse diagnosis and classical treatment methods.

Since there is a connection between the trigrams of the I Ching and the Five-Element Theory, I have been able to use technical literature on acupuncture to better understand the energetic qualities of each trigram. Suddenly, trigrams became more than just abstract descriptions: I could feel their resonance within myself, within my own body.

Embracing our Dual Nature: Beings of Freedom and Beings of Need

This philosophical insight, particularly from the field of philosophical anthropology, has been a valuable discovery during my studies of philosophy. I have come to understand how vulnerable we humans are: We enter this world unable to survive without the care of others. It is through many years of growth and development that we become independent and free beings, and eventually, we switch roles: From being the one who receives to being the one who gives, passing on to others what we ourselves have received, namely care and support.

Why are these insights important for interpreting the I Ching? They are important because they shed light on the way we interact with others, the HOW of our human interaction. Where am I a being of freedom and fully self-sufficient, where am I a being of need and depend on others? We are and remain relational beings and therefore repeatedly find ourselves in conflicts: Where is the boundary, where does my sphere end, where does the your sphere of influence begin? There is no final answer to this question, it cannot be settled once and for all. Instead, we are called to continually redefine and renegotiate, to navigate and balance the boundary between ourselves and others.

We are vulnerable beings – but we can also heal again

As beings of need, we humans are interdependent: We need each other. Within this interdependence, much good can happen, but unfortunately, much can also go wrong. We are vulnerable; we can hurt others. Some wounds heal, while others may be so severe that they will mark us for life.

However, this vulnerability is the pledge of our potential, giving us what is denied to more instinct-bound beings: the ability to adapt and learn. For it is precisely because we are so vulnerable that we have acquired the ability to adapt, with adaption being completed when we, as individuals, are in harmony with our capabilities and the demands of our environment.

Expanding on this thought, we even might find a very basic definition of health and disease: As harmony between individual and environment – or as dissonance. Healing, in this sense, means returning to harmony with our environment – whereby the sphere of our influence is limited to ourselves: We can only change ourselves, but seldom the world around us.

Where do these considerations come from? Without going into details at this point, they originate from the work of C. Rogers, K. Goldstein, L.R. Grote, who have conducted extensive research on medical and psychological topics. Additionally, the guiding principle of Adult Children, which states, “God, grant me the serenity to accept the people I cannot change, the courage to change the one I can, and the wisdom to know that one is me.” has also influenced my perspective.

Questions Surpass Answers

It took me a considerable amount of time to grasp this concept: Questions surpass answers. In other words, the goal is not to simply explain the world to someone; it is more captivating to set them on the right path by asking the right questions. So that they can find their own answers.

This reflects exactly my critique of the classical interpretation texts of the Textus receptus: The interpretive texts of the Book of Changes provide incomprehensible answers instead of posing insightful questions that allow for deeper exploration and enable me to perceive the answers that my Self communicates to my Ego.

That is why, on the hexagram pages, in the section “Following the Path of the Dao,” I have drafted several questions (for example, Hexagram 17). Because there is no book where my personal answer is written, no one can provide it to me; I only can find it within myself. And every time anew, when I question the I Ching and discover the answers it prompts within myself.

The questions I pose on the individual hexagram pages are not arbitrary; they actually follow a model that I outline here in more detail: Following the Path of the Dao. This model incorporates insights from philosophy, psychology, and psychoanalysis, and I have compared this knowledge with my own life experiences and understanding.

The Goal of the Path is Clear: To Lead a Happy Life

“Happiness is the highest goal of human life” writes Aristotle in the Nicomachean Ethics, and he also provides a justification: “We always choose happiness for its own sake and never for any purpose beyond that.”

This brings us finally to our own cultural context, which places emphasis on the individual, their well-being, their uniqueness, and their intrinsic value as human beings. It recognizes the rights that he or she (or x and others) possess by virtue of being human.

And it also acknowledges the open-endedness of processes, allowing us to think and further develop our knowledge, with the humble understanding that human knowledge is always limited and never final or absolute. We have the freedom to discard what we know, or at the very least, to continue contemplating.

That questions surpass answers.

Ultimately, this is where the main difference between the interpretation texts in no2DO and those of the Textus receptus lies: The intent is distinct. The goal is not to create a unified empire from a multi-ethnic state, where the collective well-being outweighs that of the individual, and where individual idiosyncrasies and thinking are seen as sources of danger.

Rather, the individual holds significance. And the ultimate goal is the happiness of every human life.